Jamie Harrington guest posts.
Once upon a time a girl decided she would write a book. She sat down in front of her computer and started writing. She spent countless days and sleepless nights, typing as fast as she could, finishing her story for everyone to read. When she was done, she emailed her manuscript to the publishing company. They published her book, she went on a national book tour, and became a famous author.
That's how it happens, right? Wrong.
Writing a book is risky, tough, and tiring. Once your book is finished, that is only the beginning. You will spend weeks editing, revising, and polishing your manuscript, only to find that no one is interested in your story! There is no fairy godmother to make sure your book is ready to be published, and you have to find an agent before a publishing company will even look at your work!
Finding an agent involves the most painful part of the writing process, the query letter. A quick google search on how to write a query letter turns up over three hundred and twenty thousand results. This alone, should tell you there is no one way to write a query letter, and everything everyone has written on the topic is completely subjective. There are websites like Query Shark devoted entirely to ripping query letters apart, and guest speakers lecture author groups all around the globe on the importance of this one letter. It can make or break you. One tiny piece of paper decides rather or not an agent will take the time to read your manuscript.
The worst part of this letter is that it isn't even your book! Sure, it's about your book, but it's about you, too. It contains a brief synopsis and description of your story along with a quick bio explaining why you are the right person to write this particular book. You mail it to an agent, and based on that one letter, they decide if they want to actually read your story. So, you have to take query letters seriously and you have to spend time editing, revising, and getting critiques on them, or your book will never even have a shot. It's like, if a fashion designer were to walk into a boutique with a swatch of fabric and the boutique owner were to decide, based on that 3x3 square, rather or not they want to sell the designer's entire line. It's just so frustrating!
Don't let this discourage you from writing your book though, seeing my words on paper in a finished manuscript is still one of the best feelings I have ever had. Someday I will get my book published, and when I do, I will frame my query letter.