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  • Writer's pictureH.B. Nuttall

That Query Letter Stage

Updated: Jan 18, 2022

Will the torture ever end!

You’re trapped in that forever cycle as a writer: you write the perfect query letter — send it to an agent/publisher — rejection —self-pity — rise again into motivation – write the perfect query letter. . .


Again and again, the cycle continues with hopes of getting noticed. I’m not going to lie, on the writer end of things I am trapped in this cycle right now. Will I ever leave it? I sure hope to, but if and when it is going to take time.


You may think to yourself, “Well, I’m just a good a writer as the next person, why can’t I get noticed? Why won’t anyone pick up my work?”


There is no right answer to this question. But working on a small scale when it comes to publishing (and I mean minuscule small, like microscopic) there is one thought and one word that sticks with me–marketability.


I remember my early writer years when I did free-lance writing right out of college. I managed two PR campaigns. When it came to writing, it wasn’t about writing the best of best. A lot of people can be the best. It was about the marketability of the writing. I asked myself these questions: Does this catch the attention of the targeted audience? Will it reach the public efficiently? Is the right message being put out there?


The success of these campaigns did not rely on me being the best writer, but writing something that could be marketable to the public.


Now that I am on the querying stage for my novels, I like to think that this lesson can be applied to them as well.


And I wish I realized this sooner.


The past few months I’ve spent writing and perfecting query letters, only to be met with rejection after rejection. Many of the rejections I received were automated, while those seldom ones had something personalized in them. Either way, most responses said something along the lines of, “I cannot personally connect with this. . . not a good fit for this agency/publisher. . . although great concept, it’s not something I can get to publishers. . . I don’t know if this is for our audience. . .etc. . .” They all said the same thing and it came down to the same mistake: my novel did not sound marketable.


Whatever I wrote did not appeal to the marketing side. It did not sound sellable. Because, essentially, in the end, I am trying to get them to invest in a product in hopes of making that money back.


This week I did a complete overhaul of my approach in querying. Of course, I did not go into it cold turkey. I picked up some books at my favorite bookstore, Half-Price Books. I purposely went to the mass market paperback, picked up some books that I want mine sold beside one day, and read all the marketing on the covers.


Upon doing so, I went home and wrote a completely new query letter, and did a compare and contrast with my former one. I gave both to my husband and asked him “I don’t want to know which one is better. I want to know which one makes you want to read my book.” Although my former query letter was ‘perfect,’ it was my new letter, the one where I really tried to sell my favorite things about it, that he said was catchy enough to make him want to read it. That’s the one I’ve decided to send out.


The main thought I want to leave with readers today is that query letters have nothing to do with perfection. They are all about marketability, really showing why someone should be excited about your book. Your book is amazingly cool, why not let others know that? Don’t let rejections get you down.


Of course, as with any advice with writing, take it with a grain of salt; everything is objective to the individual. From my experience, this lesson on querying is one I’ve learned of late. I do hope this lesson may resonate and help someone else on their writing journey.


Thanks for reading. As always--enjoy life!


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