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Saturday, 12 June 2010

The Dreaded Query Letter

Old book bindings at the Merton College library.Image via Wikipedia
Just how, exactly, do you distil your writing life and the excellent reasons why your book should be published ahead of the trillions of others, into a one page letter? I suppose you can lie, make up contacts with people who are famous, create fictional past successes, but if, like me, you're saddled with the need to be honest, that's a non-starter. So, you examine all the material and sift it for the most relevant bits, in the hope you can make something not just interesting but sufficiently arresting to keep that busy literary agent reading long enough to consider the rest of your submission. It's all about optimism, of course. But all writers have to be optimistic, thick-skinned and able to deal with multiple rejection. Some might see it as arrogance but those of us who actually do it, know the pose is a necessary defence against the vagaries of fate. If the piece lands on the right desk at the right time, there's the slimmest of chances that it'll actually be read. From that point on, it's down to the quality of the submission and the judgement of the reader (not always as omniscient as they sometimes believe). It's a tough world out there. But at least I'm not digging coal out underground or rifling the local rubbish dump in order to buy food.
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