However, since then Elana has really grabbed my attention with the promotion of her new book “Possession.” Every time I check Twitter there is something about “Possession.” Which is a good thing; it means she has an excellent grasp of how to promote a book.
Without any further ado, here’s Elana.
Randy: How did you get so knowledgeable about queries?
Elana: When I needed to write a query letter of my own, I did the only thing that made sense: I studied successful queries. I printed them off in my genre, and identified parts of them that worked for me.
I spread them out on my counter, and proceeded to write my own query letter by hand. By identifying the parts of the letter, it helped me to have a purpose beyond trying to distill my novel into 250 words.
Randy: I imagine that a lot of people come to you for help on their query letters. Is there someone that you take your queries to in order to get suggestions?
Elana: I have a couple of trusted betas. I send my queries to them (yes, I still write them), and then I send them to my agent as sort of a pitch for a book I might want to write, or have started writing.
Randy: Is there a point in an author’s career where they no longer need to worry about writing queries?
Elana: I’m sure some people reach that point. Their agents might not require it. Mine doesn’t “require” it, but I actually like writing the query. I stop writing the book at about 50 pages (10 – 15K) and write the query letter. Then I can send the sample and the query to my agent and we can talk about whether this is a good story to write, or if I should write something else.
I’m sure there are people who don’t have to do this, or work with their agent in a different way that doesn’t require a query letter.
Randy: When you’re working on a query letter of your own how can you tell that it’s ready to go? Do you get an “A-ha” moment or a feeling that it’s right?
Elana: When every word serves a purpose, I know it’s ready. For me, “ready” is an emotional thing, a gut thing. I just know.
Randy: What is the first step you take when writing a query for one your books?
Elana: I have to be able to sum up my book in one sentence or less. Then I have to actually think about how the book ends… and that’s the hard part for me.
Randy: What is your reaction to your own query letters? Do you like them? Do you wonder if they’re any good? Or do you have a sense that they’re solid?
Elana: I’m 100% behind my query letters. I have to be!
Randy: What goes through your mind when you look over query letters for critique?
Elana: I always think: “Do I want to keep reading? Has the author done a good enough job at pushing me through the letter?” If not, that’s when I have questions about the query, or it’s so vague I don’t know what’s going on.
Randy: How effective are the majority of the queries you critique when they arrive? Or are they too spread out in their effectiveness to make a general statement.
Elana: Oh, they range from “ready to send” to “go back and start with a blank page.”
Randy: I know I find the query letter more difficult than writing an entire novel. Is writing a query a joy or a chore for you?
Elana: I like writing query letters. It actually gives me somewhere to go with the novel. The trick is to write the query letter BEFORE you finish the novel. I recommend writing the query when you’ve only got about 50 pages of the MS written.
Randy: What is the top piece of advice you can give everyone on writing a query letter?
Elana: Don’t leave out the consequence! It’s the “why do I care?” part of the letter that a lot of people forget about.