Learning to Sell Myself….er…I mean, My Writing – Conquering My Fear of Query Letters and Selling My Work

Over the course of living my day to day life, I’ve been approached to sell different things by friends and family that are very excited about the product, and believe it will change my life. My stock answer in these moments is to tell them that I am not a salesperson, that I can’t put my heart into selling something that I believe is equally as good as a product you can find in the store for a 1/3 of the price.  There is an additional component, though.  The rest of the answer should be that I do not like putting myself out there and make myself ripe for the kick in the pants of rejection.  Rejection has this unspoken attachment to not being good enough in my mind. It’s not easy for me to take, whether it’s eye shadow, soap or real estate that I’m trying to make someone else excited about.  I want to be a successful writer, so coming to terms with rejection is absolutely necessary. It means I have to put my insecurities to the side, which is HARD. Confidence sometimes feels like conceit to me.  I’m not comfortable tooting my own horn, and I know it.  So, when I saw that Writer’s Digest was having a query letter boot-camp, complete with agents to guide participants through the query letter writing process and to have those same agents read and comment on the first ten pages of submitted manuscripts, I knew it was something I had to do.

I don’t think I’m alone when I say that preparing my manuscript for submitting to agents and publishers is scary. In my case, my novel is still in progress, so I know that I really am not in the best place for sending anything out. But, I signed up anyway. The query letter is the way a writer introduces themselves to an agent or publisher and it needs to be exactly right. I worried about how to write such a thing and not sound overly confident. I wondered how on earth I was going to sell myself to people that would just as easily send me a rejection letter of doom as read my story. I’ve been told I’m good at writing, but that’s always been by people that care about me. What if they were just being nice and my writing skills were only worthy of my own journal?  What if I was sailing toward disaster? The angst went on and on and on and on.

The two day class was really informative. The agent working with my group was helpful, professional and just plain nice. By the end of the second Q & A session, I was ready to send out my edited 10 pages and the dreaded query letter. I emailed them, followed the agent’s other advice about setting up an internet presence as a writer, apart from my personal stuff and began preparing myself for THE WORST. Because she was going to hate what I sent. The class description said the agents would ask us for additional pages, if they were interested, this was my shot at being published, what if I blew it?? Would I have the confidence to pick back up and start again?  What if she said I was really bad at this writing stuff? GAAAHHHH!!!

I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t been checking my email every 8.8 minutes since Friday.

So, below is an excerpt of my query letter. Writers, Agents and Publishers, if I blew it, be kind. Friends and Family, yes, this is what I want to do with the rest of my life.  Even if I stink. So keep being nice about it. 🙂

I am writing today to submit the first ten pages of my supernatural horror novel, The Mark, (120,000 words) for your consideration. It combines elements of dark fantasy, horror and thriller/mystery and I believe it creates something new, but still in keeping with the type of writers your agency represents. The Mark is what the love child The Shining with Practical Magic would read like: suspenseful, atmospheric horror combined with strong family relationships.

An ancient evil is drawn to college professor Tess Abruzzi and her younger sister, Ellie Bradley, making them unwilling pawns in the eternal struggle between light and darkness. What starts with an innocent girl’s night out for Tess and Ellie soon becomes a sinister web of unspeakable nightmares, bloodshed and a tangled mystery that has roots in their own family past. Set against the backdrop of the nation’s oldest city, Tess and Dr. Tim Warner must find a way to stop the onslaught of pure evil before it’s too late.”

It’s too melodramatic, right? I’m pretty sure I turned my story into a B reel movie instead of making it something compelling and interesting enough to capture an agent’s attention. On the other hand, maybe it’s fine and I’m being a freak. I’ll let you know when I get my feedback in which it is.


11 thoughts on “Learning to Sell Myself….er…I mean, My Writing – Conquering My Fear of Query Letters and Selling My Work

  1. I stumbled across your piece of the web while avoiding my own WIP and blurb writing tonight. Timely, eh? Just wanted to offer encouragement on your query letter (a task I’m terrified to think about, much less begin). Queries, like those pesky back cover blurbs, are supposed to sound dramatic, so don’t worry about that. You have enticing description of your book and I’d definitely be interested in reading it if I picked it up off a shelf one day. Best of luck!

    Liked by 1 person

    • The funny thing is, I enjoy working on the story itself – even had a change in approach on it this weekend that is really making a difference. The query letter though…sheesh! I always say I can ‘sell’ stuff that I really believe in, but selling myself feels like I’m being a bit cocky. The description got your attention? YAY! That means I’m on the right track, I hope.


      • I’m the same way. Cranking out 75,000 words? No problem! Queries and blurbs? Eek. If it’s any comfort, I don’t know a single writer that actually likes writing queries or short descriptions of their work.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Hello, sister sufferer. I’m taking the plunge too, wrangling that dreaded query letter. I did read just the other day that we worry too much about the query, that what counts is the writing. But that only applies to UK agents. For the US you still have to be the star of the query letter before they’ll even look at your writing. Best of luck. I’ll be looking out for your progress reports 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks! I will definitely post the results of my boot camp submission for everyone to see – I’ve been anxiously checking email, waiting. The query letter is sort of an audition, I guess, even though it’s more about form than talent. The agent I worked with during the boot camp told us that her personal style was to read manuscripts first, then maybe glance at the query letter. She also said she was a rarity. I appreciated the chance to talk to a professional about this, though. So nerve wracking. BTW, Jane, love your blog a bunch!


    • Your agent certainly sounds like a rarity. Sometimes I plot a query letter for a query letter but I know i’d never get it right. The UK rules are simple: introduce your story with the genre and length and a one line hook, a short paragraph saying what it’s about, a brief personal bio of things relevant. If you haven’t got anything relevant omit last paragraph. Cut out the jokes and don’t tell them how awesome it is, and that’s all really. Then they read the sample.
      Glad you like the blog. I don’t read around other blogs enough but I’ll try to keep up with yours.


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