Query tips and cool things in writing

This week’s post is going to be a collection of fun things that I’ve come across or been working with in the last couple weeks. Since I’m deep in the trenches of querying, I’ll start with one of my new favorite blogs.

Query Shark

Query Shark. Query Shark has been around for years, and I’ve had plenty of people tell me to browse the “sharkives,” but until recently I’d only skimmed a couple posts. I wish I could go back now and tell myself to take a closer look when I first started writing queries, because this is hands-down the best resource I’ve seen for writing a polished query. Query Shark (a.k.a. Janet Reid of Fine Print Literary Management) posts ruthless critiques of queries that guests have submitted, offering feedback on how to hook readers, trim lengthy prose, and more. My query is 1,000,000 times better at least, and I have ideas to improve it even more before I send it out to agents. I am not only am I more confident in my query, but I’m also applying these skills to my current WIP. Seriously, if you’re a writer and you haven’t read the sharkives yet, do it. Now.

Fourth Annual NaNoWriMo Pitchapaloooza

The Book Doctors. Send your 250-word pitch to The Book Doctors by March 7, 2014 for a chance to win a free pitch critique and an introduction to an agent or publisher appropriate for your manuscript. Twenty-five pitches will be randomly selected for online critique, and a winner from the group will be introduced to an agent or publisher. A fan favorite will also receive a free one-hour consultation with The Book Doctors.

They’re also offering free 20-minute consultations to anyone who buys a copy of The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published. For more details, visit the Pitchapaloooza announcement.

Smith Publicity Book Publicity Consultation Contest

Smith Publicity. Enter for a chance to win a one-hour consultation with Smith Publicity and get your book uploaded to NetGalley, “a community of 100,000+ librarians, book reviewers, bloggers, educators, booksellers, and media” (including yours truly). To enter, write an essay of 500 words or fewer explaining why your book deserves publicity exposure. For more details, check out the contest description.


Every so often, an agent will decide to tweet about ten queries s/he has received with the #tenqueries hashtag. This won’t help you write your query, but I find it encouraging whenever I feel like I’m drowning in the slush pile. So many of these discuss basic mistakes such as not following submission guidelines that I feel better about my own queries.


I’ve discussed this before, but there was another #MSWL (manuscript wish list) day on February 26. I had fun reading about what agents want to see and favoriting a few tweets that matched my work. Someone even had the idea of collecting all of the #MSWL tweets on a single blog for easier browsing. Just remember that #MSWL is for agents. Don’t try to pitch your book on Twitter; instead, follow the agent’s submission guidelines. (Otherwise you may end up as one of the #tenqueries that give me a healthy dose of schadenfreude.) And finally, keep in mind that this is a very specific list; if your book doesn’t fit with an agent’s wish list, but it is a genre that s/he represents, query away!

Writers on a train!

Amtrak train.

Photo by flickr user dok1

This isn’t query-related, but it’s so cool that I had to include it. In an interview interview with Pen America, Alexander Chee said, “I still like a train best for [writing]. I wish Amtrak had residencies for writers.” Jessica Gross tweeted about it, and was surprised when Amtrak responded offering her a test run. #AmtrakResidency was trending on Twitter for a few days, and Amtrak is looking into whether and how to make this a recurring program. Check out this article in The Wire to learn more.

And now I’m off to polish my query. Have you come across any cool happenings or resources lately?


3 thoughts on “Query tips and cool things in writing

  1. Dan Koboldt

    Liz, great post! For querying writers I’d also recommend the Author! Author! blog by Anne Mini. It’s a bit hard to navigate but has an incredible wealth of information.

  2. Pingback: Living a week in an agent’s shoes | Jennifer M Eaton

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