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Query Letters Give Me Hemorrhoids

I am having a serious problem with writing query letters.

It’s not that I hate writing the query letter. It’s difficult, but nothing I can’t handle. If I can’t condense down my story to 250 words then I haven’t done a very good job of forming the story in the first place. At least not in a commercial way.

What I hate is that I keep failing but with no knowledge as to what I got wrong. I get no feedback like “well, we weren’t interested because of this.” I never get anything like “the word count was too long for your genre”, “we’re not interested in science fiction romance right now”, “the story just didn’t interest me”.

Sure, I can always revise, but at a certain point, am I just arranging deck chairs on the Titanic? I don’t know. No one will tell me if the ship is sinking. Did I do something in the past that ended up with me blacklisted from all agent sites?

I understand why some of my books failed to get bites. Black Hole Son was my first, so there were probably too many reasons to count. Defender had some gender issue themes that might have turned agents off. Also might have been too close to Harry Potter for comfort. But I don’t see what was wrong with Merm-8 or The Mudbow Sisters. Is there something about dwarves that doesn’t sell? Was “Waterworld meets The Little Mermaid” not enough of a hook?

For Replaneted, I basically wrote the logline in eighty different ways. It still doesn’t sound very interesting, but I’m not sure how to add tension. It’s more of a Hallmark-style comfort book. I’ve got a definite A) who is the main character B) what is the catalyst C) what is the break into two? Romance should be a top seller, and science fiction should add that multi-genre marketability. People liked The Time Traveler’s Wife. There’s a market for this right?

I can sum it up in a boring way, no problem. A young woman accepts marriage from an introverted aristocrat to escape her life of poverty. You’d think being jumped into marriage would be tension enough, but she also has to move from her mega-city to the rural space colony he owns. See, that’s not so hard?

So this time around I’m dropping some dollars on query revisions. I really feel good about this novel–I think it’s good enough to see shelf space. I don’t want it to go back to a folder on my computer just because my query couldn’t get my foot in the door.

I’ve already spent $50 on one critique from Reedsy. The person seemed qualified, but what I got wasn’t exceptional. It was pretty much the same thing I got from r/pubTips. In fact, I’d venture to say that feedback that was better in some ways. But they are not agents. So my information isn’t coming from the intended audience. I must seek professional help (in more ways than one).

I just wish that professional help didn’t cost in the triple digits. I know experience and applied knowledge has value, but it’s only 250 words. It’s an hour max of actual workload.

On the other hand, you could say that about doctors too. You’re not paying for their time, you pay for their expertise. Maybe I feel a little soured on professional services for something subjective. I imagine spending a ton of money and then still failing to get an agent and never recouping the losses. But this time I’m going to take the risk. I don’t want my fifth novel to be another goose egg.

Eric Juneau is a software engineer and novelist on his lunch breaks. In 2016, his first novel, Merm-8, was published by eTreasures. He lives in, was born in, and refuses to leave, Minnesota. You can find him talking about movies, video games, and Disney princesses at http://www.ericjuneaubooks.com where he details his journey to become a capital A Author.

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