Query Letter: Your Book’s Audition

Most actors hate auditions. I don’t know why. I love them.

An audition is your chance to show yourself at your best. You’ve spent years honing your craft. You’ve spent days polishing each detail. You’ve spent hours preparing the material. Now all of those years of work are focused into three perfect minutes. It is not a necessary evil. It’s the culmination of everything you’ve worked for and the gateway to the thing you want most.

Now go back to the first paragraph and replace the word “audition” with “query letter.” Do it. It will be eye-opening, I promise.

Most actors think that their job is acting in plays. Wrong! Their job is auditioning. The fruit of their labor is a part in a play. It’s the same with authors. Your job is not writing a book. Yes, in order to query a book you need to have written one, and a good one at that. But you will never see traditional publication without a good query letter. Sure, there is the occasional in-person pitch or contest win, just as in acting sometimes an actor knows the director or is “discovered” waiting tables. But the vast majority of publishing contracts are obtained because of a query letter.

Here are the components of a good audition:
1) Confidence.
2) Approachable, professional, friendly demeanor.
3) Appropriate, professional clothes.
4) Knowledge of yourself- your type, range, and skill set.
5) Knowledge of the company/show for which you’re auditioning.
6) A kick-ass monologue or song that shows off what you do best.

Here are the components of a good query letter:
1) Confidence
2) Approachable, professional, friendly demeanor. (Notice a theme?)
3) Appropriate, professional formatting.
4) Knowledge of your book- genre, plot, and voice.
5) Knowledge of the agent/editor to whom you sent the letter.
6) A kick-ass book that shows off what you do best.

Yes, your book is probably amazing. Yes, your book is probably what the world needs to read right now. But none of this matters if your query letter doesn’t show it off. An actor will never get the part if they cannot audition well.

So what does it take to audition well?
1) A love of baring your soul- to show anybody and everybody your best work.
2) Hours and hours and hours of rehearsal- to insure that the work is your best.
3) A deep, deep desire for the role.
4) A voracious appetite for approval and a thick skin for rejection- this balance gives you the ability to try, fail, and try again. Which is the only way to get work.
5) Help from experienced professionals- directors, coaches, peers.

Only then are you ready to begin your audition process. It confounds me whenever I work with acting students who hate it when people watch them act. Isn’t that why you’re an actor? So people will watch you act?

And what does it take to write a fantastic query letter?
1) A love of baring your soul- to show anybody and everybody your best work.
2) Hours and hours and hours of writing- to insure that the work is your best.
3) A deep, deep desire for publication.
4) A voracious appetite for approval and a thick skin for rejection- this balance gives you the ability to try, fail, and try again. Which is the only way to get published.
5) Help from experienced professionals- writers, editors, peers.

Are you ready? Do you have what it takes? Then let’s get going. Write that letter.

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