Tuesday, June 30, 2015

COSCBWI Meeting June 2015

This month's COSCBWI meeting featured a great discussion on query letters.  Query letters are essentially "pitch letters" that you send to agents and editors to tell them about your book.  Today's market is bursting with aspiring writers, and it can be difficult to capture the attention of industry professionals.  (Some agents even receive hundreds of queries a day!)  With so much competition, it's important to do everything you can to craft a winning letter and help your story stand out in a sea of queries.
COSCBWI's Regional Advisor, Linda Miller, first went over the staples of writing a query.  When you write a query, you want to conform to industry standards and present yourself in a very professional light.  (So don't print your letter on neon green paper, or dump sparkles inside the envelope!)  A basic query should consist of an introduction, an enticing plot summary (one or two short paragraphs), a short bio, the word count and genre/intended age group, and any other pertinent information.  It should be no more than one page in length and should be free of typos and errors.  Agents and editors often request materials to accompany a query letter (i.e. the first five pages, entire picture book manuscript, etc.), so be sure to research what each professional wants and specify what you're enclosing with your letter.  Make sure you get their name and gender right, too; addressing a letter to Ms. Shannon McAgent when Shannon is a male is a HUGE error.  (And will probably make Shannon McAgent quite grumpy!)
Linda also went over several questions you should ask yourself as you write your query, including:
-Why would your target group want to read your book?
-Why would your target group benefit from your book?
-Why is your book right for this specific publisher or agent?
-Would you want to read your book based on your query?
If you can't answer these questions, you may want to revise your query letter some more before sending it out.  It's also a good idea to have colleagues read it over to help you iron out any wrinkles.  The group practiced critiquing each other's work and offering constructive feedback.  It was wonderful to hear the letters from our brave volunteers, and the feedback offered was very encouraging and helpful!
If you want to learn more about COSCBWI, be sure to visit the website at http://ohiocensouth.scbwi.org.  (You can read all about the awesome upcoming workshop with author Jody Casella, too!)  I hope to see you at the July events!

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