Monday, October 21, 2013

Jill Grinberg and the Art of the Query

SCBWI WWA started our new programming year last Thursday with super-agent Jill Grinberg speaking about the art of query-writing.

What do most queries lack? According to Jill, the answer is spark. It’s not that most queries are bad, really; they're just bland.
Jill; photo by Ali Smith

Jill read to us examples of terrific queries that had landed in her inbox over the years, including the original query for the book CINDER from her client, Marissa Meyer. Comparing Marissa’s query letter with her own letter aimed at selling CINDER to editors, Jill demonstrated how a good query can help an agent position a piece in a way that leads to a sale.

Jill especially emphasized the appeal of authenticity and lack of fluff in a well-written query letter. She said she can sense when someone is adding something inauthentic, and it doesn’t leave a good impression. Ditto for editorializing on one’s own work. Such mistakes can make a writer sound naïve.

Summarizing one’s own work is really an art, Jill explained. A query letter should be a teaser that draws an agent in and indicates the tone, voice, and style of the piece of work it’s trying to sell. If a query isn’t fabulously written, it’s probably not selling something fabulously written. In other words, if a query isn’t fabulously written, she rejects it.

Contributed by Chinook Street Team member Kjersten Anna Hayes

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