I attended the New Jersey SCBWI conference last weekend for my first time. In a word: FANTASTIC! Not only did I learn a ton, but it was great to meet so many open, dedicated, and like-minded people. Here are a couple of highlights from my favorite workshops.
The Query Letter with Ben Grange
Ben was open, specific, and helpful in his Saturday afternoon talk about what works– and what doesn’t– in the query letter. One line that resonated was “cut to the chase.” Yes, yes, yes! Nobody has time or desire to read a longwinded query letter. Brevity is key. Also, character, he says, needs to be the focus of the query. What are that character’s goals and desires? We need to love the character above all else, or at least be intrigued by who he or she is.
Ben went on to remind us that agents are real people. Not only that, but they represent real people. An agent wants to know who you are. After all, the relationship may (and hopefully) last for years, decades even. Be personal, Ben says. He wants to know who he’ll be working with for many, many years to come. So, a query letter must be personal. Not jacket copy, he says.
Here’s a synopsis of the DO NOT’s:
- No main character point of view queries. Total turn-off.
- Don’t use a lot of adjectives, and especially don’t use words like ‘fast-paced’ or ‘thrilling.’ You are not a critic of your novel, he says.
- No blow by blow descriptions. Also, cut out the backstory and subplots. Save those for the novel.
- Don’t be vague. Every line, every word, counts!
Thanks so much, Ben. This was very helpful!
Off to the day job–more on the conference later. 🙂