By Christine Carron
Like old-school record albums, there are two sides to the writing adventure: the A-side and the B-side. The A-side, the Artistic side, is the work we writers do to craft a story that we hope will gobsmack our readers. Often, the A-side is the juice, the special sauce, the holy-wow-I love-doing-this! energy that keeps us going no matter the slings and arrows that come our way.
The B-side is the Business side, the part of the adventure where we make a go of earning some money from our writing. Though the B-side often creates angst for writers, it generally doesn’t for me. Not because I’m an angst-free person (yet), but because two decades plus of corporate consulting work gets one super used to interacting in business contexts. On top of that, most of my career was spent in process improvement, which meant a lot of time deconstructing the how and why of business processes in order to make them more effective. Today, I offer you some process improvement know-how to a key B-side writerly process: crafting an agent query letter.
Quick, before you continue reading, answer this question: What’s the purpose of a query letter to an agent?
If your response was something like, duh, Christine, it’s to get me an agent already, then you are expecting your query letter to do more than it is capable of doing. As far as I know, a query letter never got a debut writer an agent all on its own. What the query letter did was get the agent to request a full (or partial) manuscript. People often make a similar expectation error about resumes, believing that a resume will get them a job, when all the resume is supposed to do (and all it can do) is get them an interview.
This kind of expectation error can have serious UUCs, i.e., unpleasant unintended consequences. Let’s examine them in context of you and your query letter:
The writing adventure requires serious mental and emotional chutzpah, regardless of if you are playing on the A-side or the B-side of the adventure. That said, adding process clarity to necessary B-side tasks like querying can ease the chutzpah burden on the business side of the adventure, making your entire writerly experience easier and less stressful. Sweet!
* One of the best resources I have found for helping writers create effective query letters is Nathan Bransford’s blog, where he has a plethora of query-writing tips and also offers regular query critiques.
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