Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Query Workshops, by Barbara Jolie

Okay. You guys know how against guest posts by strangers I normally am, and I know I bombarded you with one last week. And with Barbara linking to her online education website at the end of this post, it's clear this is all about SEO, but she took the time to write a useful post that is actually relevant to my blog and my readers, so I'm letting her take over today.

Please do not assume that because I'm putting this post up, I personally vouch for any of these workshops, or even that I recommend paying for query advice at all. There are plenty of links to free query letter resources on the sidebar to the right, and there are, of course, always the critiques I do myself.

But, for those who have the money, or are just curious to hear a professional's opinion, a paid query workshop might be worth considering.

Take it away, Barbara.

Writing a Query Letter? Consider Attending An Informative Course or Workshop About It

When aspiring writers want to get their work seen, read, posted or published, they must first send a query letter to the literary agent or editor in charge of those decisions. For those unfamiliar, a query letter outlines the author's intent and often an outline of his or her intended piece.

Being such an unfamiliar first step, query writing often thins the herd of potential writers, as many shy away from it. However, you no longer have to struggle in the dark over how to approach this daunting task. Many colleges and institutes now offer workshops and seminars on the subject, giving you and others like you the opportunity to fraternize with others in the same position you find yourself in. Before I get into any of the specific programs offered for those interested I wanted to explore some of the benefits of partaking in a query-writing workshop.

Benefits of Query-Writing Workshops

First and foremost, attendees will learn exactly what makes a good query. This is important, especially for those just starting, because how can they be expected to know where to begin if they don't know what "right" looks like. Granted there is no end-all, be-all for queries, as it inevitably depends on the person reviewing it, but there are certain things one should try to implement and these workshops will cover just that.

Also, attending a query-writing workshop allows you to get honest, unbiased feedback. The people there likely have no personal tie to you. They are just professionals in the field who know their stuff. So they will not sugar coat when something doesn't work or could be approached in a different way.

Think of all of the tips you'll be walking away with. Learning what you're doing wrong now will save you loads of time and effort in the long run by helping to decrease the likelihood your work will be rejected. So, now that you know some of the benefits these sessions offer, let me list some examples of opportunities—both past and present.

Workshops and Seminars

Numerous schools, writing groups and more across the world hold regular sessions, courses, seminars and workshops on various topics of interest to aspiring writers. One of these topics happens to be query-letter writing, because nothing will squash potential success like a poorly constructed query letter. After all, it's the first impression a potential editor or literary agent gets of your work, so it better be good, right?

Many workshops have already taken place this year, but there are still a few left for those looking to perfect or improve their approach. For instance, there's the First Impressions: Query Critique Workshop taught by Marisa A. Corvisiero of Literary Powerhouse Consulting.

Taking place in November, this workshop will allow aspiring authors to submit their queries for honest feedback and criticism. Numerous literary agents and industry professionals will be available to offer their own tips and tricks.

The Arts Center in New York also offers a workshop entitled Perfect Your Pitch: Writing Killer Query Letters. From sizing up potential editors to marketing your talent and credentials, this event aims to cover it all. Attendees also have the option to bring a query letter for review with them.

The Heritage Writers Guild of Utah will also be tackling the all-important subject of query writing at an upcoming conference taking place in October. In it they will discuss the dos and don’ts of good query-letter writing, as well as offer examples to attendees. It should be an informative event for all.

Overall, if you have a completed work or two you would like to see published but are unsure of how to go about that, do consider attending or at the very least further researching these options. You never know what you might learn.

Barbara Jolie is a full time freelance writer and blogger for onlineclasses.org. She writes about advantages of online classes and is particularly interested in writing and language education. If you have any questions email Barbara at barbara.jolie876@gmail.com.

That's it.

And that also ends my experiment with allowing strangers to write guest posts for me. Please don't email me about guest posting unless you actually know me.


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I'm glad I'm on my last book - won't ever have to write a query again.

Sarah said...

I think it's important for writers to know that there are TONS of great FREE resources online where they can have their queries critiqued in depth, including right here on Matt's blog. Along with Nathan Bransford's forums and Absolute Write QLH (these are the places that helped me hone my own successful query), there are dozens of blogs where writers at all levels will offer feedback to the soon-to-be-querier. Not only that, there are scads of websites and blogs (The Query Shark is phenomenal) run by industry professionals that offer general guidance.

Before a writer spends hard-earned money, he/she should take the time to use all the valuable resources available for no cost at all. The added benefit of these is that the writer becomes part of the community, a priceless learning experience in and of itself. Writing conferences can be lovely for exactly this reason, and those often offer query workshops, as mentioned above, for those who do have disposable cash. I just wanted to make the point that it's not necessary to be successful.

That said, Matt, can I do a guest post? ;P

maine character said...

Another great online resource is Elana Johnson's "From the Query to the Call," a PDF you can get on her website.

Em-Musing said...

Yes, yes Elana! A must read for queries. Also, a great crit partner sure helps.

Jay Noel said...

I need to go to a real writer's workshop. Never been and I like the idea of getting feedback from pros.

D.G. Hudson said...

Yes, if you have the money, a course will benefit some, but this is an area of improvement you can research to find out what 'right' looks like.

Writing is made of many parts, and I for one don't think you have to pay for every little piece of the package.

Donna Hole said...

When I started writing my query, I read a lot of free stuff on line about basic formatting and length. Many agents/publishers will also have a query help section that tells authors what they want to see in a query, sometimes even giving a sample of one that worked for them.

Its good to know what other resources are out there, but I've been pleased with all the free help I've received.


Michael Offutt, Tebow Cult Initiate said...

I don't think I'd get much from a query writing seminar. This just seems like another way to fleece aspiring authors of hard-earned money by selling them a "dream". Writing is so subjective. I've got evidence of an actual query containing two spelling errors that got picked up by Suzie Townshend and published by the Big Six. Come on! That right there told me that it's all subjective and mostly luck. Best thing to do is finish your book, write a letter that contains no errors and is pretty much like everyone else's letter and then mail it to the right person. And then, count on some luck.

alexia said...

I second Sarah in that the Query Shark is super helpful (and also freaking hilarious). Of course, she tells everyone that to submit to her, you have to read the entire archives. I once spent two weeks doing just that. Invaluable - but I can see how some people might want to attend a workshop instead of combing through all the online resources. To each their own.

Nancy Thompson said...

It's great that there are these kinds of resources out there, but there's so many at our fingertips online, it's hardly necessary. I spent weeks researching agent blogs for info on querying. I entered several contests judged by agents who gave a great deal of feedback. Then there are my fellow bloggers & CPs & Matt's QQQE. All together, they helped whip my query into submit-able shape which got me my deal. Thank goodness for the Internet!

farawayeyes said...

Interesting post, even more interesting comments. Do I understand this correctly, that this wan, a total stranger, just shows up and asks to hijack your blog? That goes way beyond interesting.

Laura Pauling said...

It's nice not writing a query again - to submit to agents. But with every book I have to write copy that goes on the retail sites, which is like the query. But there's not the pressure and can be changed up.

yes, so many free sites and writers willing to give a look on writer forums.

Sarah Ahiers said...

I think a query workshop might be good if you're interested in making connections, but yeah, i learned via free resources and it seems to be doing me just fine

Laura Stephenson said...

I'm sure those seminars are excellent for people who aren't sure how to implement the free advise they can get from Matt and other free critique sources. Talking to someone face-to-face can be a more helpful experience for some people. I'm fine with online help, myself.

I also do critiques on my blog, from queries to first pages.

Liza said...

I learn so much right here...