In my humble opinion, the query letter is a crock of sh–, er, I mean, mostly a waste of everyone’s time. Rejection of a query letter is not the same as rejection of the manuscript that you sweated and slaved over for months and years. It’s insulting, cruel, and morale crushing to receive a no-thank-you from someone who didn’t bother to read as little as a chapter of your book. Katherine Stockett’s fabulously amazing novel, The Help, got a whopping 60 rejections (the idea of which makes my head spin), and many of them, no doubt, were from busy agents and publishers who dismissed her query as outdated and who will forever be kicking themselves in the ass (the ass kicking thrills me to pieces).
So, am I saying that you should never write a query letter? No, write your best one, send it to as many agents and publishers that require it, but don’t take it seriously when you get that rejection. At the same time, look under every rock and fallen tree to find the rare few who will give your work the respect it deserves. There are agents and publishers who believe that a submission of at least part of your manuscript is the only way to assess an author’s work and decide whether or not it fits with their particular publishing goals.
Yes, they do exist, and with an incredible amount of dumb luck, I stumbled across one of them on the internet, a publisher that not only allowed me to upload my first three chapters, but promised to read them and give me a personal response. The site directed me to an awesome form in which I was given space to tell them why I thought my book would sell, who I believed my audience would be, and I even took the liberty to provide testimonials from people who had read my manuscript. So what if they had a really weird name with almost as many i’s as Mississippi? Elixirist.com could have been called Santa Claus’s Elbow and I would have sent them my manuscript!
They rejected me. For a week, I moped around the house and licked my wound. On the eighth day, they sent me another email asking for the rest of the novel. I didn’t ask questions. I sent them the full manuscript faster than I could ask what the hell…? They thanked me and said they’d get back to me in two weeks. In only two days, I got an email saying, “We just finished reading your novel, Rose’s Will, and we’d like to feature it on the launch of our new e-book division called 48fourteen.com.”
I hope I make them proud!