Saturday, January 30, 2010

A few rules to keep in mind when querying

Hi all. It's still query week, and I'm still here. Sorry about the lack of a post yesterday. Things got hectic around here and The Bean refused to let me have any peace. But I'm here now and I'm ready to get down to business.

Okay, writers. You've finished your book. You've gone over it over and over and over again, editing, until you can't stand the sight of it anymore. You've gotten it critiqued by your writing group, your girlfriend, and you Aunt Millie. You're ready to move on to the exciting (read: anxiety-ridden) world of querying!

You basically have two options on who to send these special little letters to.
A) Literary agents
B) Small publishing houses

They both have their advantages and disadvantages, depending on what you want to do with your book. I won't go into what they are, because you can do that on your own time. I'm also going to try to avoid stuff you should already know. (Like all the stuff you can find just about anywhere, from Writer's Market to I will give you some helpful advice over the next few days on what to put in your query letters. We'll go with the assumption you're sending it to agents (since most of us want to see our books published by big houses), so that's the default recipient I'll be using.

First and foremost (and this deserves its own line, because it is that important):


I shouldn't even have to tell you this, but you would be surprised how many people just don't do it. The bottom line here is that agents get hundreds of query letters every week. They're looking for an excuse to reject you and move on so they can get through them. If you can't even follow simple directions, you are not going to be easy to work with. Rejection.

Next: Never, ever, ever, ever, ever send the same query out to multiple agents at the same time. You want to make agents feel as though a) they're your dream agent (even if they're not) and b) you've done your research and tweaked your query letter just for them. They're not stupid. They know you're not writing a completely original letter for each agent. But they do want to know that there's a reason you picked them out of all the agents out there. And it had better be a good one too. Maybe you read his name on the acknowledgments page of a similar author. Maybe you looked him up on and saw he handled your kind of work. Whatever it is, put it in there. Let him know why you picked him. And please, please, please, don't address them as "Dear Agent".

Next: Always remember, the story is what they care the most about. That should be the main part of your query. The current trend is to actually start out with the story, screw introductions, and get to what I call the "nuts and bolts" of the query after that.

Next: Avoid anything cliched. Again, agents get hundreds of queries a week. Why should he want to read your stuff instead of the other stuff itching for his attention? You want to make your query stand out. And don't do this by using some kind of gimmick. Whatever you thought up is probably lame and has probably been done before anyhow. Be professional, but unique. (And whatever you do, don't write your query as your main character.)

Next: Keep it short and sweet. Get in, tell him what's going on, why you picked him, why he should pick you, and get out. That should be self-evident, but you don't know how many 2-page query letters I've seen.

And last (for now, at least): EDIT EDIT EDIT EDIT EDIT EDIT.
Just like your manuscript, you want to edit the shit out of this puppy. Get friends to critique it for you. If they're friends that have written successful queries, or friends in the business, even better.

That's all for now. I'm going to be posting examples of good queries and bad queries to show my points.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Tuesday night/wednesday morning bonus post

Okay, so this has little to nothing to do with Query Week, but it's a really great idea anyhow. (As opposed to a very similar idea called NaNoWriMo, which I just couldn't get behind.)

I read about it on a great blog called Editorial Ass. (Check it out, writers.)
Here's the deal. National Write Your Ass Off Day! ...or is that weekend? Or week? For what it's worth, I will definitely be participating the next day The Wife has off, so I won't need to leave the house driving or anything and can concentrate solely on writing.

How about it, writers? Anyone want to write their asses off with me?
(For details, check out JEN's comments here.)

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A Tale of Two Queries part 2

This will be the first post I put a disclaimer on.

Disclaimer: Do not, under any circumstances, take this story as sound "agent-getting" advice. It is not, and in most circumstances it will make sure that the agent in question never, ever works with you. And I'm not sure how in-touch these guys are with each other, but from what I've heard it's not uncommon for them to share stories. Don't get black-listed by trying something crazy like this.

Okay, now that that's out of the way, it's query week here at My Brain Hurts. Last post, I told the story of how my agent and I started working together. Which is a pretty out-of-the-ordinary story. If you think that's odd, though, wait until you see this next one. I cannot recommend following this man's example, but it worked for him and I'm happy for him. Here it is.

The Craziest Man On Earth - or - How One Lunatic Got Himself a Top Notch Agent

Greg (his name isn't really Greg, I've changed it to protect the innoc--er, guilty) was a writer. A very good writer. He had recently finished his second book (the first hiding safely in his drawer, where it will stay forever more) and decided he needed an agent to help him get it out there. And of course to make money in the process. A writer's gotta eat.

He bought the latest volume of Writer's Market, he joined all the websites, he even sent a query to the wonderful blog Ms. Janet Reid started called Query Shark to have it ripped apart so he could put it back together again.

Unfortunately, he was met with rejection. It was all very nice rejection, mostly personal, telling him it was really good, but just not right for the agent, and could Greg please send anything else he has when it is ready? Which was cool, but definitely not as cool as getting an agent would have been.

So Greg decided to step it up a notch. In the writing world, this next notch is known as "Conference-Mania." Greg took out his trusty Writer's Market and looked up every conference in his price-range (which wasn't very many, as Greg's "day job" consisted of cleaning up bathrooms at the local middle school). Luckily, one was coming up right in his city next week. What luck!

Greg attended the conference, five copies of his manuscript printed out and weighing down his messenger bag like he'd packed a cinder block for lunch. He also had 10 flash drives with the manuscript in it. He was GOING to get himself an agent today. No matter what.

So, after what he considered a very unsuccessful event (most of the agents had had similar reactions to the ones he queried, i.e. want to see other, different work by him) Greg was convinced no one could see the genius he had produced. (And after having read Greg's book, I agree - those guys were crazy not to scoop him up.) Greg then resigned himself to the hotel bar and proceeded to get drunker than he had ever been in his life.

Two hours into his bender, a very famous agent, one who had given a panel at the conference earlier (we'll call him Mr. Fancy Pants for the purposes of this story) walked into the bar, also drunk. Greg recognized him and, drunk as he was, decided he would let a little steam out on Mr. Fancy Pants.

"You suck, you know that? You suck so bad." Greg tells him. (This would be about the time I tell you not to follow in Greg's footsteps."

"Yeah. I know," says Mr. Fancy Pants. "My wife pretty much said the same thing not five minutes ago."

"Yeah, well, apparently I also suck."

"Well, since we both suck so much, why don't I buy my fellow sucker a drink?" Mr. Fancy Pants orders Greg another round of what he was drinking. (Which is triple shots of Jameson, if you're wondering. Greg has something of a drinking problem.)

The two of them get to talking, Greg tells Mr. Fancy Pants he heard him speak and maybe he didn't suck too badly.

"Hey, do you like hookers?" says Mr. Fancy Pants.

You can see where this is going. I won't give you the gory details; suffice to say that Greg and Mr. Fancy Pants spent the rest of the night looking for hookers and not finding them. They part company around dawn the next day as friends, saying they will get together and drink whenever Mr. Fancy Pants is in town.

The next monday, Greg gets a call. It's Mr. Fancy Pants.

"Hey, I assume it was no mistake you left your manuscript in my car. Well, I read it. Holy shit. Let's get this published."

And Greg had himself an agent.

See? There are happy endings even without hookers.

Monday, January 25, 2010

A Tale of Two Queries part 1

It was recently brought to my attention that "agent-getting" stories can be sort of interesting. I hadn't thought of it before, but I suppose that's right. It's always good for writers starting out to hear how those a little farther on got to where they are. To see that it actually does happen. That they're not just sending queries to robots who will read the first two sentences then promptly disintegrate it with their eye lasers.

And, come to think of it, queries are a pretty important and interesting topic no matter where you are. So I'm going to make this query week at My Brain Hurts. Anyone with query questions, please feel free to email me at and I will post them here and answer them. I happen to be something of a query wizard and I will always give my best advice, which you can, of course, take or leave.

I'll also be posting any interesting agent-getting or editor-at-a-publishing-house-getting stories that you guys send, so feel free to send those too.

Along with those two, I'll be posting general knowledge and query tips all week, so get ready to whip your letter into shape!

On to today's topic, though. Query stories. First, I'll tell my story (which is not exactly the norm, as far as how these things work, but pretty cool nonetheless) about how Tha Agent became my agent.

I had been pretty much LIVING queries for a month when I first decided to contact Tha Agent. I spent hours and hours a day glued to my laptop (a fact that did NOT please The Wife very much), researching how to write an impressive query letter (since the first one I wrote may as well have been crayon drawings of ducks), researching different agents and agencies, and looking at agent databases. Through every single search I did, one agent kept popping up at the top. Tha Agent. At first I didn't bother querying him. I had read his client list and his recent sales and figured he was WAY out of my league. After being generally bombarded with his name for two weeks, though, I figured "Hey, why not? The least I can do is say no. Then I can stop getting pissed because he's too good for me."

(As an aside, for those of you who are unaware, the average time - in my experience, at least - for any given agent to respond to a query letter is 1-3 weeks. This is only counting e-queries, since snail mail obviously takes longer, and I'm sure some of you will have had different experiences. This is only mine.)

After sending off the super-duper, ninja-level ass-kicking query I had worked on for a month to Tha Agent, I went to sleep. (It was about 3am at the time, so I was pretty tired.) When I awoke in the morning, there was a reply from Tha Agent in my inbox.

He had requested my full manuscript!

I was overjoyed, of course. This guy who I thought was out of my league wanted to read me. So I sent it out, along with answering his question of "Are any other agents reading it or that have read it?" honestly, telling him there were 5 currently reading it. (I think it was 5. It could have been 3 or 4 too, though.) Then i got dressed and went to breakfast.

When I came home there was another email from Tha Agent in my inbox. This one asked for a synopsis. I sent it out. Went shopping. Went to dinner.

Alas, Tha Agent had rejected me when I got home! I sent off another email, telling him of my other book.

About five seconds later an email simply reading "holy shit, call me now please" was in my inbox.

Tha Agent has been my agent ever since.

And so ends the first query story. Stay tuned, as next time I will be telling you the most ridiculous agent-getting story I've ever heard! Also, query tips, tricks, and secret codes! (and no - up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, b, a, select, start doesn't work - trust me, I've tried it... and received VERY weird looks).

Saturday, January 23, 2010

A super duper great link for all you writers!

Hey all. Just stopping by real quick to share with you a GREAT article on the supposed rules of first-time novel-writing. I know I don't usually do this, but this is one you simply must read. Everyone thank Ms. Lydia Sharp for her article, too. And for her brain cookies.

Just click here
and read it already.

What are you doing still here?

Go here instead!

I mean it!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Perfect Book

This will be a quick post, as I am in the middle of reading something so earth-shatteringly phenomenal that if I don't get back to it quickly, I may catch on fire.

Yes, it's that good.

That's why I had to pause so I could inform all of you (my bestest e-buddies in the e-niverse) about this wondrous book that the human race may just worship as the second coming of Jesus (but not in the gross, perverted way).

It's called Nightlight: A Parody. It's by The Harvard Lampoon and it rocks my socks so hard that they have holes in them from all the rocks. (Which, I guess is normal - rocks don't exactly med socks, do they?)

Anyhow, this book is a vampire romance. It's like Twilight but better. (For all you Twilight fans out there, I am totally serious. This book will light a fire in your soul. A good fire.) I couldn't believe how amazing it was when I bought it, but now I know, I will follow it anywhere.

So, in closing: read Nightlight: A Parody. Now. Order it now! Or better yet, go out to whatever store is open around you right now and buy it, because you shouldn't have to wait for this thing to come in the mail. In fact, if it will take less time, invent some sort of time traveling device, then go back in time to directly after you read this, and go buy it then.

I love this book.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Dramatis Personnae 2010

Hi all.

So, with 2010 here I figured I would share with you guys a list of all the other people mentioned in this blog - the supporting characters, if you will. This way you won't be going "Huh? Who the eff is that?" whenever I mention someone. Aren't I a wonderful guy? Don't you just love me? Aww, thanks, readers. I love you too.

Anyhow, no BS on this post. Let's cut to the meat.

My Brain Hurts's Dramatis Personnae for 2010:


The Wife: Katelyn, my fiance, will from now on
be referred to as The Wife, because she might
as well be my wife anyway. Enjoys: cute things,
when I do things around the house, Fallout 3,
The Bean, me.

The Bean: The Wife's and my brand-spankin'
new baby boy, Jack. Cutest thing of all time.
Shaped like bean. Pictures on my Facebook.
(Just search my email: Richiekraysemail
at yahoo.) Enjoys: sticking his tongue out,
giggling, talking to one of the fish on his
mobile, eating, Mommy, mocking facial
expressions, his pacifier, eating, Daddy,
eating, and uh, eating.

Tha Agent: Adam "Snapper" Chromy of
Artists and Artisans. My agent. Awesome
guy. Swears a lot. Sells a lot. Works until
3am on holidays. Gangsterest agent of
all time. (Hence the 'a' instead of 'e'
in the word 'the'.)

The Partner: Cathy, my writing
partner. She is the one who tells me
when something I've written sucks,
tells me when something is good, and
tells me when something doesn't
exactly suck, but isn't quite good either.
Enjoys: writing, her daughter Vicky,
bourbon, misspelling the word bourbon,
reading, Flight of the Conchords, living
in the middle of nowhere, New Zealand.

Yours Truly: Me, of course. Father,
"Husband", Author, and all around
awesome guy. I happen to enjoy:
playing with The Bean, Movie
Nights with The Wife, Writing,
asking "Where is the remote?" in
various unlikely ways.


Well, there you have ir. Now you don't have to be confused anymore. Hooray!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Party like it's 2010

Well, here it is - 2010.

Another year has come and gone, bringing us that much closer to hoverboards and power-laces and wearing our pants inside out. (10 cool points awarded to whoever knows what I'm talking about.) 2009 was hands-down the best year of my life so far. I'm sort of sad to see it go.

Also coming to a close is the hugely successful NaSwe PraMo. I was completely overwhelmed at the response I received. I didn't think I'd get more than 2 or 3 emails. The grand total, as of December 31st, was 24. I picked a top 3 and a grand prize winner, and they'll be posted next week. I'm sorry I haven't gotten to it yet. The Bean (my son's nickname) got sick, which severely cut down my blogging time. I promise you I will though, and soon.

With the holidays over now, the publishing industry is slowly getting back on the work-horse, which is good news for yours truly. My agent tells me he has some definite interest, so I'm EXTREMELY excited at the moment. Please keep your fingers, toes, and whichever other appendages you deem appropriate crossed that Bible Camp Zombies will be sold very soon.

So what will 2010 bring? I can't really say. All I know is that it's going to be exciting.

--oh, and my new year's resolution is to learn how to move my toes individually, so I can lift just the middle one and give people the middle toe when I'm at the beach.