The self publisher’s query

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So, you think that by self publishing you get out of that dreaded query writing task, huh? Sorry to disappoint, but that’s not exactly true.

Being self published means you’re not selling yourself (or should I say your work, as we’re not prostitutes) to an agent, but to your audience. This is where the self publisher’s version of a query comes into play, although it’s referred to as back cover copy or a summary. Some people call it a blurb (which I also thought it to be, but it seems blurb stands more for the quotes and praise from other authors or publications that have read an ARC* of the book).

In a query you have to catch the agent’s attention, first with the appealing summary and then by going into a little more detail about the genre of the book, how long it is and perhaps some information on your writing background and your other publications.

For the self publisher, most people won’t even buy a print copy and opt for an e-book version. That means your summary is going to be front and center on your book’s Amazon or Smashword page (or wherever you’re selling your books). The cover art will probably be the first thing to draw prospective readers in, but once they click on it to get a better look, your hook, that first line, had better be something amazing. Something to make that browser stop and read further, rather than click along to the next book.  You have to engage your reader as the query would an agent, otherwise you won’t be selling very many books.

Now lean in close so I can tell you a secret.  A little closer. I promise I showered AND brushed my teeth today. Ahh perfect. Here goes. WRITING A SUMMARY IS FREAKING HARD! 

Back in January of this year I talked about how writing a query letter was not an easy task, well this is the same damn thing! You have to condense your thousands of words into a mere couple of hundred that will intrigue and excite perspective buyers. You can’t give everything away (it’s not a synopsis) and you can’t be too vague. There has to be a happy medium and I’m telling you, it’s not simple. I’ve written at least a dozen for Near Death, sometimes tweaking things other times doing total re-writes.

You cannot do a half-assed job. It has to be as perfect as you can get it. You can have people review your books and recommend them to others, but even a glowing recommendation is not going to sell many books if the author can’t explain to their audience what the book is about. Treat it like any other part of your manuscript. Edit it, ask others to read it, edit it again. I promise you, it will be beneficial to you and your book sales.

Now go get on that, because it’s going to be a struggle and you will want to leave enough time before taking your author photo for the hair you rip out during the process to grow back.



*for those not in the know, ARC stands for Advanced Reading Copy

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6 responses »

  1. I KNOW! Doesn't seem like it should be though. I mean we wrote the story, of course we know what it's about, so why is it so hard to sum it up in a couple hundred words? Meh! 😀

  2. Marybeth, I commend you on writing this really useful article for self-publisher's. I've recently decided to do just that. I had already written a query letter, on which I worked for months and got tons of feedback from seasoned writers and authors.

    My query is in pretty good shape now; although it's buried somewhere deep inside a file on my computer. I never sent it out to an agent or publisher. Instead, I researched and researched self-pub for months and eventually decided that it is the wave of the future and the way to go for me.

    After reading your post, I am sure that I can put that query letter to good use. With a little tweaking, it just may turn into a great summary for the back cover of my memoir.

  3. I'm gonna have to post my post on this subject and link back to here. Just to drive the point in twice. Self pubbing doesn't get your out of querying. It's just as important, if not more because you are essentially querying to each reader that sees your book!

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