attempting to turn time to money

I’ve spent the better part of today drafting a pitch and marketing plan for a new project. I fell asleep thinking about it last night and I think I was dreaming about it which I think helped me get a headstart. I’m more efficient than I was five years ago. Plus I also have a broader editorial contact base so that can also speed things up. Still, I find it a sometimes time consuming process which takes several passes until I’m satisfied, and I always want to be at my sharpest since this is the first impression the project is going to make on an editor. Somewhere in the midst of working that up today, it occurred to me to wonder – how long does an author figure they spend on average writing a query and getting it ready to send out, which may be a somewhat similar task?

20 responses to “attempting to turn time to money

  1. I usually take several hours to work on a cover letter, especially on the pitch part. I write, rewrite, hone, rewrite again until I’m satisfied, and then I bounce the letter off my friends. They give suggestions, and I hone some more. And then there’s the grammar and punctuation sweep, the hunting for the appropriate agents…
    Yeah, it takes a while.

  2. I’ve only just started at this, but it’s a process that takes, maybe six hours over several days – I draft a query, think it sucks, draft another, ask my flist about it, despair…
    It’s not a process I feel I have mastered, although I’m now able to read queries and notice why they don’t work.
    It’s *hard work*. I don’t envy you having to do it over and over again.

  3. I’d love to hear how you go about creating one of these at some point. I think it would be really educational.
    Although I imagine at this point it’s the last thing in the world you want to talk about. 😉

  4. I can’t say generally, since I’m new to this. However, I’ve been working on my query letter for about a month so far (not exclusively, but at least a couple of hours once or twice a week). It’s on it’s third total rewrite, and is just now to the point where I’m letting some trusted friends take a look and give me an opinion. I’m hoping to have it ready to go within another week or two, since I think this rewrite has at least the basics in the right places.

  5. I’ve been writing queries for my book since I started it two years ago! Have no idea how many hours I’ve spent, though. A lot. Query letters and synopses are in some ways harder than writing the book, and I figured it was good to start practicing as early as possible. We’ll see how much good it did me come January or February when I start sending the letters! 🙂

  6. Yeah, well…it’s daunting and frustrating — much more than you’d expect from a single page. Good luck with the project!

  7. I should think writing a pitch and marketing plan would be more fun than a synopsis and query letter. Queries always feel like an adventure in cringing and suffering–like I’ve reduced a wonderful novel to a Public Servce Announcment in much the way Disney reduces classic children’s stories into 90 minute commercials for music and toys. A marketing plan is much more creative, no?
    That said, I spend at least 4 hours writing and rewriting each query letter over the course of several days.
    Like many people here, I rely heavily on feedback. Though my connections are such that almost no one in the book business is availible for feedback; so it’s the visually-impaired leading the visually challenged, if you get me.

  8. I think, in common with many writers, when I’ve done the ‘hard’ part of writing the novel, I get to the query and synopsis and go utterly blank. I can adore the story, tell all my friends about it, but when it comes to the letter I just… freeze up. I end up over-writing them so they end up boring and, instead of selling the story they let me down again and again. So I am always left wondering if it was just the damned awful letter or the snippet of writing.
    Of course it’s part of the process and I have to learn to sell myself, be, perhaps, just that little bit pushier, or maybe more enthusiastic. And, yes, I’ve read all the sites on how to create a hook etc, so why does my brain go blank? I have no idea.
    Sue Curnow

  9. Years.
    Seriously, though I’m always sending it out, I’m always tinkering, too.
    So, years.

  10. Sometimes it just clicks and only takes an hour . . . maybe even half. But that is certainly not the norm. My query for my current project took me probably ten hours over about as many days and I still wish it were better. *shrug*

  11. I write for magazines as well as fiction and have written well over one hundred queries. I’ve gotten MUCH faster with practice, but I still use the same process.
    I write a first draft, which I always think is crappy, but it gets the framework down.
    Then I edit and revise between 6 and 12 times. With time away from the letter between edit passes. I have an editing checklist that I use to make sure I don’t miss/forget something.
    I’m currently teaching a night class on writing for magazines and my students think I’m picky. I told them, “You think I’m picky? Wait until you work with an editor!”
    Cheers, Julie Rowe

  12. I’m interested in what actually goes into your marketing plan. Care to share?

  13. Still, I find it a sometimes time consuming process which takes several passes until I’m satisfied, and I always want to be at my sharpest since this is the first impression the project is going to make on an editor.
    My best advice is to keep in mind that it can be an easy trap to let yourself get too neurotic about getting a query letter right. Or at least, I used to be neurotic about stuff like this. I think with me the underlying reason I felt this way was because I had the belief that if I did everything just right, not only could I lead a horse to water, I could make them drink!
    Nowadays, I’m more at piece with stuff like this because I realize there is a limit to what I can do so that my work gets accepted. I’ve sent out query letters for short stories, magazine articles, and for a novel. Usually it takes me a day or two to write a query letter for my short stories or magazine articles. I just try to tell them what I’m sending them entails. I also try to be polite and try to make sure I’ve read it over a two of three times so I catch whatever errors I might have made. However, I usually don’t get all neurotic about it. My mindset is that I do all I can do to write a good piece of work and a cover/query letter to go along with it, and either they’ll accept it or they won’t. You can write the greatest query letter in the world, and the editor can still no be interested in what you’re pitching. Just do your best, but try not to drive yourself nuts.

  14. writing a query
    Well, it was my first query but I wrote 20-plus drafts of it over about two weeks before I finally had something that I, and the couple of readers I had, liked it. By the way, you’ll likely be finding it in your mailbox in the next week or two 🙂
    J. Duncan

  15. knowing your audience
    Like most folks, it takes me 4-5 drafts to be able to write any sort of pitch, hook, or synopsis for my own work. I’m getting faster on the drafts–maybe 1-2 hours each–but I have to space them out over a few days at least.
    The hilarious thing for me is that I used to be a librarian–I spent all day summarizing other people’s books in interesting ways, often with no lead time at all. So, I thought this would be the “easy” part for me–wrong!
    Of course I haven’t got much perspective on my own work, and that does make it harder. But I also used to rely on some knowledge of my audience.
    An average third grade boy would check out anything I said was too scary or too gross for me to read. (Then his responsible adult and I would chat about how it was my job to get kids to read, not to convince them to read Quality Literature.) (Of course, if I’d ever cheated and tried to slip in something non-gross or non-scary with that pitch, I’d have been permanently placed on the list of Adults Who Don’t Know What They’re Talking About.)
    If I was pitching those same books to a group of teachers, I would pitch them based on how they were different from each other, and their research, writing, and appeal.
    This is of course an oversimplification, but what I mean to say is that it’s easier to write a pitch when you know what the person you’re pitching to likes. (And, perhaps, that the average agent’s taste is much more diverse and harder to define than the average third grade boy’s.)

  16. web site used to let agents know of work
    I have decided to use a new approach and was wandering what you thought of the process of using a web site to introduce my work. It can be found at

  17. I admit, I don’t spend such a long time on the query–maybe 3 hours, total?
    But that’s deceptive, because when I come up with the idea for the book, I write the “hook” down right away. I re-check it as I write and revise it as it goes along, so by the time the book is done I’ve got my wording down pretty pat. So once I tailor the opening to individual agents and figure out how to word my credits, I’m done. Then I sit on it for a day or two to make sure nothing else comes to mind, do a couple of final read-throughs and a spell-check, and I’m ready.
    Synopses, on the other hand…ugh. Days. Weeks. They scare me.

  18. I’m surprised by some people’s answers to this question. I’ll often write my first ‘story blurb’ shortly after I start writing a novel and keep playing with it until the novel is done. It’s not something I work on for long, maybe five minutes a week over six months, but when the novel is ready to go, they query letter is very clean and concise and often just as old as the book itself.

    • I’ll put a week into learning what I can of an agent to see if what I have is demonstrably something he/she wants. And has done well with. Then I’ll fire off the type of submission packet the agent requests.
      Can I ask a question back? How much of what you agree to rep actually sells?
      From the new side of the biz, it’s impressed constantly that any hope for real sales are tied to a good agent. How often does a writer clear that first hurdle with you but stall out there?

  19. The next meteor to hit
    Off-topic, I know, but this song was a favorite of mine in high school ♥

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