by Holly Schindler

My path to publication was a long and winding one: seven and a half years to get to the first publishing deal.  And in that time, I racked up so many rejections, I sometimes felt as though I could probably keep my house warm all winter just by burning form letters.  When all you hear is “no,” you begin to think there’s a trick to it.  There’s got to be.  As a writer seeking that first deal, I’d joke about what I thought it would take to snag an agent or editor: blank checks with my submission?  Maybe attention-grabbing glitter?  Maybe hand-delivering the manuscript dressed up in some unforgettable favorite-literary-character-of-all-time costume?

In truth, there IS a trick to landing an agent or editor.  And I used the same trick to snag my first publishing deal—and the second—and to land my agent.

And that super-highly-classified secret, which I’m about to divulge for the very first time?



A query letter.

That’s it.  That’s what got me in the door at a publishing house, where I sold two novels myself—and at a literary agency, where my agent sold my third novel, my first middle grade, which will release in ’12.  A query.

Your shoulders just fell a little, didn’t they?  “A query?” you’re saying.  “But I’ve been writing queries all along. That’s no secret.”

But, in a way, it is.

So many writers spend so much time working on their manuscript, I think that they can often neglect to really hone the query.

Write the query, put it aside, and write it again.  If you belong to a writer’s group, the group needs to give you feed back on your query—not just your manuscript.

…So much exists in writing guides and online regarding queries, I’d encourage you to read and digest it all.  Every writer’s guide and agent’s blog has its own slice of advice.  Try several different techniques to figure out which angle works best for your own specific project.

Trust me: stop looking for crazy tricks.  The deal is the query.  Work on the query.  I guarantee it’ll sell your work.

Holly Schindler is the author of two YA novels: A BLUE SO DARK (2010) and a romance titled PLAYING HURT (2011). Her debut middle grade is forthcoming from Dial. She has a YouTube channel where she posts writing advice and tips.


PLAYING HURT (available March 8, 2011):

Star basketball player Chelsea “Nitro” Keyes had the promise of a full ride to college—and everyone’s admiration in her hometown.  But everything changed senior year, when she took a horrible fall during a game. Now a metal plate holds her together and she feels like a stranger in her own family.

As a graduation present, Chelsea’s dad springs for a three-week summer “boot camp” program at a northern Minnesotalake resort.  There, she’s immediately drawn to her trainer, Clint, a nineteen-year-old ex-hockey player who’s haunted by his own traumatic past.  As they grow close, Chelsea is torn between her feelings for Clint and her loyalty to her devoted boyfriend back home.  Will an unexpected romance just end up causing Chelsea and Clint more pain—or finally heal their heartbreak?