“Find a stranger and have them read your query. Ask them what they think your book is about.”

That’s literary agent Abby Saul at the end of “Ask an Agent,” the first session I attended at DFWCon 2017.

Doesn’t she know that asking strangers to read our work is terrifying?

I’m kidding—but only a little.

The terrifying aspect of this approach isn’t, What will they think of my baby? (That comes when you release your book on Amazon and start garnering reviews.)

The terrifying aspect is hearing that your query is pitching a book you didn’t write.

It’s hearing a stranger mangle your intentions.

It’s seeing that brief moment of confusion flash across their face as they tell you what they think your book is about.

It’s being forced to redo your query letter for the tenth time, or the fifty-seventh time.

But if your query isn’t clear and compelling to a stranger, how do you expect it to grab the attention of someone who reads query letters for a living?

For as challenging as this advice could be to some writers (including me), I thought this was excellent advice. Plus, if you’re going to be published, you’ll need to get used to strangers reading your work and hearing them describe what they think you wrote.

Have you ever enlisted strangers to review your query or synopsis? What happened?

Don’t forget to read this post’s companion, “The (Dreaded) Query Letter.” And if you need help with writing a query, read Jane Friedman’s “The Complete Guide to Query Letters.”

Photo Credit: FootMassagez Flickr via Compfight cc

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