January 15, 2013

Introducing the Query/Blurb Exchange Club!

Arrows connecting to each other with text: Queries and Blurbs: A Place to Get Help. The Query/Blurb Exchange Club

The response to my request for help on my query in my last post was amazing. I really shouldn’t have been surprised. After all, we all know you are amazing, right? *smile*

But the tremendous outpouring of offers to help also made me feel guilty. I’ve heard stories from others about how hard it can be to find beta readers for their writing. I sympathize. In fact, I’ve written blog posts to share ideas on how to find those sometimes elusive beta readers

Then we learn we should use a different set of beta readers for our queries or back cover blurbs. Yikes! Yet we need readers with “virgin eyes”—those who don’t know the story—to ensure our story summary makes sense to that random agent or potential reader.

Even after we’re published, the need to come up with back cover blurbs remains, especially for those who self-publish. Not surprisingly, some have a hard time scrounging up another set of beta readers to give that query or blurb feedback.

As I saw the offers of help come in, I started thinking about how I could share this writer goodwill with others. Maryanne Fantalis echoed my thoughts in her comment:

“Gee, Jami, sounds like you could set up a network of terrified query-ers and we could all help each other! :) “

I replied:

“I’m collecting everyone’s emails from their comment, and I’ll have people let me know if they want to do this as a one-time thing or as part of a Query Club. :) Yay for writers helping writers!”

So here we are. Thanks to Maryanne’s suggestion, I set up a Google Group for a Query/Blurb Exchange Club. This group will remain available to all who want to join. All you need to do is let me know in the comments if you’d like to be a part of this group (and what email address to use), and I’ll send you an invitation.

This is not intended to be as big or active as the QueryTracker forum, and certainly not as big as AgentQuery Connect’s Query Critiques. Ideally, this group would have between 5-20 members. Enough to give diverse feedback, but not so much that we can’t keep up with requests for help.

For those looking for oodles of replies, check out the excellent resources at QueryTracker and AgentQuery. But for those uncomfortable with posting their query in the public forums at those sites, this small, private group might feel a bit safer, cozier.

Assuming I set the group up correctly, members will be able to remove themselves at any time. Providing feedback to all requests is encouraged but not required (no one will be kicked out if they don’t answer within X time frame). Only the person asking for help on a given query will receive emails of replies (this helps both with cutting down on email clutter and with ensuring others’ comments aren’t tainting everyone’s impression).

Members are encouraged to give stream-of-consciousness type feedback so the query/blurb author can see where any confusion happens, or what phrase led to certain assumptions. An example of this line-by-line feedback might look something like:

Saranha is a Timekeeper of the Inner Realm (I’m not sure what “Timekeeper” means or why it’s capitalized, but I have an impression of a fantasy story), but she’s hiding a secret. (Intriguing. Already a hint of conflict.) Timekeepers aren’t allowed to have relationships–and definitely not children–yet in a small town of the Outer Realm, her son is quickly reaching the age where the Elders will notice his existence. (Good. More conflict. This all makes sense.) When her son is caught sneaking out to the MoonDay Festival (Does this festival need to be named? Too many unfamiliar names/concepts might make it confusing.), Saranha must decide if she’ll let her son face the future as an Outcast, or if she’ll claim him–and face the punishment that will condemn them both. (Good! High stakes. Choice between two evils. This works!)

Members are encouraged to think about the following questions as they give their feedback:

  • Does it make sense?
  • Does it sound voice-y or bland?
  • Does it give a clear sense of the characters and what the story will be like?
  • Does it evoke the genre?
  • Does it feel too “plotty,” like a synopsis?
  • Are the stakes clear and strong enough?
  • Is the choice the character has to make clear and does it feel like a choice between two bad options?
  • Does the story sound interesting enough to read?

So, is this group for everyone? No. We’re aiming for honest (sometimes blunt) feedback, but always being respectful. No attacking allowed. We’re expecting that members share only their best work. This group isn’t meant to fix first drafts or educate members about the format of queries (the Query Shark blog does a fine job of that).

If those guidelines sound reasonable, maybe this group is for you. If you’d like to help other writers with their queries or back cover blurbs and you’d appreciate getting feedback on your own, this group might help you find beta readers who haven’t already read your story.

The Query/Blurb Exchange Club will remain open and ongoing for as long as there’s interest, so if you’ve happened to come to this post months after I published it, don’t worry. Feel free to leave a comment with your interest, and as long as the group still exists, I’ll send you a invitation (to the email address of your comment unless you tell me differently). (Note: If you have a gmail account, sign up with that email address, as this is a Google Group and Google will get confused if you try using a different email.) *crosses fingers that this will all work*

Have you ever had problems finding beta readers? If you’ve solved that problem, how do you find them now? Do you use “virgin eyed” beta readers (who haven’t read your story) for feedback on your queries or back cover blurbs? Do you like the stream-of-consciousness style of feedback, especially for queries or blurbs? Do you want an invitation?

P.S. The feedback example above is not from a real story. In fact, the idea is free for the taking. *smile*

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Comments — What do you think?

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Todd moody
Todd moody

This is a fantastic idea, Jami! Please count me in.

Rene Gilley

Hi! I’m about to get to this part. I’d love to be included!

Davonne Burns
Davonne Burns

This is a great idea. I admit after visiting the two sites you listed I was much too intimidated to even think about joining. This seems like a much better fit, so please count me in on this venture. ^_^

Haley Whitehall

What a great idea, Jami! I’d love to join the group. I think writing blurbs is even harder than writing query letters. But then again nothing about writing is easy! 😉

Buffy Armstrong

Fabulous idea, Jami! Count me in!

Reetta Raitanen

Thank you so much for turning the great suggestion into reality 🙂 I’m in, although in reading capacity at this point.


I would love to help out also. Great idea Jami!

Tamara LeBlanc
Tamara LeBlanc

Jami, I think this is a fabulous idea. I’m so glad you listened to your readers and did something to help. I know this will be popular.
I rely heavily on my Crit partners, but I often use betas, and to me, they’re invaluable! Even my agent uses two betas to help her spot discrepancies or issues or likes and dislikes in my work.
I’m glad there are so many wonderful people out there who give their time and knowledge to help others.
One day soon when I’m not so busy, I’ll be sure to join, because id like to pay it forward.
Have a great evening!

Anne V
Anne V

Hi Jami,
I am new at this. Not ready yet to need a query myself. Willing to help however I can.
Peace, Anne

Sydney Aaliyah

I would love to join. I am so stressed about this process. The group is a great idea.

Renee Schuls-Jacobson

This is such an awesome idea! *smiling*

You are truly one of the most generous people, offering to help moderate something like this! I’m not ready to start thinking about querying, but I would love to be part of the conversation — eventually!

Joanna Aislinn
Joanna Aislinn

Shall I assume you included me ? 😉 Thanx!

Taurean Watkins

You have my e-mail address, I’m in.


[…] Introducing the Query/Blurb Exchange Club by Jami Gold […]

Janet Tait
Janet Tait

I love this idea – please add me. I have a great critique group and beta readers, but they tend to know my stories. Having fresh eyes who do not would be very valuable.


Hi Jami. Great idea.

Your list is growing. :D. Count me in too, if you want. I don’t like writing blurbs, but I like reading them and I can provide feedback.
Thank you for the links.

Karma Brown

This is such an excellent idea–thanks! If the group is still open, I’d love to be a part of it.

Tina Dula
Tina Dula

If it’s not too late, I’d love to be added to the query/blurb exchange club. I am just starting to query, and the process is definitely intimidating. Awesome idea! Thanks!


Count me in, please, if there is still room! Great idea!


[…] Gold: Introducing the Query/Blurb Exchange Club. Excellent […]

Maryanne Fantalis

Hi Jami,

I received your email invite (it went to my Junk folder so I didn’t get it right away) but I’m having trouble signing in. Though I follow the link, the page tells me I’m not a member. I suspect this is because I have two email accounts (one for writing, one for “real” life) and Google groups is defaulting me to my real life account. So would it be alright if you delete my membership under this email address and I’ll email you directly with the other account to try. Thanks! Sorry to cause trouble! 🙁

Maryanne Fantalis

Oh, and thanks for the shout-out! 🙂

Katharine Owens

Jami– can I get in on this? I looks like an amazing idea!

Buffy Armsgtrong

Hey Jami, Can you send me another invite? I was out of town when you sent the last one and it expired. 🙁

Reetta Raitanen

Hey Jami, my inbox was so flooded that I missed your invitation and it expired 🙁 I’m really sorry about that. Could you please send me a new one.

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