Thursday, August 12, 2010

Individualizing the Query

I was wondering what you think is the most important aspect of a query. I've read a ton of articles which all cite different things and I get the feeling that rather than emphasizing hook over plot, or characters over events, based on an article, I should strive to find out what it is that each individual agent wants to know. (Or is that wrong in and of itself?)

Is there one thing in a book that captures you more than one thing, and if there is, do you want to see that emphasized in a query? Or does balance and concise explanation of the plot outweigh your own personal preferences?

Unfortunately, I don’t think a query is a one-size-fits-all device. I don’t think the same query necessarily works for all agents or all authors. That being said, I don’t think it should either.

The most important part of the query is the blurb, the part that tells the agent about your book, the part that grabs her attention and makes her want to read more. Here’s the deal, though: What you should strive for is writing the query that best represents you and your book. It should show the reader a bit of your voice and the blurb shouldn’t necessarily be about hook or characters or plot. It should be that one thing about your book that makes it stand out from all others. For some this might be hook, for others character and for some plot.

If you read the query samples I’ve posted on the blog over the years you’ll see how very different they all are and yet, they all worked. A query that works for me won’t work for Janet Reid or Nathan Bransford or Rachelle Gardner, and that’s absolutely fine because the agent that represents you might not work for another author, even those in your critique group.

Stop trying to write queries and books that appeal to everyone. Write a query (and a book) that will appeal to many, but that is your best work.