Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Dissecting the Query

I feel like I've written so much on queries over the years that there isn't anything more I could possibly say. In some ways I feel like the subject is old news. I hope you're here to tell me I'm wrong.

For those who don't already know this, agents write queries too. At times we will verbally pitch manuscripts to editors, but even if we call every editor to pitch a new project we still need some sort of cover letter to include when sending the material. Hence, the query.

Just before sitting down to write this post I sent along some thoughts on a query one of my BookEnds team members is working on. We don't always share our queries with each other, but every once in a while we come across a book that's particularly challenging to describe and need the help of everyone else.

While reading the query I had some thoughts or tips on what we all can and need to look at when writing our own queries.


  • Keep it short. Not just the query letter, but your descriptions. Try not to get overly descriptive in your query. If you can cut a word or two you absolutely should. Remember, a query is meant to grab the reader's attention and too many words often loses someone. An example of this would be in a recent query about an apocalypse. The letter writer had said, "a near-future version of our world." My feeling is that an apocalypse in a SF book is likely always a near-future version of our world so that line could be dumped. Short, tight and to the point
  • When in doubt start fresh. Sometimes the biggest struggle we have when writing anything is that we're trying too hard to rewrite. Don't. Instead sit back, think about the story and just start writing. Maybe you'll end up using some of the same material you've already been working on or maybe you've just written the perfect query.
  • Use others, especially those who haven't read your book. In this case I was the perfect sounding board for the query because I really had no idea what the book was about therefore I could look at the query and think about what would entice me to want to read more.

Now, keep your fingers crossed that the query we just finalized grabs editors.

--jhf

2 comments:

Elizabeth Seckman said...

I think the advice is relevant. Time is as important to people as their money- don't make them waste it.

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