I’ve been thinking about query letters the last few days. Partly because I just read a couple lovely ones by two of my bloggy friends and partly because I’ve been thinking of one for my Jedda Hitler book. Call me a masochist, but I actually like queries. I write one for every book, whether I’m putting it out for submission or not.
I write queries to help keep a focus for a work in progress and to have a handle at all times to tell my friends what I’m working on. Lest you think I’m crazy, I’m not the only one who does this. I know my friend Shelley, The Storyqueen, does this too, among others. She has a wonderful, recent post about writing a query here.
To add to what she said, I have a few tips I hope help you as much as they help me.
1. Write ten queries for books you love before you start on your own. Try to keep each one to only one or two paragraphs. No more than about 250 words. You’ll find after the ten, your own attempt at the book you know best (your manuscript) will be a lot easier.
2. Be very careful what questions you raise in a query—there are good questions and bad questions. Causing a “I want to know more” is good, causing confusion is bad. Have someone read it and pay close attention if they have any questions. Likely, there’s an important, underlying reason for their confusion.
3. A good query hook should feel like there is simply no other way to put it. That that is the log line as it should be.
4. Having said number three, still try and write the query at least three different ways. After you do that, you’ll be able to glean the best from all three and make your hook and presentation a little stronger.
5. Rewrite your hook at multiple stages of the book. Write it during the idea stage, write after the first draft, write it while you’re letting it rest, and write it while you outline. Don’t peek and see what you’ve already written until you are done with edits. This can also help with gleaning the best and most concise version.
6. If you fail at all else in a query, make sure you’ve at least a) captured the tension and conflict in the story, and b) the essence of your characters.
A few months ago I won Agent Mary Kole’s grand prize for Courtesy and Patience’s query letter. If you read the query here, you’ll see that it wasn’t very orthodox, but it captures me and the tone of my book well enough. I’m telling you this not to brag, but because this opportunity, along with one on Authoress’ blog (Miss Snark's First Victim is great!) opened up a lot of doors for me.
And I’d like to pay that forward….
If you could use help with your query, please leave me a comment with your email below. The first ten requests I get, I’ll contact you and set up arrangements for you to email your query to me. Hopefully this will be useful to some of you!
Oh—and if you don’t want a query critique, you can still leave me a comment. Just tell me what you have planned for this wonderful, shiny new week!