Query queasy? Easy peasy, lemon squeezy!

Date: Wednesday February 24, 2010
Posted in: Writer's Toolbox

Well, maybe not easy peasy, but you’ve written a whole novel, right? A super awesome unputdownable, potential-to-rival-the-greats novel, right? You’re not going to let a one-page query come between you and getting it published, are you?!

I know, I know…queries are super hard. I know!! I’ve written about a kajillion of them and have had to tinker with them endlessly before coming up with my final copy, so I get it. Really, I do!

For those wondering what a query actually *is*, it’s a letter from an author to an editor or an agent, querying (or asking) whether they would like to read your novel (and-fall-in-love-with-it-and-help-you-publish-it-and-offer-you-a-trillion-dollars-for-it).

Okay, maybe not the last part…

Basically though, I am here to impart any kind of tenuous wisdom I may have on the subject. So, here goes…

I think it’s helpful to think of the query as the *tease*. You want to give just enough information to entice an agent/editor to read on and request your work, but not too much or you’ll bury your pitch.

Keep it short! If you’re taking more than about 250 words to get your point across,  it’s probably too much. Agents and editors are scanning and are probably spending about 20 seconds on your query (if that!), so make it EASY for them to pull out the salient points of what you’re proposing.

THE PITCH: First 125 words or so…

Here are my 4 C’s & a V to a hooky pitch…

* CHARACTER: who is your main character?

* Why should we CARE? What’s at stake?

* CONFLICT: what is your main character up against? what are the obstacles standing in her/his way?

* CONSEQUENCES: Give a hint of the outcome:  …but not the ending (keep that for the synopsis)

* VOICE: As much as possible, try to match your pitch’s voice to your manuscript’s voice. This will give an agent a sense of your writing style.

THE MARKET: Next 50 words or so…

* TITLE (in caps so it’s easy to spot on the page), genre, word count, target audience, why this agent might be a good fit

ALL ABOUT YOU: Next 50 words or so…

* writing credits, etc. keep it SHORT, keep it RELEVANT to writing

ADDITIONAL INFO: Last 25 words…

* Mention whether you’ve attached a bio below your signature (I always did) and re: sample pages (add them if you’re allowed)

Just remember, you’re not trying to tell your life story in a query, just enough to hook an editor/agent so they’ll read on to your sample pages and hopefully request your manuscript.

But don’t take my word for it! Check out Pub Rants for great (successful!) query examples in the sidebar about 2/3 down the page:


Plus, you never know, part of your query MIGHT just end up as the quote on the cover of your upcoming novel.

Just saying… 😉

GOOD LUCK, everyone!

xo H

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