Thursday, February 18, 2010

Thursday 5: Query Dos and Don'ts

This week's Thursday 5 is going to be based purely on my own opinion. I've made these up based on what I've come across, but of course you may have found that other things work better for you--and often, the unconventional query is the one that catches the eye. First let's start with the good.

Five Things to Do in a Query:
1. Call the agent by their last name and not "you," "to whom it may concern," "bro," or any other impersonal term.

2. Include your genre, title, and word count up front. I believe that agents and editors weed submissions out based on this information first.

3. Be brief. Keep your bio short and keep entire letter to less than a page long.

4. Talk more about the book than yourself.

5. Be professional. This is business correspondence while at the same time a sales letter.

Five Things NOT to Do in a Query:
1. Have typos or misspellings. For the love of kitties, be careful with this letter! Proofread!

2. Query a series rather than a single book. The advice on this seems to be consistent--query a single title.

3. Try that Arrogant Salesman approach that goes "Call me at the number below so we can go over my qualifications and my book in more detail" or "I know that I will wow you, so reply back and we can get started." No, no, no, no.

4. Summarize your book instead of describing characters, stakes, and plot.

5. Begin with a rhetorical question. Oooooooooooooooooh I know you want to! But you must resist. This seems to be universally frowned upon and with good reason: the answer to your question is never a good one. (Example: Have you ever wondered woken up to discover you're covered in fur and your arse hurts in strange ways? No, as a matter of fact, I have not, and I do not want to find out what happened just there.)

Anything to add? Agree or disagree?


Tina Lynn said...

Have you ever picked up a query letter and said, "This is the one!"? Well, this is the one! I am the most amazing writer you will ever have the chance of representing. I haven't actually written my book yet, but it's all in here *points at noggin*.

I haev included my phone number and email address. And attached my entire manuscript. Enjoy.

Tina Lynn Sandoval

Gemma Noon said...

See, Tina Lynn, I just DARE you to send that one to Janet Reid...

Lt. Cccyxx said...

Make sure to add that you've written a "fiction novel."

Sierra Godfrey said...

LOL guys!

Travener said...

DO send more than one query at a time.
DO NOT begin your query with a dependent clause.
DO try to remain optimistic.
DO NOT take advice from Travener.

Kristan said...

Lol to both Travener and Tina Lynn!

There's a good query workshop going on at Kiersten White's blog. Otherwise I don't have too much to add.

I guess just remember: You're not trying to tell your whole book in 1-2 paragraphs. You're trying to tell *enough* about your book to make agents want to read more. It's okay if some characters or subplots don't make it in.

Roni @ FictionGroupie said...

Great points and lmao over the comments.

Jm Diaz said...


The only part I can somewhat contest is #2 in the "Do's" section.
Some agents do not want to the genre, as most people usually get it wrong anyway. Title and wordcount will suffice.

Meghan Ward said...

I agree with everyone's advice! Jm Diaz, from what I've read on agent blogs, you should include the genre, so the agent doesn't waste her time reading a query to find at the end that it's for a memoir (for eg) and she doesn't represent memoirs.

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