What makes a query successful? If there is a how-to guide out there, and if yes, where can I buy it? Or better yet, a Queries Letters for Dummies.
A query letter is like an audition or a job interview; it gives a potential agent/editor a taste of what they will get from your novel. As Katherine Sands from the Sarah Jane Freymann Literary Agency points out, it’s your opportunity to show them why your novel is special, unique. This is where you show them the perfectly distilled profitable elements from your story.
Her are some tips Ms. Sands provides about querying:
- Never misaddress agents. Do you like having your name misspelled or mispronounced? My grandmother used to address my birthday cards “Jo-Anne” and I hated it! Agents and editors are the same.
- Don’t waste your first paragraph. You have one page to sell to them why your story is awesome. Don’t screw it up (no pressure!). They’re looking for sparks immediately. So skip the description of the theme of your book (better yet, eliminate it altogether!), and don’t bother saying it’s complete, because it isn’t really true (not once they’re through with you).
- Do not talk about the process of writing. Don’t ask for a critique. Don’t talk about your passion. Don’t discuss how you fit writing into your life. All of these are irrelevant. Keep the acquisition editorial committee in the back of your mind when you are writing your query – they are like a jury trial, their goal is to market you and your book. You need to impress them.
- Give the editor/agent a reason to want to read more by having something fresh and authentic, and by asking a provocative question.
- Consider what pitches work for you. When you hear a movie trailer, or read the back cover of a novel, what hooks you? Lead with your strongest point in the first paragraph. Degrees and experience should be in the third paragraph, because at the end of the day, you’re selling your book, not yourself.
- Don’t be too humble but don’t showboat. “I’ll be the next J.K. Rowling” isn’t likely to impress.
Have you struggled with a query letter? Do you have any query writing tips?