The Art of Querying

Until last week, I had kind of forgotten what it felt like to type up a fresh query letter. Despite the fact that I had written, and saved them, before, when my hard drive crashed everything went ka-put. So I got to experience writing a query letter all over again, as if it were new, fresh.

Here are some things you should know:

1) Know who you’re talking to. Do research on the literary agent. Find out what kind of books she represents. Are they similar to yours? If so, how? What is the one thing that makes your book DIFFERENT from what your prospective agent has represented in the past?

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2) Include a word count. It’s best if you’ve finished your manuscript (meaning: written from beginning to end, not necessarily completely edited, shined, and ready for publication). Here’s a sample letter and some other useful tips.

3) If you haven’t had any previous publications, it’s not necessary to include a “Writing Bio” in your query. Don’t worry too much about it, just skip over that part for now.

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4) Pitch your story. Ultimately, that’s what the query letter is – a pitch on paper. That’s how you should approach it. You’re trying to pitch your manuscript to the agent via this one single piece of paper. Briefly talking about your story, the main character(s), and a few plot points. Give the agent just enough to hook them, without giving everything away.

5) Keep it brief. You want your query letter to be no longer than one page (single spaced, white space between paragraphs). You want to hook the agent, not drown them in superfluous information. When ti comes right down to it, if you think it might be too long, take a quick break from it, go back and see if there’s anything you want to cut on that second run through.

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6) Be pleasant. Always be courteous in your letters. Remember: they don’t have to read your manuscript. Being pleasant might help tip the scales in your favor. Ultimately, it won’t hurt. Which leads me to my final point…

7) Don’t seem crazy. This is probably the most important point. Always, always, always go back and reread what you wrote in your query letter. Don’t just type it up and send it off without a second thought. Don’t seem crazy. If someone else has already passed on your manuscript, don’t bring it up in your query letter with hatred and bitterness dripping off your words. The agents will pick up on this. Don’t seem crazy. Don’t act all palsy with the agent if you’ve never met. Ultimately, you point is – besides getting your manuscript picked up…

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DON’T SEEM CRAZY.

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “The Art of Querying

  1. THANK YOU!!! That is so helpful!!! 😀
    ALSO, I would Loooove your feedback. I’ve written a little script; http://jasminplease.wordpress.com/2013/04/11/script-advice-and-feedback-needed/ It’s 18 pages. But its a relatively quick read. You could do it while having a poo. Haha..

  2. Good advice. Being memorable is always the part that gets me. I write and rewrite the query from a zillion different pivotal points in the book and I never really seem satisfied. I’ve also been told by other succesful authors that it’s best to write your description in active, close third person (even if your novel is written in first) and to show not tell.

    • I would recommend writing the description in third person as well, because you’re speaking as the author of the book, not the narrator. In the end, it’s generally a good idea to write the query out a few different ways to see which you like the best. In the end, just go with the one you feel is the best – the one you feel is right, even if you feel like things in it could still use some tweaking. You are your hardest critic (I know, cliche, but it’s true – I’m the same way). Have fun writing, and have faith in what you write.

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