Monday, August 9, 2010

What Makes a Good Query

A query is what gets your foot in the door. A query is your novel’s letter of introduction. You want to make a good impression. If the query letter does not hold all the component an agent is looking for, he or she will probably reject you without even looking at the first page of your novel. There is no one perfect formula for all the agents, but there are some mistakes writers make.

Here are a few suggestions:

• Follow the submission guidelines. Read them carefully. If an agent requested the first chapter and synopsis along with your query, include them.

Research the agent. Check what they’ve published recently. If your book isn’t similar to at least a few books they’ve published recently, it probably isn’t a good fit for that agent.

• Refrain from using rhetorical question. “Will Wilma survive her husband’s constant criticism?” A weary agent will most likely answer with, “Who cares?”

• Please, please, pleases finish your novel before you send out query letters. You run the risk of having the agent suspect that you might be having a hard time finishing it.

• Don’t forget to put a word-count, rounded to the nearest hundred).

Resist comparing your work to another novel. You don’t want to make your work sound like an uninspired rip-off. Instead, talk about your work.

• Remember to include descriptions of the plot/characters and the main goal and obstacles. After all, that’s the point of the book!

• Be personal and address the letter to the agent by name (with the absolute right spelling) and not, “To Whom It May Concern,” “Dear Editor” or “Dear Agent.”

• And no typos. After all, you are a writer.

Do you have any more to add to that?


Regina said...


Thanks for the great advice. I am still editing but those will be things that I will be working on next and will implement what you are teaching. Thanks for your help.

Henya said...

Thanks Regina. I often remind myself to pay attention to this point while editing.

Cheryl said...

Something else. Remember an agt/ed will see the query as a sample of your writing. A query that's overwritten, that has unnecessary stuff, that uses too many adjectives and adverbs, and that makes all those other craft mistakes we toil to learn -- whoever gets that kind of query is probably going to toss it and never get to the pages.

Henya said...

Indeed. Writing style, voice, structure, etc., all is illustrated in your query.

Thanks for the great comment.

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Claire Dawn said...

Great advice! Actually, I'd check the agent's website about book comparisons. Some agents say they don't want to hear your book is the next Harry Potter. But they'd like to know if it's like Twilight meets Lord of the Rings.