Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Writing A Query

Writing a lousy query is easy. Writing an engaging query is hard. Since no one wants to write and submit something that's lousy, and writing a good query can be a challenge, let me share a few of the basics I've learned as I've been studying queries. Hopefully, as I refine my query over time I will write a strong query that helps me find success.

A query letter is a single page cover letter designed to introduce your book to prospective agents or publishers. It sounds pretty simple but it's not. It is often recommended that a query contain three concise elements that will inform the agent or publisher about the work being submitted, and also about you.

The Hook: This is a tagline that is meant to hook the readers interest. Just like a potential reader needs to be hooked when they pick up a book as they decide whether or not they want to read it, the hook in the query must interest the agent/publisher enough that they are enticed to read the manuscript.
So how dow we hook the reader? In a concise sentence we should introduce our main character and the conflict that drives him, and we must give a feel for the genre and and audience we're writing for.

Synopsis: Writing an entire manuscript is an incredible accomplishment, but distilling all of that work into one or two paragraphs is a real challenge. What are teh main conflicts of the story and how does it impact the main character? Why should we care?

Author Bio- This is simply information that the agent/publisher may be interested in knowing. Do you have work or education experience that makes you an expert on the subject matter? Have you been published or won any writing awards? This section should be brief and is not intended to be a full resume, but it can share valuable information with the agent/publisher.

The query is a professional letter, but it should also grab the readers attention and give the reader a feel for the voice and tone of the manuscript. Otherwise it will be bound for the round recycling bin.

Format: Typically, query letters are single spaced, 12 point font with everything aligned to the left. There are no paragraph indentations but there should be a space between paragraphs. Be sure to include the name of the book (duh), word count and genre/audience in the body of the letter. Also, DO NOT FORGET TO INCLUDE YOUR CONTACT INFO so the agent/publisher can reach you if they are interested.

I know this is basic and I do not claim to be an expert on this, but I do believe the sources I've read. So as I begin my query process for my new manuscript, I will be following my own advice. I will write a query and edit, and rewrite, and try again.

One last thought--Research the agent or publisher you're querying. Seek out those who fit your work so you don't waste their time or yours. Good Luck.