Yes, folks, those words are that loathed. Well, at least they were/are for me. How is it that we can birth an entire novel but find it laborious to produce 250 words that describe our manuscripts? It’s almost funny.
But the query letter is serious business. Serious Business. Business - being the operative word. Not an opportunity for you to chat with the agent/publisher. It is an opportunity for you to make a great first impression. It is an opportunity for you to showcase your skills as an expert orchestrator of words. It is not the time for you to tell the agent/publisher how great you are. They can glean that information from how well you’ve written the query.
Show, don’t tell. Remember?
What are the keys to a great query letter? Gosh, that’s a hard question and I’m not an agent. But if I take into account what I’ve learned, the following list would be what I would include or not include in a solid query letter:
Query written in the voice the manuscript is written in. What I mean is it is not too safe. An agent doesn’t want to read a boring list of events.
· Don’t list every major plot in the story…only the most important plot details. Remember it is a “letter” not an essay. So keep it to 200-350 – I think 350 is the higher range but every agent is different.
· Don’t get bogged down by the details. Make sure to list the most exciting, interesting aspects of the plot - something that will make the agent want to actually read the story. The agent could care less that the MC had a pretty little dog…unless the dog dies then comes back from the grave and terrorizes the MC throughout the manuscript. No reincarnated Cujo – no mention in the query letter.
· Don’t creep out the agent/publisher. How do you creep them out? By offering to babysit their children for a chance at representation… By offering up your first born as a sacrifice for publication…. By cyber stalking their every keystroke…
· Do list why you are seeking representation from this agent. Offer up why you choose this particular agent over the many others you could have chosen. Make sure to list a specific agent/editor when you query – no “Dear Agent/Editor” allowed. The query fairies will find you and sprinkle “you’re an idiot” powder over you as you sleep. People will begin to laugh at you for no apparent reason…but the fairies and the agent/editor will know…
· Don’t get too gimmicky. Fun and quirky is good. But if you’ve written a children’s story don’t write the query from the perspective of your three year old MC… “Me want you to pick me… UM… not cool. If I were an agent I might recommend a good, tight, straight-jacket.
Have I left off any really great query writing tips? I was certain I would. Share your tips in the comments.
Have a great day. Read a book and laugh.