Writing Queries: Three Tools for Success

1245687934448019525Minduka_Present_Blue_Pack.svg.medHere are some things you can do to give your query its best chance at doing it’s job!

1. Start by writing an impeccably good query letter. Um, really? That’s not such helpful advice. Yes, really. Here’s how to do it: Address it to the correct person (without anything smarmy, like “Dear respected agent”); include a snazzy intro paragraph that includes genre and word count; write a clean, quick synopsis with no spoilers and which leaves some unanswered questions; make sure your bio is short, sweet, and inclusive; sign off professionally and make sure all your contact information follows your name. Yeah, well what constitues “snazzy”?

2. In your intro paragraph, have that first sentence start with a fantastic hook. What’s a hook? It’s a one to two sentence teaser or elevator pitch. Like a Tweet, you know? Minus hash tags, of course. Something that will catch an agent’s eye (but not in a weird or scary way). How do I know if I’m being weird or scary? I’m not answering that.

3. Write a great manuscript. Aw, come on! You always say that! Yes, yes I do. Because honestly, even if you write the most kick ass query letter in the world, if your manuscript isn’t great (not just good… great) it’s always going to be a pass. No matter who you query. What matters is the manuscript. So don’t send your work out until it’s complete. That means it’s been through a number of drafts. Complete doesn’t mean you finished writing the story yesterday so you’re ready to send it out into the world today. Fine. Be that way.

You’re welcome.


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9 responses to “Writing Queries: Three Tools for Success

  1. Pingback: Thirsty Thursday Blog Round-Up | Writing, Reading, and Life

  2. Any advice for small-potatoes bios? Just a few silly short stories and poems published back in the Dark Ages (read: Twentieth Century) but have been gainfully writing since. Just. Not. Published. Perhaps tenacity is a stong point?

  3. Susan

    Maybe a separate blog on answering the questions “How do I know if I’m being weird or scary?” not relating to a query?

  4. Jack Gallow

    I was on an agency’s site that had a generic query email address. They wanted it addressed to a specific agent. No where on the site did it list current agents working for the agency. I can’t see how addressing the letter ‘Dear Agent’ could in any way be offensive in that case. Simply practical. I studied marketing in college and find sale’s pitches to be repulsive. I think that’s a major factor in writers wanting an agent. The agent can act as the outgoing salesperson while the writer hides in caves and cranks out bestsellers. Interestingly, the most brilliant communication researchers are often the most awkward individuals that happen to have an intense interest in human interaction. I may be off topic…just wanted to rep to writer’s POV on this pesky query business. ❤ your blog btw

    • I didn’t create the system, but I hope I’m giving my readers insight into making it work for them. And if an agency doesn’t list the agents then of course you’d have to write “Dear Agent.” If said agents then were offended, I’d imagine you wouldn’t want to work with them anyway.

      • Jack Gallow

        You certainly do give helpful insight. I like how you stressed the importance of the manuscript. I know plenty of writers with an agent and a book the publishers don’t want.

  5. Helpful info, but what about including a bit about selling yourself — qualifications, previous books, etc.?

    • That goes in your short, sweet, inclusive bio. What’s really going to sell your manuscript is your manuscript though, not what you say about yourself. But of course include previous books, training, awards, etc.

  6. Great tips here! Basic, but why skimp on your
    Query letter? It gives the writer a chance to
    Show am editor/agent how well they can write. And I must constantly remind myself
    That it is not about the destination (hard after a conference) it is about this writing journey-
    Don’t rush it, do it right-you won’t regret it.