Those dang query letters are important. They are my introduction to you and your work (unless I already know you). If I’m struggling through reading your query letter, I’m probably not going to keep scrolling down to read your manuscript. I’ll just cut my losses and reply with a pass. I know you don’t want to hear that. But it’s true.
A good query letter will do its job and pique my interest. It will invite and entice me to read your manuscript. It will put your work in a context. It will intrigue me and perhaps even make me want to Google you.
This is what I want to see in your query letter:
- that you take your writing seriously and professionally
- that you’ve done your homework and know what should be included in a query letter… and what should not.
- that you’re following my submission guidelines, which you can find many places, including on my agency website and here on the blog
- that you’re not being weird or cute in the query (except normal weirdness or cuteness) because a query is a business letter
- that you understand what an agent does and does not do (i.e. I don’t publish your book. You don’t hire me.)
The above are general things I want to see. I’m not getting specific, because I feel like I’ve talked about query letters a whole bunch here on the blog. Like here. Here. Here. And here (I got a lot of pushback on this one. People didn’t like my tone.)
Do you have questions about queries? I’m happy to answer questions!
And now, because I always put pictures in my posts, here’s a post of my new typewriter. I bought it this past weekend for no reason whatsoever at all except that one can’t have too many typewriters. Right?
Should my query be long or short?
I say err on the side of brevity. That is to say, some agents might not mind long queries but others (myself included) prefer shorter ones. So you don’t turn anyone off, your best bet is to go with something on the shorter side, whilst keeping it catchy and terrific. I’ve blogged extensively on what to include/not include and how to structure a query letter. I can revisit that another day, too.
What’s the scoop regarding comp titles?
If you’re going to use comp titles, choose wisely. For example, perhaps you don’t want to say you’ve written the next Harry Potter or Hunger Games or The Fault in Our Stars. A comp title should be used so that the person reading the query gets a sense of what your story’s about. So, if you said, “My story is like Game of Thrones with a cast of rats,” I’d totally get what you were going for (and I’d definitely pass on that… sheesh!). Or if you said, “My story has the feel of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, only set in New Orleans right after Hurricane Katrina,” it would also be clear. So if you’re going to use comp titles (and it’s not required), make the comps work to explain your manuscript, don’t compare your work to another author’s (especially a blockbuster author’s).
How much should you suck up to the agent?
Don’t suck up. If you’ve met the agent, you can mention it, if you want. If you really adore some of their client’s work, you can tell them. But making stuff up because you’re supposed to try to “connect” usually comes across as inauthentic, in my opinion. It’s nice to know when a blog follower queries me, because I can thank them for following. But it doesn’t earn them “points” or something; I don’t read their queries any differently. So yeah, don’t suck up.
What else do you want to know about queries?
I’m in a bad mood. But I’ve made a commitment to myself to try to blog weekly. So. Here’s a quiz. Doing which of these things will have me just delete your query unanswered, versus me sending you a curt email? Answers are below.
- Send me a query with an attachment
- Query me with multiple projects
- Query me on Facebook Messenger
- Query me with a genre I don’t represent
- Query me with an age level I don’t represent
- Add me to a cc list with a bunch of other agents
- Get my name wrong or do a Dear Sir/Madame or To whom it may concern
- Send me a query that, if printed out, would go on for a few pages
- Re-query me with something I recently rejected
- Query me even when I’m closed to all queries
- Send me a query to an email other than my querylinda email
- Query me when I’m closed to queries, except for post conference, for a conference over a year ago, unrequested.
Ok, here are my responses: 1,6,7,9,10 all just get deleted, unanswered.
The others get curt responses, such as: “All queries should go to my querylinda@ email address” and “I only represent children’s literature” and “Sorry, but I really am closed to queries.”
But just so you know, here’s what goes on in my head:
- Delete, mother fucker! Bwa ha ha!
- Why? Why would you do this? Why don’t you know not to do this?
- Really? Just. Really?
- You clearly don’t know anything about me. Ugh!
- Why? Why don’t authors do their research?
- Another delete! Yes! Yes! Bwa ha ha!
- What, the actual, fuck? Delete.
- Skim, skim, skim, skim.. sigh… form rejection.
- I can’t even. Delete.
- Delete. Just delete.
- How would someone think this is ok? Why would they think they’re special?
- Holy moly. Really?
Ok. So, I’m sorry I’m blogging while grumpy. I shouldn’t do that. But I haven’t actually given you any misinformation. I’m sure I’m not the only agent who’s thought these things. And I’m sure there are much nicer people out there than I. But I know you guys count on me for being a straight shooter. And I know you guys know I sometimes lack a filter. So. There you have it!
For the record, I am currently closed to all queries, except for the Open Call to Muslim Writers (who are not exempt from having to follow my submission guidelines).