Querying

Quarrelsome Queries

Over the weekend I spent a lot of time writing my query letter, though I probably should have been working on Book 1 edits.  I need to finish those; otherwise the query letter is pointless!  I’m both excited and apprehensive about editing.  Today I heard back from Marcy and Kim!  They gave me some fabulous feedback, but now I’m worried I won’t have time to make those changes before my self-imposed September 30th deadline.  *deep breath*  I can do this.  And if I don’t… I’ll query on October 1st instead.  LOL.  

So for better or for worse, I have queries on the brain.  Which basically means I’ve been scouring the Internet for examples of query letters.  I’ve found a wide range of acceptable queries and conflicting theories.  

First example of divided opinions:  approximately half (based on no statistics whatsoever) of authors believe the first paragraph of the letter should be “the hook” (snappy language to catch the agent’s attention); the other half believe it should be an introductory paragraph (such as “I’m seeking representation for my 100,000 word contemporary fantasy entitled…” etc etc).  So, whose side do I choose??  The analytical side of me wants to first introduce myself and why I’m writing to that agent–to me that seems like the logical thing to do.  However, of the examples I’ve read, my favorites have been the ones that started immediately with the hook.  Hmm…

Now, to complicate things even further.  I have a “personal” (in the loosest sense of the word) connection with two of the agents I plan to query.  One I met briefly at a conference, and the other was recommended to me by one of her clients.  So for these two letters, I think I ought to mention the connection in the first paragraph, because it seems rather important to me.  Anything to grab attention or give me an edge.  But for the other letters, if I don’t have a connection with the agent, I think I’ll start with the hook.  Any ideas/opinions about this from anyone??

Second example of divided opinions:  the length of the novel’s synopsis within the query letter.  One author said not to use more than five sentences to describe the character’s transformation, how plot forces that transformation, and what makes the book unique.  *gulp*  Then I’ve seen some letters with three (or more!) paragraphs of synopsis!  I can see how this might depend on whether or not a synopsis is included with the query (some agents want it, some don’t).  So if you can’t include a synopsis, maybe authors want to write as much as possible within the query.  But I definitely like the advantages of short and sweet.  If written correctly, it can intrigue the agent and leave them wanting more.  If written correctly.  Every word has to count, because you’re stripping a novel down to five sentences.  

Third example of divided opinions:  whether or not “series potential” should be brought up in the query.  The consensus seems to be that mentioning a planned series is a good thing–at least for YA fantasy, which is selling well in series format.  I’m still not a hundred percent sure about this though, so any ideas/opinions would be greatly appreciated.  

Coincidentally (or not), The Query Project took place a few days ago, in which several authors posted their successful query letters on their blogs.  I was grateful for the good timing.  Some of the queries I liked, but some I didn’t.  My absolute favorite was Jackie Kessler’s, which is why I’m now a fan of “hook first, short synopsis.”  She did a fantastic job of incorporating tone and voice into the query.  I also delved into the Fangs, Fur, & Fey query examples, which were very helpful and interesting.  I’ll post these links on the “Resources” page.

Well, I should probably get back to working on my query letter.  I don’t know if I’ll ever be happy with it.  I’ll ask a couple of my CPs to critique it… but I’d also love a critique from someone who has not read my novel.  Someone whose mind is unclouded and unbiased, and preferably knows a little about query letters and publishing.  Or someone who recognizes a good pitch.  I’m not picky.  If you’d be willing to do this huge favor for me, please leave me a comment or email me via the “Contact Me” page.  

I know this topic seems to be all about me… but it doesn’t have to be!  If you have questions/concerns about queries, leave a comment.  Odds are good that maybe I’ve stumbled across the answer during my research.  And if anyone out there has answers to my questions or others, those answers are certainly welcome here.  🙂  Or feel free to link to informative sites.  Thanks everyone, and have a good week!

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