Blogger: Janet Kobobel Grant
Location: Florida, participating in author-agent-publisher meeting
So, once you’ve assembled your right idea with the right title and done your homework on making a proposal that pops, it’s time to write your query. Note the order in which these elements have been pulled together. Rather than jumping into writing a query, you’ve taken your time to force yourself to define the project. You know so much about it because you’ve made sure you have a unique idea; an enticing title; and a strong concept of the book’s structure, audience, and even given thought to how you’ll promote it. Now you’re ready to write a winsome query.Your first sentence is important because, like for your book’s first sentence, it sets the tone, highlights a strong point, and launches all that follows with a great ta-da! Not over doing that sentence yet not being bland is the challenge.
I don’t respond well to promises of becoming rich by representing the project or to queries that suggest the book is the most stupendous story since Dickens. Never oversell!
- Start out with your strongest point. If you’re an authority on a topic, tell me so right up front. If you’ve self-published the book and sold 15,000 copies in six months, I’ll want to hear about that. If your novel has a unique twist, tell me. For example, “Intertwined is a modern re-telling of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.” Do you see how quickly I can decide if that idea interests me?
- Show you are capable of writing a cogent argument for the reasons your book should be successful.
- Present yourself as intelligent and authentic. Avoid all appearances of being a snake-oil salesman. Agents want to work with people they genuinely like. Sometimes we can tell by the query that this is a person we’d enjoy meeting. Obviously, we’ll want to make a more substantial connection with a writer to confirm that sense, but this is what you’re striving for in your query.
- Don’t apologize. Don’t start out with, “I’ve never been published,” or “My agent just dropped me,” or “I’ve submitted my project to every publisher I can imagine, and they’ve all turned me down.” Now, if an agent involves you in conversation about your project, you do need to be forthcoming about these issues, but you don’t need to address them in your query. These confessions come later.
- Tell what the book’s hook is; who the audience is; how you can reach that audience; and a brief paragraph about who you are and why you’re qualified to write the book.
- Be sure to tell what genre or category your book fits in. (Shows you understand what you’re writing and for whom.)
- Tell me the word count. (Informs me as to whether you understand how long a book in your genre or category should be.)
- Don’t forget to mention the title. If that seems obvious, just guess why I’m mentioning it…
Now, just for fun, tell us the first sentence in your query.