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Improbability is in the Details
Abra Staffin-Wiebe's Journal
How to Write a Query 
15th-Jun-2010 10:01 am
That's what I'm doing today, and I've come up with some guidelines for myself--and resources others might like.

How to Write a Query

  • First word should be name of main character.

  • First couple of paragraphs stick with the story.

  • Who wants what, why, and what's in the way?

    Emphasize the conflict. Don't just let it be characters wandering around.

    Don't open with a generality or homily.

  • Do NOT start with a rhetorical question. The answer the agent comes up with will not be what you want.

  • AVOID the passive like the plague. Have it be actions by protagonists.

  • Don't say "so begins" "the theme is" "timeless question" or "about."

  • The weather is not relevant.

  • Remove non-key info

  • Be specific. Avoid generalities and cliches and summarizing. Include telling details

  • Avoid too many characters and names.

  • Include whatever details make characters sympathetic--this is not just about plot, the character needs to speak through the query. But not literally.

  • the sentence that every single query letter needs: the point at which the action starts. Where the protagonist must choose what to do. Should be in the 1st/2nd paragraph.

  • Closing sentence, title of work, genre, wordcount--NOT themes or "what it focuses on"--the pitch should have shown that.

  • Don't say this is your first novel. Of course it is, unless you've actually *published* another novel.

  • Don't mention trilogies or whatever else you've written that you could sell. Stick to one book.

  • Just end with "Thank you for your consideration." They know you want them to read more/represent them/etc. (Unless you can give specifics as to why you chose them.)

  • Try to keep query under 250 words.

  • For email queries, put your contact info at the bottom, not at the top (like a letter).

 Critique Resources:

Nathan Bransford's query forum: http://forums.nathanbransford.com/viewforum.php?f=12
QueryShark's query critiques: http://queryshark.blogspot.com/
Jodi Meadows' query project: http://jmeadows.livejournal.com/779229.html#cutid1

Useful articles:

  • http://www.guidetoliteraryagents.com/blog/PermaLink,guid,d2d3d106-8d27-4698-aa25-3df73e67f73e.aspx

  • http://www.guidetoliteraryagents.com/blog/How+To+Target+Your+Submissions+To+Agents.aspx

  • http://blog.nathanbransford.com/2010/03/how-to-format-query-letter.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+NathanBransford+%28Nathan+Bransford+-+Literary+Agent%29

  • http://bloodredpencil.blogspot.com/2010/03/pitching-to-agents-how-to-throw-fiction.html

  • http://www.murdershewrites.com/2009/04/23/queries-and-agents-and-rejects-oh-my/

  • http://www.sff.net/odyssey/afaq.html

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