Monday, June 28, 2010

The five letter word


Just reading that word is enough to give some people hives. Or to go into a catatonic state of shock and fear. That little one page letter that is the difference between getting an agent or getting rejected. True, the query itself won't actually get you an agent; but in order to get the coveted request to read your manuscript (which will then--hopefully--get you the agent), you have to nail your query.

If you aren't quite sure what a query is, there are TONS of great blogs and websites that explain it and I'd be happy to recommend some if you'd like. For now, the quick explanation is that you have one to two paragraphs to introduce your story in a way that is intriguing, unique, and shows your MC's voice, one paragraph to introduce yourself, and that's about it. Simple, right?

Yeah. Except that, as I mentioned, everything rides on those two little paragraphs. Think of it as a back of the book or cover flap summary. What makes you decide to buy a book in the store? It's the same idea for your query. When you read the jacket flap of a book at the store and put it back on the shelf, have you ever stopped to think about what it was that made you put it back? Queries are the same way.

The only difference is that agents are reading hundreds of them every week. Imagine if you read that many jacket flaps of books all the time; would it make you more discerning in what you decide to pick up and read? So tell me, what makes you pick up or put down a book - and how could you apply that to your queries?

In my next post (before I leave, woot woot!) I will discuss a few tricks and tips I've learned that helped me polish my queries and eventually helped me get an agent.


Shannon Messenger said...

It's funny--in the query workshop I did they made us do this same exercise. Helped a lot when I wrote my own letter, which had a 50% success rate for requests. :)

Kristine Asselin said...

I think you've got to find the balance between revealing your hook in a specific way without bogging it down with TOO many specifics. In other words, what makes your book different?

I'm feeling pretty good about my query letter at this point...even though my rate isn't 50% like Shannon's was...actually more like 20% of those I've heard back from. But just getting requests at all makes me feel like my query rocks!

Can't wait to hear your agent story!

Kathryn Rose said...

I am obsessed with reading other writers' queries!!! I look forward to your next post!

For me, simple is best and people say it again and again and again, but it bears repeating: don't forget the hook!!!

Karen Lange said...

Yes, the word query isn't my personal favorite, but am always interested in the how-to's and help. Thanks for sharing!
Karen :)

Carolyn V. said...

Yeah! Spill it girl! I'm writing that query you know (okay, really just thinking about it). =)

Theresa Milstein said...

I look forward to your next post.

I've been making an effort to learn more about writing queries. Before they were okay, but now I'm trying to make them sparkle.

Jemi Fraser said...

Queries are terrifying! I think I have about 10 pages of variations of these 2 paragraphs! :) I'm looking forward to your next post.

Lisa K. said...

I've been working on those scary beasts, query letters, but I'm finding it gets easier with each one I do. Now the synopsis, that's a whole other story for me! Thanks for an excellent post.

Sara B. Larson said...

Shannon - That's funny, I haven't done this before, but it sounded like a good idea. :)

Kris - That's great that you're getting requests. Hope it leads to an offer soon!

Kathryn - So true, the hook is the key.

Karen - You're welcome!

Carolyn - you better be writing it, and sendin it out! ;)

Theresa - to stand out from the hundreds of others they're getting all the time, you definitely want it to sparkle.

Jemi - I know what you mean!

Lisa - It can get easier, once you figure out some of the tricks to doing it.