Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Write On Wednesday: The Query

I’m new to this. I’m not an expert by any stretch of the imagination, so I wanted to start a conversation about the ever-important query letter. For those of you who are newer than I am, or not in the field at all, a query is a one-page letter that you send to literary agents and/or publishers in hopes to get them to request more of your manuscript and eventually represent or publish your book. From my research I have found that there is a sort of standard format for a good query:

Paragraph One: The Hook. The Pitch. Whatever you want to call it, it’s the one line that supposed to grab the reader.

Paragraph Two – Three: The background, the summary, the BODY of your story. This is meant to give some idea of the setting, the characters and the conflict; without giving too much away.

Paragraph Four: The bio. Your credentials, (umm… does avid reader count?) as well as the title, genre, and word-count of your finished manuscript.

Sounds simple enough, right?

So why is it so hard?

I have two queries I shoot out alternately. One of them I really like and has gotten nothing but rejections. The other one I kind of like and has gotten one request for a partial manuscript (fingers crossed people!) But why? What makes a query good to one agent and boring to another? One agent told me they just “couldn’t get excited” about my concept.

Enter knife to heart.

Any of you published or  represented authors out there: any advice? What feedback have you gotten from your agent about why they picked you out of everyone in the slush pile?

I’d love to hear it! 


  1. Honestly, I have no idea why my agent picked me out of the slush pile. I know he loved my book, but he also said that he loves my voice. It honestly just depends on the agent. I had another agent offer as well, and she said she loved my main character. It's all so subjective. Your query has to get into the right hands at the right time, and if the agent sees some potential, they'll offer. I still don't know how I have an agent sometimes!lol :)

  2. Okay, so I'm not signed with an agent, but I have gotten four full requests and one partial with my current query. (Still waiting to hear on all.) This tells me I finally have a query that works, but now we'll see if I can make it to the next phase. Good luck on your partial - I'll be waiting for an update! :)

  3. Okay woman..I love the blog! The letter's in Miss E's room are adorable. Glad I can stalk you now! Miss YA:)

  4. I saw this post when it first went up, but I didn't comment. I wasn't sure what I could tell you would be very helpful. I don't have an agent, but I have a publisher. They wanted a full manuscript for review because one of their authors had read my self-published Cinders and raved about it to them.

    Sometimes it's about connections, sometimes not. Sometimes it's the mood an agent is in at the time (not for the day, but like a 6-month I-need-a-mermaid-book-right-now kind of mood), and it has nothing to do with your writing ability or you or anything related to you except that you didn't submit a mermaid book.

    Like Chantele says, your query has to get into the right hands at the right time, so what that means is you just keep sending them out.

    Also, I think it's really important to keep your options open and realize there is more than one path to go down. For instance, I realized I didn't have to get an agent to get a publisher and a contract and a lot of happiness. Those things came from other very unexpected places. So keep your eyes and your options open. Figure out exactly what you want and go after it with everything you've got!


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