Monday, July 18, 2011

Blogfest Week 3: Queries

For all of you fellow blogfesters bravely posting your queries on your blogs this week, here's a round of applause. Writing queries is hard work--boiling your 300-pg book down to its essence and then making that essence coherent and interesting. Yeesh. It's essential work, though, and were I at the querying stage with any of my current projects, I'd be tempted to join you. Though that would be a rather glaring faux pas.
Img from Query Shark

In any case, I read the Shark back to front yesterday, before and after watching the Women's World Cup Final (nail biting!), and I've put a few interesting tips together from that source. Tips that might not be immediately obvious. And some obvious ones I don't mind rehashing.

1. RESEARCH YOUR AGENT. Find out if the agent you're querying likes personal greetings: "I read on your blog that..." Some of them hate this and want to get straight to the pitch. Do they like extra bio info: "Having worked ten years as a veterinarian, I have experience ...." Or, "I'm a member of RWA and SFWA, and part of weekly critique group"? Some of them don't give a damn about this stuff and are mainly looking to see, in this graph, if you're published.

2. IF YOU'RE PUBLISHED, list the book's title, pub house, and year. If you're self-published, don't list that you're published. Period. Well, unless you're Amanda Hocking.

3. PLAY IT SAFE. Unless you are 100% sure your non-standard query is going to kick ass with your targeted agent, play it safe. Set up your standard greeting, hook paragraph, bio, and closing.

4. DUN-DUN-DUN. This sound is for the back of your book or your movie trailer or the shrewd class clown of your critique group who realized you like to end chapters with the word Unless. . . . Agents are more interested in knowing what your book's about than in feeling swept away by a query's dun-dun-dun. Honestly, there's not enough room for that.

5. THE HOOK is what's interesting and special about your book and what makes readers want to read more. Don't leave your hook until the closing line. If you're flooding your query with back story and set up, your hook will get lost.

6. CONTACT INFO goes below your name. Always.

7. SEND PAGES. Unless the agent says DO NOT very clearly.

8. TONE. Make sure the tone of your query and book match. A dystopia query isn't going to sound like a chick lit query. The voice will be different.

9. WHERE TO START. You don't have to start your query where the book starts.

10. VOICE. At a loss? Try writing your query from your protagonist's voice in 1st person. Switch back to standard 3rd present tense before finalizing, of course, but this exercise might give you some ideas.

Anybody else have some tips to offer? So much is left to agent preference, it's crucial to be as educated as we can!