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!


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Let me try again.

    Excellent advice, Lora.

    When I was in the hunt for an agent, the most helpful resource I found for researching them was here:

    Casey has done an amazing job of interviewing and collecting information about agents and putting it all in one easy to find place.

    I encourage all of you to bookmark her blog and visit it often.

  3. Thanks for this post Lora. Your advice on not needing to start where the book starts is really helpful.

  4. Angelina: Yes! Casey's blog is a great resource. Thanks for sharing it with us. BTW, for those MG/YA writers out there, she's got a very informative interview with a 6th grade girl up right now.

    Vicky: I'm wanting to try that one out myself for my current WIP. :)

  5. Great tips, Lora! As always, you're a great source for this kind of info :)

  6. Hey, Lora, after this whole query contest of Deana's, I'm finally getting the whole hook thing.

    And I just started sending the first 5 pages even if the agent doesn't specifically ask for pages. If she doesn't, I will send.

    And I did that whole 1st person POV query thing. While I loved it, Query Shark would have eaten me alive!

  7. Hi, Lora! Just wanted to say thanks so much for judging the query letter contest! I'm sure it was very time consuming! I was very honored to be a finalist.

    I'm totally in love with your 10-point list that you used for the judging. Would you mind if I used it in a blog post, with full credit and linkage of course?

    Have a great weekend!

  8. Alexia: Yes, of course :) Thanks for asking, though. On a side note, I don't think I would've been able to judge without those criteria. They really helped me keep it objective.

  9. Great post! The querying process is so hard, and can be very intimidating. I agree with Angelina, I love Casey McCormick's blog, because some of the other resources, like P&E, Publisher's Marketplace, etc... can be overwhelming the first go 'round.

  10. Lora, you are a rock star, and I'm so glad to be a blog Follower now! I'm feeling so jazzed about my newly critiqued first five, and I can't wait to read your first 200 words!