The Key to Queries: Short and Sweet

I just finished my pitch letter to editors, a query for you writers, and it took me one entire day. Okay, it took me all of Wednesday afternoon and most of Thursday morning. I wrote, rewrote and rewrote again. I had an email draft filled with discarded half sentences, picks from the author’s query, suggestions from Jessica and just random words. I had sent it to my team to review two or three times. I even deleted it right after sending because I realized it was bad.

This is hard stuff folks. I’m not kidding. Anyone who thinks the query is the easy part of the job is kidding themselves. It takes time and patience and sometimes an entire week of work. Don’t slack on this because it’s also important.

In the end my pitch was two paragraphs, six sentences. That’s it. It told the reader exactly what’s different about the book and what makes it special. It’s not bogged down in details or back story. Short and sweet. If you can get it there do it.

Now keep in mind the query is a tad longer since I do have an opening paragraph/line, a paragraph about the author and a closing line. The pitch though–six sentences.

Now off to pitch!

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10 comments

  1. Might you share one of your pitch letters on your blog? It would be interesting to see the progression from successful query to successful pitch.

  2. Somewhere I read writing the novel is the easy part (I’m not sure that’s true). Writing a pitch so it entices someone else (someone you don’t know) to flip to the next page and actually read some of your novel, that’s like downhill skiing in a blinding blizzard.

  3. I second what Elissa said. Makes me feel better about the number of frustrating hours I spend!

    And yes, please, if sharing your queries is something you are thinking of doing =)

  4. There are lots of example of queries on the web, but I’m not convinced reading them is a good idea. I read a few ‘good ones’ but did not care for them, for various reasons. Then I found others that seemed to the point, and I even tried to follow their format. My query read like a bunch of short sentences (not Hemingway though) with little connection. I am for learning the general expectations and suffering with writing one on one’s own to be certain you voice in included plus your idea of what you should give and leave out. That is one of the pleasure of writing a query: no one know what you left out.

  5. There are lots of example of queries on the web, but I’m not convinced reading them is a good idea. I read a few ‘good ones’ but did not care for them, for various reasons. Then I found others that seemed to the point, and I even tried to follow their format. My query read like a bunch of short sentences (not Hemingway though) with little connection. I am for learning the general expectations and suffering with writing one on one’s own to be certain you voice is included plus your idea of what you should give and leave out. That is one of the pleasure of writing a query: no one know what you left out.

  6. I haven’t started trying to write a query yet, but I have started a synopsis. Would you say it should be the same, short and sweet?

    I spent a day working on it, and it’s now down to a page explaining the who/why/where the point of the story and the aims but not the outcome (what’s the point in reading if you know what happens?)

    I have thought about working on a query letter now, I have no idea where to start so the practise time may be a good idea.

    1. The difference with the synopsis is it really has to tell the entire story. You need to know what the ending is and how the suspense/mystery/romance/world-building plays out. A query just hits on those points that make the book most attractive and different to the reader.

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