It’s been years since I’ve done a post on writing a query. Query Shark and others have mastered the art of teaching the query so I’ve been happy to abdicate this responsibility. However, lately, I’ve seen a rash of weak queries. I’m not sure if this is because we use Query Manager so people don’t think they need to write a proper query, or if it’s because people are just so new to the process that they haven’t done the research. Whatever it is, and however the industry changes, the query is always the critical first step to a career in publishing. It matters.
Dear Agent Name: Every query needs an address. It’s formal letter writing 101 and even with electronic forms, you should do this. It’s the perfect opening and, well, it’s just professional. Use the agent’s name (not a generic “agent”).
Introductory Paragraph: Title, genre, word count, comp titles if necessary. Just the facts. Right here. First and foremost.
Blurb: This is the most critical piece of your letter. It’s often the only thing I look at and it’s the one thing I sometimes feel like authors work the least at. Your blurb is your cover copy. That’s it. If you don’t know what to write, get thee to a bookstore and read the cover copy of every competitive title there is. Emulate that copy. Match the tone and style of your own book and your voice. The blurb never needs to be more than two to three paragraphs long. Two to three sentences is too short.
Bio: I do want to know a little bit about you. I don’t want to know that you’ve been writing since you were 7, I want to know who you are now. If you can, tell me what makes you the best person for this book. Are you a doctor writing about a doctor? Is it #ownvoices? Are you a member of any of the major national writing organizations? Do you blog? Have an active Twitter, are you an Instagram star? If none of these are you, that’s fine too. Just tell me that you’re an accountant from rural Missouri with a passion for writing and who some of your favorite authors are.
That’s it. That’s all a query letter is. Now I know from experience that this letter might take a week or two to write (mine do when I pitch publishers), and if it takes a week or two that’s fine. That might be the time you need to put your best foot forward.