What Really Matters is the Query Blurb

  • By: Jessica Faust | Date: Feb 18 2019

There are so many rules to queries and it each agent has her preferences, some seemingly in conflict with others. What really matters, all that really matters is the query blurb and, of course, the book. When it comes down to it you can follow all the rules, but it’s the blurb that sells the book.

This was pointed out by a reader on my blog post on how pleasing everyone means pleasing no one.

“You want to do everything right and are so terrified of angering an agent over a 2-page synopsis that you have decided that the only thing to do is try to please everyone.”

The flip-side of this is thinking that if you do EVERYTHING every agent wants, you stand a better chance of getting a request for pages. Of course, if your query sucks, it doesn’t matter if your synopsis is 2 2/3 pages on-the-nose and you have five comp titles from within the last 6 months. Am I right?

You are right. Spending countless hours trying to please every single agent isn’t what’s going to sell your book. Writing that blurb (which is like writing your future cover copy) is what will hook the agent enough to request more. After that, it’s up to your book to reel her in.

8 responses to “What Really Matters is the Query Blurb”

  1. Avatar Vicki says:

    That’s why I say to P-houses; If the 1st middle and ending chapters don’t speak to you, the story is not for you. Stop wasting time on query and SEE the author through their work.

    • Vicki: While I can appreciate this sentiment that’s like asking a reader to read every book in the bookstore without bothering with the cover copy. Agents receive thousands of queries a year and it would be impossible to read even a chapter of everything without curating first. Remember, while we are looking for new clients, our first priority is reading the books for our current clients, writing our own pitches, and working on the cover copy with them. Pitching your novel will forever be a part of your job as the author. You will need to talk to readers about your book and often publishers will ask your input on your cover copy which is, essentially, your query letter. Think of this as another skill you’ll need for your business.

  2. I was drawn to click on this article That essentially proves your point.

    I know this to be true in other streams. I sold a lot of products for my own company and that of my employers by having an attractive “positioning statement”. Segmenting the audience, knowing their wants/needs, connecting with relevance back to the brand, and arresting a browsing prospect within a 3-8 second window were the demands. I used emotion to draw them in, rational explanation to close the deal and overcome objections. I suspect this last bit is different for fiction readers. (It damn well better be!) Surely genre, “feel”, and curiosity-slash-intrigue have larger roles than a rational arguement in the fiction market? And, to your point, for the the editors who seek to connect to these readers?

    Cheers from the boreal,

  3. Avatar Bryan Fagan says:

    Keep it short and try to be you. That’s how I see it.

  4. Avatar Nicole Matta says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this Jessica! I have been so afraid of angering an agent that my solution (after staying up reading till 3am each night, desperately trying to find comp titles to no avail) is to hide under the bed! I spent two weeks beating myself up trying to write a one paragraph author’s bio, and now to rewrite my query—well, I am shuddering at the thought. But I am grateful for your tips and insight! I ask myself repeatedly “How are you able to write an entire novel but you can’t write an effective query?” Ugh! 🙂

  5. Avatar Shay Stone says:

    Querying gives me more anxiety than releasing a book. It’s so hard to know what’s right vs what’s wrong. And I’ve heard several times that in today’s market, most agents won’t even consider your work unless you can prove you have a strong social media following and/ or a successful release ( self-published or previously traditionally published). Whether that’s true or not, I don’t know. But I do know several authors that have stopped querying because they don’t have a strong following and I know others that have paid for the “Get 10K follower” sites just to boost there counts, which makes no sense to me because they aren’t real. I’d rather have 200 organic followers than 10K fake. But if some people are just looking at numbers, I’m not sure if that makes me smart or not.

    I try to write a great blurb and let my personality shine through, hoping that will attract someone enough to overlook my considerably less than a Kardashian following on social media. Still, it’s a special kind of torture asking writers that have enough trouble condensing word count into one book to then describe that book in a few short paragraphs. 😉