Writers looking for representation will agree that life in the query trenches can be brutal. Trying to strike a literary love connection with an agent can prove a bigger challenge than singles looking for true love.
And yet, this is how the wheel of representation spins.
What is a query letter?
The query letter is, in essence, the pitch of your book.
How to craft a query?
There are endless numbers of blog entries on how to craft a query letter. You can choose to work with a professional (agent/author/editor) to gain one-on-one feedback. Such an option is tailored to your needs and targets your query’s weaknesses—a worthwhile option, but be ready to invest some money.
Writer’s conferences allow you to attend seminars demystifying the art of drafting a query letter.
As a writer you must strive to surround yourself with a group of like-minded individuals, writers with similar work ethics and a true dedication to the craft. As you come together, you can review and critique each other’s work and gain some much needed perspective on your submission material.
I haven’t crept out of the trenches yet, but here’s what I’ve learned…
The query letter is a 250 to 300 word pitch outlining the following points:
A personalized greeting tailored for the agent you are querying. (Do your research and make sure the spelling of their name is accurate.)
The title of your book, the word count, the genre & age category, and comparison titles.
The pitch itself should have 3 parts:
- Your Main Character (MC), Catalyst & Goal(s): Who the MC is, the catalyst that sets them on a journey to get what they want.
- The Escalating Obstacles: What stands in the way of your MC getting what they want.
- The Stakes: What happens if your MC fails to reach their goal(s). This is the HOOK.
Expose the dilemma, but DO NOT reveal the ending.
Include a short bio with writing credentials, if pertinent.
Things to remember once you have outlined the back bone of your query:
- Maximize the power of words.
With only a single page to sell your 80+K novel, you need to make every word count.
2. Don’t use rhetorical questions. Make strong statements instead.
3. Separate your query into paragraphs.
4. VOICE! Infuse your query with voice.
Write your query in the mind frame of your story.
5. Read up on the agents you are querying; find out what they like (and mostly, what they don’t like.) Pay attention to the submissions guidelines and comply.
6. Most important of all: You are dealing with a subjective industry. You cannot predict how agents will respond to your pitch. However, you have control over the quality of the query you are sending out. Keep at it. Don’t give up. You and thousands of nameless writers out there face the same struggles. Every single day.
So Keep Calm
(slip on those leg warmers, brew that cup o’tea, percolate that coffee)