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Monday, April 19, 2010

Query letter: The Beginning

As promised here’s day one of my Query letter writing “workshop” for my secret agent contest.  Since it’s the beginning, I figured it was only fitting to talk about beginnings.

Keep in mind there is no secret formula to writing queries, all my knowledge comes from my own writing and what I found worked for me.  Each agent is different, and each agent will want different things.

Also, keep in mind that while you want to catch the agent’s attention, you don’t want to be gimmicky.  Avoid using colored paper, glitter, or sending cookies or anything else with the letter.  It should be just as professional as if you were writing a cover letter for a job interview. 

Margins should be 1” wide all around and the letter should be no longer than one page, single-spaced.  Don’t forget to include your contact information somewhere in your letter.  Usually below your signature.

In normal circumstances, it’s important to do some research before submitting, don’t just carbon copy everyone in the writing business.  Personalize each query to each individual agent and send each query separately.

 Use Query Tracker, absolute write, editors and preditors, and Agent Query to locate, research their preferences, and check into agents.  For the purpose of this contest we’ll just personalize the query letter with Dear Secret Agent:

Now onto the first paragraph.  Some like to say why they’re querying right here, but I don’t agree.  The top of the letter is valuable real estate!  You want to make it as eye catching as possible. And most agents know why you're querying them.  You want them to offer representation!  

So, I suggest opening your book with your hook. 

Since the query for Mirror Image is what eventually got me my agent (along with the manuscript pages) I’ll use that as an example:

“You'd think imagining a handsome stranger in your rearview mirror, crashing through a guardrail, careening into murky waters, and then being rescued by the same imaginary boy--who gives his name as Jackson--would be bad enough. But for seventeen-year-old LILY BAKER, that’s just the start of her problems.”

As you can see, I only give a little bit of information here, but it’s enough to capture said agent’s attention and hopefully make him/her keep reading. 

That’s the goal here folks, is to make the reader (whomever it may be) to keep reading.
Here’s another example of a hook.  This is one from my new WIP. 

"For EMILY BRIAR the rules are simple: life is short, death is never-ending and absolute, and second chances are almost never given. But when teenagers start walking around without their souls, that’s all about to change."

Do you see something interesting about the names?  Names in the synopsis and query are in all caps the first time they are mentioned, as is the title of the MS. 

Also, it’s important that you double, even triple check your query for spelling, grammatical, and punctuation errors.  Even have another person read it to make sure it’s perfect.  Nothing turns people off like errors in your query and it’s a good way to get an auto-reject.

Tomorrow we’ll talk about the synopsis of the query.