The query letter.
I know. That word can send every writer running for their blanket fort. Well, not every writer…some like to write them.
Well, not this writer.
But here I am. Time to write a query. Or at least something that looks and acts like one that I can revise a million times before finally giving up and sending it.
A query. There are formats to follow. Guidelines. Things to include. Things not to include. Ways to write it. Ways not to write it. The more you read about them, the more hair-pulling there is. So many opinions.
In the end, it’s a get it the way you like it and pray.
Because there is no right way to write a query, though some people will tell you there is. Like our precious manuscripts, a query is as individual as we are.
Begin with a paragraph having the title and word count…or end with it.
Write a one line hook at the beginning or…just go into the meat of the story.
Write in the style and voice of the manuscript in present tense.
Give enough detail to grow interest, to make your letter stand out, but not too much that the query is too long.
There are formulas…there are guidelines. Use those! Get something on the screen, then make it your own. Want to try something really out of the box? Do it.
Ending with a question is frowned upon, but…people still like them.
Write a bio…or not…or kinda…
Individualize your query for each person you send it to. It can help…or it might not matter.
Spelling and grammar! Though we are all human…therefore we make mistakes. People understand this.
Book comps. I struggled with this, until I figured out that comp titles aren’t just which books my book is like, but which books they can share a shelf with. If a reader likes this book, they’ll like mine because of the tone or content.
SO MUCH TO THINK ABOUT!
Here’s what I focus on.
Set up the main character. Who they are and what they want.
Set up conflict…what stands in the way of them getting what they want?
What do they do to fight for what they want?
Then the big choice, the moment they face a decision and what they risk if they choose one path over another.
The biggest thing…focus on the MAIN story line. It’s so easy to want to write in the other plot lines weaving through the story, but words are sacred here. You only have so many.
I like to put the title, word count, and bio stuff at the end.
At some point you are pretty happy with it! Then you let people read it. Then writing a query goes haywire.
Everyone has their own way of doing it and all the comments on what to change will overwhelm your tired query-logged mind. I can guarantee that what one person loves, someone else won’t. The problem is…when you send out your lovely queries, you never know who will like what. One person will toss it in the no-way pile and another person will request pages.
A good query is essential. And so hard! And ridiculous. And frustrating.
So I’ll write a query. I’ll have people comment on it. Then I’ll do what I want.
One constant about the query…it has to come from you. It’s about your manuscript. Do what feels right to you.
Then pray. Wish upon a star. Brew a good-luck potion.