I'm slowly making my way back to the land of the living and will return to a regular blog schedule soon. In the meantime, here's one of my past popular blog posts: Query Tips.
Okay, so after reading a bunch of queries for my huge query critique giveaway, a few common things stood out, and I thought I'd give some general query tips. NOTE: None of these examples are from actual queries sent to me--they are my own creations, but you get idea.
1) Avoid cliche terms. e.g. "When 'x' happens, his world turns upside down." Anyone's world 'crumbling,' 'falling to pieces,' etc. is cliche. Be specific as to what happens.
"When the space monkey lands in Evan's bedroom and injects him with a
strange substance, Evan must find a cure within twenty-four hours or he
will become a monkey himself."
(Does Evan's world "turn
upside down?" Hell, yes, but an agent is going to be way more interested
in something specific like this--unless they hate space monkeys, in
which case you don't want them as an agent anyway.)
2) Start with the hook.
DON'T START with something like, "This book is about love and loss,
family and betrayal, beginnings and endings." You've just described
approximately 50 bazillion books, and the agent will already be moving
on. Start with a one-sentence killer hook about what your book is about.
See space monkey example above.
3) Avoid questions when possible. You don't want the agent to answer your questions in a way that doesn't benefit you. e.g. Will the heroine save the world in time from the onslaught of possessed elves?
Potential agent response: I'm guessing so or you wouldn't have written
the book. Granted, that might just be my response because I'm sarcastic
by nature, but still. You want the agent to read the last line of the
query and think, "Holy hell. I must get my hands on this book NOW!" The
best way to end the query IMHO, is to finish with the highest stakes
possible. What is the worst thing that will happen to the MC or to their
world, if they do not overcome their obstacle?
Better: "She must defeat the army of possessed elves before they enslave all humanity and harvest their pets for food."
4) Follow the agent's submission guidelines. I
figured that people wouldn't be as formal sending their query to me as
they would to an agent, but I was a little surprised by the number of
people who didn't follow the guidelines (not attaching the query as
requested, using a different format than requested, etc.) For me, it
doesn't matter. I'm critiquing all of them because I'm nice like that,
but if you're submitting queries to agents--FOLLOW THEIR GUIDELINES!
It's not that agents aren't nice (in fact, most of them are quite
lovely), it's that they're incredibly busy. Also, you don't want them to
think that you can't (or won't) follow directions, because they are
considering you for a long-term business relationship. Yes, many of them
have different guidelines, so you will have to do your research, but
it's worth it in the end.
UPDATE: I'm now offering professional Query Critiques for those who need help with their query. Simply click on the Query Services button to the right to get all the details.
So, those are my query tips thus far. Feel free to add your own tips in the comments below, and thanks again for participating!