This Thursday, two of my Wadmates and I are tossing around a subject near and dear to every writer's heart: queries. I am by no means an expert, but I've been very lucky recently to have won a Skype chat with agent Mark McVeigh and a query critique by agent Jennifer Laughran of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency. Today I'd like to share some of what I've learned, both from these agents and from other writers. Please also check out Sharon's blog and Amy's blog for more on the subject.
#1 - Don't begin your query with a rhetorical question. You probably know this already, but I did not. I'm glad I know it now.
#2 - Keep it short! The first sentence should be a killer hook. After that, use 100 words or less to introduce the protagonist, conflict, and resolution. This is difficult to do, but a must.
#3 - If you're unpublished, don't feel compelled to bring it up. I had heard that a new writer should just say "this is my first novel." This concerned me because I have two completed novels that I am still sending to agents/editors. (I tend to drop everything when I get caught up in a wip. Both these books need revision, but I can't bring myself to put aside my wip and start a new revision right now - soon, I promise!) Anyway, from now on I plan to just leave this sentence out. This isn't going to make or break the query anyway.
#4 - Don't include a non-related publishing credit, even if it's your only one. I write fiction, but I have a non-fiction magazine credit. I was told to just leave this out, it distracts the reader from the letter and is not a real concern to them.
I hope some of what I've learned these past couple of weeks will be helpful to a few of you. Writing queries can be one of the most difficult challenges a writer faces, but a well-written query will give your manuscript a fighting chance!
Okay, your turn. What is the best query advice you've ever received?