Querying: Basics

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I. Love. Queries. LOVE THEM. Most people don't feel the same way, which I totally understand! A query is essential for any writer who wishes to find an agent, but not everyone is a natural at marketing--which is what a query is. A pitch for your book. You can have a great book, but if the query doesn't sing, agents won't read it.

What is a query?

A query is a pitch for your book, a cover letter that you send to prospective agents, to get them interested in reading your book. Many agents ask you to send pages along with your query, and your job is to get them to want to read those pages!

A query consists of 3 essential parts + 2 optional. Let's start with essentials, namely:

THE HOOK

A pithy one-liner that sums up what makes your book/character/concept compelling/intriguing. The hook should also introduce us to your main character and convey a sense of who they are and what they want. The hook may also be the inciting incident/main plot thrust.

Tip: DON'T start with a question, let alone a rhetorical one! Ever. Agents hate them. Ditto cheesy loglines.

THE BOOK

The essence of your book, boiled down to a paragraph or two. Essential to this section: conflict & stakes. What does your character want, what is standing in their way, and what will happen if they fail?

Tip: DON'T summarize the whole book, or spoil big plot twists/ending. Tease the set-up/character/conflict/stakes the way a back of book blurb would.

THE COOK

About you! If you don't have previous publishing credits or relevant experience, keep it short and sweet: who you are, maybe what you do or where you live. You don't need to say it is your first/only novel, as that is assumed.

Tip: DON'T talk more about yourself than your book.

Then there are these optional elements that can make your query even stronger:

COMPARATIVE TITLES:

Book comps tell an agent a) where your book would sit on the shelf and b) that you are well-read/knowledgeable about your genre. Don't use mega-popular comps: Harry Potter, Twilight, Divergent, etc.

Media comps are TV shows, films and other pop culture concepts that can help an agent pin down your book's concept/tone. You can use these in combination with book comps to give them a sense of your book's "flavor" or scope.

PERSONALIZATION:

Many agents like hearing why you are querying them specifically. Don't get too flowery, and be genuine. A good personalization at the start can get an agent interested in your query. BUT personalization is optional, and don't stretch trying to say something. When in doubt, don't personalize!

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