Friday, February 24, 2012

You Never Get A Second Chance To Make A First Impression - Queries

So you are ready to start submitting your project to editors and agents. It is time to write that query letter and put together those packets. Before you do so, I strongly recommend that you take some time and breathe a bit. THINK. You get one shot to do this and if you blow it, you may have lost a great opportunity.

Now, I don't want to get into that whole concept of the components of a query letter or the specifics of writing the query letter. There is clearly enough information out there, either here on this blog, or certainly on a host of other agents' blogs. What I want to focus on is how you bring your best stuff to the game early on.

Too often, as agents we end up passing on projects that we simply have no idea what the author is doing. Sure, the project may be great, but that first sales pitch, that query - it simply leaves us with more questions than we have answers. We have a title, word count and some plot elements, but in terms of the big picture, the real thing that makes this story stand out, we have absolutely no idea what is going on.

The biggest mistake many authors do is to give us a plot summary of the book. Yes, we do need this, but you need to include only the main elements of the story. Remember, you have 1 page to do this in so you have to focus on key elements. The protagonist(s), the conflict and the over-all theme of the book.

For example.

Dear Agent,

I am submitting to you my 80,000 word paranormal romance, SUPERHERO MEETS HIS DINNER MATCH. This is a humerous look at the issues of dating that many mid-life individuals have to face. Somehow, these people need to juggle careers and their own identities.

Bob is Detroit's Superhero. The police force can always count on him to be the one to catch the next bad guy. Armed with his yellow speedo and black cape, THE HORNET has been unstoppable. That is until he runs into his ultimate challenge. Phyllis the waitress at the local diner, known for the best pie in town. Bob is in love, but now, he has to attempt to juggle his career as a superhero and become the ultimate dating machine.

Yes this is corny, but you get the idea. We see the theme of the book, we see the uniqueness of the book and we see the conflict. We might add a bit about the dating issues, but that would be about it.

The key is to keep it simple and keep it clear. Make the agent SEE and UNDERSTAND why this is a book we simply cannot put down. We want to be able to say, "Yes, send me a full manuscript!"

Leaving too much out just to "tease us" into wanting to read your book simply gives us a reason for saying no.

Have a great weekend! I'm off to a swim meet!



  1. I always get something beneficial from your blog and wish you represented my genre. Oh, well.

    Good luck at the meet and have a great weekend.

  2. It'd also be helpful to submit a query to both QueryShark and EvilEditor (both are blogs). They will gladly help with query corrections.