Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Good Writing Isn't Good Enough Anymore, especially in queries

First of all, sorry for the delay in posting this AM. I fell behind but here it is finally.

As agents, we area always talking about the importance of a great query letter. Yes, I know many of you cringe at this and want us to just read your story, but, you need to understand that the query tells us much more than what you are pitching to us. In fact, that query tells you much more about your story.

In recent months, I have passed on numerous projects that were well written. When I looked at the partial, the writing was fine. But the issue came down to having that extra something. What was it about the story that made it stand out? What was it that made it unique?

In that query, we need to see much more than simply the plot and the details about your book. This is where that element of high concept comes into play. What is it that makes your story stand out amid all of the other projects out there? The question you have to ask yourself is "why should an agent decide on your story and not some other project."

If your story is just like every other project out there, then you aren't showing us much. If your plot is just like the 20 other projects by your favorite authors, then you aren't showing us much.

Now here is the twist to the whole thing. You cannot simply make this up. Your story either has it or it doesn't. I mentioned something about this just recently when I talked about trying to make your story something that it isn't. The same holds true here. If you start with a premise of a story that is far from unique. If you complete a story that is good writing but lacks that special something, you cannot simply tell the agent or editor that your story has it. In other words, you are screwed.

You have to start from the beginning. Think before you even put the first words on a piece of paper. What is it about your project that you want to bring to the forefront? How are you going to excite the agents and editors.

And then...

When it comes to the time of writing that query letter, highlight that point right from the start. Tell me in that first paragraph not just the fact that you have a 94,000 word paranormal called THE DARKNESS WITHIN. Tell us that unique element. Tell us what you are bringing to the table that all of those other authors forgot.



  1. thanks for sharing this, I think I need to remind myself of that when I think about my stories, because I believe they are unique and worth sharing, but I talk myself out of them.

  2. Tell that to the several YA best sellers in some Wall-Marts and the YA best sellers section of Barnes and Noble. And a guy I know who goes to the Waterstones equivalent says the same thing. All dried concepts and deliveries. But those authors DO have agents.