Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Precision and Accuracy In Your Query Letters

You never get a second chance to make a first impression. You have heard me refer to that Head and Shoulder's commercial/slogan several times here on the blog. In a query letter, this could not be any more important. When you are drafting that query letter, you have to be as focused, precise and as accurate as possible to insure the editor or agent knows exactly what you are doing, what you are marketing and why it is right for them.

In the last several days, I have seen far too many queries for projects that might be good, but in reality, the query tells me absolutely nothing as to what the story is really about or why it is important to me. Consider a few of these ideas:

#1 - TARGET YOUR QUERY LETTER - Yes, we know you are going to use much of the same material for each of your queries to different editors and agents, but you have to show us how this story is what we are looking for specifically. No, this is not simply the genre and word count. We are talking about the voice, style or unique twist we have made known to the public. You can find that information in interviews the editors or agents have conducted, in their blogs, on their social media feeds, and more importantly, in their submission guidelines.

#2 - VAGUE STATEMENTS DON'T TELL US ANYTHING - I do believe writers try to get all philosophical and metaphorical on us trying to describe their books. This doesn't tell us anything. "My project is a poignent, gripping story about how we all have to make tough choices in our life." Well, I would hope it is poignent and gripping, but this is just a "no duh" statement. How is your project any different from every other book out there.

#3 - INCLUDE THE BASICS - This is not that hard people! We need to know the title, genre and word count. For me, I personally say to include it right from the start to get me thinking about where I want to send your story. At some level, it really doesn't matter, other than including it.

#4 - WE NEED TO KNOW THE PLOT AND CHARACTERS - Obviously you aren't going to go into ALL of the details, but we need to know who these people are and what they are doing in the story. For those of  you writing anything other than contemporary, you have to give us some of the world building elements. You don't want to leave us with questions.

These may seem obvious to you, but it is amazing how many writers simply forget this and just want us to read your book. Look people. You have to give us a reason to read it!



  1. Good, simple tips to follow. Thanks!

  2. Gaurav

    Wow, great article, I really appreciate your thought process and having it explained properly, thank you!