Its been a little while since I last blogged about the wonderful world of writing. Since many of my blog readers, are…well, readers I try to keep the behind-the-scenes writing stuff to a minimum. You’re welcome, BTW ;)
That being said, I’ve gotten a few questions regarding query letters in recent weeks from friends, family, fellow writers, and even some tweethearts.
Why? I’m not sure. (That’s a lie. It could be that my friends and family worry about me, methodically/psychotically crafting pitch letters, and manuscripts for days, weeks, and months at a time. I’m normal Mom – all the writers are doing it. Pinky swear!)
It could be because I tweeted that I was an absolute query-lovin’ sicko, and enjoyed writing them. Or, it could be that I spend A LOT of time on Absolute Write assisting other writerly types with their query letters.
Why? Because I’m a sick, twisted little girl that’s why. Oh, and I love helping other writers out when I can. Aww… Fuzzy moment alert!
So what’s my secret to writing a good query letter?
That’s the easy/hard part to explain. There are TONS of agent blogs out there, that give STELLAR advice on query letters. By all means, please check out some of the sites listed below. (I’ve included links to make it REAL easy for you. XO)
Always take the advice that works best for you, above anything/everything else. Okay so enough disclaimer shiitake.
Here’s the breakdown of a query letter:
This is really up to you / the agent you’re querying. If the agent specifically says they like writers to get right into the heart of the book, then of course DO THAT! I myself, fluctuate between starting with my hook, or personalizing it – depending on what the agent I’m querying specifies.
Am I speaking Chinese right now? If yes, then stop reading and check out the QueryShark. Go on, I’ll wait. Now that that’s settled, let’s continue.
Here’s what I’m talking about:
Example One: Personalized Intro (Per Agent Guidelines, again, each agent is different, so do your homework.)
Dear Ms. Dream Agent:
Recently I read an interview you gave on ABC blog, stating that you’re seeking XYZ in a manuscript. My young adult novel SUMMER DIE-VER is complete at 60,000 words, and contains XYZ.
(Or you could write, I recently finished reading TITLE BOOK, by awesome AUTHOR and saw you represented the work. I hope you might find my novel, SUMMER DIE-VER a good fit for your list as well.) (You get the idea, right?)
Example TWO: Gettin’ Down and Dirty Right Away
Dear Ms. Dream Agent:
Fifteen-year-old Olympic diver Lillian Awesome’s been having a hard time fitting in with the other, less talented kids at Summer Swim Camp, but that’s about to change with the mysterious arrival of her super cute, and equally talented dive partner, Gill.
See the difference between the two intros? Good. (And no, this is not one of my books, it’s just the first thing that popped into my head during the writing of this entry.)
I should point out quickly what NOT TO DO so you can easily tell the good from the bad right away.
Things to AVOID: DON’T write your query like this:
Dear Ms. Dream Agent:
My young adult novel SUMMER DIE-VER delves into the inner psyche of what it’s like being a successful young swimmer in a world filled with jealousy, and deceit. The title is a play on words, expertly crafted to show a mystery lies deep within the novels pages. It talks about friendship, death, betrayal, and summer crushes. The reader embarks on a journey through adolescence, and learns what’s right, and wrong along the way.
This is what agents are talking about when they say SHOW don’t TELL. See what I’m talking about? The first example is showing, and the second example (To avoid) is telling. Got it? Good. Let’s continue.
The first sentence of your book intro, (no matter if you have it in the first, or second paragraph) HAS TO BE CATCHY.
How do you accomplish that?
Write it, over, and over until your eyes cross, AND bleed, then write it over some more. If you had to introduce the conflict, and basic premise in just one sentence, this is where you do it. What does your main character do, where does the story take place, and what’s the conflict? If you can capture that in the first sentence, and build from there, you’re on the right track.
Helpful Hint: If your book is fun, don’t have a sterile query letter. Make sure the tone of your work matches the tone of your query letter.
Remember, your query letter is your sales pitch for your book. Read the back covers of books that you already own, (and have read) and see how it matches up to their story. Once you get the idea of how it worked for them, start crafting yours the same way.
Heck, write yours the same EXACT way as your favorite book blurb, to get the format down, then rewrite it until it’s in YOUR voice. Practice makes perfect. I swear.
So here’s what the whole thing would look like: (Following Ex. 2’s Jump Right In Method.)
Dear Ms. Dream Agent:
Fifteen-year-old Olympic diver Lillian Awesome’s been having a hard time fitting in with the other, less talented kids at Summer Swim Camp, but all that’s about to change with the mysterious arrival of her super cute, and equally talented dive partner, Gill.
The other campers are jealous of the dynamic duo’s constant winning, and conspire to take them down. Permanently. After a close-call at the bottom of the lake, the young divers find more than just a terrible plot to end their swimming supremacy. They find a local swimming coach, that’s been missing since last summer, and apparently he’s been sleeping with the fishes. Now it’s up to Lillian and Gill to solve his murder before the Summer’s over. But who can they trust, when everyone’s a suspect?
SUMMER DIE-VER is a young adult novel complete at 60,000 words. Recently I read an interview you gave on ABC blog, stating that you’re seeking XYZ in a manuscript, and hoped you might enjoy my work.
Currently I’m a member of (Whatever writing group, SCBWI, MWA, etc.) (If you’ve been published, here’s where you can include that too. FYI it’s okay if this part is short and sweet. Less is more if you don’t have many writing credits behind you. For realzies.)
Thank you for your time.
Awesome Author Who Did Their Homework
Link to blog/website/whatever
(AGAIN: This isn’t my book, or query letter. It’s just a five minute mock-up for this blog post.)
Check out the following links for excellent #Query Letter Tips:
YA Fantasy Guide recently broke each paragraph down expertly. Read it HERE.
Agent Janet Reid gives the best query letter help in the shark tank, so check out her entire blog dedicated to helping writers create stellar query letters HERE.
Q: Did I forget anything? Don’t be afraid to ask any questions I may have missed. I hope this helps you, my super talented friends! <3333333