Leo's Angel Oak Tree

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


Oh, the dreaded query! I remember the first time I tackled a query letter.  It was awful! But, thanks to a wonderful workshop given by Suzie Townsend of FinePrint Literary and an amazing e-book by Elana Johnson, queries don't seem as threatening anymore.  So, I wanted to expound on a few things I've learned about the query process.

1. A query letter is a formal letter (business, serious)
2. You should show, not tell (Don't say you like strong female characters, show a strong female character)
3. Personalization: Some agents like it, others do not.  Know the agent you're querying!
4. MUST include word count and publishing credits (However, don't go on and on if you don't have any)
5. Never give the theme or complexity of the novel.
6. A query letter is just the set-up, the enticing appetizer to the main dish.
7. A query should focus on the main character, and in romance, it should include the MC and love interest.
8. It should contain the least possible words.  Make every one count. Keep it concise!
9. Don't cut and paste the query letter.  Type it into the email because some fonts are different when emailing.
10. All pertinent contact info should be included after your name at the bottom of the query.

Suzie Townsend also gave us this framework.

The main character must decide whether to _____________ or ______________.
If he/she decides to do ____________, the consequences/outcome/peril he/she face are ___________.
If he/she decides not to do _____________, the consequences/outcome/peril he/she face are _________.

One of the great things I learned from reading Janet Reid's blog is to answer these questions when working your query letter.

1. Who is the main character?
2. What happens to him/her?
3. What choice does he/she face?
4. What terrible thing will happen because of that choice?

Elana Johnson wrote a wonderful e-book titled From the Query to The Call.  Check it out here.

In this e-book, Elana breaks down the query into four sections known as Hook, Setup, Conflict, Consequence.

1. The HOOK is the log line, or one sentence that sums up the novel.
2. The SETUP is where you provide a few details about your main character and the catalyst that moves the
character forward.
3. The CONFLICT  is the main thing that prevents the character from getting what they want.
4. The CONSEQUENCE is what will happen if the protagonist doesn't solve the conflict. 

Then, you can write everything else like word count, pub credits, bio information (limited, very limited!)

Put all of these things together and you, too, can write a KILLER QUERY!

Lastly, here are a few tidbits I've learned through websites, published authors, writing friends, and critique partners. A query letter (in full) should range from 250-300 words (with at least 150 of those words being about the novel itself, although most would say 200!). Never put in the letter that this is your first novel, and always end with "Thank you for your consideration."

If you are a book nerd like myself, some books I've read on the subject can be found here. Just scroll down to the bottom of the page for more titles.

Do you have any query nightmares you wish to share?

1 comment:

  1. This is great! Wonderful compilation of all the querying advice out there. I am not quite at the querying stage yet, but I will be soon and I will need to keep all this in mind.

    Sarah Allen
    (my creative writing blog)