Q is for Query Tips

As I have mentioned many moons ago (heh. I was trying to see if I can squeeze "many moons" in one of my blog posts. Seems like today is the day!), I've finally entered the world of queries. If you've never queried before, and if you've seen other writers bemoaning the state of their query, you've probably thought to yourself, Come on, it can't be that hard.

Reality check: It IS hard.

So I'll share with you some tips to keep yourself sane.

1. Have a handy snack nearby.

Okay, I'm pregnant so I ALWAYS have a snack nearby. But you'll need it, too. You will spend HOURS staring at the screen, vacillating between including the word "that" or the adverb "mysteriously", and hey, should I include my protagonist's pet dog who was there fighting off the alien-monster-werewolf-hybrid attacking the city?

2. Start by laying down the answers to these questions:

WHO is your protagonist?
WHAT does he/she want?
WHAT/WHO is getting in their way of obtaining their goal?

The answers may not reveal you your hook line necessarily, but they will give you an idea of where the focus of your query should be. And it should ALWAYS be on your protagonist. Not the pet dog, no matter how adorable he is.

3. The less character names and places, the better.

If you start giving us the cast of characters  right away, we WILL get confused.

Annah and Brock have been best friends for a long time, until Annah's sister Michelle, starts dating Brock. Tensions rise between the siblings. Even Sparky, Annah's trusty pet dog, senses the discord. But when an alien-monster-werewolf-hybrid mysteriously appears one night, Annah may have to push aside her resentment, and aid her sister and her best friend in fending off the unwanted visitor. As the alien-monster-werewolf-hybrid lashes havoc on their city, despite Sparky's valiant efforts to protect the sisters, Annah and Brock are separated from Michelle...

I could go on and on with this fake query, but really, it's so convoluted I'm getting a migraine. Time for a snack...

4. NO rhetorical questions. EVER.

What would you do if the fate of the world rests on your shoulders?

Agent: Erm...yikes. *cringes* Employs form rejection button.

5. Make sure to PROOFREAD for typos and grammatical errors. Then have someone else take a look at it.

And finally, when you are ready to send:

~Don't send out a mass email to the agents you are querying.

~Don't address the letter as such:
      To Whom It May Concern:
       Dear Agent,

~In other words, know who you are querying and address them by their names.

~Research. Most of the time, I see literary agents tweet about passing on a query because they don't rep the genre. Only query those who represent the genre of your novel. Please. If you do, you're saving the agent's time, and helping out all of the other writers who are following submission guidelines properly.

~FOLLOW submission guidelines. This should be a no-brainer. Most agencies have their own website. You can also check AgentQuery.com or QueryTracker.net for more info on a particular agent.

~Be polite. Always. If you get rejected, don't respond by emailing the agent back with rage and
mindless threats. It's not personal. Just take a deep breath, and move forward.

~Be professional. This is a business, after all.

~And be very, very patient. Getting responses can take a loooong time (sometimes, you don't ever get a response.)
Good luck!


Jessie Humphries said...

Querying is such a double-edged sword! It can be so exciting and at the same time so excruciating! But snacks help! Yes, snacks always help!

Bethany C. said...

I loathe the querying process. Just when you think you've got it right--you get another idea.

I love snacks.

A.M.Supinger said...

Query Hell is aptly named. Thanks for the awesome tips--I'll start carrying a snack around while I (not so) patiently wait :)

Kate said...

Good luck with your queries!

Elizabeth Mueller said...

So I know we're not to have rhetorical questions. Ever. But why not? What is the technical answer for that? Is it because it sounds amateur, or what? Seriously...

A to Z co-host

Krista McLaughlin said...

Some great advice for querying!

Simon Kewin said...

Great advice. Off to get snacks now ...

Jennifer Lane said...

Awesome advice! I won't have any "alien-monster-werewolf-hybrids" in my novels but it's good to know to avoid throwing too many character names in at once. And I totally agree the rhetorical question thing can get annoying fast! Good luck with your pregnancy and your WIP!

Patricia Lynne said...

Querying never gets any easier either. You think it would once you know all the rules and have written a few, but nope, they are annoying as ever. I just wrote one and threw out every single rule to querying for it. I really hope I don't have to go back and redo it following the rules because 1)I like it how it is and 2)I don't want to rewrite it following rules. lol

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