Today I want to chat about writing that perfect query. Oh, the torture! For the last few weeks I have been writing and re-writing a query letter. I've submitted it to my critique group a few times and they've come back with advice for improvement. The thing is, I thought it was perfect and wonderful before I sent it to them. What a let down to realize it wasn't. How do you know when it's ready? Honestly, I'm not sure myself. What I am learning is that simple is better. Less is more, if you get my meaning.
I want to quote a few things I've learned after ample study from How to Write a Great Query Letter, by Noah Lukeman.
1. Stick to the three paragraph rule. For some, that's hard to do, but it will place you as a professional when an agent first glances at your query.
2. Try with all your might not to be self deprecating. Never make excuses or be critical of yourself or your book. A professional doesn't do that. And keep mindless comments to yourself. Don't say, "I also like to write romance and paranormal," if the story you're querying is a fantasy. They don't care about that other stuff. You are querying one book and one book only. (at a time)
3. I loved this-- "As an agent, it is better to encounter a writer who has no credits, and who is aware of this fact and keeps his bio short, than a writer who has no credits but wastes several sentences or more trying to make up for it with an inflated, irrelevant bio. Not only is he wasting words (which a writer should never do) but it signals he might also be out of touch, might consider all of the irrelevant information to be genuine assets."
This was a hard one for me. I wanted to mention all the little community contests I've won, but this agent, Noah, claims that those things can make you appear the novice you are. I'm sure there are those who would debate this point. It would be interesting to hear from other agents to see what they think. I'm guessing that if you can write a fantastic query, they aren't going to care if you won first place in the Peach Days Writing contest. Sigh.
"Don’t be overly personal. This demands its own rule, since many writers tend to get (unnecessarily) personal in their author biographies. They might throw in information about their children, their uncles, their grandmother’s history; they might talk about their favorite hobbies, how they spend their time, why they decided to retire and write a book. Many beginning writers feel the need to justify why they are writing in the first place, and thus an agent will encounter bios explaining why they feel the need to write, what got them started writing. Being too personal might not turn off an agent—but lack of economy definitely will" So be careful!
There is a ton of information at this link I've provided. It has really helped me. I want to include my query letter here, which to be honest, terrifies me. But I would love your feedback. I've tried to follow all the rules, yet make it interesting. Let me know what you think.
NAME OF AGENCY
Dear (Actual name of agent you're querying),
A sudden flash of electricity exploded around thirteen year old Zach Marriott and a forceful wind gusted past his face. He was falling! Out of nowhere, a meadow appeared—wide, green and rising fast. He scrunched his eyes, and anticipated the pain of his body splattering. This was it. He was going to die.
In this 83,000 word YA fantasy, Zach is magically transported into his favorite online computer game, Warlord, and is forced to face his worst enemies: his pudgy body, his bratty sister who accidentally comes along for the ride, and the brutally savage Warlord. Their only way home is to complete the nearly impossible quest of finding the Eye of Tanúb. With the help of new friends they face grotesque monsters, evil bandits and ultimately, the Warlord.
I wrote The Eye of Tanúb trying to imagine what it would be like to be pulled into a modern computer game like World of Warcraft or Halo. My book combines the online gaming culture of our youth today with the traditional conventions of a young adult fantasy novel. I know of no other book with this same premise. I graduated from the Longridge Writer's Course in December 2010, am a member of the League of Utah Writers, and write weekly on my blog, A Writer's Reality.
Thank you so much for taking the time to consider my query. I look forward to hearing from you.
Melissa J. Cunningham(Here I put my address and contact info)