Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Query Quandary

You've probably heard this question before. How do you write a query. What do agents want in this darn thing? Is there something, similar to a mathematical equation, that authors can copy in writing the perfect query?

Well, sorry folks, here's the bad news: there is no equation. There's no potion, no magic wand that you can wave, no recipe you can follow to produce a well-written query. Queries are all unique, written to each agent. And guess what? Agents don't care what kind of a query you send them, as long as it's interesting, and makes them want to read the entire manuscript.

An agent simply wants a good story.

You're job is to show that story to an agent. You want to hook them, feed them tidbits, and end with a cliffhanger that makes them think, I want more!

Queries should lightly contain a bit of your novel's "voice". Basically, you want your query to reflect the tone and style your novel is written in. However, even if your novel is written in the first person (i.e. "I turned to see who was behind me, but no one was there.") always always always write your query in third person ("When Sandra turns to see who's behind her, no one's there.").

Your query can end on a cliffhanger. You want to entice the agent into reading more, remember? However, avoid rhetorical question. In fact, avoid questions altogether, okay?

Despite the non-formulaic problem of query drafting, some authors/agents provide wonderful tips for at least getting you started on the daunting road of query drafting. My personal favourite is Nathan Bransford's mad-lib query. If you are like me (i.e. terrified of queries) then Nathan Bransford is the place for you. He provides a wonderful mad-lib type query game that you can use to draft a rough query. It's helpful, because it breaks you out of the "queries are TERRIFYING" mindset, and lets you at least get words down on paper. But please, embellish. Add your own unique author voice.

For some great tips on the art of drafting queries, proposals, and synopses, read this transcript of the workshop held over at the Institute of Children's Literature. It is chock-full of some of the best information ever!!! Once you're done with it, here's part two of the same transcript. Enjoy!

'Til next time, God bless!



  1. The best querying tip I learned (from Elana Johnson) was to let your MC write the query synopsis/blurb. Then convert it to 3rd person. That way, the voice of your book is in the query. It really worked. I started getting requests as soon as I did this. I owe Elana a huge thanks. (I did thank her. She even critiqued the query for me.)

    1. Yes, I do that too. It helps a LOT, doesn't it?

  2. I think I'm failing the query test. Oh well.

    1. Just for right now. After this AMAZING blog post ( ;-) ) you'll be a query PRO! :)


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