Daily Archives: January 21, 2010

Query Letter Considerations

Call me particular, but when I open a banana, I like to eat a banana.  Not an orange.  There’s something about truth in advertising that strikes me as the best way to go.

Likewise, when I buy a book, I want to open the pages and read the promise from the back cover.  It’s not to say I don’t like surprises of the good variety: she fell in love with the unexpected, the murderer wasn’t who I thought it would be or the ghost was really the groundskeeper’s aunt’s nephew and not a zombie.

I imagine agents and editors feel the same way.  Our query letters are back cover promises to the pages within.  I wonder how often we fail to deliver.

Granted it is difficult to condense an entire manuscript to two paragraphs.  However, it is essential that we do so while providing the most pertinent information to the project.  So what does a good query need?

  1. Main Character.  It might be hard to do at times, but it is best if we can focus on ONE for the query.  Two paragraphs is a tiny space to introduce everyone in a manuscript.
  2. Main Conflict.  Yes, our books are often complex with several subplots shooting through the main story arc.  However, space is limited and the agent/editor needs to know the gist of our novels. 
  3. What stands in the way, or what can our MC lose/gain by resolving/not resolving the conflict?  The girl of his dreams, his family, the end of the world, a promotion?  We must write some sort of tension into our queries or there is no need to read.

And all these components need to fit neatly into your banana peel.  That way we don’t receive an automatic rejection based on our inability to deliver.

Truth in advertising is essential when presenting ourselves to agents and editors.  Otherwise we look like that bad knock knock joke.

Knock, knock.

Who’s there?

Orange.

Orange who?

Orange you glad I didn’t say banana?