While doing query critiques, I’ve noticed a bit of a theme — backstory. Because you’re so limited on space in a query, it’s important that every word you use is absolutely essential. If you’re including that your character broke their arm last summer, it needs to be clear why. Why is that important to the story? Why do I need to know that NOW, and not in the first chapter?
Your pages are for backstory
Your pages should cover all the backstory necessary for your character. Your query’s job is to explain your plot, and give the Agent or Publisher a hint at who your character is. If you have backstory in your query, chances are, you can cut it out, and no one will miss it.
So, what do I put in my query?
There’s an easy formula for deciding what belongs in your query.
Character + Conflict + Stakes.
That’s it. Character. Conflict. Stakes. That should give the agent a pretty good idea of what your story is about. Need more to go on than that?
Be sure that you answer these questions:
Who is your character? If you’re writing YA or MG, be sure to put in the age of the character.
What or who is your character up against? Why are they up against that person/thing? Why is it only they who can solve/fix it?
And finally, what happens if they don’t succeed? Does the world end? Do they die? Do they lose someone they love? The final sentence should sum up the stakes. Tell the reader why they should care.
Additional information for your query
Be sure to include the word count of the MS. The genre(s) that your book fits in. (Be sure these are real existing genres, and not a genre you’re making up). And audience. Is your book YA, MG, Adult? The Agent will need to know the market.
You don’t need to include that this is your first novel. DON’T say that you ‘completed your MS recently’, as it looks like you may not have edited it. You don’t need to include publishing history, if you don’t have one. And, more importantly, you don’t have to include any information about yourself if you don’t want to.
Need more query tips? My CP has some great tips on her blog!