Tag: querying

Query Tips

I have some tips, that will hopefully give you some ideas on what to look for in your own queries!

Going through all of these queries at once let me see a trend in errors. So, if you’re looking to polish your query up, here are some of the things I noticed:

We need the age of your MC
If you’re writing YA, or MG, we need the age of your MC in the query. There’s no reason to leave it out. Add it in, preferably in the first paragraph.

Your query should be about your book
Your query should be more about your book, than about you. While some agents like to see a short paragraph about the writer, that paragraph should not be longer than the rest of the query.

Show, don’t tell
Don’t give a one sentence overview of your book and expect that to cut it. Show us what your book is about in your query. Try to give at least three paragraphs that are a general overview of your plot.

Too much backstory
Save backstory for your manuscript. Your query doesn’t need 2 full paragraphs of backstory.

Too many character names
Limit yourself to mentioning two character names in your query. If you list more characters than that, the query can become confusing.

A query is not a list of events
Make sure that your query tells me a few things: Who your character is, what they’re up against, and what the stakes are. A bulleted list of events won’t cut it for an agent.

Limit your comps
If you’re going to use comps (which is optional) limit yourself to two or three.

A common tip if you’re stuck with your query, is to look at the jacket copy from other novels. I also have some other query tips here.

Have questions about your query, or any of the tips I mentioned in my post? Feel free to ask them below!

Querying Part 2: Building a Query – The Formula

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.

If you can, include a great hook.

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.

About you

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!