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  • Writer's pictureS.E. Reed

The Art of the Query

You’d think the way it was spoken about within the writing scene that #Query was a four-letter word. But, it’s not. It’s just a part of the process. For some, it’s easy. For some, it’s the kiss of death. I know, I’m getting ahead of myself here, because many of you are new to the writing game and don’t know what a query, in the literary world, even is.

Well have no fear. S.E. Reed is here!

In the regular world, a query is a request for information. In the writing world, a query is a letter describing your book to a literary agent based on the parameters they have established. It’s a veritable “some like it hot, some like it cold” on the #literaryagent scene.

"What the hell does that mean?"

It means, every agent has “rules” for what they want in your Query Letter. I know this because, cough, cough, I may have written a lot of query letters. And when I say a lot, I mean a truck load! Yeah, yeah, I can hear your snickers… “She must not be very good at them.” No, no, that’s not the point.

The point is, literary agents all have specific tastes and specific ways they need to receive information in order to streamline their own processes. This means, we, the writers must oblige and provide our book synopsis in a way that they can process and determine if we fit what they are looking for.

Literary agents receive hundreds, possibly thousands of letters each week! Yes, you heard me clearly. Don’t go running for the Q-Tips. That means that your letter must stand out! It must be interesting, unique, attention grabbing, all while providing your characters, your voice, your point of view and following the agent’s guidelines.

The first twenty query letters you write, throw away. Trash them. Burn them. Feed them to your dog. It’s okay, I promise.

Once you reach letter twenty-one, you’ll start getting the crux of it. The juicy bits. Because come on, your book-- it’s been a passion of yours, a world you’ve lived in for weeks, months, maybe years! You know every in and out of it. Now you just have to regurgitate it in 1-3 paragraphs.

Ha, ha, ha. I know. It’s a riot. But true. Think of the Query like the back of a book, if it told you the entire book, and made you still want to read it!

My best advice is this-- write your query letter, then ask someone to read it and tell you what your book is about based on what you wrote. Don’t cheat! It can’t be someone who’s read your book. Seriously, find a complete stranger if you have to. If they come back and say “Romance” when you intend it to be “Science Fiction” then you’ve got a problem!

A few other (possibly helpful) tips:

  1. Catch Phrase/Hook Sentence

  2. Get to the POINT

  3. Eliminate the fluff

A finally thought-- most of us artsy writer types are emotional creatures. The Query process will force you to have thick skin. Just don't let it diminish your glow, to steal your shine. When Querying forces you to reevaluate your passions-- stop and ask for help. I promise, there are people in the #writingcommunity who will help you and guide you in the right direction. Your novel will be published, come hell or high-water if that is your destiny and your desire!


S.E. Reed

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