Monday, April 27, 2015

Query Tip: Play It Safe

Sometimes, I get the sense that authors are too concerned with making their queries stand out. I understand the sentiment—our inboxes are overflowing, your query is one of hundreds (often thousands) of emails, etc. But here’s the thing: when you attempt to do anything too unusual, you risk drawing attention towards yourself and away from your project. And you never want to do that.

Unconventional greetings, bizarre jokes, unnecessary personal details—could they work? Sure. But they could also go terribly wrong. If you say something that feels off color, it probably won’t help you. In fact, it may actually affect my ability to assess your manuscript without bias.

On the other hand, you’re welcome to be warm and gracious in your query (as long as you keep it short—see below), but it won’t make me more likely to read your pages. Your pitch is what makes me read your pages. It’s not the best investment of your time to tell me how much you want to work with me, unless you feel as though you have a unique, genuine reason.

My advice? Play it safe. Keep your tone neutral and professional. Don’t do anything too “out-of-the-box.” Make sure your query introduces your book, describes the central conflict, and includes any relevant information pertaining to you as the author. And let your work speak for itself.

It’s a better investment of your time to focus your energy on the following:

Do your research
Does your agent work in your genre? Are they open to new clients and queries? If so, check if they have a website with information on how to query them, and follow their personal guidelines. Google them, read their interviews, check their #MSWL on Twitter. Gather as much information on them as you can, and proceed accordingly.

Keep it short
Keep it under one page. A few short paragraphs will suffice. Your future agent will be eternally grateful.

Is this query over yet?

Here’s a protip: don’t worry about quoting lines from agent bios and interviews—it’s space you could be using to talk about your book!

Proofread your query
Make sure your query is polished and error-free. Don't forget to ask your critique partner to read it before you send it out.

There are dozens of websites and blog posts devoted to the art of writing a good query letter—use them! But bear in mind: they may have mildly conflicting information. After all, different agents have different preferences, and there's no set formula for these things. But at the end of the day, you can count on one thing: all agents want wonderful, polished manuscripts in the genres they work in, so as long as you keep the focus of your query on your project, you'll be golden.

Happy querying!

No comments:

Post a Comment