I took some time yesterday to catch up on reading query letters. Some were interesting, and I would have asked for pages had it not been for the overblown sentence construction. Here’s a made-up example of what I mean:
In her atempt to escap her retched life and return to a life of ease, the beagl decided that a pitcher of fresh margaritas and a box of Twinkies would be the perfect balm to soothe her ragged emotions, especialy after reading a threatening note from Overworked and Underpaid Editor, which said that the beagle would be on the street if she didn’t return at once and file that stack of papers on the desk and covr the phones.
That ONE sentence has 79 words in it. Man, take a breath already. I understand the need for brevity in queries, but this sentence is top heavy for a query letter and shouldn’t be expected to bear the entire weight. And just so you know, I’m not putting out a fatwah on all long sentences. They’re great WHEN THEY’RE IN A BOOK because these darlings enhance the ebb and flow to the pacing. It’s all about balance, right? And you’ll note the numerous spelling errors as well – which I do put out fatwahs on a regular basis.
A query letter is one page, and you need to bring your A game because here’s the kicker; if I see this kind of sentence construction or misspellings in the query, then I suspect I’ll see the same kind of construction in the manuscript. Chances are, I’ll pass because you’ve scared me with your unwieldy construction zone. Hmm…that’s something to think about.
After all, we are a suspicious, twisted lot who have no hearts or souls, and we tend to let our first impressions be our last impressions. That query letter does the heavy lifting. It’s like the construction worker who brings a feather duster to pour concrete. It’s the wrong tool for the wrong job.
The same goes for your query letter – it sets the tone for your book. Experience has taught me that a lousy construction site in a query letter is representative to a lousy construction site in the manuscript, and I usually reject it.
Word to the inquiring mind: Avoid the feather duster.