Cryptic Queries – Head, Meet Desk

It happened again. A query that’s basically a sentence or two…one about the story and one about the author’s “developing” platform. The last sentence asked me if I wanted to see the proposal. Um. Here’s the thing, a query letter isn’t like a bite of a Twinkie, and you’re not allowed to eat the rest unless you read the entire proposal. A query is a mouthwatering description of your story. It’s the thing that makes an editor jump up and scream, “I want more!”

It’s too easy to say no, so why would anyone set themselves up for failure by sending less than the bare essentials? That this came from an agent is unforgivable, and my heart goes out to the author because she’ll never know why no one wants to read her proposal.

Please, dear authors, don’t let this happen to you. Query letters are basic things. We need to see:

  • Your main characters
  • The circumstances in which your character finds himself in this story
  • What is he trying to accomplish?
  • What thing(s) is standing in his way? (this is where you show the tension of your story, the conflict)
  • How can he resolve the problem?

It’s pretty straightforward. And this is the same whether you write fiction or nonfiction. Your proposal (nonfiction) seals the deal, but your query opens the door. If you only give one sentence about your book, then I guarantee that you aren’t even close to finding the doorknob.

Are you worried about your query and whether it has enough enticing information that will have agents or editors asking for more?

3 Responses to Cryptic Queries – Head, Meet Desk

  1. Susan Lewis says:

    I appreciate your direct and blunt posts. I mean that as a compliment.

    As someone who is working on my first query letter, it’s nice to read something quick and to the point.

  2. Hi Susan, thanks for your comment. The one thing I’ve been trying to get across for many years is that no one needs to buy books on how to write the perfect query letter. Keep it simple. Use bullet points first in order to keep your information taut and on track, then turn those into sentences that blend into each other and create a nice query letter. And don’t freak out. You’ll refine this at least twenty times – so don’t rush the process.

    And good luck to you.

  3. Eek! Yet another reason to choose one’s agent wisely!

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