They say (although who they are exactly is a mystery) that everyone has a novel in them. Recently I’ve been informed by a fairly trusted source that some of those books should not in fact come out. However, for the brave few who do put fingers to keyboard and finish a novel there will come a time that you must query.
Now, there are a few hard and fast rules of the query:
- It should be three paragraphs in length and not over 300 words.
- It should be written in the third person.
- It should cover the first half of your story arc and end with your mid-plot inciting incident and STAKES.
- It should be professional, proof read, and contain more information about the plot than your credentials.
- Please, dear god, spell the agent’s name right.
Querying is kind of like being the best magikarp jumper in Magikarp Jump. You have to write(catch) a query(magikarp) and send it on its rounds to your beta readers (train it) all the while stressing over it’s perfect name something punchy and eye-catching (like dinosaur erotica).
via Daily Mirror
Once you’ve edited (leveled up) your query (magikarp) by taking criticism and applying it (feeding it berries) you have to send it out to your first round of agents (aka to battle.)
via Time Magazine
Now, on the way your query (magikarp) might get destroyed by a critique (pidgeotto) this just means it wasn’t ready for agents to see (to battle) and you need to start fresh with a new query (magikarp) and maybe a new name (like plz no die).
via Google Play
Once you have a successful query you should make a list of agents who represent your genre and with whom you would like to be signed. Querytracker.com and Absolutewrite.com are super useful when building your list. Then you send your query, make sure to personalize it to the specific agent’s specifications. READ the entire submission page twice before sending so as not to miss anything important.
It’s generally considered prudent to send your queries out in batches of no more than ten but no less than five. If you have a particularly well received query you could perhaps stretch that to fifteen. A well-received query is one that garners a request rate of more than twenty percent. A good query will garner fifteen, a serviceable one will bring in ten and anything under ten should be sent back to training.
I’m going to go in depth here for a moment about query structure. Technically there are no hard and fast rules about where most information should be, but in general your query should look something like this:
1st paragraph – Includes pertinent background and setting information, includes the main character’s name and their first problem – in YA it includes the character’s age.
2nd paragraph – Includes love interest and inciting incident, keep this fast paced and don’t bog it down with adjectives.
3rd paragraph – make us feel for the main character what is going to happen to her if she isn’t accepted to college/ doesn’t escape from her magical prison/can’t be with her true love. Make it personal and relatable.
After that there should be a small paragraph about the manuscript stats; word count (not page count), genre, comp titles, and sub-genre. Followed by a sentence or two about who you are and any credits you might have.
Close it out with a thank you for your time and attention, your name, e-mail address and any social media that’s applicable.
That’s it, don’t try to wow them with presents, don’t rave out how your book is the next Harry Potter, DON’T threaten/harass/be mean to the agent. I know most people would never but apparently there are enough crazies out there that this is becoming a trend.
So now there’s another how to query article out there, filled with tried and true approaches and some awesome Pokémon references. Hopefully it was helpful and at least a little amusing. Go, query, you are amazing!
Happy query writing and if you have questions, feel free to ask!