Lask week I tackled writing a synopsis for my WIP. Not exactly easy!
This week, I am working on query letters, a similarly despised but unavoidable aspect of writing (unless you self-publish…which is sounding very tempting…). Somehow, I feel like querying agents (and being rejected) is an important part of my writer’s education. So here I go…
What makes a good query letter?
Jane Friedman had some excellent tips last week on writing a good synopsis, so I went back to the source for ideas on query letters.
She explains that there are five basic sections to a query letter:
- Personalization: where you customize the letter for the recipient
- What you’re selling: genre/category, word count, title/subtitle
- Hook: the meat of the query; 100-200 words is sufficient for a novel
- Bio: sometimes optional for uncredited fiction writers
- Thank you & closing
Most of those sections are somewhat self-explanatory. I want to focus on the hook, because that’s where I will actually convince the agent that they want to read more of my novel. The hook should convey the following:
- Protagonist + his conflict
- The choices the protagonist has to make (or the stakes)
- The sizzle
The sizzle is what makes your novel stand out. How is your novel unique from the hundreds of other query letters or books in your genre? That is your chance to explain why your novel stands out from the crowd.
Friedman points out a few red flags when it comes to the “hook” section of your query letter:
- If your hook has several paragraphs or runs longer than 200 words, you probably have too much detail.
- Your hook shouldn’t reveal the end of the book. Only the synopsis should do that.
- Your hook should probably only mention the protagonist(s), a romantic interest or sidekick, and the antagonist. Any more characters, and it’s too in depth.
Friedman has a lot of other great tips about what your query letter should and should not contain. Now I’m off to conquer the beast…