Monday, February 18, 2013

Building a Better Query

I'm sending out the first batch of queries for my second book, Crow's Rest, and wanted to pass on some of my go-to resources for writing queries.

The best place to start with query craft advice is straight from the horse's mouth on agents' and editors' blogs and websites. You can find those through their Twitter accounts, and Krista Van Dolzer has done much of the work for you with her agent interviews on Mother.Write.Repeat. And our own Mystery Agents contests (tab above) are a great way to see many pitches at once, and which one caught an agent's eye.

Searching for the term "query" will get you a ton of good resources, plus here are some that I've found particularly helpful:

*A great starting point is Agent Query's page on How to Write a Query

*Lisa Gardner has a lecture series on Conquering the Dreaded Synopsis that includes a query section (and you will eventually need a synopsis as well, so take a look at those lectures while you're there).

*Sydney Laine Allan has posted a workshop she did on Writing a Dynamite Query Letter

*The Nelson Literary Agency website, and Kristin Nelson's blog, are a mine of information on queries and pitches, and the agency site has links to webinars that Kristin Nelson did on pitches.

*Backspace has a brief query letter workshop with Jeff Kleinman of Folio Literary Management

*WriteOnCon had a wealth of interesting workshops in 2011 and 2012, now archived to view at your leisure.

*Pitch University is where I truly honed my teeth on pitches and queries, and their Pitching 101 lessons are a must read (scroll down and they're in the righthand sidebar)

*Roni Loren has earmarked all her posts on queries from her Fiction Groupie blog

*YA author Elana Johnson has a free ebook called From the Query to the Call that is essential reading

*Noah Lukeman also has a free ebook on Amazon, How to Write a Great Query Letter: Insider Tips and Techniques for Success

With so many resources out there, there's really no excuse for a lame query. Remember, your goal is to get the agent or editor to read your pages, and whether for good or ill your query is a reflection of your writing proficiency. If the query is amateurish, they will assume your pages are in the same state.

The good news is that writing killer queries is a learnable skill, if you're willing to put the time and work into it. All the best in your query ventures! In my next post (March 4), I'll share some places where you can get feedback on your queries before sending them out to agents and editors.

Did I miss any great query resources that you'd like to add in the comments?


  1. I really enjoy dropping in to browse Query Shark, and love the template she has for summarizing your plot.

    And then Query Letter Hell over at Absolute Write is also a great place to get your query critiqued before it hits the big time!

  2. Thanks for all the tips. FYI, WriteOnCon is doing a Pitch-Fest right now.

    1. You're welcome! The WriteOnCon Pitch-Fest doesn't start taking submissions until March 10, but they do have the boards set up so you can hone your pitch (200 words or less) in their workshop ahead of time.

      But if you have a girly YA book, you can pitch it to agent Carrie Pestritto today at Monica B.W.'s Love YA blog

  3. Seconding Carissa's recommendations. Those are great resources for query writing, and participating as a critter of other queries in AWs Query Letter Hell is an outstanding way to learn how to make your own better.

  4. Wow. This is extremely timely, since I'm sending out queries. And I'm a fan of Query Shark as well.

  5. Thanks for the comments! Yep, Query Shark and Query Letter Hell get a mention in my next post (March 4), which is all about where to get eyes on your query before it hits the big time.

  6. thanks for posting- the next one can't come soon enough!

  7. Ooooh, such a thorough resource! I'm pointing people to this post from now on whenever I get questions :)

  8. Good luck with the queries!! Great post :-)


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