Thursday, July 6, 2017

Everything You Need to Know About... Query Letters!

Contest season is coming around the bend, and whether you're planning to submit to Pitch Wars, Pitch Slam, Nightmare on Query Street, or another contest, there are some common requirements for every submission package. Over the next few weeks, Operation Awesome will be giving and rehashing tips, advice, and 'lessons learned' about each of these required pieces of the submission package.

So, without further ado, let's start with QUERY LETTERS.

Top Query Tips from the Operation Awesome Crew

KARA: Specific details are what make query letters stand out for me when I read them. "Character meets a horrible fate" is not as eye-catching as "Character will be kicked out of the house and be at risk of being eaten by zombies." Take out all the vague phrases in your query letter and provide specifics instead. Don't worry about a "spoiler," because query letters are meant to get an agent/editor interested in your novel, and specific details are what do that.

MELINDA: Please don't tell me you've been writing since you were a kid or that your book is sure to be a bestseller. You have no idea how many times I read those words. They scream, "novice." We've all been writing since we were kids, and we all have hopes of our books being bestsellers. Tell me something relevant that will make me want to read more. Leave out the fluff.

J: If you're going to compare your book to another book, that other book better
  • be in the same AGE market as your book.
  • not be a cross-genre seller (Harry Potter, Divergent, Hunger Games, The Shining... if it's a top 10 best-seller, NO, don't use it).
  • be in the same genre as your book.
  • have enough in common with your book that one can read your query and the online description blurb of the book and draw parallels.
"It's just like 'A History of the World in 6 Glasses,' except it makes no reference to real history, and it's about vampires, so the only drink is blood, and the target audience is pre-school. But otherwise, it's totally the same." No.

The purpose of book comparisons is to figure out which 500 people regular readers to market your book to first. Sure, everyone might love your book later, but all books have to start with a core audience. Sticking with my ridiculous example, "A History of the World in 6 Glasses" would first have been marketed to people who enjoy food history books. Would fantasy writers love the book for the new world-building angle? You bet! But they aren't the core audience, they're not where the focus belongs during the initial launch. The book isn't shelved with writing books, it's shelved with gastronomy history. If there were a magazine ad campaign, the ads would be in "Food Network Magazine" not in "Apex."

LEANDRA: Have an intriguing first line. You can't land the fish if you don't hook it first. ;)

JAIME: Make sure you answer three simple questions. What does my main character want? What's standing in their way? What will happen if they don't succeed?

Operation Awesome's Library of Posts About Writing Query Letters

Query Writing 101: Writing a Basic Query
Query Writing 102: Query Dos and Don'ts
The Ultimate Cheat Sheet on Query Letters

1 comment:

  1. That nails it, right there.
    Make sure you answer three simple questions. What does my main character want? What's standing in their way? What will happen if they don't succeed?


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