June 18, 2008 by Tracey S. Rosenberg
Given the amount of time and effort some agents put into giving advice about query letters, it’s really the responsibility of Us Who Query to pay attention. Now, obviously, the details will vary between agencies – if they want pages, if they don’t like e-queries, whether it’s okay to write a single letter to the agency or query each agent individually – but the basic rules are consistent. Here are some links to good advice.
Nathan Bransford has an entire series of entries (‘The Essentials’), which you can find in the sidebar, but you can start with the basic query letter formula.
And he also came up with the query points system, which came out of the whole whether-you-can-break-the-rules discussion. Basically, you can break the rules if you’re Michael Chabon; otherwise, refrain from using purple ink.
Lucienne Diver has a useful list of query dos and don’ts, which includes the ever-useful ‘don’t try to get too cutesy with your queries’ – apparently plastic fish (!) were involved. Incredibly useful is her first statement: ‘The query letter is basically an introduction to the writer; the synopsis is the introduction to the story.’ I shall keep that in mind.
And Kristin Nelson has a multi-entry pitch workshop.
Now, everyone will still make mistakes, but really, there is enough information out there – in these blogs and others – to prevent you from making the egregious ones that get your query deleted before the agent even reaches the ‘I look forward to hearing from you’ part.