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Naomi Hughes @NaomiHughesYA
, 15 tweets, 3 min read Read on Twitter
How to craft a query: a step-by-step guide. The purpose of this thread is to help you create a starting point/query template upon which you can build! And customize! And generally spectacular-ify! Starting in 3...2...1... #querytip #amwriting
Queries should usually open with "Dear Mr./Ms. [agent's last name]". Some agents are okay with "Dear [agent's first name]," but I'd say to default to the former just in case. DO NOT open with "To whom it may concern" or "Dear agent." Don't be overfamiliar or unprofessional.
Remember: query letters are first and foremost a form of professional correspondence. A light, fun tone is totally okay!! But getting too personal/familiar with the agent (ie mentioning her looks, using a "Hey Jen!" salutation, etc.) is creepy.
After the salutation, you can either dive straight into the story or do a few sentences of about-the-book (genre, word count, comps)/personalization.
Correction! A fabulous agent friend brought up the fact that the Mr./Mrs. salutation can sometimes amount to accidental misgendering/wrong pronouns. Suggested instead: "Dear [first name] [last name]." (Thanks @SoCalledYALife!)
You don't HAVE to personalize queries. It's totally okay not to (esp. if it's just something like "I'm querying you b/c you rep YA"). But if it's personal, relevant & sincere you totally can! Longtime follower of their blog, met them at a conference, specific MSWL tweet, etc.
The about-the-book section (which can be either the first or last paragraph of a query, or a little bit of both) is usually 50-80ish words long. It contains: title, word count, audience & genre, comps (if you have them), and your bio.
Comps can be super helpful, both to help the agent see where your book would fit in the market and to show that you know that market. General rule (sometimes ok to break, like if you're pitching a high-concept story): avoid huge bestsellers & classics.
When looking for comps, try to find books that are:
-Same audience & genre
-Similar tone (dark, gritty, funny)
-Relatively recent
-Preferably sold well or are relatively well-known
DO NOT freak out over your query's bio section. You're really not expected to have any relevant publishing credentials at this point (though if you do, definitely say so!). It's totally fine to just say "In my day job, I'm a [career]. This will be my debut novel."
If you want to include any memberships (SCBWI, etc.) in your bio, that's cool too. But (correct me if I'm wrong, agents?) these are unlikely to sway an agent to request or decline on their own merit.
Okay, on to the most important part of the query: the story! Here's a breakdown of one common structure:
-Paragraph 1: Introduce character and goal. Get to catalyst by the end of it.
-2: Escalate. How does the plot move forward/complicate? New, bigger stakes?
-3: Final hook.
The final hook can be a plot twist, an impossible choice/unexpectedly huge obstacles, a raising of the stakes, or just a subtle reinforcement of a deeply personal conflict. Basically: make the agent NEED to read the story. (But don't be gimmicky.)
Another query structure, commonly used for dual POV or romance:
-Paragraph 1: Focus on character 1's goal, motivation, and conflict. Intro the threads of the main plot.
-Para 2: Same for character 2. Show how their stories start to intertwine.
-Para 3: Escalation and final hook.
Okay, I've got to run and get Tiny Daughter to swim lessons, but feel free to ask if you have a question about query structure and I'll answer when I have time! 🙂
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