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How about a thread of query tips today? #querytip
1. Put escalation in your query! Give us plot (what actually happens) and not just premise (set-up/the Big Idea of the story). Make sure your query shows the momentum of your early story, how the catalyst thrusts the character into the conflict.
2. It's a good idea to get to the catalyst--or at least some sort of present-day relevant action--by the end of the query's first paragraph. That draws us onward into the story. If your opening paragraph is 100% backstory/characterization/set-up, it can end up feeling stagnant.
3. This is a #querytip I don't often see, but it can really help: try to keep the sentences in your query to less than 30 words apiece, as a general rule. More than that risks feeling like a run-on (in the query format), or overwhelming readers with too much new info at once.
4. Shoot for around 250-300 words total in the whole query. Most of that should be centered on the story itself, with 50-75ish for the about-the-book and bio section.
5. DO NOT WORRY ABOUT THE BIO. It's possibly the least important part of the query in most cases, unless you're already published (or in the case of nonfiction, which is a whole nother ballgame). "I work as an x in y state. This will be my debut novel" is totally fine.
6. On the topic of comps: they can be helpful to give agents a better idea of your story's vibe, and to show that you know your market/genre well enough to understand exactly where your book will fit within it.
...that being said, imo, bad comps can be worse than no comps. If you say your book is "the next Harry Potter/GoT/LoTR", agents may assume you're not well-read enough to know non-blockbuster comps. Which also means you may not know tropes & expectations of your audience, either.
7. How to pick comps! Look for:
-non-blockbuster titles
-published recently (less than 10ish yrs old is good)
-in your genre, or very close to your genre
-have the same vibe/tone as your story (gritty, funny, etc.)
-share a core plot element with your story (ie heist book)
8. If you don't have comps, that's okay--it's not a red flag and won't make agents auto-reject or anything. It's a bonus that can be very helpful, but you can certainly get an agent without them. The strength of your story itself is the most important thing.
9. Things to avoid (usually, there are some exceptions) in query openings:
-Characterization lists ("Josie likes x, y, and z")
-"Al's life was good/normal, until"
-"Bob just wants to be normal"
Characterization lists in query openings are usually uncompelling. They don't lend the story any momentum, and usually don't have any impact on the actual plot. It's often better to slip in characterization details as you go, sprinkling it into the action of the story.
"Character X's life was normal, until" is also an uncompelling opening. That phrase could describe almost any character ever written. Shoot for something more unique that'll grab interest more quickly.
Opening a query with "Character X just wants to be normal" is, again, uncompelling. This is mostly because the desire to be "normal" is vague and often boring. Think instead about what "normal" means to them, specifically. Ground it in a concrete, visible, measure-able goal.
That's it for today's query tips! But if you want more help on your query, maybe check out my current editorial special, in which you can get FREE query feedback when you book a full manuscript job? 😁
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