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How about a query advice thread this fine morning?? (actually the morning is gray and gross and appallingly wet, but hopefully it's fine wherever you are)

#amwriting #amquerying #amediting #querytip
Query tip 1: stay succinct! Here's the thing about query length--too long means an agent might skim (or even skip) rather than reading closely. Agents have limited time, plus a rambling query can often indicate a rambling story. #querytip
I advise keeping your query to 300ish words total; over 350 is edging toward the danger zone. 400 is almost always too long. There are (always!!) exceptions, but this is a good rule of thumb. Shoot for 220ish words for the story part, 50-80 for the bio and about-the-book part.
Query tip 2: show plot in your query, not just premise.
Plot = chain of events that actually happen, pushing the character into the conflict.
Premise = the Big Idea behind the story; the set-up.

Awesome premises are awesome, but we need to know how things escalate from there.
Plot vs premise:

Premise = Story idea. "The realm of Wonder is ruled by a cruel fairy god. None can oppose him. The realm of Wonder is parallel to Earth"

Plot = Stuff happens. "A wingless faerie boy sets out on a quest to defeat the cruel god who rules the realm of Wonder."
Query tip 3: try to get to the catalyst (or at least, some sort of plot motion or story question) by the end of the first paragraph at the latest. This hooks readers/agents into the rest of the query. #querytip
Query tip 4: try to sprinkle characterization details in throughout, combining them into the action of the plot as much as possible, rather than front-loading the query with characterization. #querytip
Another thing I often see front-loaded into the first paragraphs of queries is backstory. We actually really don't need a lot of that to understand the present-day conflict! And it can bog down the plot and pacing. Get the right-now plot in motion ASAP. #querytip
Of course, there *are* often backstory details we really do need to know to understand the story, but those can often be short & sweet and sprinkled into the action of the right-now plot. #querytip
Query tip 5: Escalation! The thing I see missing most often in queries. Show us the stakes--then show us how those stakes change & the conflict intensifies. #querytip
Query tip 6: Try to balance your query visually. Several big blocks of text (even if your query isn't that long!) tire the eye immediately, and aren't a great first impression. Find a good rhythm between long/short paragraphs; give readers' eyes somewhere to rest. #querytip
Query tip 7: the dreaded comps!! First, know that it's not *required* that you list comps in your query, but they can help agents a) see where your story might fit on the shelves and on their lists, b) give them a better idea of its tone, and c) show you know your genre/audience.
Things to AVOID (usually) when finding comps:
-Outdated or classic books (unless you're putting a new twist on it, or it's a retelling, etc.)
-Blockbuster bestsellers (many, many people use these, it makes your story sound less unique)
What to look for in comps:
-Recent-ish (last 5-10ish years)
-Books that match your genre, tone (gritty, lyrical, funny, etc.), & an element or two of your story/plot
-Books that an agent would recognize, but that aren't huge bestsellers
Query tip 8: Personalization. You DO NOT *have* to personalize your queries (beyond "Dear [agent's preferred name/greeting]"). A good rule: only personalize if it's relevant & sincere.
"I'm querying you because you rep fantasy" = not relevant. They already know they rep fantasy.
"I'm querying you because your MSWL says you love gritty sci-fi" = relevant (as long as your story really does fit their wishlist--don't shoehorn it in, they can tell)
"I recently attended xyz conference, where you were a speaker" = relevant.
"I'm a longtime follower of your Twitter feed; thank you for your generous advice!" = not necessarily relevant, but appreciated if it's sincere.
If an agent loves your story, they will request based on your query whether or not it's personalized. Personalization will almost never turn a "no" into a "yes"; at its best, it usually just makes agents more interested to read your query, and/or sets a nice tone.
Query tip 9: Humor. This one is tricky. Humor can be utterly fantastic in a query if it hits right, and can be wince-worthy and/or unprofessional (or even downright creepy) if it doesn't. If you're not sure, don't risk it--err on the side of professionalism. #querytip
And finally, query tip 10: the bio. Don't sweat the bio!! Definitely don't try to cram it full of credentials to make yourself seem more important. At the querying stage, agents do NOT expect you to have any publishing credentials. (For fiction anyway; nonfiction is different.)
If you DO have (relevant, noteworthy) publishing credentials, include them! If you don't, do not worry.
These are all completely fine bios:
"I have published articles in xyz well-known magazines; this will be my debut YA."
"I have self-published two prior novels [if your sales numbers are good, include them!], & want to branch into traditional publishing."
"I'm a nurse from Ohio."
Oh, and a quick bonus #querytip! Not a lot of people talk about this, but sometimes your first agent isn't the right fit (or leaves the business, etc.) and you find yourself back in the query trenches. This is more common than you think, and it isn't a mark of shame or anything.
If you've had a prior agent and now you're searching for a new one, all you need is a quick line saying "After an amicable parting of ways with my prior agent, I'm now looking for a new agent to rep TITLE and the rest of my career" or something like that.
If you had a prior agent and are looking for a new one, there's no need to go into any deeper detail beyond that fact in the query. If an agent requests, they may ask to know more, and you can give more detail (what did you split over, etc.) at that stage.
Don't assume that parting ways with a prior agent makes you damaged goods. Like I said, it's actually fairly common, and agents understand that sometimes you just have a bad match. Don't badmouth your former agent, but do be honest about why you left (if it was your choice).
Hey, if you enjoyed my #querytip thread and you want more specific advice for your query, maybe check out my editing services? I've got room for a few query (and synopsis) critiques this week, and 2 full manuscript critiques this month! 😊 naomiedits.com
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