Query letters are like diet sodas. In theory, they’re a great idea. Lower calories, pretty cans, same great taste. And with enough distance, writers can even forget how much we hate them.
But one sip and we remember: these stupid things are the bane of our existence.
For me, the number one problem with query letters is that I always feel like I’m missing something. It’s as if some small part of me is convinced there is a magical query letter algorithm which, if I could only find it, would make my writing life work like a dream. No more aspartame aftertaste – just sweet, sweet cane sugar.
Here’s what I’ve gathered from my research about a good query letter (not even a great one. Just a good, yeah-sure-that-works letter):
No matter how perfect it is, if the agent isn’t in the mood, it’s a no-go.
You could write a terrible, awful, no-good letter, happen to stick in one gorgeous sentence, and make it through the slush pile.
Everyone hates them.
The query letter is just another gatekeeper. Agents and editors want to know that we know what our story is actually about. If you can’t describe your book’s central conflict in a couple of paragraphs, the entire novel might not be focused enough to sell.
There isn’t much room in a one-page query letter, so you have to be picky. You want to put your voice and spin on the words, but that can be hard to juggle with a hook and multiple plotlines. I’m struggling through my own query letter right now, and everything I write seems to be marred with blah-ness*. I’ve written five different intro sentences, all of which could work…but none of which say PICK ME PICK ME!
I guess it’s back to the drawing board. Er, I mean, keyboard.
Do you have any special tricks you use when writing query letters?
Michelle watched a musical last night instead of writing. *gasp*
*This is an extremely technical term meaning “absolute crap”.