Wednesday, April 21, 2010

I 8 Wednesdays—Basic Tips for Querying

I 8 Wednesday again, this time with query tips...
  1. Get the agent’s name right. Even better, do your research. Learn what they represent, who they represent and what they like to read. It’s worth it, you’re hoping to enter into a strong working relationship, finding these things out will only prove beneficial in the long run.

  2. KISS (Keep it simple and short). I’ve read the sweet spot is between 400-500 words.

  3. Include genre and word count. For genre, do not write fiction novel. Don’t bother to hit send if work isn’t complete and polished.

  4. Follow the submission guidelines.

  5. Make sure your voice comes through. Your goal is to entice the agent, making it so they crave to read more. Think fly fishing. Let that hook fly.

  6. Don’t ask the agent to click on a link. Feel free to add it in your signature, but they’re already busy enough as it is.

  7. Your pitch paragraph should read like back cover copy of book. Study book blurbs to get a feel for how it should sound. No synopsis writing this time.

  8. Provide all of your contact information.

Bonus tip: Whatever you do, never…I mean never bust into an agent’s office with your manuscript in your trembling hands singing in your donkey voice, “I want you to want me…I need you to need me.” This will not bode well for you. In fact, this won’t bode well for anybody.

Nathan Bransford’s advice
Rachelle Gardner's advice
Over 100 posts addressing queries on Kristin Nelson’s blog

I also really like what James Scott Bell summed up about queries in The Art of War for Writers. There are hundreds of books on this topic.

Any tips or resources to share? Now’s the time…

*photos by flickr


  1. Great post, Wendy! I like what JS Bell said about not coming across sounding desperate, almost like we're trying TOO hard to get their attention. We need to keep our self respect/professional confidence and balance that with humility.

  2. Wendy, this is a very helpful post. I am more fearful of writing my query than my novel. I read everything I can about queries, particularly, if it comes from any one of the three resources you have listed.
    Thank you for being concise in your eight basic tips for querying.

  3. All great advice. I've found that the shorter the query, the better. I've gotten the best responses with just a general overview of the book's essence, with few details. And professionalism, all the way, all the time.

  4. Love this advice, Wendy. Rachelle Gardner had a great query on her blog today that illustrates that it doesn't have to be elaborate, but you need a good, fresh hook that sparks the interest of the one reading the query.

  5. Keep the query professional. Like JSB says, don't come across as desperate. You might FEEL desperate, but don't let it show. :)

  6. I've heard from one agent about a man who actually showed up at the agent's office. Needless to say, the guy didn't get representation, but did earn himself the reputation of a stalker.

  7. Great advice, Wendy. I LOVE your combo of advice, fun, life...really a great blog.

    Now would you query for me? LOL.....

  8. Darn, I love that song. I was planning on using it as my closing.

    Great list. There really is no good reason not to write a good query, there's so much information out there.

  9. Great tips! I'm getting the art of war and now I'm really excited about it! Yipee!!! As for querying I'm slow going.... I am working on a proposal.

  10. Great tips. I would suggest getting feedback from someone else before sending queries.

  11. Great advice. I've always wondered what you need (or don't need) to include in a query. You know because when pigs start falling out the sky and my book finally gets finished, I'll need to know these things! Thanks! :)

  12. Excellent tips. I'd like to add: make sure all links work, and are current. If you've changed your blog address, for instance, be sure it's correct.

    I agreee with Jody: confidence and professionalism count.

    I love that donkey picture!

  13. This advice is excellent and well worth reading.
    The best thing in all dealings of writing is to be as professional as possible. jsengpiehl .

  14. These are excellent! The basics, I think, that so many people don't do that can set your query apart. Great links, Wendy!

  15. Perfect! None of this really surprises me, but it's been a while since I've queried. Hoping to do so with my current WIP sometime this summer... I've bookmarked your tips. Thanks!

  16. Good tips, Wendy. I especially like the donkey-voice one. Made me laugh, for sure! I'll make sure *not* to do that.


  17. Great advice! Especially like the bonus tip:)

  18. Wendy, thanks for that advice. I HAVE probably sounded and maybe looked like that donkey before.

  19. Great list! Following the rules is definitely a must--as is researching.

    *snicker* I especially love the bonus tip. I'm going to have to check out that book. It sounds ripe with possibilities. O:)

  20. Fantastic list!
    As far as the bonus tip goes...What if you have a really good singing voice? LOL

  21. Oh my gosh! Now I'm going to have that song stuck in my head for the rest of the night :)

    Those are some great basic guidelines. I'd say the best is to do your research. Research the agent, their guidelines, research hooks, research queries. This will prepare you more than anything (though I DO love singing).

  22. Great picture and post! I shall now always remember never to sound like a donkey, whether I'm speaking or writing.

    And I really love the image of fly fishing to remember to use the hook that will fly the farthest.

  23. Great tips! Soooo....what exactly is a donkey voice? LOL

  24. You must work that donkey voice into a ms sometime ... that's so funny. Can't you just imagine that as a character tell? it'd be great!

    And - great tips here. Querying is a challenge. I can write a 50k word novel but can't eek out a two paragraph summation to save my life. ugh.

  25. Thanks for the advice. I am a writer so any tips are good tips.

    I also saw that you are reading Hunger Games. Great book, that is actually my first giveaway for my blog:)


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