Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Kicking the Query Letter up a Notch

Today we have a guest blogger: Ron Voigts. I met Ron at the Triangle Writers Circle in Cary, NC in 2001. He has been a member of my face-to-face Movable Critique Group since 2003. His agent is pounding on Publisher's doors with his series of YA books. So Ron, what saith you?

The careful shopper compares products and asks why should I buy this brand? Most literary agents are careful shoppers. They read your query letter and ask why should I buy it? Or why would the publisher? Or the book shopper?

Good query letters should have a catchy opening (the hook), summary of book (title, word count, characters and plot idea) and closing (asking them to buy). But most often omitted is a pitch why your book is better than the rest, why the readers are waiting for this book and what benefits the reader receives.

When searching for an agent for my first book, a murder mystery with a thirteen year old detective, I added the following line to my query:

“With today's young readers moving up grade levels for adventure and excitement, the story line presents them with the classic murder mystery, while minimizing the violence.”

In 25 queries, I had three agents request the book and landed agent number three.

Remember: it’s not enough to write a good book, unless that shopper (or agent) has reason to buy it.

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