One of the best and worst things about querying is that it’s incredibly subjective. It’s more about WHO gets them, so doing your research is critical. Find out which agents represent your genre, then find out who they represent, and what they’ve sold recently.
Even if you think you and an agent would be a perfect fit, you still need to be prepared for rejection. You never really know how someone will react to your pitch. Queries are the LAST thing agents do and they don’t usually look at them during the prime hours of the day. Clients always come first. And you should be happy about that because the whole point is to become a client.
This is why having a stand out query is so important.
One of the best tips from the workshop: ALWAYS put the most interesting thing first.
Sometimes that will be the hook, sometimes it will be you. If you have an amazing platform or a very cool connection to the material, that may be the best thing to put first. For example, if you’re writing a novel about a boy in Nazi Germany and you just happened to have been Hitler’s tailor — there’s your hook! Pin down what makes you and your book unique and make sure it’s the first thing the agent sees.
That hook will get the agent to read on. The rest of the query should make them want to read pages. You can hem and haw as much as you like about how hard queries are to write but here’s a simple (and potentially hard) truth: a query is a reflection of who you are as a writer.*
Simplifying and refining a 70K-100K novel into 300 words or less is no easy task. It takes skill, time, and effort. It isn’t the only thing that will make an agent sign you (as mentioned in this post, they’re in the business of selling books not queries), but it’s an opportunity to wow that dream agent and make them sit up and take notice. This is their very first impression of YOU as a writer. Don’t you want to make it a good one?
Yes, queries are difficult. Yes, they’ll make you want to claw your eyes out. But with so much competition, it’s worth it not to sound like everyone else in the slush pile.
So how do you know if your query is working? Well, according to the agent giving the workshop, if you get a request, you’re in the top 10% of queriers.
*I know some of you want to hit me right now for saying this–keep in mind that it’s a direct quote from the workshop! The fact that I think there’s a lot of truth to this, is beside the point. Yes, I’m ducking. You missed.