Death by Query Letter

nathan bransford

Convince a stranger to risk their job and profession by investing in a completely unproven product…in 250 words or less.

Enter the query letter, described best by Nathan Bransford as  “part business letter, part creative writing exercise, part introduction, part death defying leap through a flaming hoop.”

I have recently started composing queries in hopes of selling my young adult thriller. After a month of sending email pitches into the BIG BAD WORLD, I have not received any acceptances (unless you count those two rejections).  However, I have learned some things along the way that I thought I would share with my fellow writers—mainly so I can feel like I have accomplished something through all those late nights at the computer.

1)   The manuscript description is not really a description. Descriptions tell you things, this part of the letter is about hooking an agent’s interest by invoking questions that they suddenly MUST have answered.

2)  Do your research–and a whole fricking lot of it. Querying an agency requires not only knowing the types of titles that said agency offers so that you can be sure yours will fit in with their roster list, but also knowing the interests, priorities, and favourite My Little Pony episode of the agent you are querying. The best way to show someone you care and hopefully inspire them to care back, is taking the time to get to know them.

3)   When it comes to the Synopsis, don’t hold back.  Though technically separate from the query letter, most agencies ask for a manuscript synopsis as well. This is the place to do the real explaining—spoilers, endings—it should be laid out here.

Of course, I’m sure there’s tons more that I don’t know yet about this very challenging genre, so if anyone has anything they want to share, I would be glad to hear it.  And by glad, of course, I mean desperate.

2 thoughts on “Death by Query Letter

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