5 Things I’ve Learned About Writing Query Letters

I recently decided to enter ABNA (Amazon’s Breakthrough Novel Awards) as a test to see if I could get past the pitch round. I’ve written and rewritten my pitch/query dozens of times, but still wasn’t sure if I was hitting the mark. I didn’t make it through the pitch round, and this confirmed for me that I need to work more on my pitching skills before I start querying my MS. Yesterday I wrote and rewrote my pitch a dozen more times. I read blog after blog on writing queries. Then I rewrote again. I’m still not sure if it’s there yet. I’m letting it sit for a few days now before I go back to it. But after reading so much information on queries, I thought I would share some of the most important things I’ve learned about writing queries – not just yesterday, but since I first started researching queries.

1. Make sure you include both the TITLE and WORD COUNT for your MS.

2. You need to include WHAT YOUR PROTAGONIST WANTS, WHAT IS PREVENTING THEM FROM ACHIEVING IT and WHAT IS AT STAKE IF THEY FAIL.

3. Keep your query BRIEF and CONCISE – don’t ramble or try to include every single plot point. 1 – 2 paragraphs is sufficient for describing your MS. Try to keep it under 250 words.

4. In your bio paragraph only include information relevant to writing or your subject area. Include relevant publishing credits and writing associations you are a member of. Don’t include how many dogs you own or that writing competition you won when you were twelve.

5. ALWAYS CHECK SUBMISSION GUIDELINES! I made this red, because most agents will tell you it’s their biggest pet peeve when writers don’t check guidelines before submitting. Make sure you spell the agent/editor’s name right. Make sure the agent/publishing house actually accepts submissions in your genre.

If you’re looking for some GREAT SITES ON QUERIES, here are some of the best I’ve come across:

Query Shark

How To Write A Query Letter

How I Got My Agent (The Parts of a Good Query)

Cover Letters and Query Letters

10 Common Query Mistakes

Checklist for Submitting

Some GREAT QUERY HASHTAGS to follow on Twitter:

#queries

#queryfest

#querychat

And finally, if you head over to Write on Con they have some great query critique competitions running at the moment. All you have to do is comment on the prize you want and you could win a query critique for your YA, MG or PB manuscript.

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8 thoughts on “5 Things I’ve Learned About Writing Query Letters”

  1. No problem, Beth!

    Thanks Rach, I’m not too worried about abna, it told me what I wanted to know, which was that my pitch still needs work. Although it would have been good to get to the next round and get feedback on my excerpt.

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  2. Jessica – Glad you could find it useful. I kept coming across these same main points over and over again on agent blogs.

    Catherine – I think I’ve edited my query as much as I edited my novel! It feels that way anyway.

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  3. Thanks for these Jo. Although I miss your hints through the month – it will take me a month to blog hop through all those links and then their links! I can feel a few late nights coming up! Really appreciate your research and the simple manner in which you post. I’m going to look into Write on Con some more. Until next month.. read you later x

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  4. No problem, Kristy. It’s been such a busy month for me with sick children and being sick myself, but hopefully this coming month will see me back on track with blogging. I’m planning to post about Write on Con soon, I got so much out of it last year. Thanks for dropping by. 🙂

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