Tag Archives | winning queries

The Great Query Letter Contradiction

I looked for a shortcut. I wanted a black and white formula that would guide me to writing the perfect query letter that no one could resist. Guess what?

I never found it. (If I do, I’ll let you know.)

And that’s because the truth finally seeped through my thick skull. The query letter is a reflection of writing skill. I didn’t believe that at first. I thought, oh, if only someone would read the first chapter, they wouldn’t care about the query letter. Again, I was wrong. Because skill with word choice, humor, sentence structure, and grammar do shine through in a letter.

So first, I tried the short and sweet approach. If I made my pitch paragraph 3-4 sentences – I’d be in partial-or-full-requesting heaven. Not exactly.

Then I read winning queries and my feathers got a little ruffled. The experts lied! Some queries had 3 or 4 paragraphs to explain their summary. These writers broke the rules! Time to protest! Unfair!

And that’s when I realized that a query letter is no different than any other writing rule. I’d have to learn the rules before I could break them.

Can I write the perfect query letter? No. But I’ve learned not to be so strict with rules. A query letter needs details, strong verbs, word choice that reflects the tone and voice of your story – and of course, the basics: hook, goals, conflicts, and stakes. Yeah, I know. Sounds hard. 

Scour the blogs for information. Read winning queries. And write multiple versions of your query and have your critique group read it. Let it sit. Then try again. Write the best one you can. And then throw into the pot things like market trends, timing, and agent subjectiveness.

What’s one tip you have learned about writing query letters?

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