How To Crush Your Query Letter
This week I want to talk to you about your query letter. If you already have an agent then you may not need this, but you can always also brush up on how to pitch your work for when you are meeting with studio executives, and or new editors/publishing houses, and for when you are on the agent hunt again. I have had 4 agents for writing in the last 20 years and whenever I have had to start looking again knowing how to put together a query letter has really helped me.
First of all, if you haven't grabbed this already, please grab this free guide to perfecting your query letter. It will make you sign up but don't worry, it won't put you on the list twice but just give you the FREE resource I have created. Also, you can forward this email to your writer friends who could use it.
Now that you have the workbook let me go over the basics of what your query letter needs to be successful.
1. It needs to evoke emotions of some kind. The agent wants to know that you can connect with readers. How do you do this? Through emotions. You do this with your HOOK. You hook the agent and your readers in by making an emotional connection. How do readers connect if you have a book about a wizard? Well if he is an orphan and lives under the stairs, well, there it is, you immediately feel for him. If it's about a clueless teenager living in Beverly Hills obsessed with fashion and things that don't matter but in a funny way, it makes you feel something? Joy? Hate? Silliness? This is how you get the reader in the store to buy and it's how you land your agent. Many times your query letter is what ends up on the back of the book. (No pressure)
2. It needs to tell us WHO the story is about and WHAT happens to them. For example, Harry Potter (and I know people are sick of Harry Potter, but everyone's read it so it works). Harry is a 10-year-old boy living under the stairs of his abusive aunt and uncle until he finds out he is a wizard. That tells us WHO-Harry, and WHAT-he finds out that he is a wizard. Let's take TWILIGHT. Bella is a 17-year-old who moves to a small town in the PNW to live with her father and is miserable until she falls in love with Edward, a vampire. We know WHO and WHAT. Bella falls in love with a vampire so we know already there are going to be complications, possibly death, and forbidden love. The detail of her moving to the PNW to live with her father tells us that her parents are divorced which informs character. For Harry, the fact that he lives under a staircase and is living with his abusive aunt and uncle tells us that his parents are gone or dead, he isn't treated well and he what he needs more than anything-a family.
3. It needs to tell the agent the genre and word count with two comp titles. This is to show the agent that you know where your book fits in and you know your audience. It's important and should be at the top of the query with the personalized note as to why you have contacted this agent. Agents know that you are submitting to multiple agencies but they also like to feel like you chose them and aren't just sending to anyone. The comp titles should be in the last 5 years and should be in the same genre and age group. For example, if you say that you wrote a book that is STRANGER THINGS meets GENERATION MISFITS the agent knows immediately what that is. A middle-grade book with some supernatural, possibly slightly scary elements about friendship and pop music---sound interesting? Yes, it's fine to use film and or television if it fits. You can use older titles. I got many requests for a YA novel that I pitched as ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES meets THE SIXTH SENSE and yes the movie referenced came out in the 90s--so there are exceptions, but that film is one that everyone knows and reading that agents knew immediately that there was a ghost element and that someone didn't know or possibly didn't know they were dead.
I read queries every single week that are still missing these basic elements and I'm sharing this with you so you can skip past the thousand revisions and get it right so you can find that perfect agent match and get signed so you can get that book or movie out into the world. It's not super easy to get an agent but you can do it! I know you can. You just have to have the right tools, and spend the time getting to the core of what your story is about and why people should care about it.
Write down what is unique about your book.
Make a list of all the emotions you want to evoke.
Use just one word to describe your story.
Build on that slowly until you have a full sentence that tells us WHO and WHAT the story is about.
You can do it!!
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