Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Query Question: differing standards of what to include

I read your query shark blog often and I've noticed that many of the queries you post seem longer than many other agents seem to want (3 to 5 paragraphs summarizing the story rather than 1 or 2).

Is this more of a coincidence or is that length what I should be aiming for when sending you a query.

My query includes a one paragraph (4 sentences) summary that I believe gets to the point quickly and would leave the reader asking for more. I really want to do this right and send you a proper query letter that fits your preferences but I've been hesitant, fearing that I might not be including enough detail to peak your interest. Should I rethink or just bite the bullet stick with the short version?

For starters let's all remember that QueryShark is a blog with queries in the formative, not finished, stage.  You'll notice I howl a LOT about paring, trimming, slicing and dicing.

And when agents say 1-2 paragraphs summarizing the story, what they mean is NOT 1-2 pages.
Three paragraphs won't kill you. Probably not five either, BUT they better be short paragraphs cause the number you need to know is word count: 250.  A query should clock in at 250 words or fewer.

And the only preference I have is that you write well and have a book I want to read.  If you're trying to follow the directions you'll do fine. Try not to over-think things.  And it helps to spell all the words correctly.


Unknown said...

Peek, peak, and pique. May I take a peek at your manuscript? Did you reach the peak of the mountain? Did the synopsis pique your interest?

JeffO said...

Thank you, Amanda. That one drives me crazy, too.

Unknown said...

"A query should clock in at 250 words or fewer"

OK, I've seen this a lot and am yet to get a 100% straight answer so I'll ask you.

When an agent (or a Shark) say's 250 words (or whatever), does that mean, the lot, including intro, bio and finish?

My bio is approx 60 words and I usually reference why I'm submitting to a particular agent in a sentence or two, say another 20 words, plus another 20-odd for the salutation and my "per submission guidelines... and my signature.

That total is somewhere between 90-100 words. Does that mean my actual query should be 150 words ?

Janet Reid said...

Nikola, yes.
The entire email query (not counting pages of the manuscript) should aim for the 250 mark.

Anonymous said...

"My query includes a one paragraph (4 sentences) summary that I believe gets to the point quickly and would leave the reader asking for more."

That's about how long my query summary was. It might've been three sentences. Anyway, point is, half the agents I sent it to requested the manuscript. So I think it's the way to go.

Terri Lynn Coop said...

Absolutely, brief is best and tending to the word count.

However, on the flip side, here is a response I received from a very reputable agent:

"I don’t know why authors feel it necessary to make their queries so vague, as it’s so much easier for an agent to say no. If you want to send me a more detailed synopsis and/or the first 50 pages, I’ll let you know if I think is for me."

Best request for a partial, ever.


PS: Ravenclaw, congrats on all the interest!

DLM said...

Mine is 280 with greetings, thanks, and contact info, but it seems to be doing okay. Hey, I'm historical fiction we can't keep anything short. :)

Unknown said...

Thanks for clearing that up Janet, I think I've got about 50-80 words to cull.

At least I know :)