Monday, January 31, 2011

The Query!

Anyone who likes writing queries, raise your hand.


Most writers I know don't care for query writing. Thankfully, they aren't always necessary, and there are creative ways to get around them. When I've had to write one, though, there are a few basics I keep in mind. What are they? I'm glad you asked. Otherwise, we wouldn't have a Monday post. :)

1) Get right to the point. Query readers are busy; they don't have time to read a lengthy dissertation.

2) Use a good, concise hook. Share the main idea, illustrating enough to whet their appetite. Write smart and tight. Make every word count.

3) Pay attention. Get the details right, editor's name, address, etc. Research the market and know the publication and/or publisher.

4) The first impression is usually all you get. Unless they know your work, the query is the same as an interview; judgments are based on what they see and hear in that letter. Best foot forward time - no errors allowed.

What else? Well, there are other considerations, like should a query be written before or after the piece is done. (I think it depends.) Or what tweaks are necessary to suit an article, story, or book query.  (Let's save those for another time.)

Need more food for thought? Check out what Laura Pauling shared in her post entitled Not Your Usual Query Tips. She encourages us to think outside the box to jump those query hurdles.

Hope Clark adds another angle to things (query and otherwise) in this post, Go Ahead, Talk Sweet to Me. Ah, yes, the benefits of doing your homework!

For even more help, get Elana Johnson's free download, From the Query to the Call. Elana's book comes out soon, so I think she knows a thing or two about the process.

Writing the query - love it or hate it? What tips have helped your query adventures?

Happy writing,

Photo credits: lumix2004


  1. Laura's tips were really spot on.
    I usually LIKE the query--it's the synopsis that makes me break out in hives. LOL

  2. I'm with Jennifer. The synopsis is killer. The query can be sort of fun--I love working on the hook.

    You have wonderful links and tips listed here.

  3. Good suggestions to make the query process doable. When you said, "Raise your hands," I lowered mine, though!

  4. My advice to anyone developing a query letter is to have it professionally edited and formatted. My editor, Marvin Wilson, turned my diamond in a rough into a polished gem.

  5. Having many eyes on it, helped me to reach a query letter that I like. It really depends on who's desk it lands on too. :O)

  6. Getting right to the point is key! And be creative.

  7. Karen,
    Thanks so much for these timely tips. The mere word QUERY had terrified me. Now the monster is tamed :)

  8. Thanks for these links and tips, Karen. I hate writing queries and any help is much apprecaited.

  9. Jennifer,
    Oh, yeah, that too...the synopsis is a whole other topic...for another day when we're feeling brave! :)

    This is true, hooks can be fun. Just have to picture grabbing the reader...!

    Yes, you'll notice that my hand is not waving either!

    Great idea! Glad you shared it. Thanks!

    You know, this IS true. Praying ahead of time is a good idea.

    Yes, short and sweet with a dash of creativity is the key!

    Susan P.,
    You are welcome. Me too, not so crazy about it, but it can be done. :)

    Yes, queries aren't my fave. At all. :P But these do help!


  10. Great post, Karen. And you're so right. Get right to the point. I'm writing one now for our spring scbwi conference and they aren't easy! Probably why I blogged about them last week! :)

  11. Oh and thanks for the link! Sorry about the double post.

  12. Compared to writing a synopsis, a query is a walk in the park.

  13. OH great links!! I hate writing them but know it's the only way:)

  14. Laura,
    Aha, the inspiration! It was great, I loved it!

    So I'm hearing! Next one I'll tackle then, should be the synopsis...

    Thanks! Hope they lend a hand in some small way!

    Karen :)

  15. You've got a lot to offer in this post--it's a keeper. I've got to go to the links and study these as well. Thank you giving such helpful information.

    Tossing It Out and the Blogging From A to Z April Challenge 2011

  16. Hi Karen -

    I haven't written many queries. Most of my assignments have come from personal meetings with editors at conferences. Now, that's frightening! I think I'd rather write a query.

    Susan :)

  17. I'm afraid I don't have any query-writing adventures to share, but I like how you've laid these things out. I heartily agree with the "best foot forward" mindset! If I were to receive a query letter I would definitely expect the basic courtesy of having it addressed correctly and well-edited.

    I have a tendency to jump into the middle and want the details to miraculously straighten out with minimal preparation or effort. I think that if I took the proper time to sit back and prepare, projects would flow more smoothly.


  18. Me! Me! I'm writing one too! Definitely rewriting my old one... I think I learned what NOT to do with that one.

  19. Lee,
    Thanks so much. Hope they are helpful!

    Susan R.,
    Or maybe not! Connections are a great thing. I say go with it. :)

    Thanks! :) Yeah, sometimes it's more work than miracles, isn't it?

    Me too - the learning what not to do thing! lol Learning by doing, that's me:P


  20. Karen,

    My motto and my online class, "Don't Query, Be Happy!" pretty much sums up my sentiments on this aspect of writing.

    Though they may be a "necessary evil" for some of the higher glossies, I've had great publishing success without them by and large.

    But your post was very informative!


  21. Oh, that makes me think of how I study (sometimes) the Bible. The who/what/where/when/how approach ensures better undertanding, and it also fully develops the theme.

    It depends on what day you ask the question whether or not I actually like queries :)


  22. Argh!!!!! I HATE QUERIES!

    Thanks for the wonderful links. I'll be visiting each of them. :-)

  23. Thanks for this great post. As I will be writing a Query soon (I am shaking with fear) this post is absolutely timely and helpful.

  24. My hand is in my lap. Well, on the keyboard, actually. But not raised.

    Thanks for the links, Karen. You always help!

  25. Jennifer,
    I'm thinking I need to take this class! My aim to avoid them whenever possible. :)

    That's a good approach. Yes, the day, me too, although I mostly don't care for them. :)

    They're not my faves either. :P Hope the links lend a hand!

    You are welcome. Hope these links help!

    Somehow I just knew you weren't a query girl:) You are very welcome.


  26. Hi Karen,
    Thanks for the tips and links.
    Donna V.

  27. It took me a while and a little help to write my first query, but it turned out great. As for my second one, it took me a little longer. I think since it was still an unfinished work that I was writing about that I was a little scared to write something that could so easily change, but then I reminded myself it wasn’t a synopsis, merely a query and so it could be a little vague. A query is after all a brief introduction of a problem and character(s) and a promise of what’s to come. I could do that, right? Sure I could and I did and I’m pretty proud how it turned out.

    Thanks for all the great links too Karen. I’m going to go check them out now!

  28. Great tips, Karen. You are a resource for so many! I don't write queries, as I don't need them yet for submiting to magazines. But preparing, learning a lot from others experiences.

  29. LOVE your blog Karen :) I'm so glad that Robyn introduced us. You have so much great information here for writers. I know that I'll be visiting your blog all the time now. - Kelly

  30. Donna,
    You are welcome. Hope you are staying warm!

    Congrats on your query success! Hope you can use the links. :)

    Thanks. Yeah, some of us have done them, others haven't, but it never hurts to sharpen our skills.

    Thank you, you made my day! :) Me too, Robyn's a treasure! Thanks for coming by!

    Blessings all,

  31. Hey amigo. I missed this post due to a humongous case of LAZINESS. ;) Yep. But I had so much trouble with my query before actually getting it down. I learned you NEVER mince words and keep it short. Lots of white space on the paper. I learned from a writer who has a fantastic formula for making sure your query is awesome. Holly Bodger. She's the query queen as far as I'm concerned. Hugs my friend. Checking out the links. Thanks for ALWAYS helping your fellow writers out. You're awesomely cool.


Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. Have a blessed day!