18. Publishing 201: The Anatomy Of A Query Letter
This week Kelly and JJ go into a little more detail about how to write a query: what works, what doesn't work, the who, the what, the where, and the whys. Also, have a query you want to have critiqued? Email us!
Our previous podcast episode about Querying and Representation
JJ has laid out "formulas" for copy before
Our episode about the High Concept Pitch
Tips for Best Query Practices
Emotional distance from your work is best (we know this is hard!)
Don't go too broad; the more specific the better
You don't need to include absolutely everything about your book in your query—just enough to entice the agent into wanting more
The shorter, the better: sweet spot is 250 to 400 words
Let your story speak for itself; don't talk about your book (show, don't tell!)
Try to limit the number of characters you're naming in your query (they generally say no more than 3): the protagonist, the antagonist, major ancillary character
Also, you may write a flawless query, but the agent may still pass because it's simply not their taste
SETUP: A brief "laying of the scene": setting, premise, etc. The "status quo", as it were. INCITING INCIDENT: A disruption of the status quo (e.g. a stranger comes to town) CONSEQUENCES OF INCITING INCIDENT: How the world has changed after the Inciting Incident THE MOMENT THE PROTAGONIST BECOMES PERSONALLY INVOLVED: What it says on the tin
The SETUP but when INCITING INCIDENT happens CONSEQUENCES OF INCITING INCIDENT occur, so then THE PROTAGONIST BECOMES PERSONALLY INVOLVED.
All of this together gets across what the stakes are, and that's what generates tension and interest in a story.
What We're Reading/Books Discussed
Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman
Morning Star by Pierce Brown
Tell the Wind and Fire by Sarah Rees Brennan
Assassin's Heart by Sarah Ahiers
Scripted by Maya Rock
Off Menu Recommendations
Lots of other podcasts this week!
What We're Working On
Kelly has been giving classes at The Loft about contracts, so if you're in the Twin Cities area, you should check it out!
JJ is still working on mental health, but still thinking about writing
That's all for this week! Next week, in continuation of our Publishing 201 series, we will giving an overview of SUBRIGHTS.