QueryTracker Blog

Helping Authors Find Literary Agents

Monday, March 5, 2012

Query Letters: Constants and Not so Constants

Recently, I've taught several workshops on query letters and in studying examples of recent queries that work, I've noticed some minor changes in the trends.

Now, I can't possibly tell someone what will or won't work for sure because there are way too many variables involved and every project and agent is different. What I can say is some things remain the same. It's still essential to include book specifics like genre and word count, along with a synopsis and brief, relevant bio. It's still important to use the agent's name in a personalized salutation and to include your contact information in the letter.

Two primary things seemed to have shifted a bit in letter protocol: blog mentions/links and visual media comparisons. I'm not saying you should include these, I'm simply pointing out that many successful, agent-attracting letters include them. As recently as three years ago when I was querying, this was not the norm.

Blog links: One thing I have noticed changing is the "never include your blog if you are not gigantic" rule.  From the agent-garnering letters I've read, it is common to mention your blog or at least put a link if it has a devoted (not necessarily huge) following, well-known blog co-authors, or is relevant to your project. Be careful, though, to analyze how you will look to an outside reader before you include a link. Poorly-written material riddled with grammatical and punctuation errors could do more harm than good.

Another element I've noticed becoming more prevalent is the "this meets that" comparison. It used to be a no-no to compare your work to a movie or TV shows (only literary comparisons were thought to be acceptable), but I'm seeing a lot of this in successful queries and even in publishers' book descriptions, like that of our own QT member, Cole Gibson, whose book, Katana, is described by her publisher as "Kill Bill meets Buffy." This doesn't work if you use little known or obscure references. If you look through the QT success story interviews, you will see a lot of these in recent letters.

So while the query letter remains pretty much the same, it might be of benefit to check out the recent success story interviews over on our main site and scroll to the bottom of each interview to see if the agented writer includes his/her query, so you can check out what is working right now.

Some of the letters are fantastic. You can find them by clicking HERE.

Have a fabulous week!



Red Tash said...

This is a great blog entry, and it confirms some of the things I've noticed or suspected lately. Thanks, Mary! Love the cover for Shattered Souls, by the way.

Mary Lindsey / Marissa Clarke said...

Thanks, Red Tash. Glad it helped. And thanks for the cover complement. I'm crazy about what the Penguin art department came up with!