Less Is More: (YET ANOTHER) GUIDE to Query Letters

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Written by Caroline

October 29, 2021

Quick Tips for Your Query

Less is more. Less is more. Less is more. And then… less is definitely more!

The dreaded query letter comes at the most inopportune moment of your writing journey. You’ve sweated and cried and cheered and lost sleep and then finally finished your book (or your proposal). You are at the top of the mountain,  triumphant. It is time for your book to go out into the world in all its glory. You have made it!

And then you have to pitch the entire experience – not just your book, but the experience of your book – in a mere 300 or so, seemingly-impossible words.

The query letter is the opposite of the rest of your writing process. It is where you need to set you creativity aside and make room for your minimalist side. Clever is key; brevity is king (or queen). Less is more.

The Hook

You have one sentence to catch your agent’s attention. Make them love you. This is your Sally Field moment and it’s only going to happen once.

Rather than be afraid, let me suggest that this is your space to be brilliant. Be direct and channel everything that excites you about your story into this sentence. Try it out on your friends and family. Toss it out on social media. Be open to feedback. Every word matters.

The Story

Your agent needs to know what’s in the book. This should be a tight summary that names key characters and scenes. Hold nothing back.

The query letter is no time to be coy. Your agent wants answers. So avoid those cliffhangers and rhetorical questions. If the Hook is where you are brilliant, the summary of your story is where you get to be bold, direct, and confident. This is your story. Here is where you own it.

The Comps

In your query letter, you need to prove that this awesome book of yous has a place on the shelf. Choose your comp titles carefully, but be very clear about your connections. Remember, your agent may not have read your comps (and they haven’t read your book yet, either), so you need to be clear about the connections you are seeing. Put it on the page.

The Close

Leave your agent happy. If they’ve made it to your final sentence, you’ve actually made it so far already. So now that they know you and your story, remind them that they are special. They know that writers may apply to hundreds of agents over the course of a writing life, but they still want to feel like they matter to you. 

If your letter up to this point was about you, you have one line to make it about them, so make sure you let them know you care. Why did you pick them over the thousands of other agents in your genre? Don’t be afraid to wear your heart on your sleeve.

What Next?

If you’ve made it this far in my letter to you, and you would like some help reining in  your query letter, click here and let me know. I know from experience that there is nothing harder than getting everything you need into one, compact letter. So let me help you out. I can offer that critical eye to help you choose just the perfect words that tell just the perfect story.

Your book is ready. Let’s do this!

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