My history teacher in 10th grade told us that teaching world history (in 1 year!) is like trying to shove twenty pounds of shit into a five pound bag. That’s how I feel about queries.
Some stories are much easier than others-- there is one clean line of plot that is easy to follow, and therefor easy to write a query for-- others not so much. My current novel is in the not-so-much column. There is just so much. You want to show the characters deep emotional issues at the start of the novel, but you also want to show the intense action and awesome concept that her story leads to. But you also need a good transition.
That’s me. Okay, not really.
Well, since I’ve written about 10,000 queries for this Manuscript, I believe I may have finally hit shiny new hint to querying. No, I haven’t written the perfect pitch, but I do have an idea of how we can all have more compelling queries.
Stop trying to tell us what your book is about and just tell a story. Simple as that.
Here is a completely made up example.
Jonathon is an angel who watches over humans, protecting them from all things evil. Until one day he falls in love with Samantha. Even though he will lose his job, maybe even his powers, he decides she is worth it.
Jonathon breaks the rules and shows himself to the girl, who instantly falls for him, or at least his amazing beauty. But when he becomes controlling and jealous Samantha realizes, as beautiful as he is, he isn’t a good person. When she tries to pull away, he won’t let her. Until Garret, jumps in to save the day. As a normal boy, he has no power against an Angel. But he surprises Jonathon enough to get Samantha away from him.
Now they must run, run from this vindictive stalker Angel, armed with nothing but a mirror and their love.
(Okay, the ending was a little cheesy. Oh well.) Here is how you can spin this query to be much more compelling.
Watching over humans, protecting them from all things evil, can be a very boring job. Jonathon hates it. But then again, some humans are much more interesting than others. Samantha, is definitely on the interesting sides of things. As an Angel, Jonathon is forbidden to contact her, but her beauty is captivating and he cannot help himself.
A blinding white light is all Samantha sees when Jonathon shows himself, but the warmth of his touch is incredible. A high like she’s never felt. But Jonathon hates other humans. All he does is talk about himself and complain about her disgusting friends. And when a blinding light strikes down Garret, a boy who flirts with her at school, she knows it was Jonathon. And she knows she needs to get out.
Breaking up with an obsessive and powerful angel is tricky business. When she tells him she doesn’t want him anymore, Jonathon blows up. Literally. Samantha is blinded by his rage that fills her entire house. It’s too hot, too bright. Her house is about to burn down with Jonathon’s rage when Garret shows up, using a mirror to blind Jonathon with his own light-- just barely enough to escape. Together they run, away from the stalker angel. They know he will come after them, and this time, they need to be ready.
Neither of these queries are perfect, but that’s not the point. The point is that in the second one you get a real sense of character by being in those character’s heads. By telling the story through them, instead of through you. Realize that agents are book lovers. You might think that all they want is a story that will sell, to hell with quality, but that’s really not true. They love stories, or they wouldn’t spend their lives reading and selling them. So don’t just lay the content of your amazing novel flat on its back. Tell them a story, a great one. Use specifics, use emotions and above all—make us care!
P.s. This is what your query will do if you follow my awesome tips. Yay!
Once again, all the pictures came from freedigitalphotos.net