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Proper query format vs. the successful queries


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#1 CM_Fick

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Posted 25 February 2017 - 02:57 PM

Has anyone else come across the issue of trying to stay within the accepted 3 paragraph format of, hook, summary paragraph, bio & closing, all of which come to no more than 350 words, only to research some successful queries and find that they are the exact opposite? I mean that the successful ones are +500 words, 7+ paragraphs, and go into details you could never explain in the 350 word-limit. 

 

I understand that a query is extremely subjective; some want it personalized, while others do not, some want other book comparisons while others just want the "meat & potatoes" of your plot and nothing more. I've had bad queries where I've gotten multiple requests for more chapters or full ms requests, and I've had great queries that only garner form rejections. Where do you draw the line at editing a query when everyone has a different opinion? Where one person who says it's polished and looks good, while another tears it apart pointing out their perceived flaws?

 

What are your thoughts?

 

 



#2 LucidDreamer

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Posted 26 February 2017 - 08:05 AM

Where are you finiding these successful queries? And are they in any particular genre? Are they from debut authors or those with some publications already out in the world? (Even if they aren't agented).

 

Also, it is subjective. Sometimes the rejections are not for the query or the pages, but just due to the market for your genre, that agent's taste, etc. You really have to go with your gut on whether you feel your query is working or not sometimes. If it does garner requests, maybe leave it alone even if it doesn't fit the standard format.

 

The biggest flaw I tend to see in queries is that they read more like a short synopsis than a blurb on the back of a book, but I'm sure there are agents who don't care about that, or who are looking for a particular storyline, genre, unique twist, so much that they will basically ignore the query as a writing sample and want to check out the actual mss. So there are a lot of factors.

 

You can't take everyone's advice, that's for sure. You have take the comments, sift through them to see what resonates with you, and then craft your query until it feels right to YOU.  Then see how it does. If you get no requests after a reasonable amount of tries, then it's time to retool the query. But don't left too much advice keep you from sending out a query you feel good about. You can't please everyone! (Not even when your book is published, LOL).



#3 CM_Fick

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Posted 26 February 2017 - 11:58 AM

Where are you finiding these successful queries? And are they in any particular genre? Are they from debut authors or those with some publications already out in the world? (Even if they aren't agented).

 

 

Hi LucidDreamer, thank you for your input. 

 

Some of the non-standard queries are on this forum, in the successful query section. Some from agents who share the queries on other online resources - Writers Digest is one, and there are also ones that can be found on agents blogs. I know this is all subjective and depends on any agents specific taste, but it's difficult when you're told to do something one way, and find that others have had success doing it another way.

 

I know I could sure appreciate an extra hundred words in my query lol - I'm just cautious about deviating too far from the standard. 



#4 smithgirl

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Posted 24 March 2017 - 10:43 AM

Hi CM. I completely see where you are coming from. I have also seen successful queries that seem to break all the rules, and I also ask myself whether all this work I put into my query is in any way useful. One thing I have learned from forums and conferences is that despite all the supposed rules it seems that there really are, at times, no rules. Ha! Just to make things easier.

 

It also depends on the agent. Some agents are sticklers for the standard format, others less so. Some agents like to be surprised, but how can you know that? You can't.

 

I think that if an agent is really interested in your story, for whatever reason, they will overlook a lot of "issues." My best guess is that your query should be short and comprehensible. Right? If they can't comprehend the story at all, they probably won't want it. If your query is too long, they probably won't read it.

 

I think that, ultimately, it's a matter of whether your story "resonates" with a specific agent. Who that agent will be and how best to make that happen are open questions. Writing, like all the arts, is subjective. And there is a lot of competition, so agents/ publishers can really pick and chose among what fits them best. 



#5 Litgal

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    In between I became a "hybrid" as part of a group of six authors involved in a high concept novel-in-six-parts called "A Day of Fire" which released in November of 2014. The book, "A Day of Fire," tells the story of the final days of the doomed city of Pompeii in a way you've never read it before.

Posted 24 March 2017 - 12:57 PM

My thought is you have to know the rules inside and out before you can break the rules. And quite honestly the projects that query in a way that is outside the box likely would have been picked up had they used standard format, imo, because they had voice and a hook. After that it was likely the partial or full that sealed the deal The query is a threshhold marketing piece to get someone to shout "more please"


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#6 bigblackcat97

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Posted 26 March 2017 - 03:24 PM

Agreed with what is said above. Breaking the rules shows a confidence, but most often it just makes the author look like they think they are "above" them, which can turn an agent off.


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#7 CM_Fick

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Posted 26 March 2017 - 07:01 PM

My thought is you have to know the rules inside and out before you can break the rules. And quite honestly the projects that query in a way that is outside the box likely would have been picked up had they used standard format, imo, because they had voice and a hook. After that it was likely the partial or full that sealed the deal The query is a threshhold marketing piece to get someone to shout "more please"

 

 

Agreed with what is said above. Breaking the rules shows a confidence, but most often it just makes the author look like they think they are "above" them, which can turn an agent off.

 

Thank you for your input.

I kept to format for my own for the exact reasons bigblackcat97 mentioned. But it's still misleading when you spend hours researching, to find that the successful ones are non-standard formats. Nature of the beast, I suppose. 



#8 dmsimone

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Posted 28 March 2017 - 12:01 AM

I feel your pain. I have two queries. Both are ~240 words. One is a little more detailed than the other. It offers a little more specifics, a little more showing. It has comp titles. It has a bio. The less detailed query is less synopsy and reads more like a backcover blurb, in my opinion. Neither query uses the single line hook and 3 paragraph structure that I've found to be so common on AQC.

 

Recently, through Manuscript Academy, I signed up to meet with two agents in my genre. I reviewed the queries with both agents.

Agent #1 - Absolutely preferred the query with more detail. Even made suggestions where to add even more detail.

Agent #2 - Loved the query with less specifics and asked for a FULL. Said she didn't need comp titles because the query was so compelling and clear that they weren't needed.

 

So - talk about subjective, right? Now I've got two queries and am currently using both to continue querying.



#9 seemyad

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Posted 17 April 2017 - 12:50 PM

Subjectivity is the mother of confusion, and creativity. In my view, the "rules" for Query Letters are synonymous with military basic training. I served fours active duty in the USAF. In basic training we were taught how to march, salute, and conform over a ten week period. Later, I went to Technical Training, which lasted seven months. There I was taught how to repair complex avionics systems on heavy military aircraft. I then was shipped off to my permanent duty location, where I received several months of On the Job Training (OJT).

 

My point is once I arrived to my permanent duty location I was told "Remember all of that stuff they taught you in basic? Forget about it. Welcome to the real world!". Right or wrong, I view the rigid rules for query letters as the basics, similar to basic training. It gives you the foundation to build upon versus remaining stagnant in. It is like your first semester in college where you arrive bright eyed and bushy tailed. Then you meet the professors who tell you how the class is really going to work. Each professor has his or her own way of doing things.

 

So stick to the basics, until you are confident enough to build upon it by including a bit of your personality or view point. One could say this is how I view the subject matter I am interested in writing about, versus this is the generic view of what I am interested in writing about. If you need to add additional information to paint the picture, so be it (as long as you are not writing a Query Novel versus a Query Letter).

 

Rules should be viewed as a framework, not an absolute. This is especially true of artists and writers. Follow proper formatting as it applies to writing. However, the content is where your subjectivity should shine. Take the foundation for Query Letters and tailor it to fit your style, as with any profession.

 

Thus endeth the lesson (from someone who has just begun to look for an agent for the the first time in their life).



#10 Litgal

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    In between I became a "hybrid" as part of a group of six authors involved in a high concept novel-in-six-parts called "A Day of Fire" which released in November of 2014. The book, "A Day of Fire," tells the story of the final days of the doomed city of Pompeii in a way you've never read it before.

Posted 17 April 2017 - 03:32 PM

 

 

So stick to the basics, until you are confident enough to build upon it by including a bit of your personality or view point. 

 

EVEN WHILE FOLLOWING THE BASIC (3 paragraph) format any successful query must have personality and voice. I actually blogged on this once-- http://www.fromthewr...anuscripts.html


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#11 albarchs

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Posted 18 July 2017 - 04:28 PM

Agentquery's formula works. However, there are plenty of other examples of recent novels that do not follow their three step formula. You can find plenty of resources for other queries. Remember, Agentquery's formula is one option. One that has success but there are countless other writers who wrote queries that do no conform to the formula and landed an agent.

 

Honestly, Google is your friend. I search recently published authors' Reddit posts and look for mention of queries. You'd be surprised how many you can find in the bowels of Google's page 10.






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