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Query format is anything but standard


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#1 dougp

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Posted 09 May 2018 - 04:40 PM

I've posted my first draft of a query and am starting to see responses. People say I'm not following the "format" and then they describe a format that is totally unlike what this site recommends as standard (see pinned post "How to write a query letter")! So, I looked at AQ Connect - Examples of successful queries. I see 100 different formats, none of which look remotely like the "standard". I'm coming to the conclusion that there is no such thing as a standard query format, though there are probably key elements that need to appear. What is the experience of others on this site?

 



#2 lnloft

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Posted 09 May 2018 - 08:57 PM

Generally, industry standard is that your query should include a hook, a paragraph or paragraphs delving more into the book (generally, splitting into a couple paragraphs is better just because it's easier on the eyes than a big block o' text), and a paragraph including title, word count, genre, experience, etc. I was introduced to including that latter paragraph at the very end, but I've seen people who include it at the beginning, and I've heard of some agents who prefer it there, too. So basically you're taking a gamble of picking either the very beginning or the very end and hoping that's where any given agent will prefer it, because most of the time they won't actually tell you where they want it. Additionally, industry standard is to always write in third person, present tense. Be professional, and keep it ideally under 300 words, preferably even a little lower. Other than that... there's a lot of information out there, and some of it is conflicting, and that's because different agents prefer different things, and, again, a lot of the time you don't actually know what they want. It sucks, I know. So maybe it's easier to say that rather than an standard format there's a standard guideline. Keep within the general boundaries and see what works best for YOUR book.


Nothing to reciprocate on right now; I'm off in the query trenches.


#3 Nessa

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Posted 10 May 2018 - 11:43 PM

Like you said, the standard is a collection of key elements.
 
There should be a metainfo paragraph (title, word count, genre). This might include comps and the reason for querying. The bulk of the query should be about the book. The book should be pitched in 3rd person, and the author bio should be in 1st person.
 
One thing to note about the successful queries is that there are patterns they follow. Metadata is often the first or second-to-last paragraph. Bio is the last paragraph. None of them are going to be exactly the same, and some will be exceptions, but it's best to be conservative.
 
The patterns get easier to see with time. 

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