Welcome to my mini-blog series discussing things I learned at the RWA 2010 National Convention. I’d like to start off with discussion of the Queryfest workshop, because it was one of the most helpful workshops I attended.
Queryfest featured five top agents: Scott Eagan, Jessica Faust, Miriam Kriss, Paige Wheeler, and Christine Witthohn. The gist of the workshop was that brave authors submitted real queries and the agents discussed what worked for them and what didn’t.
The main points I came away with:
- Your Title, Genre, and Word Count should go up front:
I’d heard and always assumed that the best way to start off the query is with your hook, since the whole point of a query is to get the agent interested in the manuscript right away. But the agents in this panel pointed out that they need to know the genre and word count to get a sense of what the pitch is about, as well as to identify potential lines to place it with. Knowing that a manuscript is a YA urban fantasy will immediately get the agent in the right frame of mind to read your pitch. I suspect that putting this info on top isn’t absolutely necessary, since a few of the agents mentioned that they’ll just skip down to find it if it’s not listed right on top. But then, why not put it right on top, if it’s the first thing the agent wants to read? Makes their life just a little bit easier…
- Include comparable titles with your query:
I’ve gotten this tip before, but didn’t really understand its importance until Queryfest. Agents like to know where you see yourself in the market. If they are going to invest the time to read your 400+ page manuscript, they want to know what it’s like. Also, what type of audience do you feel it would appeal to? Including comparables shows the agent that you are aware of the market and your manuscript’s place in it.
- Perfect your hook:
Your hook is the most important part of the query. It should provide the agent with an idea of the storyline without recapping the entire book. A query is not a one-page synopsis. The whole point of the query is to get the agent to want to read more. I know that I lost interest when queries went on more than 3 or 4 paragraphs. I can’t imagine how an agent, who we all know is supremely busy, would feel about it. Get in, hook ‘em, show ‘em your voice, and get out. Your query should give the agent a feel for the manuscript. If it’s humorous, then inject some humor into the query. But make sure the tone of your query matches the tone of your manuscript, or the agent is likely to feel cheated!
- Include some information on why you chose this agent:
This was another surprise for me. Honestly, I figured agents would rather have a shorter query than listen to you suck up to them. But what they really do enjoy is when you have a specific reason for thinking they might be a good fit for you. It could be that you read their blog and like it, or that you heard them speak at RWA and were impressed (I know I’ve got a few agents at the top of my list because of what I heard them say at the convention), or even that you know they have a particular fondness for the type of fiction you write. Whatever it is, it shows them that you did more than just pick their name from a list. If you did just pick their name from a list, why not do a little research on their website to make sure they sound like a good match? Then you can include in your query that you read their website.
On a personal note, as soon as I returned from the convention, I incorporated much of what I learned into my query, then sent it out. Well, it must have worked, because I got offers from two e-publishers. My first story will be published by Ellora’s Cave early next year.
So, what do you think? Did you come away with the same things I did? Anything else you learned?
I will be continuing the RWA 2010 Blog Series throughout the month of October. Below is a list of upcoming blogs in this series. If you are interested in guest blogging on any of these topics, please let me know!
Remember, you can purchase individual downloads of these workshops from RWA. I certainly recommend them.
|9/29 – Three Steps to a Highly Hot Hero||10/1 – 11 Senses – Who Knew?|
|10/4 – No More Sagging Middles||10/6 – Paranormals||10/8 – Romance That Snaps, Sizzles, and Pops|
|10/11 – A to Zs of Alpha Heroes||10/13 – Building Theme||10/15 – Doin’ It with Dialogue|
|10/18 – Humor, Heat, and Hooks||10/20 – Turn the Page! Writing Techniques||10/22 – Five Ingredients for Crafting a Big Book|