Digesting More Query Letter Advice

Querying can frustrating with so little feedback. It’s like searching for the narrow entrance to a river. A wall of trees is a sign of trouble; but which way do you turn to find the river? (We did this wrong once. It was a mess.)

What do pass responses mean? Is it a weak query? A weak first chapter hook? A lousy idea overall?

(While I suspect I’ve been chasing a lousy idea, I still have some faith in my ability to write a distinctive story that can stand out in the crowded #EpicFantasy marketplace.)

I found this recently. You might want to follow them, also.


Other agents have different advice. This suggestion is to treat the opening like a journalism lede with certain kinds of details:

  • What’s being offered: title, age group, genre, and word count.
  • The one-sentence elevator pitch.
  • Why you’re querying the agent in question.

There are also some things to avoid:

  • The list of themes or issues explored. (Easy to do.)
  • Bashing other books in the genre or age group. (Why would anyone do this?)
  • Word count too high or low (This hits me hard. See The Size Problem.)

After some rewrites to my query letter, I’m going to drop another two dozen queries next week. I’ve revised the opening hook in chapter one of The Forge, “The Arrival”. I’m hoping for traction with this version.

I’ve also revised the opening a little. Earlier drafts of the opening chapter revealed the MC in small stages. I think I may have let my non-fiction preference for a thorough introduction get in the way of fun story-telling. In the current draft, some reveals have been merged into a more dramatic entry; nuance will arrive in due time.

Some other examples of successful letters start with the story synopsis, and bury the lede latter in the query. I’ve tried the synopsis first for the last few dozen queries. Now it’s time to try details first.

Because I’m changing multiple things, it will be hard to be sure if any success is based on a revised hook or a revised query letter. Since the two are inextricably entwined, I don’t think the details matter.

I’m also becoming aware of folks who will exchange query letter critiques with each other. I think I should start looking into this a little more seriously.

 © F. L. Stevens 2019