Sunday, February 7, 2010

Trim your query down to 250 words

First, I want to apologize to my readers for my lack of blogging. Living on a farm has its drawbacks and one of them is the continual upkeep of the outbuildings, such as my barn. What began as a simple repair to an outer wall has turned into a complete rebuild. The more wood I tore off the more dry rot appeared. I jacked up the sloping roof and removed the entire 50-foot outer wall including the upright supports. The wall's framework is now up and waiting for tongue in grove (T&G) barn wood. Lucky for me I have a farmer friend who has an old outbuilding that he wants taken down. I have spent the last two weeks helping him tear down the building. My reward is a large pile of T&G wood that I will use to finish the wall. A red coat of paint and it will look good as new. Gosh, I wonder if my horses will thank me.

BREAKING NEWS: TK Richardson's young adult book titled RETURN THE HEART, will be out this spring. This is great news and I congratulate TK for her hard work and wish her the best publishing success. Follow her blog here; once on her wonderful blog you can follow the link to her Web page.

I came across an article in my Feed Blitz news update service that I subscribe to, titled, How to Trim Your Query to 250 Words (or fewer): Advice from Agent Janet Reid of FinePrint Literary Management, aka the Query Shark. She gave this information at a query workshop for the Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group. I have decided to take her advice, take some time off, and rewrite my own query letter. You have probably read many articles like this, however, I believe this new explanation is easier to comprehend and follow than other articles on this topic.

"Your ability to write a query that does your novel justice can make or break your chances of landing an agent. Reid recommends spending two months perfecting this 250-word marvel.

Your query encompasses three sections:
1. 100 words answering the question ?What is the book about??
2. A brief summary of your writing credits, if you have them.
3. Miscellaneous information on how you found the agent or why you chose him/her.


Section One:
1. Back story.
2. World building.
3. Character roll call.
4. Telling.
5. A synopsis.

Section Two:
1. Academia ? classes, teachers, degrees, dissertations.
2. Conferences you?ve attended.
3. Self-published novels, or traditionally published novels with poor sales.
4. Personal information.

Section Three:
1. Begging, flattery.
2. Arrogance or self-deprecation.
3. Offer of an exclusive.
4. Your marketing plan.
5. Quotes from rejection letters, paid editors, critique groups, your mom.


Section One:
1. Title, genre, word count.
2. The essentials of your novel. (Every time you think you know, ask yourself ?So what? And then?? until you?re left with your main character, conflict, and consequences.)

Section Two:
1. Published short stories or novels.
2. Published magazine or newspaper articles.

Section Three:
1. Why you chose this agent.
2. A connection you have from a conference/workshop.

Start from the bare bones and build from there. Infuse each section with your book?s personality. Consider every word. Don?t forget your contact information. And close with ?Thank you for your time and consideration.? Now get trimming!"


  1. Thanks so much for spreading the news about my novel! And I'm glad you're back to blogging. :)

  2. My pleasure TK. I am glad to be blogging again and I am working on my next post.


  3. Informative post. Definitely worthy of a gold star in Google Reader.

    Writing my query letter, has thus far been a most challenging experience - to say the least.

    It is a daunting fact that a novel may never see the light of day, simply because ones letter was inadequate.

    Practice makes perfect. So I've been told. I'm hoping to prove myself right :)

  4. Hi Wendy, nice to hear from you again

    You are correct; the query letter is an obstacle for all aspiring writers. However, I do not believe it is the vehicle of destruction as many have said in the past. I have sent out nine query letters and received five rejections, three silences and one, who always answers all query letters received, a no show. I used this as positive information; and have made it the subject of my next post. Thank you for the gold star.