Sometimes the best ideas are associated with a red couch. . .

The Stormy Seas of Ill-Concieved Querying with Laura Zats Part 2

The Kiss of Death: Vague Edition

350 words to explain me and my book and also be awesome? How in the heck am I supposed to do that? I know! I’ll just WRITE ALL THE ADJECTIVES!

* cue author panic *

* cue agent sigh *

A book is a big, scary beast. It’s your life’s blood, your baby, and more often than not, it’s terrifying, and frankly, impossible to distill all that awesome into a query letter.

Because of aforementioned impossibility, the goal of a query letter is to intrigue, to pique an agent’s interest, if you will. Instead of giving a synopsis, your aim should be to give an impression of what the conflict is, who the main character is, and what reading the book will be like.

Is it funny? Will it make you cry? Is it a fast read? Is the main character obnoxious, or swoon-worthy?

These are hard things to convey, but necessary.

A common impulse is to use our friendly foe (our foe-ish friend?) the adjective, and his evil fraternal twin, the adverb.

“I will use these DESCRIPTIVE parts of speech to DESCRIBE the experience of this book! And the characters! And the setting! You’ll love it!” you might say.

“No.” I will say.

Here are lines I’ve received in the past week from queries:

From the attaching characters to the captivating theme, this lovely book has every ingredient to separate it from the rest. It’s honestly refreshing and positively addictive.

I have a unique and engaging YA novel to present to you.

No one gets hurt in this novel.  The disappointments Jenny experiences are not so great they cannot be endured.

All of these are vague. They literally tell me NOTHING about the book you are trying to sell me, and thus are a waste of space.

Carefully-chosen specifics are your friend in the querying game. It’s what allows you to show in two paragraphs what you’ve spent thousands doing inside your actual book.

Examine very, very carefully that every descriptive phrase you use conveys a clear and precise image of what your book/plot/protagonist is like. If it doesn’t paint a clear picture, cut it and try again.

And for the love of the Oxford comma, please get rid of your adjectives.

Your “request” stats will thank you for it.


2 Responses to “The Stormy Seas of Ill-Concieved Querying with Laura Zats Part 2”

  1. Lara

    Three thoughts:
    1) Oh dear.
    2) What’s an attaching character? Are these characters statically or magnetically charged? Wearing Velcro onesies?
    3) I’ve just got a great and terrible idea for a new drinking game.


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