How To Format Your Query in 5 Easy Steps

stock.xchng.1280072If you follow these tips not only will you avoid the spam filter (which is triggered by strange fonts), but you will make it easy to read and fast to consume.

How To Format Your Query in 5 Easy Steps:

  1. Always use the default settings: remember no italics, bold, or colours.
  2. Capitalize your book title. That way it stands out without having to bold or italicize it and it’s transferrable across all email platforms without confusion.
  3. Keep your query to one page on the screen. That way we don’t have to scroll and it’s easy to consume speedily.
  4. Use a three paragraph format. Paragraph 1: Title, Word Count, Genre, Hook; Paragraph 2: Pitch that reads like back cover copy, not a synopsis; Paragraph 3: Your author bio, it’s okay to call yourself a debut here.
  5. Include a signature with your contact information, website, and social media.

And a few ways not to format your query:

  • When emailing a query don’t include the date, your address or the agency address in the top left corner. It takes up too much valuable space.
  • Don’t start with a quote from your book.
  • Avoid writing your query in the voice and point of view of your characters.

That’s it! Good luck!

Q: What are your big query format worries?

How I Read Slush: 3 Lessons for Writers

reading-piccsyAgents talk a lot about query letter writing and how we manage the slush pile. There’s the flip side of that too: once we request your material what happens? Well today, you get inside my brain. This is how I read requested material and how you make yours stand out:

1. I read on my iPad

I don’t print manuscripts out until I sign them and start to work on them. So I’m trying to see if I enjoy the writing and pair the writing with a name or book title to distinguish one manuscript from the other.

Lesson: Formatting! For the love of pete number your pages and title your file something like: Author Last Name BOOK TITLE. I don’t want to play a guessing game about which manuscript matches which query. The last thing I want is confusion when I’m trying to organize my slush. I also ask for a synopsis pasted into the first page of the manuscript document so that I can jog my memory and refer back to it.

2. I read 3-10 partials in a row

I’m not sitting down to indulge in one story, I’m sitting down to get through the virtual stack of manuscripts. Often it is between 3-10 when I start to read. That’s 3-10 different authors, voices, characters, plots and things to keep straight. When I read partials and other requested material I’m reading for plot, pace and potential. All I want is to be drawn in more than the story before that one. Continue reading How I Read Slush: 3 Lessons for Writers

Top 4 Reasons Agents Pass Based On Your Sample Chapters

good booksAs you know, agents get hundreds of submissions a month. We narrow that down to a select few to request that catch our eye. On top of all the client reading, contract negotiation and putting out fires, we have to squeeze time in to read your sample chapters. It takes us weeks to get to them because we have so many other things on our plates that have higher priority.

When we finally find time to read some new projects there are a few things that go through our heads: 1) we are looking for something TRULY great with outstanding writing and an electric premise; 2) we have so much on our plates that if we do really like it sometimes ‘like’ isn’t actually good enough and we still pass; and 3) if we’re looking at a dozen partials things can blur together and we need something that is absolutely memorable–and that rarely happens.

But here are the Top 4 Reasons Agents Pass Based On Your Sample Chapters:

1. It simply doesn’t stand out from the pack. As I mentioned above, we read batches of partials at one time. If you don’t make a unique impression on pages 1 through 5 we’re not going to be reading any further. We see trends because of the high volume. Don’t be a trend, stand out with your unique voice.

2. The pitch was more exciting than the sample material. Some writers workshop their query letter more than they workshop their manuscript pages. That gets us excited about your pitch, but leaves us underwhelmed with your sample chapters. You’re building up our expectations with your query letter, don’t let us down! Make sure those sample chapters are as exciting and relevant as your pitch is.

3. The book starts in the wrong place. 90% of slush pile manuscripts I see start in the wrong place. If you don’t know how to start your novel, or spend too much time setting up a scene instead of getting into one, you’ve already lost us. Get into the action. Make sure you flirt with how much information to give us and how much to hold back. Don’t overwrite the setting. Think: how can I make sure my reader starts on page 1 and never wants to set it down?

4. It doesn’t fit into its proposed genre or target audience. For example, we get pitched YA projects that are actually MG etc. The purpose of your pitch is to whet our appetite and set us up to enjoy your work based on the expectations you’ve outlined in your query letter. Know your target audience. Read in your genre. Be confident that you are pitching the correct agent for the correct project.

For many of these reasons, we’ll send a simple form rejection. It’s hard for us to reply to each and every one of you individually and get across the feedback you really need. There aren’t enough hours in the day and frankly that’s not part of our job.

If you want your sample pages to stand out follow these simple steps:

  • Properly format it
  • Make sure there are no spelling or grammar errors
  • Make sure your pitch letter correctly reflects your manuscript
  • Pitch agents that rep what you write
  • Query the best book you can write