The Art of Query Writing

Dear Readers,

Today it brings me great pleasure to introduce Ayanna Behin, a new literary agent who’s been working with me these last few weeks but is in the process of setting up her own shop. Look out for her, she’s smart and talented! She’s authored a guest blog on the art of query writing:

“I wish that I could say that there was a formula for writing a successful query, but there isn’t. There are, however, a few rules that you should follow if you are writing one.

First, please make sure that there are no typos in your query – read it twice, or three times if you need to before you send it out. If you think about it, I’m sure that you would agree that your query is often your first impression to your potential agent. Why not put your best foot forward? Something about typos smacks of laziness and an agent dreads that editing the manuscript will be a nightmare.

Second, please be professional. You don’t want be too familiar with the agent that you are writing to for the very first time. Maybe one day, you will become friends. But, the best way to get there is to show that you can be professional. Every agent has to think about how they will best present you to a publishing house and we want to know that you are someone that we can present to any editor from the stuffiest to the most laid back.

Third, if the agent that you are writing to has submission guidelines please read them and follow them. We all like to feel like you’ve chosen to ask us to represent you because you think that we will be a great fit and have a long and successful working relationship. Throw a quick line in there that suggests that you know our work and respect it or at least something that shows that you are thinking about what our ideal working relationship will be like.

I like to read a query that tells me the gist of the story right up front. I also want to know that you’ve given some thought to marketing your story. Who is your audience? Why will they want to read your novel, memoir or how-to? And finally, who are you? Have you published before? How long have you been writing? If this is your debut, that’s okay too.

Of course, there are exceptions to even these rules. To be honest, when a manuscript is truly engaging, I have overlooked a poorly edited or written query. But, every agent is not as forgiving as I am. And why place a hurdle in front of yourself if you don’t have to?

The bottom line is that we want to read and represent good books – books that are well written and books that other people will want to read. If you have a good book, send it in.
Good luck!

Ayanna Behin”

4 thoughts on “The Art of Query Writing

  1. HI Ayesha,

    I never reply to these types of things , but for some strange reason I am. I liked your comments, but more than that, the feeling behind them. You seem like a real human being.
    Best wishes,
    John

  2. Hi Ayanna,

    Sorry I got you mixed up with Ayesha – forgive me, but it’s your blog I was responding to and my encouraging comments are meant for you. Good work.

    John

  3. “Of course, there are exceptions to even these rules. To be honest, when a manuscript is truly engaging, I have overlooked a poorly edited or written query.”

    LOL. Thus rendering everything you’ve just said pointless. Savor the hypocrisy.

    • Hypocrisy aside, isn’t it encouraging if ultimately you get judged on the quality of your writing rather than your query letter? Isn’t that the way it should be?

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