Naughty Query: Tip #2

So I am changing the name of Operation Query Tip to Naughty Query, because I already have too many operations going on…AND I try to use the word “naughty” as much as possible.

So today’s naughty query comes in the form of cliffhangers!! Ahhhhhhh!

I receive a lot of queries that give a great albeit extremely long-winded, overly detailed summary of what I would guess to be the first 50 pages of their manuscript. And then they leave it off with: “If you are interested, I am prepared to send you the completed manuscript, etc…”

The rejection will most likely come swiftly if this is your approach to querying. Even if the beginning of your book sounds mind-blowing. The truth of the matter is: I don’t have time to write you back and ask you for more details (which I will need before I ask for a full manuscript).

I’ll be honest with you, this is one of those fine lines that sucks to walk. You need to give your prospective agent just the right amount of information: not too much, not too little. Goldilocks, again. There should be a beginning, middle, and end to your query as with your manuscript. I should know the main characters, the main conflict and at least a hint of the resolution, if there is one. And that’s JUST the description of the book. That doesn’t include information about you, or any other facts about the manuscript like why it is important, viable, and different, etc. So keep the description succinct.

The overall takeaway from this Naughty Query post is NO CLIFFHANGERS!!! No one likes a cliffhanger in a query. Leave those to television dramas.


I got a tweet from @emilytastic  that said: “Great post! I wrestled with whether or not to include my twist in the query – I do now, tho I hear some would rather be surprised”

If your book has a wicked twist–not all do–I prefer just a hint of the twist not the whole revelation. Also, she brings up a very valid point. Take all my advice with a grain of salt. Every agent is different. That’s why it is good to do your research and know how the agent you are querying likes to be queried.

6 thoughts on “Naughty Query: Tip #2

  1. If the beginning sounds mind-blowing, can’t you just email a reply: “Send three page synopsis with REQUESTED MATERIAL in subject header,” in that instance and take it from there?

    • That is a really great question. And I guess my only response is, why wouldn’t the querier want to give a great synopsis the first go around? I am inclined to be wary of queries that only describe the beginning of the book because so often, a manuscript starts out really strong and then the premise derails. Which is why I like to know the overall arc of the story before I request any materials so I don’t get anyone’s hopes up or waste anyone’s time.

  2. I was guilty of writing the exact query you describe here. My letter only described the first ten to twelve pages of my manuscript which, in lookig back, would be very frustrating to recieve as an agent. I since have rewritten my entire query and am very excited about the revision. Thank you so much for your tips and advice. I find it very helpful, especially when writing an effective query can be more terrifying and duanting than actually writing the novel. I will be looking forward to your next post!

  3. I am guilty of ending my query with a cliffhanger. When reviewing my letter, I realized that I had only described the first ten to twelve pages of my manuscript. I can see how that would be very frustrating as an agent. Since reading your post I have rewritten my entire query without the cliffhanger and I am very excited with the results. Your tips are refreshing and helpful especially when writing the query can be more terrifying and daunting than writing the novel. I look forward to Tip # 3.

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