Writing a query is tough. Often it’s harder than writing the whole book. You put so much good stuff in your manuscript and now you have to summarize it in 200 to 300 words.
Unfortunately there’s not a magic formula for a good query. What will attract one agent or editor may not attract another. However, most people agree that your query should contain the 4 Cs:
- Character – Who is the story about and why do they have their own story?
- Conflict – What goes wrong? What is your story about?
- Choice – What can your main character do when facing the conflict?
- Consequence – What happens if your main character doesn’t do anything? What if they mess up? What if they succeed?
The other thing about a query, it should be in present tense and written in third person. This is true even if your book is written in first person past tense. I’m sure there are some exceptions, but I can’t think of any.
Now that we covered that, how do you start? Good question. There are three options, all of which have their proponents and opponents:
- Start with the hook/4 Cs.
- Start with the book details – title, genre, word count, etc.
- Start with why you chose to query the given agent/editor.
My personal preference is to start with the hook/4 Cs unless there’s a really good reason why you’re querying a certain person. For example, they told you to.
The following is the query I used for Worthy of Song and Story, my debut MG novel. At the time it was entitled Midgard and was 47,000 words. By the time publication came, the title changed and 9,000 words were added. I’m not saying it’s the best query ever written, but it is an example of something that worked.
Twelve-year-old Stian wants to be the greatest Viking ever, but when he convinces his dad, the leader of his village, to let him go on his first raid, he fails. Miserably. A well-timed dive and a little help from a mysterious fireball are all that save him.
Stian needs a second chance. When he discovers Dahlia, a twelve-year-old dark elf, spying on his village, he pursues her into the forest. Stian’s role quickly changes from the hunter to the hunted when Dahlia uses magic to capture him and brings him before her mother, a prophetess. There, Stian learns a completely different story of his life—that he is the son of Loki, Asgard’s greatest enemy.
Uncertain if Dahlia’s mother is crazy, but knowing that he is meant to do more than just be an ordinary Viking, Stian decides to discover the truth himself and free Loki from the clutches of Odin. Only then, will he know who he is and what he is meant to do, and maybe, put the so-called gods in their place. But first he must out-think, trick, and defeat Thor’s children. If he succeeds, he may well become the world’s most famous Viking, but if he fails, he will fall victim to the gods’ merciless justice.
I am a member of SCBWI and the Writers’ League of Texas. MIDGARD was a finalist in the Writer’s League of Texas’ 2015 Manuscript Contest.
MIDGARD, a middle grade fantasy set in the Viking era, is complete at 47,000 words.
Thank you for your consideration.