The “Do’s and Don’ts” of Writing Query Letters
So, I was originally going to make this into a vlog post, but it has been much too cold here in VA to be filming anything outside! (Well, I guess the cold is relative, compared to, say, Wisconsin, but I still consider 45 degrees to be unsuitable outside weather!) So Plan B came into action: Just write a blog post about it.
I recently received an email from a reader with some questions about writing query letters. It’s funny, because I never really thought about how different query letter writing is for teenagers. But it really is hard! There are so many decisions to make–Hide your age? Make up past experience? Pretend you aren’t still in school five hours a day? How do you write a good query letter that proves you to be professional and talented, without lying or looking like a little kid?
So, without further ado, here is my tested and proved list of do’s and don’ts of writing query letters:
Do tell the truth about your age. The number one thing you should always be is honest. If you are under eighteen, that is a big deal. You want to be really upfront about that. The worst thing that could happen is an agent thinking he’s getting into a deal with an adult, only to find out that you are a teen when it is too late. Being a minor, there is a lot of extra precaution and paperwork that has to be done when signing with an agent, so you want to make sure he is up for that. In my query letter to my agent, I stated that I was a high-schooler and let my agent know as soon as possible that I was only fourteen years old. He was grateful for my honesty and made sure to be sensitive to my age and situation. He made sure my mom was included in all my phone calls and that I didn’t have to make any life changing decisions all by myself.
Do talk about your interests and passions. (But keep it short!) If you’re homeschooled, mention it. If you want to be a professional writer in the future, let it be known. Query letters should be personal and passionate. Make a big deal of the fact that writing is something you want to do for a lifetime. Let them know that this is more than just a one-book fling for you. Agents are interested in signing writers who are flexible and dependable. They want to establish a career with you, not just one book.
Don’t assume that query letters are one-size-fits-all. When you make your list of agents to contact, make sure you take a look at their websites and see what their requirements are for a query letter. Every single one I sent out was different. Some agents wanted a longer letter, complete with summaries and an attached chapter. Others just wanted a few lines with a great catcher. One even got really mad and refused to look at my book because I didn’t follow his directions exactly. Don’t let that happen to you! You only have one shot with most of these agents. Make a query letter they will approve of.
Do be confident but Don’t brag. You want to come across as professional and talented, but not overly braggy. Nothing is a bigger turn-off than someone who clearly thinks he is God’s gift to readers. Don’t say your book is the next “Chronicles of Narnia” or “Harry Potter”. It’s not. Trust me. But don’t be afraid of saying something like, “I think that readers will be touched by the love depicted in this story,” or “This is a story that will have readers on the edge of their seat”.
So, that’s about all I have to say on the subject. I do realize that I’ve probably left a lot out. So if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask! I’ll do my absolute best to answer. And good luck with your query letters!