Literary agent Janet Reid‘s awesome blog, Query Shark, is a great way to learn how to write a good query. You can send in a query to get posted and critiqued — but even if she doesn’t post and critique your own query, you can learn a lot about what to do (and what not to do) by reading the other posts.
A couple of Query Shark’s recent tips:
- Always put “Query” in the subject line of an email, so agents will realize that titles like “Unleashing Your Inner Sex Demon” aren’t spam.
- Identify who the main character is (sounds obvious, but see Query #101).
- Always use word count, not page numbers.
- Be humbly professional (don’t tell an agent “time is of the essence” or mention your membership in Mensa).
- PROOFREAD. I know the Query Shark isn’t the only stickler for correct spelling and punctuation.
This is just a fantastic blog – in part because people tend to learn best by making mistakes (or studying others’ mistakes). And with the variety and number of queries posted here, it’s impossible not to pick up a few good tips. Best yet, at the end of the critique, Reid lets you know whether your query would’ve been a form rejection, a request for pages, etc.