Oh lawdy, queries. The bane of every writer and the joy of the agent. A query is a boiled-down description of your book you write to sell it to an agent or publisher. Think of the 100-200 word blurb on the back cover of a book that tells you as much as you need to know to pull you in and decide to take it up to the register to buy it. But that’s not all, as the Cat in the Hat would say, oh that’s not all! Since your query is going to go in the hopper with tens of thousands of others, something to be scanned by and agent (or agent’s assistant) on their phone while they walk to work, it’s got to immediately grab attention, describe your work, show off writing talent and do this in as much as time as it’s taken to read this paragraph.
Daunting, no? Imagine something you’ve worked for months or years on, boiled down to a few words scattered on the screen. Every word must be as carefully placed as a boot on thin spring ice. And though you’re intimate with your work, your baby, you have to communicate this to someone who doesn’t know you or your writing and unless you grab their attention in five seconds, will never know you. It’s like being a street hawker in a crowded souk where everyone is selling the same product, all yelling at the one customer hurrying past.
“You there! Read my book!”
“Free money! Yes, I have your attention, now let’s talk about my book, its—hey, wait!”
“This summer, one cop with nothing to lose meets a criminal with everything to gain!”
“It’s teen vampires, but with a twist! They’re wizard vampires!”
[vomits into mouth, gulps, then continues] You can imagine how much fun it is to turn your passion and love into a bleated cry for attention. And yet…there’s something about the query that’s enticing. You know your work is good, now you must boil it down to pure essence, like a beef broth reduced to a syrup that’s more beefy than the cow itself. A query must be alluring, mysterious, mouth-watering. It’s an aperitif, something just enough to get you flavor and a desire for more.
With that I present two of my queries. The first is From Border to Border, a non-fiction travel book of a Land Rover expedition I did. The second is The Ash of Winter’s Work, a historical thriller set in WWII Finland and Russia. Read, think, and tell me if you’re appetite is piqued.