J. Scott Savage hosted a forum called “Hands-On Query Workshop.” If you have a chance to attend a forum of his at a conference, I highly recommend it. Not only is he entertaining, but I found his knowledge of query letters very informative.
Unfortunately we ran out of time before he could give us all he had prepared, but there were still several valuable points. The elements of a query letter he discussed included 1) the introduction, and 2) the “hook.”
The Introduction. Tell the agent why you chose them. Take the time to research your agents carefully and find the best fit for your novel. Let them know what you liked about them. Agents like to feel like people and the more you can draw them out of the same-old, same-old, the greater the chance they’ll send you a request to see more.
The Hook. This is where you describe your book to interest the agent. He listed four things required in a hook.
- The protagonist. What would interest the agent in your protagonist? What is your protagonist’s motivation? Has he had a life-altering event, hold a unique view, have an ability or even disability? What is unique and different about him? Agents are less interested in hearing: Ryan is an ordinary 10th grader. Who wants to read about the ordinary?
- What is their goal? Your protagonist should be proactive. He/she should be trying to accomplish something. Give the protagonist a goal that a reader would be able to root for.
- What are the obstacles? What stands in the way of your protagonist succeeding? This can also be referred to as the conflict.
- What are the stakes? What are the consequences of success or failure? This is where you make the agent want to find out more. High stakes make for interesting reading. Make it matter!
Mr. Savage then read aloud a few query letters. I threw my own in the pile, but unfortunately he never got to it. 😦 But I found his advice made my query letter stronger. I think it can do the same for all you aspiring writers out there.