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Before we start this lesson, I'd like to say that this is MY version of a good query. There are many others. In this business, it often comes down to finding what works for YOU.

Lesson 3: How do I attract the attention of a good agent?

Why is a query so important?
You may not realize it (or want to accept it), but sometimes your query can be more important than your book... at least initially! It's the gateway, the first thing an agent or editor reads. And while a 400 page manuscript may start shakily, some industry professionals will look past that and decide to work with you regardless. However, with a query letter, you give them one page to make a first impression. Based on that first impression, they will either ask for more materials, or turn you down flat. So having a
strong query can be the difference between a request for a full manuscript and a form rejection.

What goes into a query?
There are three parts that you should have in every query.
1. Basic intro -- This is the part where you give an eye-catching intro (usually one line), the title of your story, the genre/subgenre, the word count and any info about your previous experience with this agent or editor (such as, they requested the manuscript, that you met them, that you're the one who retrieved their lost credit card at the bar during the last National conference, whatever will make you stand out if you have it... do NOT make stuff up if you have no connection to the editor).

2. Story Blurb -- One to two short paragraphs that describe your story. I usually put a brief story summary in one paragraph and a one sentence line about hero motivation, one sentence heroine motivation in another. Try to make this paragraph lively and give it a little of your voice.
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3. Author info -- Here is where you're going to tell a little about yourself. If you have been published in the past, make sure you put that info in. If you have finaled or won contests, that goes in. If you are a member of RWA or another writing organization, put that in (including how long you've been a member). If you have volunteered for anything writing-related, put that in. If you have a website, mention it. Finally, here you can put any info about your life that PERTAINS to your book. If you are a trauma nurse and you are writing medical mystery, put it in. But if you're writing character driven erotic romance, it doesn't pertain to the book and you should probably leave that out.

Now that you know the ingredients, you may wonder what order to put them in. Well, that depends on where the info will have the most impact. Before I was published with Red Sage, I put the info in the order I've placed it in above. Afterward, I often put the information about myself first and then 1 and 2.

Here are a couple general tips about queries:

1. Always address a query to a person if you can. Dear Agent or Dear Editor is like saying Dear Rejection Slip. There are a couple of exceptions. Online forms are one. You might not be able to direct your query to a specific person if you submit via an online form. And Avon's email submission process goes to a general query address and then any editor can pick them up. You might still try picking a specific editor to query there, but if you don't your query will likely still be read.

2. Never go over one page. If you go one line over one page, edit some more. You can fix that. Play with the margins a little, cut out a line. Whatever you have to do to make it one page.

3. Always include an SASE.

So now you know about queries in theory, but you probably want to see a few, right? I'll post several examples below from my own collection that were effective for me. Read over them and take what you will from their organization.

The next lesson: What Do I Do Now that I Have An Agent Interested in Me?

Please feel free to ask any question you have about the lessons so far!

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