Recently I took an informative webinar through Writers Digest on how to write effective query letters. Michelle Wolfson from Wolfson Literary Agency had lots of great tips and helpful reminders, but one thing she said particularly stuck with me.
Michelle emphasized that the goal of a query is to get agents to request pages.
Yes, some might say duh! Others might have never thought of it in such simple terms before. Writing query letters is the art of saying just enough about ourselves and our manuscript to tempt the agent for more. Authors may pore over their pitch, squeezing in every plot detail, fearing they might leave out something important. But not all of those details are important as long as the letter piques the agent’s interest.
If you take ten writers, each of their query letters will vary. Some may have a longer pitch, one bio may sound more fabulous than others, some will embody more personality. You would have ten different letters but each one of them can be successful in its own way. All it has to do is draw the agent in, tempt them enough to request more pages.
I come from a background in human resources and used to sift through a “slush pile” of resumes and so I think of it like a resume. On one resume, it’s hard to convey how wonderful you are at your job. But if you can write a resume with just enough hook that a potential employer wants to meet you, the resume has done its job.
Michelle’s tip is a good reminder for me and I hope it helps demystify the process for those of you who are writing your own query letter.