A Few More Words About QueriesComplications Ensue
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Sunday, February 12, 2012

A reader asked me to evaluate her query letter, a service I sometimes provide. A couple of general thoughts:

  • I've said repeatedly that queries should be short. People nonetheless ask me to evaluate their page-long or two-page query letters.

    An exec is going to make a decision based on the first three sentences of your query letter. If that decision is "no," then she's not going to read the rest of the query. If the decision is "yes," why would you give her more data? You can't improve on "yes." All you can do is change her mind.

    The point of a query letter is to get the exec to read your stuff. The actual development conversation starts once they read your material. You want to minimize friction in between these two steps.

  • This particular query letter asked if the exec wanted to read a book the person had optioned. The querier said the adaptation could go in several directions.

    Never be wishy-washy. If you're not sure which direction to go creatively, then figure it out before you send a query letter.

    It's almost impossible to get an exec to take on a book project, unless you happen to have the rights to the next John Grisham novel. Why option a story when people send you dozens of finished screenplays every week? Adapting a book is a huge chore. (I know, I've done it.) It's only worth it if the project is truly unique, and if the exec is buying a built-in audience.

  • If I were querying, I'd do it by email, not by letter. Why waste all that paper and postage? Just make sure you have your hook in the subject line, not "Do you want to read my--" .

  • When you state your hook, do so in terms of story structure: who is the hero? what does he or she want to do? why can't they? What will they win if they succeed? What could they lose? Answer ALL these questions in a few words, implicitly or explicitly, and your query has done its job.



    Such great advice. Thank you so much.

    By Blogger Marly K, at 1:53 PM  

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