The questions in the query

So now that I’ve talked some about why I stopped putting away my query and novel for a bit let’s talk about the opposite:

Getting back out there and querying again. Today I want to write a bit about something that seems to come up a lot when querying. Questions in the query. There seems to be a consensus among agents and editors that you should not start your query  with a rhetorical question.

By that I mean something like: “Have you ever wondered why people walk on their feet, not on their hands?” Most of the time the answer to these sorts of questions is “No”. No is not the word you want the agent to have in their heads while reading your query. Now, but what about other questions in the query?

I recently worked on mine and I had something like this in mind: “Was action x despicable?” “Sure.” “Was it selfish?” “You bet.” “But did it cause y and z?”

These aren’t rhetorical questions, but they are questions. After getting some feedback on the idea I decided against it. Just to be on the save side.

But, if you’re not supposed to start with a question, what DO you start with? Well, I’ve seen it recommended many times over to start with a log line. Mine is still evolving but here is some information on how to create a good log line:

10 Tips for Writing Loglines

So, now we’ve covered the start of the query, what about the end? Can it end on a question?

From what I’ve read and heard there seems to be no exact answer to this. When I participated in a workshop last year this was one of the topics. During the workshop it was recommended to end with a conflict, and not a question. Later on though, during the Q and A section with each agent, at least two agents implied that they do not mind queries to end with a question. As so often it just depends on the person.

Erring on the side of caution I try to now end my query with a conflict, rather than a question, unless I know the agent specifically prefers queries to end that way. That’ s just me personally though.

The tricky thing with querying agents is that they are individuals, one query does not fit all agents, unfortunately. Some prefer you to tell them why you are querying them and then start the letter. Others like it when you dive right into the query at the start, leaving the pleasantries for later. Same with the questions at the end. I try to go with what seems to be the ‘standard’ as much as there is such a thing, which is personalized salutation, log line, query, end query with conflict, comps, bio –SEND AND HOPE FOR THE BEST.

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