Sorry to be posting a day late.
Janet Reid is a very successful literary agent with FinePrint Literary Management who offers great advice to aspiring writers. Her blog has (at last count) 266 blog entries under the key words “query pitfalls.”
On May 14, 2014, Reid addressed the issue of how to begin your email query. What should you put first? According to Reid—and every other agent I’ve checked in with—
THE VERY FIRST THING
…should NOT be
- The agent’s name, place of business, address, or any of the other bits of information that used to be standard back in the dinosaur age of FORMAL, MAILED queries. This is 2014, people!
- Your own name, address, phone number, email addy, or any other information about how to locate you, should an agent be enthralled by your query. Hint: You emailed them. They can just REPLY to your email!! Innovative, isn’t it?
No, in Reid’s words, the very first thing in your query should be the “most enticing” fact you can possibly give about your book.
HOW TO ENTICE
Unfortunately, the richly detailed setting, the distressing background of a main character, and the historical milieu aren’t going to do it. None of these will entice Janet Reid. What will catch her attention and make her read more is
“the compelling conundrum your protagonist is facing.”
That’s it. She wants to know right up front, in the first sentence if possible, what urgent conflict makes the book interesting enough to read.
In the FAQs on her website, Reid directs writers to queryshark.blogspot.com for sample queries and suggested revisions. Many other agents recommend QueryShark, too. Some actually critique submitted queries on their websites/blogs. And all give the same advice about skipping the header and putting the good stuff first.
And yet, Reid claims in her recent post that she got at least a dozen queries in one day that started out with someone’s address. She wails, “The seas will soon be too salty with my tears of woe if this keeps up.”
Don’t make Janet Reid cry. According to climatologists, we’ve already got a rising sea level problem.