Learning about queries, how to write them, and seeing what works is always helpful to writers.
I also think it's a process best learned by experience—as in you need to practice, practice, practice!
In the link below, you'll find a great query example and Suzie Townsend's thoughts on why it works.
I have my own story—as I'm sure you all do—about my journey from sucktastic to agented.
I sucked at writing queries. I think I was the worst of the worst! Maybe even worse than that. It was like trying to teach a goat to speak--in english. They never came out right.
I even put myself out there and let one of my queries be posted on a blog that offered friendly advice. It was nerve-wracking being that vulnerable to criticism. But it went well, wasn't as horrible as I thought it'd be, and I learned that I can handle, well, putting myself out there.
Afterward, I continued to study query writing. Taking online classes, buying every book I could find on queries. I wrote one after the other. And they still sucked!
One day I was at an SCWBI conference and I had a critique with a published author. The first thing she brought up was the disastrous query I had posted on that site and how it needed a lot of work. I wanted to die. The good news is, she really liked my writing and story and even said it was the only critique she read where the characters stayed with her. She was thinking about them later that night and when she woke up, which is why she looked me up online and found my horrific query.
I explained to her that I had been working relentlessly on improving my skills and that my last query earned me a request from an agent. But the one she saw online was so bad I'm not sure she believed me. LOL. All in all, the meeting was positive and she ended reminding me to work on that query.
The whole ordeal sent me into a frenzy over my query being online for professionals to see. What if an agent saw it and assumed I couldn't write? What if they assumed it was the best I could do? As a person with anxiety disorder the "what if's" went on and on and on. I was convinced that old query would ruin my chance at getting an agent. So I emailed the person who ran the blog and asked him to take down the old one, explaining what happened and my worry/embarrassment over the ordeal. I apologized and offered him my new query in place of the old one. He kindly removed the post and saved the other query, saying he might use it as a success story in the future. I could breathe again, and was extremely grateful.
The agent who had requested the partial from my query did not result in a contract, so I forged on, working, and studying and learning all I could about queries while continuing to write new novels. I'm sure you can imagine my surprise when I found my old query on the internet again.
Yep. My atrocious query and story from months—if not a year ago—were there. I'd never seen the blog before. I didn't know who ran it, I knew nothing about it, only that they chose to post something that was private—between me and the other blogger—and to do it without my permission.
I suppose that's what I get for putting myself and my work out there. It was disheartening to say the least. But even after that cheap blow, and the multiple other queries I wrote that were rejected, I didn't quit. I was determined to write a good query, even if it killed me.
Then the most amazing thing happened. I wrote one that I really liked—really felt good about. It wasn't the traditional style. It wasn't out there in left field either, it just felt like my style. Some of my crit partners didn't get it, or thought it was too long, but I stuck with my gut and sent it out. And wouldn't you know, the requests started piling in. (40 partials and 20 fulls.)
I was ecstatic but far from done. Those fulls turned into revisions and those revisions turned into rejections—EXCEPT for two. I held on to those two like they were the kite strings to my lifeline. The strings to my dreams. I worked day and night to do yet a third revision for each, and eventually I landed an agent.
The point is, it all started with the worst query ever and one very determined girl. It wasn't easy, it didn't flow, I got internet attacked in the process, but I kept writing. Awful query after awful query until they weren't so awful anymore.
Now, I can confidently say I write awesome queries. So much so, my writer friends come to me for help with their queries. Crazy! But true. So if the worst query writer on the planet can turn into an awesome one, then so can you!
In honor of this post, I'm going to offer query critiques to the first two people to leave a comment. If you're comfortable with leaving your email address, I will contact you later today for your query information. Or I can contact you through your Google account.
I WILL not share your query with the world. I will keep it private. I will never post it on the internet or on someone else's blog. I will give you the best advice I can and let you run with it, as it is your story.
Have a great weekend and happy Friday!