Queries Revisited (Oh, and I’m Not Dead)

I haven’t posted in a long time here and, to be honest, I’ve been really stuck on what to write. I’ve posted most of what I’d say to anyone on here already, if you read through the history of the blog. But I came across something recently that I figured I needed to speak on.

I’ve talked countless times about how query letters are important and how the way you sound in them is vital. I’ve recently been noticing how people try to make their query letters “pop” by including unnecessary fluff that just sounds self-important.

“A zany adventure about quirky characters in a world designed to dazzle!”

That kind of thing really annoys me. Partially because it’s very fake, and it makes me pause and think, “Well… I do hate the word ‘zany’.” I think the best way to make your query stand out is to avoid things like that. It really doesn’t do anything for you. In fact, it really only works against you. You don’t want your query to sound like a movie poster. And, let’s be honest, if you describe your own characters as “zany” and that your world is designed to “dazzle” that makes me think that you are writing to be published, not writing because your heart demands it.

I suppose that’s a little contradictory to some of the other things I’ve said here. “But Beth, aren’t we trying to get published here?!” I’m sure that’s the case, but I don’t write what I do in order to try and publish it. I write because I’m a writer. It’s like breathing. Like Luke said in his book, “Keep Calm and Query On”, we write because we’re made to. That said, we can’t expect that everything we write is publishable or marketable. But I don’t write and read with the idea that I’m going to go to Hollywood.

This thought process isn’t exactly new, but it seems to be a new trend in query letters for authors to describe their work in “big” words. I don’t mean “big” as in long or requiring a dictionary; I mean big in terms of sensational — people trying to make their books seem like they’re the next Twilight (shoot me) or the next Harry Potter. The reality is that I’d rather read a query letter that focuses on the book and its story rather than trying to sensationalize it and make it all sparkle. You don’t need to guild the lily. If your writing is good it’ll show through on its own. While query letters (and, in truth, all emails to an editor, publisher or whomever) should be professional, don’t be afraid to be conversational. All these “sensational” words just make the query seem shallow and fake.

If you’re genuine… show it. Let us see it. Share with us the excitement, the tension, the hope. Don’t share “zany” queries with “quirky” hooks and a signature designed to “dazzle”.

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