Your Query’s Icebreaker

A lot of writers seem to struggle with how to open their query letter. So today let’s look at killing the awkward icebreaker and getting right to the point:

Before: I am writing in hopes of finding literary representation. The story I am submitting is called My Awesome Book. It is the first piece of a larger overarching story I have worked out, but just as well stands on its own. This title is an action-fantasy written for teens and young adults with 61,779 words.

After: My Awesome Book is a YA action-fantasy complete at 62,000 words. It’s a standalone with series potential.

Commentary: First, everyone who sends us a query letter is “writing in hopes of finding literary representation.” Why waste words telling us what we already know?

Second, look at how many different ways you refer to your project. Here, I count five!

  • The story (I am submitting)
  • My Awesome Book
  • it
  • first piece (of a larger overarching story)
  • this title (is an action-fantasy)

Combine to cut! Limit yourself to two references. (Hint: One should be your title.)

Third, just tell us it’s a YA rather than that it was “written for teens and young adults.” Look how many words we just saved! Wheeeee!

Fourth, just round your word count to the nearest thousand. Another way you can keep things simple.

Finally, “it’s a standalone with series potential” is a stock phrase, one that’s 100% OK to use because it’s immediately 100% clear. You don’t have to try so hard to come up with a unique way to express this. Use the stock phrase. Embrace it. Slush readers can scan it in a microsecond and move the heck on to your actual pitch paragraphs.

Thanks for reading. Join me next time!

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