I read a query this morning that was 367 words long. A fine length. And no, I don’t count all the words in all the queries. But this particular query had a problem I thought was worth discussing: Only 161 words (44%) were story pitch; the other 206 words (56%) were facts and statistics related to ADHD, which was the issue presented in the story.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with issue fiction. In every genre, for readers of every age, authors have meaningfully confronted issues like ADHD, autism, eating disorders, addiction, sexuality, gender identity, race, abuses of power, rape, bullying, infidelity, suicide, divorce, unwanted pregnancies, terminal illness, the deaths of loved ones, and countless other challenges that make being human hard. Write issue fiction, if that’s what you want to write. It certainly sells.
But in your query for issue fiction, pitch your fiction, not your issue. For my more visual learners (like me!), here’s what this morning’s 44%/56% query looked like:
When you devote more real estate to your issue than you do to your story pitch, you come off as worried that your story can’t support itself. It’s like you’re worried it needs facts and figures and emotional appeals to prop it up.
In other words, you’re whispering here’s my story but shouting HERE’S WHAT YOU DON’T KNOW THAT YOU NEED TO KNOW SO THAT YOU WILL UNDERSTAND WHY MY STORY IS SO TIMELY AND IMPORTANT!!!
Keep in mind that agents and editors looking for stories that stand on their own. They’re looking for stories that shout. Craft your query accordingly.