Southern Scotch

Southern Scotch

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Killer questions for query writers

Which query serves you better for a wonder of a book that is new, fresh, bold and dazzlingly you?
1)   The formulaic 'speed query'  of 200-250 words, selling the sizzle of the plot like an Egg McMuffin or a bucket of Chicken McBites, while skimping or ignoring completely such unimportant issues as style, character, credentials, your reasons for choosing this agent, etc. 
2)  The untraditional or flow query of 300-350 words, whatever you need--while still under a page.  While you still give the beats of the story, you're selling the steak, not the sizzle.  And the heat in the kitchen may grow damned intense, the percentage of form rejections rocketing up through the roof.  Because the flow query springs from this and not some other book, from yourself and not some clone, from your drive to touch hearts with your talent and not make pocket money.  The flow query takes balls of brass on both the query writer and the agent who receives it.  And balls of brass are rare indeed.

Who wins and who loses at the numbers game?
1)  Speed query writers may rack up more requests for full or partial reads because mastery of the speed format does require a certain pizzazz...on a par with that of a flipper of those fatty Egg McMuffins.  But speed-flipping is a high-risk game, since next to nothing's being told about the real heart of the book, the soul of the lead character.  In nailing the beats, the tale's heartbeat is lost.  And the writer remains a mere cypher.  But nothing can be hidden long when the full or the partial arrives.  The agent sits, panting with pleasure--then sees his or her Hot Date strip down to who they really are...and the poor agent groans, 'Oh, Gawwwwwwwd!'  What do fifty requests for a partial or full amount to if the McMuffin results in tossed cookies?
2)   Now, then.  Let's assume that a serious flow query of 325 words receives a 90-95% form rejection rate...and 1 or 2 requests for fulls, along with a couple of partial requests.  No guarantees, not even here.  But these requests are grounded in real interest in substance, not sizzle...real appreciation of the style and personality that come alive in the query.  All it takes is one acceptance--from an agent on fire for your flow.

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