The bad news is: we’re seeing some ideas that might be interesting but the writer isn’t telling us that in the query letter.
We won’t go into how to write the perfect query letter here. Frankly, we feel the emphasis on writing “the perfect query” has actually ruined many otherwise successful queries. Really, it’s a simple process.
A good fiction query should tell us (preferably in fewer than 350 words): who the protagonist is, what the protagonist is trying to accomplish or do, what’s at stake should the protagonist fail, and what or who is trying to prevent the protagonist from succeeding. If there’s room, you can tell us a little about you — a LITTLE. And it’d be great if the writer could express the voice or tone of the book in the query, too. (We’ll discuss how to handle non-fiction queries/proposals next week).
What a query letter should NOT do is waste words. Not only is it a waste of your time writing the extra words and our time reading them, but it doesn’t reflect well on you, the writer. If you can’t be succinct, cogent and clear in a query, can we expect you to be that way in a book?
We’re aware that other houses and many literary agents want to know who your audience is. We think if you tell us about your book, then we’ll be able to figure out who your audience is.
Others like to know why you’re interested in working with that particular company or person. We’ll just take for granted that you stumbled upon us and thought maybe you’d be a good fit. So you just need to tell us about your book.
And still others like to know who the comparable authors for your work are. We’re not sure what the purpose of that is. We just want to know about your book.