from the mixed up files of Agent Manners

Dear Agent Manners:

Many of the sample query letters I’ve seen start straight in with the hook. Do you prefer this, leaving even title, genre, and word count until a later paragraph?

If a novel isn’t part of a series, but I have plans for future science fiction novels, how much should I say about this? I want to concentrate on the novel I’m pitching, but I was just reading Donald Maass’s explanantion about how success might not become real until novels twenty five or twenty six, so I feel I should say something.

I understand that a novel has a much greater chance of success if the author is working hard to promote it. It seems like an agent would be more interested in a novel if the author is already thinking hard about how to promote it – but none of the recommended sample query letters I’ve seen talk about that. Is there any circumstance you would want to hear about an unpublished author’s plans for book signings, readings, and online promotions?

Hopeful in Long Island New York (If you have a window facing south east you might see me.)


Dear Hopeful:

My, isn’t that a lot of questions….

Answer #1: Agent Manners certainly believes that a talented writer could combine a one-sentence hook and title and genre in an opening paragraph. In point of fact, many hooks will indicate the genre regardless. The longer paragraph that follows should hopefully convince the reader to take a further look at the story.

Answer #2: Agent Manners is inclined to advise you to say exactly what you’ve said here: “I have plans for future science fiction novels” in a single sentence towards the end of the letter. It’s enough to let an agent know you have no intention of being a one-shot-wonder. Don’t overwhelm them with information, though. Stick to getting them to read the book at hand. It’s that reading that will reel them in. A query is just bait.

Answer #3: It’s not necessarily a bad idea to mention in passing that you have a plan to promote your book, but unless you are already a celebrity it’s likely to have little impact on the agent’s reading of the query. Knowing you think ahead is great; knowing the entire plan in detail before they’ve even read the book, not so much. Again, the point of the query is to get the agent to read the book and get involved in your writing and enthusiastic about your talent. The rest can come later.

One response to “from the mixed up files of Agent Manners

  1. Okay, speaking of hooks in query letter…
    Obviously the hook comes at the beginning of a query letter, that’s why they call it the hook.
    But this means the “Why I picked YOU, Ms. Agent” part of the letter ends up buried before the closing.
    In other words, should it be:
    1. This is why I picked you
    2. Hook
    3. Description
    4. Closing
    Or should it be:
    1. Hook
    2. Description
    3. By the way, this is why I picked you, Ms. Agent
    4. Closing
    I’ve done it both ways. Which do you prefer? Do you have a stronger reaction to a grabby hook, or the reassurance you aren’t reading a “Dear Agent:” Mass Mailing?

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