Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Query Letters--Shannon Style (Part Four: The Rest--and a giveaway!)

YAY--the last post on query letters, are you as excited as I am??????? 

(Um...I doubt it. These posts have been HARD to write!)

In case you missed it, I've covered Query Letter Format, Writing the Hook, and Writing the Body of the Query letter. And today, we'll be covering, "the rest."

Now, you might be wondering: um...what's left? Surprisingly--a LOT.



I KNOW researching agents is boring and complicated and time consuming. But you HAVE to do it.

Why? Respect for agent's time, for one thing. Saves yourself a lot of unnecessary heartache and rejection for another. But mainly: the agent-client relationship is an important and complicated part of your career. You need to find someone who not only loves your project, but someone you can really work with, and in order to do that you need to know as much about the agent as possible. Plus, a lot of agencies only want you to query one agent at their office (I know my agency is particularly big on that) so how else are you supposed to decide who you should send your query to?

You have to do your research. And two of the best resources I've found are:


It's also well worth the time to do a good, old-fashioned Google search. Check the agent's website. Their blog, if they have one. Their Facebook or Twitter feed. Any online interviews they've given. I know it can feel stalkerish, but they wouldn't put it out there if they didn't want you to connect with them. And it's amazing how much you can learn.

I'm also a HUGE proponent of Writer's Conferences. I know they're expensive, so they might not be an option for you. But if you can, they are definitely an investment worth making. And if you can't afford a conference--not to sound like shameless self promotion here--but the WriteOnCon website is quickly becoming an incredible resource:

Replays of all of our live panels/chats can be found HERE
And an archive of the entire 2010 Conference can be found HERE

And we add more to it every month.

Another bonus to doing all this research? It gives you something you can put in your query to personalize it for the agent. Something to let them know you queried them because you're really interested in working with them and think you would be a good fit for each other. Not because you started at "A" and are working your way through "Z" or because they're a mega superstar and the only agent you've heard of.  Remember, this is your career. Put the time in and do it right.

Which brings me to my next point: getting help with your query.

I would have been lost without the Query Workshop I took--LOST I tell you!

I'm sure there are lots of them out there, but the one I swear by is run by the lovely and talented C.J. Redwine. Trust me on this when I say it was--hands down--the best $55 I've ever spent. I believe in it so much, it has a blurb from me on the site. It's a 2 week course and seriously, it's amazing. Go THERE. Check it out. And if you can, take the class. You will not regret it.

(Incidentally, CJ also offers a Synopsis Workshop, and a Plotting Workshop. Both are awesome and well worth the money.)

For those who can't afford an online workshop, there are some wonderful online query resources, like KT Literary's "Ask Daphne" About my Query FeatureQuery Shark, and Elana Johnson's From The Query To The Call ebook (now free!). But one of my absolute favorites is the Quintessentially Questionable Query Experiment, run by my friend Matthew Rush.

Not only does he post and analyze a ton of Successful Queries (and yes Matt, I do realize I owe you mine. Someday!) He also humbly shares his own Querying Mistakes so everyone can learn from them, and has a regular Query Critique Feature, where real queries get posted and analyzed to make them better. If you're not following his blog, you need to be.

Which brings me to the giveaway part of this post. I mentioned last week how important it is to have your query letters critiqued--by friends, critique partners, beta readers, whatever. The more eyes on it, the better. And since I'm all about paying it forward (and my own, lightning fast, ridiculously easy querying process leaves me A LOT to pay forward) I wanted to end this series on queries with a giveaway. 

So in that vein, I've decided to give away 2 personal, query letter critiques to 2 commenters on today's post!!!!! 

BUT--as I've said a million times throughout this series--I'm hardly an expert at this. So fortunately for us, my good friend Matt from the QQQE decided to back me up. Which means the lucky winners will get not one, but TWO sets of eyes on their query. Mine and Matt's. Double feedback. Double advice. Sweet deal, right? Yeah...I thought so too.

To enter is simple: make sure you follow my blog AND Matt's blog and leave a comment on this post by 11:59 pm PST on Friday, January 28th. Winners will be announced on Saturday, January 29th. Oh, and you might want to make sure you leave me some way to contact you if you win, so I can let you know how to send in your query. Okay?



Oh, and make sure you stay tuned next week, when I start a new Shannon Style series on my blog. This time I'll be tackling REVISION. It's...going to be interesting. :)


  1. Wow. Obviously you told me about this ahead of time, but I'm still flattered.

    A couple other query resources to mention are:

    Evil Editor
    The Public Query Slushpile, and
    Phoenix Sullivan

    It's too early in the morning for me to make those links, but if you Google any of those terms exactly as I wrote them you will find the blogs. They're basically each a lot like Query Shark, except the wait for a critique tends to be a lot shorter (not that I'm complaining, oh mistress of the chum, we love The Shark, we swears it my precious)!

  2. Great post and helpful links. Thanks Matt for critiquing too.

    I already won a critique from Shannon in a prior contest so will let others benefit from her awesome critique talents.

  3. Oh yay! I've just started fashioning my query, so this is great!

  4. So great, Shannon! I've never queried, but when I get there, I'll be sure to hop right back to your blog and keep busy with all your awesome links! Thanks so much for organizing this for everyone! *jazz hands*

    (Yeah, I totally just gave you jazz hands)

  5. I've also found the Public Query Slushpile to be incredibly helpful for query critiques.

  6. Wow, thank you Shannon and Matt. You each are awesome but together you're like Mr. Awesome and the Awesometress. OK, it's clear I need coffee now before my comments get any weirder.

    I'm bookmarking this page so I can remember the link to the workshop. For $55, why not?

    ps. I follow both of your blogs.

  7. I could definitely use this. My query needs some fresh eyes.

  8. Love love love this series. Thanks, Shannon.

  9. You have every right to stand on rooftops, think Mary Poppins style, and give writeoncon a shout out...every day :) Really, I still can't believe how much it helped me in my writing journey. I can't wait for this years. Also, I'd love to be part of the contest. Four awesome eyes on a query of mine? I'm totally in.

  10. I've been learning a lot from these posts so thanks! I could use another set of eyes on my query and I follow both blogs, too. Thanks again!


  11. Great advice, Shannon! I must admit that when I first started sending out queries, I was an idiot. I did ALL the research, made sure I knew all the pertinent info on agents, etc., but still didn't know how to adequately personalize the query, so I didn't. Yeah, I kind of shot myself in the foot for a while. I've learned, though. :)

  12. I'm not at the query point yet. I wish I was. Thank you though, for the tips.

  13. Great post!

    Research is important and something I've already started so I don't get overwhelmed by leaving it all until the last minute. Which is new for me since I'm a procrastinator.

    I definitely don't want to send queries to people who don't represent my genre or the types of characters that I write, so researching first is important.



  14. I printed every Shannon Style post you've written and keep them in a folder whenever I work on the new WIP. Seriously. :-)

    I have an award for you. You don't have to post it or pass it on, I just really wanted to include you with this one!

    P.S. Nice job yesterday with WOC!

  15. I really need this information, so thank you VERY much. I just wrote my first draft of my query over the weekend. Critique partners helped refine it, but there's still lots of work to be done. Sending thank you hugs!

  16. I so would love to win this! What an awesome giveaway! :)

  17. Thank you so much, Shannon, for taking time to tell us about query letters. I feel like I've learned a lot each time someone mentions things on query letters (although still a bit intimidated about writing one to send out). I'm a follower of both you and Matt, so I'd like to be entered in on the drawing. :)

    cherie.reich @gmail.com

  18. This has been awesome. I can't gush anymore than I do already on how awesomely informative you have been!! Thank you! And what a fabulous giveaway!! Thank your for the chance at that opportunity too!

  19. 2 query pros offering advice...sign me up!


  20. After five drafts of my query, I'm starting to think it will never sound right. This is a great opportunity!

  21. This is so helpful, Shannon, I'd already downloaded Elana's book and tweeted about your post before I saw that you're offering A CONTEST! Wow! Would love to have some feedback. (fingers crossed) And so glad to discover Matt's blog, too. Thanks so much for paying it forward.

    Cheers! (You can reach me on twitter: @kelcrocker)

  22. Great Post! My last query has been perfected by CJ and I haven't started on a new one for my current wip. So not entering the contest but wanted to say how great all the advice was anyway!!!

  23. Thanks for the advice!

    (I'm not entering the giveaway--I don't have a query at this point. :P)

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  25. This series of Shannon Style has been IMMENSELY helpful! Thank you so much! I was beginning to convince myself that the query letter is pure evil, but you've lessened its menace for me ~ :) I would LOVE to win a query critique from you and Matthew. Please count me in. Thanks!

  26. Can't wait for the REVISION series! YEAH!

  27. I particularly admire the way you "pay it forward," Shannon. I have long regarded writing as a community, rather than a solitary, experience.

    Now, over to check out and follow Mr. Rush

  28. Shannon,
    Thanks for this query series. It's been extremely helpful. I'm in the midst of tweaking my query right now so this is very timely.

  29. I'm always up for another look at my query :) Great contest Shannon!!

  30. Awesome post! Thanks for the shout out--and I second Matt. He is awesome!

  31. Thanks so much, Shannon! You're insights on the query process are invaluable, despite all your caveats. I appreciate your examples the most--especially when dealing with the hook and the call to action. I'd love to enter the query critique contest. Thanks again!

  32. Awesome, Shannon! Thanks for the opportunity:)

  33. Awesome contest, Shannon!

    The last person to crit mine tore apart an important plot point because she felt the bff's life wasn't all that important (huh?). And she did this for 500 people to see (fortunately not all probably read the email). Lucky for me, agents didn't agree with her. ;)

  34. Thanks for the gread advice! I'd love another set of eyes (or two) on my query!

  35. Such a great set of posts and an amazing offer/contest on your part ^_^. I'm polishing my query now, so I could definitely use something like another opinion or two

  36. How totally generous of you and Matt! Since queries are so hard to write, it's good to get as much feedback as possible. Win-win!

  37. Thanks for the wonderful opportunity. I could definitely use some help with mine.

  38. ooh sign me up! I could always use two more sets of eyes on mine.

    I also enjoy the Public Query Slushpile and Evil Editor for Query help.

    And man, you are not kidding about making that agent query list. It's much harder than i expected it would be. Surprise!

  39. i'm a jerk and forgot to include my email address (in case i win)

    sarah.ahiers (at) gmail.com

  40. Wow, what a great giveaway! We'd love an entry - if we win, we'll duke it out as to which one you get (actually, we're too nice for that. We'll argue back and forth "you do it, no you do it, no you do it" until someone falls asleep and the other one wins).
    erica and christy


  41. Not sure how I missed this one! What a great opportunity! Thanks for the chance!


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  43. Coming in just under the wire. I would love some more critiques on my query.



  44. Wow, great series! You are so wonderful to offer this.



Yay-I love comments! Thank you so much! (But please remember to keep your comments spoiler-free. Also, I try to keep this a happy, positive place. Friendly debate is fine, but always be kind to each other). <3