Monday, April 14, 2014

Avoiding the Voiceless Query

by Jemi Fraser

One of the biggest challenges in writing a query seems to be maintaining Voice yet this is probably the biggest key to grabbing the attention of an agent.
  • What makes a query stand out from the rest?
  • What gives the agent the best feel for your story?
  • What is your best marketing tool (after all, your query is your first attempt at marketing your story)?
It's your Voice that makes your story special. And it's that Voice that needs to translate to your query. So how do you do that?

It works differently for everyone. Here are a few tips that might help:
  • use the same kind of sentence structure you use in the novel - echo your tone and style.
  • focus on the Show not Tell - Tell sucks the Voice out of queries.
  • forget the details! Think big picture. What's your character up against? What's his/her biggest fear? What's in the way? What are the stakes?
  • practice saying out loud what your story is about. Don't worry about making it sound like a query at first, just find out what sounds good, what sounds draggy or convoluted. Keep it short, sweet and interesting. 
  • time yourself. Start with a one minute time limit. Then cut it back to 45 seconds. Then 30. 20. 15. This works well with pitches too.
  • find the emotion. If your query doesn't evoke some kind of emotion in the reader then it's not doing its job. I think Voice elicits an emotional reaction in the reader and that's what you want here. A laundry list of plot points isn't going to attract anyone's attention. Punch them with some emotion instead!
Any other tips that you've used? How do you get your Voice into the query?

Jemi Fraser is an aspiring author of contemporary romance. She blogs  and tweets while searching for those HEAs.

18 comments:

Natalie Aguirre said...

Great tips, Jemi. Voice is so important in queries, not that I'm very good at it. You've got some great ideas on how to be sure the query is infused with the character's voice. Thanks.

JeffO said...

I think I landed my agent despite my query, not because of it, hah hah. You've stated things very well here, Jemi.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Aim for natural. If you're using a natural voice, the one you wrote the story with, that should come through.

Jemi Fraser said...

Natalie - you're very welcome! I bet yours will be great!

Jeff - too funny! I bet it was much better than you think!

Alex - yes! Natural is very important :)

Mason Canyon said...

Jemi, great tips here. I especially like the one where you practice saying out loud. Reading anything out loud always helps me put things in better perspective.

cleemckenzie said...

Yep! I agree 100%. Voice is the key to keeping that agent or editor reading and the first thing they read from you is your query. Darned hard things to write well. Great post.

Jemi Fraser said...

Mason - thanks! Me too - reading aloud is vital for me :)

Lee - thank you! Queries are tough!

Kelly Steel said...

Great tips, Jemi! Thanks.

Kelly Polark said...

I've read parts of my story out loud, but never my tagline or query. Great tip, Jemi!

Jemi Fraser said...

Kelly & Kelly - thanks! Hope they help!! :)

Kari Marie White said...

Great tips, Jemi. I like the one about practicing out loud with a time limit. What a great idea! I'm always floundering when family and friends ask me what I'm working on. This would be a good way to smooth out the rough edges.

Jemi Fraser said...

Kari - glad you think it might help! Talking aloud always helps me :)

SC Author said...

You've got awesome tips. I just try to make sure the manuscript has voice, and then I write my query in the same style (or try to, anyway). By the transitive property, the query should have voice, then, but it's a tricky thing, that query.

Jemi Fraser said...

SC - it really is tricky! And a bit of a different animal from writing the ms :)

Shelley Sly said...

These are such great tips! I've heard of letting your character write the query in his/her own words. It helps to think about what kind of language he or she would use. (But then edit the query so that it's in third person, as per query guidelines.) :)

Jemi Fraser said...

Shelley - that's a good one too. I haven't tried it myself, but I bet it would work especially well for books written in 1st!

Medeia Sharif said...

These are great tips. I will definitely use them the next time I write a query.

Jemi Fraser said...

Thanks Medeia - glad I could help! :)