Naomi Hughes Profile picture
Jul 5, 2018 15 tweets 3 min read Twitter logo Read on Twitter
How to craft a query: a step-by-step guide. The purpose of this thread is to help you create a starting point/query template upon which you can build! And customize! And generally spectacular-ify! Starting in 3...2...1... #querytip #amwriting
Queries should usually open with "Dear Mr./Ms. [agent's last name]". Some agents are okay with "Dear [agent's first name]," but I'd say to default to the former just in case. DO NOT open with "To whom it may concern" or "Dear agent." Don't be overfamiliar or unprofessional.
Remember: query letters are first and foremost a form of professional correspondence. A light, fun tone is totally okay!! But getting too personal/familiar with the agent (ie mentioning her looks, using a "Hey Jen!" salutation, etc.) is creepy.
After the salutation, you can either dive straight into the story or do a few sentences of about-the-book (genre, word count, comps)/personalization.
Correction! A fabulous agent friend brought up the fact that the Mr./Mrs. salutation can sometimes amount to accidental misgendering/wrong pronouns. Suggested instead: "Dear [first name] [last name]." (Thanks @SoCalledYALife!)
You don't HAVE to personalize queries. It's totally okay not to (esp. if it's just something like "I'm querying you b/c you rep YA"). But if it's personal, relevant & sincere you totally can! Longtime follower of their blog, met them at a conference, specific MSWL tweet, etc.
The about-the-book section (which can be either the first or last paragraph of a query, or a little bit of both) is usually 50-80ish words long. It contains: title, word count, audience & genre, comps (if you have them), and your bio.
Comps can be super helpful, both to help the agent see where your book would fit in the market and to show that you know that market. General rule (sometimes ok to break, like if you're pitching a high-concept story): avoid huge bestsellers & classics.
When looking for comps, try to find books that are:
-Same audience & genre
-Similar tone (dark, gritty, funny)
-Relatively recent
-Preferably sold well or are relatively well-known
DO NOT freak out over your query's bio section. You're really not expected to have any relevant publishing credentials at this point (though if you do, definitely say so!). It's totally fine to just say "In my day job, I'm a [career]. This will be my debut novel."
If you want to include any memberships (SCBWI, etc.) in your bio, that's cool too. But (correct me if I'm wrong, agents?) these are unlikely to sway an agent to request or decline on their own merit.
Okay, on to the most important part of the query: the story! Here's a breakdown of one common structure:
-Paragraph 1: Introduce character and goal. Get to catalyst by the end of it.
-2: Escalate. How does the plot move forward/complicate? New, bigger stakes?
-3: Final hook.
The final hook can be a plot twist, an impossible choice/unexpectedly huge obstacles, a raising of the stakes, or just a subtle reinforcement of a deeply personal conflict. Basically: make the agent NEED to read the story. (But don't be gimmicky.)
Another query structure, commonly used for dual POV or romance:
-Paragraph 1: Focus on character 1's goal, motivation, and conflict. Intro the threads of the main plot.
-Para 2: Same for character 2. Show how their stories start to intertwine.
-Para 3: Escalation and final hook.
Okay, I've got to run and get Tiny Daughter to swim lessons, but feel free to ask if you have a question about query structure and I'll answer when I have time! 🙂

• • •

Missing some Tweet in this thread? You can try to force a refresh

Keep Current with Naomi Hughes

Naomi Hughes Profile picture

Stay in touch and get notified when new unrolls are available from this author!

Read all threads

This Thread may be Removed Anytime!


Twitter may remove this content at anytime! Save it as PDF for later use!

Try unrolling a thread yourself!

how to unroll video
  1. Follow @ThreadReaderApp to mention us!

  2. From a Twitter thread mention us with a keyword "unroll"
@threadreaderapp unroll

Practice here first or read more on our help page!

More from @NaomiHughesYA

Apr 13, 2018
As an editor specializing in YA and MG, I tend to see a lot of portal fantasies (stories where the protagonist finds themselves in another world, where most of the conflict then takes place). And I've found that sub-genre to have some very common problems. A short thread!
The most common problem I see with portal fantasies is that the conflict is impersonal. The protagonist is transported to another world, one they usually didn't know existed, then required to save and/or escape it. My question: why should they (and therefore we) care?
Questions to ask to avoid your portal fantasy having an impersonal conflict: why does this world matter to the protagonist in a deeply personal and unique way? What does it mean to them that it doesn't to anyone else? Why/how will it continue to matter after they save/escape it?
Read 9 tweets
Mar 13, 2018
Time for another writing craft thread! Since I only have limited time today (and am still recovering from a sinus infection), how about something broad? Say, the top 5 story problems I see as an editor!
Number 1 problem I see most frequently in manuscripts: lack of agency. Agency = character's ability to push the plot forward with their actions/choices. A character with no agency is basically a pinball in an arcade game: reactive, without true power to drive their own story.
Most frequently, I see female MCs who have no agency. Or, equally problematic, who are written to SEEM like they have agency, but actually don't. Ex: the kickbutt MC heroine who beats up bad guys (that's action, but not agency) while her boyfriend actually moves the plot.
Read 24 tweets
Mar 6, 2018
So I talk a lot about big-picture problems I see as an editor (telling vs. showing, character arcs, villains, etc.), but how about we talk about the micro scale of writing craft for a bit? *pulls out megaphone* TIME FOR A THREAD ON SCENE CRAFT!
When I was a new writer I'd never heard of scene craft, but when I learned how to apply it, boy howdy did my stories LEVEL THE HECK UP. Have you ever read a scene where nothing particularly Big happened, but you were still riveted as a reader? That's good scene craft.
Scene craft is all about keeping the reader hooked on the micro level of the story. There are a lot of elements that can go into creating strong scene craft (depending on the type of scene), but let's chat about some basics.
Read 14 tweets

Did Thread Reader help you today?

Support us! We are indie developers!

This site is made by just two indie developers on a laptop doing marketing, support and development! Read more about the story.

Become a Premium Member ($3/month or $30/year) and get exclusive features!

Become Premium

Don't want to be a Premium member but still want to support us?

Make a small donation by buying us coffee ($5) or help with server cost ($10)

Donate via Paypal

Or Donate anonymously using crypto!


0xfe58350B80634f60Fa6Dc149a72b4DFbc17D341E copy


3ATGMxNzCUFzxpMCHL5sWSt4DVtS8UqXpi copy

Thank you for your support!

Follow Us on Twitter!