Cover of the Writer's Digest's 'Guide to Query Letters.'

Hotlinked from Barnes & Noble.

I picked up the Writer’s Digest Guide to Query Letters the other day. I was originally trying to see if Writer’s Digest Magazine was available on Nook. They didn’t have it, but they /did/ have this book on query letters. And eh, WD puts out some good stuff, so I thought I’d try it.

Yeah, I should have researched that better.

As the title implies, it talks about every kind of query letter ever. Freelance writing queries, non-fiction book queries, novel queries, agent queries… And that’s way too many things for one book to cover.

I grapple with my query letters. I write novels, so I have written quite a few one-page summary queries. But how cutesy are you supposed to be? How gimmicky? Where’s the line between giving people the information they need and being interesting?

And that’s why this kind of book isn’t helpful. Even the “Query Basics” chapter, which should introduce you to all the kinds of querying they’re going to talk about, is written from the point of view of a freelance magazine writer.

And you know what? Those queries are cutesy. Magazine queries seem to be all about how clever you can be. Anecdotes, puns, interesting stories, eye-catching statements, shocking one-liners… Anything seems to go!

But the novel query chapter (which was short) seemed to confirm my suspicions–they were more toned down, more formal, more formulaic. It makes sense, right? You only have a page. You have to fit in a lot of information. You get about a paragraph to talk about your story. You can’t be as wild and creative as magazine queries… Right?

Anyway, it’s a pretty basic book. Yes, yes. Follow the rules. Learn what an agent wants and give it to them. Be professional. I know that already.

So yeah, impulse buys make terrible purchases. But there are a couple of nice example queries in here, at least. And those are always fun to read.