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How to Trim Your Query to 250 Words (or Fewer): Advice from Agent Janet Reid

Agent Janet Reid of FinePrint Literary Management, aka the Query Shark, gave this information at a query workshop for the Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group. This guest post is by Donna Gambale and Frankie Diane Mallis, critique partners who blog at www.FirstNovelsClub.com

Agent Janet Reid of New Leaf Literary (formerly FinePrint Literary Management), aka the Query Shark, gave this information at a query workshop for the Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group.

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This guest post is by Donna Gambale and
Frankie Diane Mallis, critique partners
who blog at www.FirstNovelsClub.com
when they’re not writing young adult
novels. (Donna, author of "Magnetic Kama
Sutra," also previously guest blogged here)

Your ability to write a query that does your novel justice can make or break your chances of landing an agent. Reid recommends spending two months perfecting this 250-word marvel.

Your query encompasses three sections:
1. 100 words answering the question “What is the book about?”
2. A brief summary of your writing credits, if you have them.
3. Miscellaneous information on how you found the agent or why you chose him/her.

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THINGS TO CUT FROM EACH SECTION

Section One:
1. Back story.
2. World building.
3. Character roll call.
4. Telling.
5. A synopsis.

Section Two:
1. Academia – classes, teachers, degrees, dissertations.
2. Conferences you’ve attended.
3. Self-published novels, or traditionally published novels with poor sales.
4. Personal information.

Section Three:
1. Begging, flattery.
2. Arrogance or self-deprecation.
3. Offer of an exclusive.
4. Your marketing plan.
5. Quotes from rejection letters, paid editors, critique groups, your mom.

TWO THINGS TO KEEP

Section One:
1. Title, genre, word count.
2. The essentials of your novel. (Every time you think you know, ask yourself “So what? And then?” until you’re left with your main character, conflict, and consequences.)

Section Two:
1. Published short stories or novels.
2. Published magazine or newspaper articles.

Section Three:
1. Why you chose this agent.
2. A connection you have from a conference/workshop.

Start from the bare bones and build from there. Infuse each section with your book’s personality. Consider every word. Don’t forget your contact information. And close with “Thank you for your time and consideration.” Now get trimming!

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