Or what happens when you read too much advice…

I’m currently sending out queries for the book I completed last year. Writing a query letter is a fine art, one I’ve struggled with. I’m learning though, slowly.

After each batch of rejections, I usually turn to the multitude of tips out there on the internet in the hope of finding that one bit of “magic” that will make my query irresistible.

But therein lies a problem. If I was to take on board all that advice, much of it would be flat out contradictory, and the rest would involve little more than tweaking around the edges. Here are a few examples…

Trilogies. I now mention near the end of my query letters that my story has the potential to become a trilogy. Apparently, if you say you are already working on a sequel, or that this is the first of a nine book series, it reeks of obsession and inflexibility. After all, the first one hasn’t even been published yet!

Should I leave out the bio? I’ve found that many agents don’t ask for a writing bio, but I tend to be stumped with those that do. I don’t have any literary qualifications. Is a single published short story worthy of a mention? Some say yes, others no. Apparently, agents will assume you have zero experience if you don’t mention these things, so I now include it.

Thank you for your time and consideration. Perhaps the standard for ending a query letter. In the past I’ve also included a line saying I’m looking forward to hearing back from them. However, that apparently comes across as me making a brash assumption their reply will be a positive one.

What genre is this? Agents wants to know what shelf your book will go on in a store. For a while I described my work as speculative fiction, mainly because it’s not particularly heavy on the sci-fi tropes. But realistically, its not going to be put anywhere other than the science fiction section, so that’s what I now describe it as.

Overthinking much? Maybe. But none of it matters if you can’t hook ‘em in.

One agent I researched said they receive fifty submissions each day. Even that seemingly large number is probably on the low side compared to a lot of other agents, but it gives some perspective on what I’m up against.

How do I stand out from all those other submissions? How do I make my story sound so compelling that the agent just has to read to the end? The answers to those questions won’t be found online, and it certainly won’t come about from fiddling with my bio or dwelling on what genre my book is.

Next time I want to trawl the internet looking for answers, I need to remember that.