Angie Azur is a YA Sci-fi Writer.
Writer for PALEO Magazine.
Former Intern at the Andrea Brown Literary Agency.
SCBWI & COWG Member.

Monday, November 4, 2013


Intern thought of the day:

OMG if one more query letter goes on and on and on and on and on and on...I will literally freak out. 

Okay, now that I got that out of my system. Here's what you need to do or not need to do, in your query, to get agents to want to read your manuscript. 

  • Do you know what an elevator pitch is? 

From the looks of the queries, the majority of you don't. An elevator pitch is a pitch in which you could give an agent or producer in an elevator ride to the next floor.  

  • What does an elevator pitch mean? 
That means that you have to tell that agent or producer what your story is in less than 5 sentences. 3 preferably. 

  • How can I write an elevator pitch?
If you have a smart phone, hit the record button and pretend one of your friends just asked you what you are writing about. Play it back and write down the most solid, precise sentences you used to describe your work.

You can also call yourself at home and leave yourself a message about your book.

If you can't do this on your own, and you need an audience to make it real for you, get a friend to ask you questions about your book while you record your conversation.

  • Your query letter should be one real page double spaced- not longer because you think since you are emailing it we can't tell. 
We can tell. We can. So double check!

  • Do not state random things in your query. 
I mean if you are writing about ghosts, do not say you have a degree in architecture. That has nothing to do with ghosts. 

Keep your bio to a few short, precise sentences that have to do with writing or the subject you have written about. Nothing else. I mean it!

  • Do not tell us who inspired your work, especially if it is your daughter or son or husband or wife or grandfather or grandmother or daughter of your best friend…
Ask yourself if any of this matters. Go ahead. Ask yourself right now. Does it matter to you that I became a writer because of my Grandfather who lost his legs and gave me a stuffed monkey? NO. If it does, you're weird….and maybe we should talk.

  •  3 sentences - three!!
Right now tell me about your book in 3 sentences. Not 3 run on sentences. Not 3 cheating sentences. Write down 3 precise about your book sentences. 

Now expand on them. Fill in the missing links in between. You should end up with about 8 -15 very precise about-your-story sentences. 

That's it! Send that. Nothing more. I'm serious.

  • Get a friend to write your query.
After you have a query or a very good synopsis, ask a friend, preferably a writer friend or someone in the industry to work their magic on it. 

I am going to show you two query letters. They are mine about the same book. The first one I wrote. The second one, my query-whisperer friend, Victoria wrote for me. 

Which one works for you?

Query Examples:

9 days before I run.
            I have leopard skin on my neck and two peacock feathers growing from behind my ears. Even though the bright plumes bring out the blue and green of my eyes, and the furry spots, the dark reddish undertone of my hair, it's enough animalia for me. I like my human body. I am one of the last in my town. I still have most of my flesh and bones.
"99%" is typed in big bold red numbers on the front of the black pamphlet I hold. Below that, "Animalia – the new animal cruelty." I open it to the bulleted story.
  2013 the first human ear grows out of the back of a mouse.
  Hailed as a miracle. Doctors realize if they can grow human skin on mice, they can grow mice skin on humans.
  2019 The first human with tiger skin grafted to his arms appears on talk shows.
  2028 The first cheetah legs transplanted on a female track star.
  Animalia is born.
  2064 to date: 387,000 animals mutilated so the 1% can look good, run faster, fly higher and escape human disease.
I am the 1%. I’m the problem. I’m the privileged. But I was born on the inside to stop it.

Animalia is a 61,000-word sci-fi survival love story grounded in contemporary times. I am querying you because I am hopeful that my writing is a page turner like Jay Ahser's 13 Reasons Why and a fully imagined yet realistic world like Maggie Stiefvater's Scorpio Races. Lewis Buzbee has professionally edited Animalia.

Revised Query by the query-whisperer:

I am the privileged. I am the problem. I have leopard skin on my neck and two peacock feathers growing from behind my ears. The bright plumes bring out the green in my eyes. The furry spots accentuate the red undertones of my hair. To date, 387,000 animals have been mutilated so the rich can look good, run faster, fly higher, and escape disease. My mother wants me to get more, but it's enough animalia for me. I like my human body. I want my flesh and bones. No one else does. But I was born on the inside to stop them.
            In 9 days I run.

ANIMALED is a 61,000-word sci-fi thriller set in a fantastic, yet realistic world. Lewis Buzbee has professionally edited ANIMALED.

Queries are tough to write. They are difficult for writers because it's not how we've been thinking about our book. We've been in the trenches with our characters and to ask us to blurb quickly about them is hard…almost impossible for some of us. 

But getting a second opinion can help you see what you need to keep and what you need to delete.

Good Luck!

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