Updated: Mar 19, 2020
Welcome to Part 2 of the 15 Common Mistakes Found in Queries. If you haven’t read it already, be sure to check out Part 1 to find out about #10queries, Mistakes 1-5, and a link to my own #10queries feedback from one of the #RevPit editors. Now, let’s pick up where we left off in the previous post.
Common Query Mistakes 6-10
6. Not clear on conflict
In queries you should focus on what your story and protagonist's main conflicts are. Ask your self this: What terrible things do your characters have to face and overcome in your story? Be specific and focus on your protagonist's main goal in the story. Be sure to cover both your story's main conflict and your character's inner conflict, both are equally important to include in your query. *Note* You'll also want to focus on your inciting incident and who your protagonist is in the opening paragraphs, but it wasn't a critique that came up often, so I'm not focusing on it here.
7. Not clear on stakes
I feel you should always wrap up a query summary with a strong statement based on the following three questions: What is the outcome if your character fails? What is the outcome if they succeed? What makes their goal so important? Give the readers a reason to care. Lay out what your protagonist has to lose if they don’t succeed. Where can you find the answer to these questions in your story? I believe that the most effective stakes for a query can typically be found around the end of the first act.
8. Missing comps
This one made the list because, again, because almost every editor mentioned it. Comp titles are important because they show an agent any variety of things from style, to themes, to character, to voice, and while no comps are better than bad comps, they help a potential agent see how they can pitch the book to editors. Comps are also a great way to convey anything from theme to tone to voice (things better left unexplained in a query). For more information on comps, check out Angela's blog post, A Million and One Ways: How to Comp.
9. Missing metadata
There is absolutely no reason you should skip your metadata paragraph. While there are some people who believe it needs to be at the front of your letter, and others argue it needs to be at the end (before the bio), wherever you put it, you cannot not include it in your query. By metadata, I mean age category, genre, and word count; these three items are essential. If you have comps, you also include them in the metadata paragraph.
Spellcheck your versions after each edit and avoid this embarrassing mistake altogether. While mistakes are bound to happen, there is no reason for your query and opening pages to have multiple typos in them. Always double and triple check.
We’ve reached the end of Part 2 for the 15 Common Mistakes Found in Queries. Come back for Part 3 where we will wrap up this series and address the final five mistakes.