I recently had a battle with my own query letter, and I’ve been attempting to help others with their queries. I enjoy doing this. As I state in my query crits, I am not a query rock star, but the advice I received on my own query was invaluable, and I want to help others in whatever small way that I can.
Folks say that one should try writing one’s query in the voice of the MC, which is sound advice for an effective query style. That’s what I tried to do with my first query.
Enter Cheesy Announcer Dude.
“Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, Our Hero must find the secret of life, the universe, and everything, or it will be the end of the line for life as we know it. With the help of Feisty Sidekick, Our Hero will unknot the twisted threads of fate and begin a mission to steal the Illudium Q-36 Explosive Space Modulator, as well as our hearts, before the final curtain falls. Will he save our collective bacon? Find out next time, on Query Letter Hell! Same bat time, same bat channel!”
Yes, I’m exaggerating. But I see him. I see Cheesy Announcer Dude everywhere. In every query like my own first attempt, where the author is trying so intently to bring some life to his query and get an agent’s attention. CAD loves clichés. He loves the false sense of urgency and excitement that they create. He loves rhetorical questions and mysterious statements, as they make him feel that this will cause the reader to want to read more. CAD is an idiot, and no self-respecting agent will give him the time of day. (See what I did there?)
To defeat CAD, I recommend the following:
-Remove any phrase that sounds least bit clichéd.
-Remove any questions.
-Remove mysterious statements, such as, “Our Hero is set to retrieve the stolen falcon, but something stands in his way.” We want to know what “Something” is.
-Be specific to your particular story at all times.
-Try telling the pitch from your MC’s POV, which will naturally get rid of CAD.
This advice might seem obvious, but CAD is so intrusive and sneaky that he is hard to stamp out, and stamp him out you must. Once I realized what I was doing, and how CAD was invading my own query letter, I had a much easier time fixing it. While many kind people told me of my cliché use, I didn’t truly understand what was happening until I realized I was not writing from my MC’s POV, but from the POV of some late night television show announcer.
Search your query letters and blurbs. Find Cheesy Announcer Dude, and kill him with fire.