Hopping along the interwebs, I’ve seen a lot of agent query hooks—the one or two sentences that’re supposed to grab a literary agent’s attention. A few are good, some are horrible, but most are just okay (and being “just okay” generally won’t get you anywhere).
Keeping in mind that it’s in the nature of fiction to be subjective, I’ve noticed a lot of hooks deemed good by others aren’t particularly pleasing to me. If I were drinking my skinny caramel latte while reading these things, my computer would be in danger of being splattered with coffee, low-fat milk, and artificial flavoring. A lot of these so-called good hooks reek of cheesiness.
Thanks to the recession and other factors in recent years, many literary agents and publishers now have a more vocal preference for novels with a high concept. High-concept work, to put it simply, is work that’s easy to pitch effectively.
To define high-concept less simply . . .
To be high-concept, a work must be: (1) highly original; (2) widely appealing; (3) easy to visualize; and (4) easy to sum up in three sentences or less while demonstrating the first three elements.
The path to publication: write, write, write, research, research, research, edit, edit, edit, query, query, query, and then you cry.
Well, I’m currently on that first “query,” so I have some time yet before I’m scheduled to shed my special writer tears. Against the advice of one “Mr. Lardo,” I went ahead and sent out a batch of queries at the end of the week as opposed to early Monday morning. I expect I’ll be sending out many more queries, so a few poorly timed ones can’t hurt too much, can it? CAN IT?!
Kyra Nelson has read a sizeable amount of agent query letters from hopeful authors over her one-and-a-half years of interning for a literary agency (where she still works). She started her blog, Thoughts From the Agent Desk not long ago, on which she posts critiques on queries that are sent to her for public feedback.
I’ve read most of Kyra’s critiques and I think she provides rather useful information. This type of feedback is invaluable for novelists seeking representation. Really, when it comes to your query and manuscript, I think the general rule is: the more feedback, the better.
If you’re looking for help on your query letter, I’d suggest you: (1) draft a query letter and clean it up; (2) read Kyra’s previous critiques and apply what you learn to your current query; (3) then submit your query to Kyra for a critique; and (4) then find even more people to critique your query.
Note: Kyra is particularly into superheroes; do with that what you will.
Anyway, I’ve got some heavy editing of my manuscript to do before I draft my awesome query. Good times.