View Full Version : Multiple POV in the query

07-09-2013, 07:19 PM
I know what everyone says: stick to one POV in the query letter. But is there ever an exception to this rule? I just think it's weird to focus on one character when any time you pick up a multiple POV novel the flap copy almost always introuduces all the main characters.

I've been looking through the books I own and for the most part, if there are around 3 or 4 POVs, they'll all get a mention on the flap.

If it's not confusing for the readers buying the books, why are we told it would be too confusing for an agent to read in a query?

07-09-2013, 07:26 PM
romance often has 2

and it isn't confusing, it is math: You have 200 words to get an agent so into a character and their coming shitstorm that they ask for your manuscript instead of the 30 other ones on their desk. That is some work.

Fine, 4 characters. Now, can you do what you busted your ass to do in 200 words, four tines, in 50 words each? More characters just gives you less space to make the agent care about any of them.

07-09-2013, 07:30 PM
But isnt the query letter trying to do for the agent what the flap copy is trying to do for the reader? We're trying to get their attention. Why is multiple POV accepted once it's at the published level, rather than the query?

Debbie V
07-09-2013, 07:57 PM
It's because readers are different when they approach a book. Some read jacket copy, but many go right to the first few pages. I know a few who read a random middle section or the last page. The possible purchaser has options. All the agent has is the query.

07-09-2013, 08:00 PM
But isnt the query letter trying to do for the agent what the flap copy is trying to do for the reader? We're trying to get their attention. Why is multiple POV accepted once it's at the published level, rather than the query?


the flap copy tries to get a (generally, casual) reader to part with seven bucks at a Wal-Mart checkout. The Query tries to convince an agent you can write, like a madman, and they want to invest a large chunk of their career and time with you.

flap vs query gets discussed a fair bit here, and a great query can often make a great flap. A solid query can probably make a good flap. But a solid flap doesn't often make a good query, because it uses a lot of lowest common denominator cliche and generalizations......the same things they want to show Larry at the bookstore that this is "oh, kinda like that one King book you liked" are the things that can sink a query, where you're trying to show how different and unique your book is.

07-09-2013, 08:09 PM
I think there's an important difference between POV and characters mentioned, if that makes sense. Flaps are written as sort of third person omniscient narrator POV. Lots of characters can be mentioned without confusion because the narrative isn't close to any of them. You're telling me about John, Biff, Chuck, and Sue. A query takes the character's POV in a sort of third person limited style. You're not just telling me about John, you're showing me what John wants, what his struggles are, etc.

I recently tried out a dual-POV query in QLH because I have a dual-POV manuscript. It was moderately successful verging on shot down. It was terribly, terribly hard to get anyone to care about my two characters in that short space (which was the objection of the folks who told me not to use it).

Now, I did manage to mention three characters in my last query for my last manuscript before I came to AW and found QLH. It got me requests. I'm still not sure how or why because it broke all the rules. But that was a concept novel, so I suspect agents were like, Oh, neat concept, even though I have no idea who these people are!

What I'm circling around to is this: agents and casual readers are different. Don't use flaps as a guide for how to write a query. Use QueryShark, QLH, and agent advice sites.

07-10-2013, 01:12 AM
Ok, you make good points!

07-14-2013, 12:24 AM
thanks that helps alot!

07-14-2013, 12:44 AM
The flap or back cover blurb or whatever, is meant to tell the reader what the reader will get. If it's, say, multiple POV contemp fiction, it might be along the lines of -

Bob wanted to find love, but his 80-hour-a-week job as the city's most attractive DA didn't leave him much time for romance. Until...

Jane, just out of a 10-year relationship and into a 10-day robbery spree turned up in a file on his desk.

Yada yada sis boom bah. That gives the reader information a reader wants - that it's a romance, a lawyer, a criminal, probably something wacky or heartwarming or whatever comes next. A reader has dozens of reasons for picking up a book; I was just a few minutes ago pondering starting a different book than the one I'm in the middle of just because it seemed like it'd fit my current mood better. That's what a reader wants to know about.

That's not the information an agent wants. An agent can find 100 random opposites attract-type romances. The agent wants to know if the writer can write, can tell a story that has some point, pov, plot, etc. A query should be less 'I'm the kind of thing you might like to read on a plane; I'm uncomplicated, mindless but fun,' and more 'I'm so compelling you need to take time out of your incredibly busy day and let other emails pile up in order to read part of me, now, because you might be able to sell me and make money - NOW.'

It's like trying to sell anything. If you're selling a new frozen burrito, what you put on the packaging is meant to appeal to the end consumer. It might be that it's extra cheesy or has organic ingredients or whatever the heck. If you're selling it to the buyer at Whole Foods, that's a whole different pitch - the difference between 'try it, might be what you want for dinner, $2, extra cheesy, what the hell,' and 'invest thousands of dollars, shelf space, piss off other suppliers, rely on the producer of this product to make you both money.' Different pitches.

07-14-2013, 01:10 AM
Just to add to the confusion, I was at a writer's retreat where a (new to her agency, but with previous experience) agent gave us a helpful presentation of queries. She offered us an example query based on one she had accepted. It had multiple POVs.

Basically, the opening paragraph was from 1 character's point of view. The next paragraph began "Following the stories of X different characters, [Title] shows the impact [of X incident]. There's..." and then a sentence dedicated to each of the 3 or 4 POV characters.

It stuck out to me because it broke many of the QLH rules (actually, I don't think it answered much of the Katiemac questions either, it was mostly: here's an interesting person with an interesting problem. Here's another one.) but still seemed effective.

The genre was upscale women's fiction, verging on literary suspense, IIRC (if 'literary suspense' isn't a genre I apologize, I mean it was about a murder with navel gazing--not my genre, what can I say).

07-14-2013, 07:14 AM
Thanks guys, very helpful points.

07-14-2013, 07:37 AM
I don't recall ever reading a book's back cover blurb which mentioned POV, multi- or otherwise. Nor have I seen query letters that do this. There may be such, but it's never caught my attention.


Old Hack
07-14-2013, 11:40 AM
I've seen several query letters which broke some of the usual rules and guidelines, but which still ended up getting its author an agent. A couple of those queries presented multiple PsOV.

Every time, the book which was under submission had a fascinating, fresh premise; and the author was a great writer with a really strong voice, which came through in their query. Very few of us could match that level of talent and ability.

Rules can be broken but it's risky.

07-14-2013, 04:09 PM
My book is a mother and son dual POV. In the query letter, and mind you I haven't gotten any requests yet, I use the first paragraph on the mom and the second on the son. If it wasn't dual POVs, I'd focus only on the mom to make things easier. I think when you get into a novel with three or more POVs, you really need to focus on what they share as a whole. For instance: A cast of crazy townspeople find an abandoned house and yadayadayada.

07-14-2013, 06:27 PM
folk, it is an unsolicited bit of advice, but you can say a hell of a lot about someone else, directly, and better still, indirectly, from a completely different POV. So, writing your query entirely from the mom, with it clear the son plays a big role and has his views on her she either works towards or against, or whatever.....you might get more space to do the mom while still making it clear the son is important, and then simply closing with "XXX is a 80K novel told from the alternating POV of Beth and her son" or whatever

07-14-2013, 07:10 PM
quicklime, thank you--It's worth a try to write it from one POV, so I'll get on that. Guess I should post the old one in query letter hell and see what the doctor thinks. Grumble. That place is like having cramps.

07-14-2013, 09:19 PM
quicklime, thank you--It's worth a try to write it from one POV, so I'll get on that. Guess I should post the old one in query letter hell and see what the doctor thinks. Grumble. That place is like having cramps.

ok, as a guy i can't really refute that, but i enjoy QLH. A lot depends what you put into the trip, i suspect.

Think of it as "write fucking tighter! MUCH tighter!" bootcamp to strengthen every single thing you write, instead of this pain in the ass hurdle, and that might help, as well as being generally more accurate. Anything you learn there you CAN (and should) take elsewhere as well.