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iwannabepublished
05-19-2014, 06:26 AM
Years ago, I attempting to snag an agent for what has become my three book action/adventure series. Having zero luck, I self-published.

When I was sending out queries, I did some research and found that the title, length and genre went first. From the samples I've seen here, it seems that's changed and the information now goes at the end. Is this true? If so, it seems a little odd because it requires the opening lines of the query to make the genre absolutely clear, which can make stating it at the end redundant, or at least forcing the agent to read the entire query, making him/her guess the genre. Obviously, I will write my query based on the current accepted format, whatever it is.
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In the past, my query format was something like this -

Dear Mr. Agent:

I noted on your website that your primary interest is in XXX, the genre of my novel titled YYY, complete at ZZZ words.

I would then provide a short blurb followed by a note indicating my attachment of the required number of pages/chapters and then the full synopsis.

has all of this changed? If so, what's the current format?
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My other questions have to do with the inclusion of autobiographical information and any writing credits. As mentioned, I've self-published and have had some success. Should I mention this? If my education, employment history, etc. had zero impact on my writing do I still have to include some sort of biographical information?

All responses will be greatly appreciated.

ElaineA
05-19-2014, 07:44 AM
iwbp, the upfront info is your discretion, or, more accurately, the discretion of the agent. Janet Reid says lead with your strength...story. But another agent I follow says she much prefers this information first so she can judge the query by the expectations of genre. SO, answer is, do your research. Ms. Reid tends to specialize in a particular genre so most of the queries she will actually consider fall within that parameter. Thus, she isn't as concerned with being told genre up front, whereas an agent representing a wide array of genres may want a clue before s/he starts reading.

As to the second part, again, I have seen varying answers. The internet has given authors a gold mine of information to research agents. It's a s***-ton of work to look up each agent's website, twitter feed, interviews, but it can yield a lot of information.

quicklime
05-19-2014, 05:20 PM
I favor starting with story. I doubt either is goin to kill you, but also remember you said "years ago" in your original post: things change. Years ago queries were different. For a time rhetorical questions were a clever device instead of something done completely to death. They were on paper at one point. etc. etc. etc.

So do what you will, but be leery of anything too old, the net doesn't eliminate those things. Sparks' query for his first novel is floating online, and awful by current standards, but it was from like 20 yrs ago....

I favor starting with story because genre and wordcount are, in a vacuum, very boring. I'd rather not give them a reason for their attention to wander at the very start, that's like prefacing a date with "you should know, I'll probably be thoroughly average in bed." Start strong, THEN bore them. :-p

Jo Zebedee
05-19-2014, 05:24 PM
I favour starting with the genre info.... It's a real tomato-tomatoe one and no agent is going to reject your query because of it.

popgun62
05-19-2014, 11:22 PM
I started my latest query with a blurb I received from a NY Times bestselling author, then continued with genre, word count, who I felt would be the target audience, and what authors I felt were similar to me, e.g. "If James Rollins and Dean Koontz wrote a book together, INSERT YOUR BOOK TITLE HERE might be the result." That was followed by a short synopsis, then a bio and list of publishing-related accomplishments. It worked.

When I was first starting out and had no previous book releases, I began with a story blurb. I think the secret is to begin with something strong that will make them want to continue reading. Just ask yourself, "What would make ME want to keep reading?" Whatever you do, just make it NOT boring!

aus10phile
05-20-2014, 12:58 AM
When in doubt, I've been leading with the blurb. But some agents specifically state they prefer the details up front, so I change it up for those. In one instance, I had a really great opportunity for personalization, so I led with that, thinking it would put my query in a positive light from the beginning.

All of those have worked for me. Agree with what the previous poster said, though. When in doubt, just don't be boring.

EMaree
05-20-2014, 01:34 AM
UK agencies still favour the credentials upfront style, aka the "covering letter" format.

Little Ming
05-20-2014, 02:31 AM
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So do what you will, but be leery of anything too old, the net doesn't eliminate those things. Sparks' query for his first novel is floating online, and awful by current standards, but it was from like 20 yrs ago....

Still doesn't compare to the 30 year old advice by Stephen King still floating around telling writers they should approach the publishers first, then submit to agents after getting an offer. Sure, it can happen this way, but generally it's not good advice anymore.

Even for the short time Queryshark has been around, things have changed (http://queryshark.blogspot.com/2011/08/pause-for-recap.html).

Corinne Duyvis
05-20-2014, 09:45 PM
The others have already given you great advice about where the book information goes. As for this...


As mentioned, I've self-published and have had some success. Should I mention this? If my education, employment history, etc. had zero impact on my writing do I still have to include some sort of biographical information?

I think the advice I've seen is to only mention your self-pub history if your numbers are in the five-figure range or higher ... although that may refer to when you're trying to get those books published ... I'm a little fuzzy on the details, to be honest, but I'm leaning toward the former.

As far as your biographical info goes, if you really have nothing to mention, I think you're fine leaving it out. Some agents will wonder, though, so it can't hurt to stick in a brief line about "I do X and Y for a living and am from Location, XY."

Zenning
05-25-2014, 06:55 AM
All of those have worked for me. Agree with what the previous poster said, though. When in doubt, just don't be boring.

Yes, I also think that everything on the query has to gear towards a short attention span person, aka lit agent nowadays. Well, good reminder for myself! Time to go back to work!