First paragraph of a query letter

Let’s talk about the first paragraph of a query letter! In my mind this is the most important part to get right, and I want to share some thoughts on how to make it strong.

I look for the first paragraph of a query letter to include a birdseye view of the project—AKA the basic stats: title + reader category + genre + word count), as well as a quick logline. This grounds the agent in the project + shows that you know your stuff.

This looks like:

BIPPITY BOPPITY BOOP is a YA Romance at 80,000 words in which a young magician enters a televised magic competition only to find out that the competition is rigged to make the producer’s son win—and even worse, she’s falling in love with him.

The first paragraph is also the right place to mention any specifics on why you’re querying the agent in question—you were referred by one of their clients, you saw something specific on their MSWL, etc. Keep it professional though! Don’t be like, “I saw on your Instagram that 65 weeks ago you went to Ice Cream Social. I too love that place!” This doesn’t feel professional to me.

Now let’s talk more about what you ~shouldn’t~ do in the first paragraph. A common mistake I see is when writers use this precious real estate to list the themes or issues explored in their project. This feels vague and fluffy to me.

This looks like: “My novel is about love and fear and forgiveness and mental health issues and my protagonist overcomes many obstacles to accomplish her goal.” This doesn’t give me any sense for what actually happens in your book!

Other common querying mistakes: bashing other books in the same age group/genre as yours, word count too high/low, not including the basics, and when it doesn’t feel like a professional email.

Some of you have heard this similar advice dozens of times before, but we repeat it so often because so many writers forget to include the basics! They are crucial!

This has been First Paragraph of a Query Letter 101 with Adria Goetz. Remember to list your basics and nail down a succinct logline and you’ll be golden! Go get ‘em! You’ve got this!

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