I was making my breakfast this morning when – either out of hunger or sleepiness – I likened queries to cereal.
By the time I sat eating I’d gone off on a completely new train of thought to do with queries, but all about food (I was REALLY hungry).
So here is a (probably weird) post about queries, what’s needed within them, and what you can do to make sure yours stands out.
As if you don’t know what cereal looks like. I mean.
You don’t want to give someone a cereal query. This is where it’s just the grains of your story and nothing else. Even if it’s something fun with a free toy (ok I might be going a little overboard with this analogy…) the grains of story doesn’t give whoever is reading your query a strong idea of what your book is about. If you just throw in the basics, chances are it won’t be the most interesting
cereal query in the world. For example –
“17 year old Jessica Lisa Eisenstein wants to win a talent show. If she wins the talent show, she’ll get a crown and £100. A boy, Marcus Orelio, thinks Jessica is too much competition so he ruins her dress. To get her revenge Jessica thinks up a huge plot to ruin him – publicly – in front of everyone.”
We know the characters, but it sounds pretty boring – it doesn’t really GRAB people’s attention and say READ ME (unless you want to read about Jessica’s revenge). WHY is the talent show important to Jessica? Why does Marcus want to win so much and think Jessica is competition? What happens if Jessica fulfils her revenge?
This is the play-by-play, read my book, I’m doing this but I don’t think I have a shot query. You can dress it with marmalade or chocolate all you want but it’s still burnt bread – dry and without flavour. If you’re not inspired when writing your query, they won’t be inspired reading it. Where there’s no personal lilt to a query, it can come across as bland as toast.
THE BEST BREAKFAST / QUERY
In my view, the best thing you can give to me as a query-breakfast is the staple hotel morning welcome;
ORANGE JUICE / CROISSANT / CEREAL.
I would have put bacon etc on here but I’ve turned vegetarian so my piggy friends will leave it off this list.
ORANGE JUICE – the refresher
Orange juice is a wonderful, refreshing taste which just zings up your mouth and gives your tongue a little dance. This is what you want your query to do – zing with the tang of your story, your voice and your style to whet the appetite.
CROISSANT – the thing which makes your book UNIQUE
If you think of a croissant chances are you will associate it with France. It’s one of the most uniquely identifying things of France around the world bar the Eiffel Tower. That’s what you want for your book – something which will identify your premise as UNIQUE, what makes it new?! Exciting, bold? Is it the characters, is it the layering of plots? SHOW US YOUR CROISSANT.
…. there’s a sentence I never thought I’d write.
CEREAL – GRAINS ARE STILL NEEDED, PEOPLE
You can dress up your query with Croissants and OJ but you need to also have the basis of your story, except in this case – with the help of the above – your cereal is like little bits of bread, creating a little trail for query-readers to follow while you ensnare us with your writerly-wiles.
So there you have it – my thoughts on how to write a query based on breakfast foods.