do and don't · query problems

Fancy words

Today, a writer declared, “My genre could be described as Gothic meets post-apocalyptic using a darker version of Pratchett-style irony.”

Agents don’t want descriptive words about your genre. Agents want your genre. “TITLE is a cozy mystery with elements of magical realism.”

When a writer uses flowery words and complex phrases, their query reads more slowly. Since agents usually speed-read queries, this means they’re likely to miss the truly important information. We trip over the words and miss the element that makes your book one-of-a-kind.

When you write out your book’s vitals, simply say:

[TITLE] is a [number]-word [genre]. It will appeal to readers of [COMP BOOK/AUTHOR] and [COMP #2].

…like all good writers do.

The only time I’ve seen this paragraph augmented successfully is when you’re adding an element that’s unique enough to stand out. “TITLE is a 90,000-word fantasy exploring the inner lives of trigender elves.”

You can also augment your comps (comparison books) a tiny bit if you want: “It will appeal to readers who love the humor in Jim C. Hines’s THE LIBRIOMANCER.”

But no more than that, please.

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