do and don't · how to get a request for pages · query problems

Queries: summarize the first 50 pages

When writing your query letter, summarize the first 50 pages of the book. This is enough to hook agents without giving too much away. (That’s what the synopsis is for.)

A stellar query will help you after representation, too. After you sign, your agent pitches your book to acquiring editors. Many agents use the original query as a baseline. Agent Kristin Nelson discusses Gail Carriger’s query and Kristin’s pitch for it.

No matter your word count, the first 50 pages includes:

  • the hook
  • inciting incident
  • call & rejection of the call
  • first plot point (start of the journey)
  • sometimes, the first pinch point: the first mini-battle with the antagonist

A summary of this will give the setup and stakes: exactly what a query needs.

I haven’t yet attained Well of All Knowledge status, so I gleaned this rule of thumb from a critique partner. You know how I’m always telling you guys to get to CPs? Critique groups become a collective: what one person learns, the others learn.

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