Last week, we finished the pitch portion of the query letter. Don’t worry if yours isn’t perfect yet; there’s lots of time to clean it up later as you’re sanding and finishing it. The pitch, by far, is the hardest part of the query, so let it cool for a bit while you work on the rest.
The next part is a cakewalk in comparison: the housekeeping. What I mean by “housekeeping” is the quick and dirty facts about your novel. The length, genre, and audience go here. For example, you could say, “Bone and Blood is a contemporary YA thriller, complete at 95,000 words.”
You don’t have to say any more than that if you don’t want to. You could break that same information into two sentences, even, just as long as it’s all there. You could also include comparative titles, if you have anything that fits, or other details about the story that the agent may need to know but don’t fit in the pitch. If, for example, there are two narrators, or if it’s the first of a series.
There are, however, a few things you’ll want to be sure not to do:
- Don’t liken your manuscript to a recent best-seller. Sure, it’s tempting to say that you just wrote the next Harry Potter or that your manuscript is like The Hunger Games meets The Maze Runner, but even if it’s true, that’s probably not something you want to say. It sets the bar way too high, for one, and it’s often just not true.
- Don’t use comp titles that are more than five years old. Even though I love The Devil’s Arithmetic, for example, it may not resonate with a modern audience the way that it does with me.
- Don’t use long, convoluted sentences. Keep your housekeeping short, sweet, and to the point. Remember that agents and editors don’t have very long to read these, and that they probably have dozens of them to go through in a day. Make sure that they don’t discard yours just because they didn’t know what you were trying to say.
Now, as for some things you will want to look into when writing your housekeeping:
- Be sure your wordcount is appropriate to your genre and audience. While it’s not necessarily make or break, many agents will hesitate to take on a project that seems much too lean or too bulky for genre standards.
- Identify exactly what it is about your comp title that you feel an audience will relate to. If your protagonist has a similar voice to Day from Legend and you think it will appeal to your target readership, say so.
- Show your research without showing off. Agents want to know that you’re serious about your craft, and this is one way to show it.