You’ve read the headline and now you’re wondering, why would I write my query before I finish my manuscript? After all, the advice you see on every website says to not send out any queries until after the manuscript is finished, edited and rewritten. Well, I’m not going to tell you any different.
What I am going to do is give you something to think about.
What is a query? New writers agonize over them, agents spout platitudes about their importance and they are generally seen as the key to the publishing kingdom. Forget that. They might all be true, but focusing on those points creates a distraction. Besides, that’s not the point I’m getting at.
The query is a statement that uses two to three paragraphs to describe your story and then perhaps a single paragraph that states who you are. You’ll read lots of advice on writing queries, but they will all tell you to include these two components. It is because of these two components that I suggest you write it early on, like now, maybe before you write a single word.
The query in this sense becomes your mission statement. Every time your story feels overly complicated and you think you’re losing track, you look back to those simple paragraphs and you remember the essence of your tale. Distilling your story to its core early on will keep it omni-present in your mind. This will give you cohesiveness.
It is not only the story the query distills, it is also your identity as a writer. Remember, you and your story are a package. Both need to be sell-able. There have been interesting conversations about online identities and figuring out who you are as a writer. Once again, your query not only serves as a mission statement for your book, it also serves as a mission statement for yourself.
The query is about selling yourself and your work. If early in the game you can write a query that sells you on your book and your identity as a writer, it will be all that much easier to sell those things to someone else down the road. No one will love you until you love yourself, KWIM?
Maybe someday I’ll feel competent enough to write a post on how to write a query. Until then, I’ll provide you with a link to Adventures in Children’s Publishing where they link to examples of Successful Kid Lit Query Letter Examples. Feel free to add any great websites you know of that provide instruction on writing queries in the comments.