Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Query Advice that Makes Sense

Like so many other writers, I have been reading advice from agents about what they’re really looking for not only in the manuscripts they would be willing to represent, but what they want to see in a query letter. I have read literally hundreds, if not thousands, of words of advice about how to write a selling query letter. And still I was unsure. There were times when one agent would contradict another. What was a writer to do?

Then I came across the advice by an agent being quoted on another agent’s blog. In three words, Barbara Poelle of Goodman Literary Agency, gave the best advice I’ve seen on writing a query. Her advice consisted of three words. Those three words so resonated with me, I immediately rewrote my query letter for the manuscript that I’m currently sending to agents. I’ve seen query advice from literally hundreds of agents, but nothing so succinct, so logical, and so on point.

Hook, Book, and Cook were the three words Ms. Poelle wrote.

What do they mean?

Hook - a one-sentence description of what your book is about. Yes, she said one sentence. It may sound impossible, but try it. It really isn’t all that difficult. Hard, yes, but not impossible.

Book - write four or five sentences that give the agent more detail about your story.

Cook - this is where you tell the agent about you as a writer, i.e., the cook of the book.

How much more simple is that? Best of all, it’s easy to remember. It will be there in your head every time you sit down to write a query letter. Oh, you think that your first query letter will be your last? I hope that’s true. In case, its not though, I bet you’ll remember hook, book, and cook when you sit down to write that second letter. By the way, what will happen if your agent drops you because the agency decides to close its doors and/or your agent decides to retire from the business? I read about an author with a similar story not too long ago. She was back to seeking a new agent after having published several books. Something like that could happen to anyone.

I wish I could tell you that immediately upon sending out my first query using the hook, book, and cook formula I got an immediate reply asking to see the full manuscript. It didn’t happen. What did happen is that for the first time since I started sending out queries, I feel as comfortable with my query letter as I did with my manuscript.


  1. Good morning Pamela.
    Great advice from a great agent. I met Poelle last year at the Moonlight and Magnolias conference and she was a peach. I know a few of her clients and they love her. I"ll be sure to keep these three word sin mind when I prepare my pitches for conferences.

    Good luck getting the blog going...

  2. That makes sense and seems easy enough.

  3. Hi Kay!
    I too am always wondering what part of my submission the rejecter didn't like. I like the Hook, Book, Cook process. I'll have to try that as I prepare for my pitches as conference.

    I did an on line pitch to an editor from a blog last month and she lined out what she liked and what she didn't. Her feedback was gold.

  4. Thanks for the comments, Kim, Jerri, and Lynn. I'm pleased that you like the blog.