Developing an effective query letter is a necessary skill in the publishing world, but that doesn’t mean we all feel like we’re good at it. I am here to tell you that for me, writing a query letter is more difficult than writing the actual book.
Me: How can I possibly sum up everything that happens in this book?
Rational Me: You just need to focus on the main plot of the book, of course.
Me: But you see… the way the plot’s set up… with these three main characters…
Rational Me: No excuses! Make it happen. Stare at the blank document for three hours if you have to!
And that’s typically what happens any time that I try to summarize anything I write. Maybe this is because I still feel so new to writing even though I’ve been writing since I can remember. If you write a book, you should certainly be able to sum it up and pitch it easily, right?
It does come easy to some people, just as narrative voice and strong world-building come easy to others. We all have our strengths, we all have our weaknesses. One of mine is talking/writing about my books. I can squeal to my close writing friends about my finished manuscript or a new idea, but when it comes to breaking down my story into its foundations and developing an enticing pitch with strategic diction and just the right amount of information, I fall flat on my face.
Don’t even get me started on writing a synopsis. We’re not on speaking terms right now.
While a query letter includes personalization to an appropriate agent and an author bio of sorts (more of that another time), I’m only going to be talking about the pitch portion. More specifically, a query pitch that involves multiple POVs.
When I was querying, I scoured threads and blogs about how to write a multiple POV query, and the advice ranged, but A LOT OF PEOPLE said that even a story with ten POVs has one main character and you should choose the most prominent MC, then work your pitch around that character’s story and their connection to the plot.
I thought long about this, even mocked up a few query letters revolving around just one character, while still mentioning that the story was a multi-POV. But if your plot is told through two or three equal viewpoints, how is a one-sided pitch going to display that revolving POV aspect that brings your plot together as a whole?
My answer as a Slytherin: break the rules.
I included all three POVS of my main characters in my query letter. This was helpful, yet made it more difficult in a way, because now not only did I have to struggle with summarizing one character… I had to tackle three. And I did so in three steps.
I asked myself three simple, yet important questions about each character.
- Who is the character?
- What do they want?
- What is stopping them from getting what they want?
I wrote it ugly. Literally typed it out like I would to my friends.
Csilla is a badass captain who wants to be the first Pirate Queen, but she has to beat a bunch of dudes, including her ex-lover, in a treasure hunt. Stabby-stab.
Kane is the ultimate brood-master who wants to be the next Pirate King so that he can live up to the legacy of his asshole dad, but his chance at winning the crown gets screwed up by a stowaway who changes basically everything.
Lorelei is a cool chick who is on a hunt for revenge, but when she starts hearing creepy ass whispers in her head, she learns she’s someone else’s target for revenge. CUE THE DRAMA FOR YOUR MAMA.
Thennnnnnnn one I got it all out, I made it prettier.
Lastly, I did one final bit to bring together all three characters’ stories and why they’re all equally important to the plot. Also, I had to be sure to not rattle on because I was already going to make my query a little teensy bit on the longer side because of the way I set up my muti-POV pitch, but I kept each section relatively short to make up for it. Each character got 2-3 sentences each, Csilla’s a bit more lengthy to bring in the world aspect.
Now, I am not saying my query letter was perfect because it wasn’t. But somehow it, paired with my first pages (equally important), garnered many full requests, which lead to an offer of representation within a day of sending out the manuscript.
Here is the final pitch portion of my query letter:
After barely escaping her execution with a shattered ankle, and losing an eye in a barter with a witch, seventeen-year-old Csilla Abado yearns to prove her strength to the seasoned pirates who balk at her youth. When the Pirate King dies without an heir, she gets her chance to compete in the Trials—a bloody competition where the winner takes the island throne. Csilla could become the first Pirate Queen, but she’ll have to conquer the crooked swords of the greatest pirates of her time.
Kane Blackwater comes from a long line of pirate captains and he’s ready to prove once and for all he doesn’t need dirty gold or shady deals made on innocent blood to win the crown. But he doesn’t expect his chance to appear in the form of a surprisingly attractive stowaway that could flip the Trials, and the island kingdom, on its head.
After witnessing an evil pirate captain murder her mother, Lorelei Storm joins a crew and enters the Trials in search of revenge. But when she starts hearing the whispers that caused her mother’s madness, Lorelei learns that she’s a target too…because the Pirate King didn’t die without an heir after all.
While battling their own demons, Csilla and Kane must decide if they’re willing to give up their chance at the crown to help Lorelei, and how much they’re willing to sacrifice for power. Facing battles at sea, a vengeful land god, and dirty deals made amidst a deadly treasure hunt, they must remember the most important rule of all — never trust a pirate.
YOU CAN DO IT
If you’re struggling with a multi-POV pitch, or with writing queries in general, I hope I could be of some help. And if like me, you have severe trouble articulating the possible awesomeness of your book, I truly hope my experience can be of some encouragement. You’re not alone. We all struggle. Especially me who stress eats hot cheetos.