As of last night, I have finally finished all of the query critiques! I may or may not have had a glass of wine to celebrate (okay, I totally did). If you sent me a query during the open submission time and haven't received a critique, please let me know. I read some wonderful queries and had a blast. Since people told me they found it so helpful, I think I'll add in some on-going query critique opportunities. Last week, I discussed a few query tips and after finishing the critiques, I thought of a few more to add. Again, these examples are my own, so no actual query excerpts are contained here.
1) Keep it simple. You want to include the hook and main characters (generally 2 or 3 characters) in your query. Of course your book will have subplots and numerous side characters, but adding these elements into a query can make it confusing and overwhelming. The same goes for fantasy lingo if it's an alternate world with made-up vocabulary. Keep it to a few, relevant terms and save the rest of it for the book. Your goal is to give just enough info to make the agent want more.
2) Get someone who hasn't read your book to read your query. Don't get me wrong, I think your beta readers/critique partners can give great feedback on your query (my crit partners gave fabulous advice), but it's also helpful to have a fresh pair of eyes look at it. Someone who has read your book might miss something in your query because they already "know the entire story." Someone who does a cold query read without having read your book can easily detect if something is confusing or needs more emphasis.
3) Don't lose your voice. Several people told me that multiple people had critiqued their query and they'd taken it apart so many times that they weren't sure if the query even made sense anymore. One of the drawbacks of multiple beta readers is that everyone has their own suggestions and opinions. It's wonderful to have helpful writer friends, but make sure to keep your own stamp on the query. You want the voice of your novel to shine through, not a mish-mash of other voices. Just like with your manuscript, if more than one person gives you the same feedback, then you should pay attention to it. If not, see what resonates with you and let the rest of it go. One "voice" tip that I've heard is helpful is to write your query in first person, then change it to third person, present.
That's it for now. To those who sent their queries, best of luck with querying and don't give up!