The Query Shark, that is. If you’re an aspiring author, perhaps on the verge of sending queries out to agents or editors, literary agent Janet Reid’s query critiquing blog is a must read. But even if you’re in the midst of writing a first draft, her blog can give some pointed advice on writing in general. She doesn’t beat around the bush; she digs those rows of sharp teeth in and rips out the weak flesh. Here are seven things I’ve learned from such ferociousness:

1. Follow the &*!% instructions!
2. Be clear and concise.
3. Never demean yourself or your work. You’re trying to convince someone that it’s WORTH $!
4. Don’t tell the entire story in a query. Stop where they’ll want to read more. (a few agents actually want the entire story, but then I refer you to #1)
5. Tell the who, the what, and the why, not what you think your story is about (i.e. It’s about love and loss or the evils of war, etc. Blech.)
6. The term “fiction novel” makes you sound ignorant, and if you use it you likely are.
7. Follow the $%!* instructions!

#1 and #7 are the same because apparently this one is hard to remember.

The query is your introduction to an agent or editor, so even if your book rocks but your query sucks, you might have a difficult time getting anyone to read your amazing book. A lot of writers complain about this, but it’s important to remember that publishing is a business and if you want to be part of that business you must learn how it works. Educate yourself.

I spent a LOT of time perfecting that query, researching agents, and following their #%*! instructions. This is no replacement for working on the actual book, but still, it’s paid off with requests from agents to read my full manuscript.


  1. Good reminder, Liesl. And I’m anxious to hear more about how those requests turn out;)

  2. P.S. I gave you an award today.

    • ali

    • May 4, 2011

    • 9:45 pm

    Yuppeers! I agree 100%!

Sign up for Liesl's Newsletter

To get the quarterly updates on events, book releases, and reading/writing inspiration, just enter your email address below.
Email address
Secure and Spam free...
%d bloggers like this: