If you’re reading this, then more than likely you’re preparing a query or critiquing someone else’s. If you’re doing your research before sending one out, well done. This post is dedicated to you, and to giving ideas that may help you improve your query (or someone else’s).
Your query has to stand out.
Have you ever perused Netflix or Hulu, read a description and thought, hmm, this sounds like ____?
Have you ever read a query and thought, hmm, this query sounds just like ____ written by _____ ?
If you change the name of the protagonist or antagonist, and the query describes another book, well, then it doesn’t stand out enough.
Newly-turned, flying vampires flee the ones who made them. Trapped and with nowhere else to run, they must take a final stand to be free once and for all. Are you talking about Interview with the Vampire or The Lost Boys?
Doctors rush to save lives in an emergency room while dealing with the crises in their own. If these physicians can’t juggle both, their patients will pay with their lives. Are you talking about ER or Grey’s Anatomy?
Make your dilemma and your stakes unique to the book.
How do I fix this?
Focus on the problems specific to this character. Bring what makes your story new or unique to the foreground and let the standard “wizard who” fall to the background.
Don’t be afraid to let your hero shine in the query the same way s/he shines in the book. Your hero may be a wizarding vampire scientist, but that’s not all there is to him/her. Blade is a vampire who hunts vampires. WOW, interested. Harry is the only person Voldemort can’t kill. 0.0
The point is, there’s more to these characters that can be SO interesting, their traits alone might make someone want to read.
Don’t devalue your characters.
They’ve got something the world would love. Gregory House is a self-destructive drug addict who’s brilliance has saved more lives than he cares to count.
If your plot/setting has been overdone…
Make your character shine. Show that, though the idea/plot isn’t unique, these characters are.
Remember, just because an agent passed doesn’t mean the query’s bad, and just because an agent requested doesn’t mean the query’s good (the pages may have gotten the request, not the query). Always get a second, third and fourth pair of eyes on it, especially if it’s the only thing you’re allowed to send in your submission.