Why Shouldn’t I Put a Question in my Query?

It’s a general rule not to add a question to your query. Why?

Putting a question into a query or cover letter makes the reader, aka agent or editor, have to fill in the blank themselves. You may or may not like the answer they come up with. Do you want to give away that kind of control when pitching the manuscript you’ve put so much hard work into? Answers may vary but I’m guessing NO!

In a query, questions can tend to feel ambiguous. How will Stephanie survive? Will Jack be able to fight his demons? Frankly, most people won’t care when they aren’t connected to the characters which is hard to do in the short amount of space a query letter should take.

What about those ‘Have you ever wondered’ type questions?

  • Have you ever wondered what it was like to journey through deep space? No I haven’t. And I don’t ever want to travel through space.
  • Have you ever been so desperate for something that you would do anything to get it? Maybe but I don’t like feeling desperate and don’t feel like reading about someone who is.
  • Have you ever wanted more? Sure, everyone has. What’s so special about that?

Are these the answers that an author would be looking for with these types of questions? I highly doubt it.

You know it’s true that two people aren’t necessarily going to come up with the same answer to the same question. There are so many factors that can influence the answer a person comes up with ranging from what they understand from the pitch, to personal background and experience, and even whether or not they got enough sleep the night before. Asking a question in your query can be like playing roulette. Does anyone like to play that game?

Yes, there have definitely been query letters that worked that do use a question. As so many things in publishing, this rule is not mandatory; it is up to you to pitch your work in the best way possible. But, most times when you put a question in your query letter the idea can be better served by showing.

When you’re working on your letter it’s easy for the questions to come out onto the page. Think about what you are trying to convey by asking the question. Get that information into your letter and you’ve gone much further to let the person you’re querying know what your manuscript is about.

Instead of using a question that leaves a blank for the agent or editor to fill in, use that space to hook them. Show what makes your manuscript unique. Stephanie survives by disguising herself as a homeless man while she collects evidence against the company that wants her dead. Jack can fight his demons but he rather likes them and goes on to use his love of alcohol and firearms to build the controversial Shots All Around Bar and Gun Club. Do you know more about these characters now than when I asked a question about them? I sure do. I had no idea they had such problems!

So think about it, can you write a stronger query letter if you use that precious space to give more information about your work instead of asking a question? I believe you can.

Members post query letters for critique in our Sub it Club submission support group and you can too. Join us if you haven’t already.

19 thoughts on “Why Shouldn’t I Put a Question in my Query?

Add yours

  1. I think that’s a great way to even work through your query. Write the question and force yourself to answer it. I think queries are rough for any writer, I don’t know anyone that enjoys writing them lol.

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  2. I always avoide asking questions in queries, even if it feels so natural, and I’ve been doing this because I read it is not advisable to use questions in queries. But now I know why, and it makes sense.

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