Query letter research: jacket flaps

In numerous conference seminars, I’ve heard that one of the best ways to prepare to write a query letter is to read the jacket flap copy on books that are similar to yours. So, I spent about four hours in a bookstore this weekend doing just that. It was a very useful and interesting exercise.

The more jacket flaps I read, the more I found a pattern in the ones I found the most intriguing, the ones that made me want to read further into the book.

It went something like this: Character has an emotion or problem. Explain the situation that causes the emotion or problem. Look into the future at how that problem is going to grow into something much bigger.

This is, of course, a big simplification. The best jacket flaps showed the character’s personality and the tone of the book, i.e. funny or sad, in just a few words.

Here were some of my favorites: The Map That Breathed by Melanie Gideon, The Black Tattoo by Sam Enthoven, Beyond the Reflection’s Edge by Bryan Davis, The Curse of the Blue Figurine by John Bellairs, Dial a Ghost by Eva Ibbotson, Suddenly Supernatural: Scaredy Kat by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel, When Zachary Beaver Comes to Town by Kimberly Willis Holt, Frannie in Pieces by Delia Ephron and Warriors The New Prophecy: Midnight by Erin Hunter. (Note, different editions of the books sometimes have slightly different jacket flap copy, so the ones I’ve linked to might not be the exact ones I read, but they’ll be close. Note to Amazon: Help us out! Put the jacket flap copy on the page.)

These jacket flaps inspired me, and the next morning, when they were still ringing in my head, I jotted down a start to the precious hook paragraph for my query letter. It’s still a work in progress, but those four hours at the bookstore helped me get started, they gave me a map, if you will, which is helping me find my way to a great query letter.

What books have your favorite jacket flap copy?

Write On!

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