I have developed a love-hate relationship with Twitter hashtags. A hashtag is one of the easiest ways to learn which agents want projects in genres the author writes. I’m usually excited to receive a query with one of my hashtag requests on the subject line. The author caught my attention! Now, what happens next?
Two things, actually. First, I’ll do a quick visual scan over the letter. Why? I’ll tell you in a moment. Second, I read the query.
When I receive a hashtag query, I know the sender has a manuscript that fits my wishlist. For example, I recently sprinkled the twitterverse with a request for dark romance/horror with romantic elements. I know, I know – what did I drink that night? I assure you, it was green tea. But I truly enjoy darker romance books in the various subgenres. I don’t mind a good laugh, but a good scare or a couple of shocked gasps while following characters through their tale is a thrill.
The eagle-eyed author saw my hashtag because they’ve long ago researched all the agents they might work with and created a Twitter list they could easily follow. The author then copy/pasted a prepared query letter into their email program. They personalized it by adding my hashtag, maybe going as far as to mention my exact request in the first or second sentence of their letter.
To me, the writer immediately comes across as a professional who is serious about finding the right agent. They’ve paid attention to what I want and they believe they have a manuscript that fits my wishlist.
After a brief (as in two short sentences) opening, the writer boils the rest of the query down to no more than 300 words. For some, that’s not enough space to talk about all the wonderful aspects of their manuscript. To me, it’s more than enough, and that limited word count usually encourages the writer to talk about the book, not themselves. Overlong query letters are boring. No, they really are. They’re a sign the writer doesn’t know what’s the most important aspects of their story. They chose to include details that are only story threads instead of giving the big picture of the manuscript.
Let’s go back to the hashtag that spurred an author to send a letter to me. The query does the job. The wordcount of the project fits the genre (this is also something that earns a rejection; if the author send me something too short or too long for a particular genre. It’s a sign the writer has no idea what their genre’s expectations are.). The sample pages – I request the first ten – should support the hashtag. For example, if it’s a dark romance, the tone of the sample pages fit. If the “dark” stuff comes later, then make sure the one-to-two page synopsis clearly shows when that happens.
I have rejected some hashtag queries because one (or all) of these areas fell apart. Ah, but I’ve also requested partials and quite a few full manuscripts because the writers knew how to maximize the opportunities given with my hashtag wishlist.
I keep an updated wishlist on my Team Fuse page.