I’ve been getting quite a few queries for comic novels lately. How do I know they’re comic novels? Well, the author tells me that they’re funny.
Look, I love funny novels! Good comic writing is extremely hard to find. But here’s the problem with this approach: if someone can’t make me laugh in a query letter for a comic novel, I’m guessing the novel itself probably isn’t that funny.
This extends to every genre. If someone tells me their novel is literary but the query letter doesn’t display quality writing, I’m going to assume the novel isn’t that literary. If the query is for a suspense novel but the description of the plot seems hackneyed or cliched, I’m guessing the novel is also hackneyed. The query letter needs to embody the underlying work.
Now, I don’t think this should be taken too far — it’s still essential to get the plot of the novel across, and whatever approach you take to convey the spirit of your project should not feel forced. A good, straight-forward, organized query letter is usually better than trying to get too far out of the box in the name of creativity — I mean, you don’t need to send me your query printed on a whoppee cushion.
But at the same time, a query letter should reflect the strengths of the underlying material. And if you have a funny novel, the query needs to be funny too.