Craft · publishing

Writing Queries for Multiple POV Books

There’s no one single way to write a query. The point of a query is to entice people to read your book. And just like no one book is going to be like another, no one query is going to read like another. And as hard as it is to write a query in general, when you start adding in multiple POVs and a truly large world, it can feel overwhelming to try and condense that down to just a few hundred words.

But how do you do it well? Total disclaimer: I’ve never worked in publishing or anything, but I have written and critiqued a lot of queries. I’ll share a few thoughts and down below I will share 2 WBP query examples.

How many POVs should you include?

So like many writing related questions, my answer is going to be the ambiguously annoying “it depends.” The convention is to include either one or two POVs by name within the query, even if you have 4 or 5 POVs. And the reason for this isn’t because the other POVs aren’t important or pivotal in driving the plot forward but because too many names and roles in a short amount of space can be overwhelming or confusing for a reader.

Generally, if you’re writing a dual POV book where both characters have an equal amount of page time, you could include both characters. If you’re working with more POVs than that, it’s best to pick one (or two, if the second POV includes some pivotal information).

How do you pick which POV to use if you have 3+ POVs?

It’s easy if you have a “main” POV i.e. the majority of scenes are in their perspective. You would write a straightforward query like for any single POV book and mention at the very end “PROJECT is complete at XX,XXX words and is told in multiple POVs.”

But if your book is more equally split between the different characters, then it can be more of a challenge. Generally, you want to go with the character who is driving the plot forward the most or has the most at stake. If you’re unsure, try writing queries from different characters POVs until you find one that you think ties the overall story together the best. (Sidebar: this is actually one of my favorite post-first draft/pre-revision exercises to make sure I’m clear about what each of my POV’s goals and stakes are.)

I actually did this for the project I queried and it was so helpful–I very quickly realized that while each of my 4 POVs was personally invested in the overarching plot, only one of them was driving it. She had the most information about the main plot arc, the main inciting incident for the story happened in her perspective, and she was the with the most to lose if the events in the plot didn’t pan out the way she wanted it to.

And if you still can’t decide, this might be the time to get some thoughts from trusted critique partners–especially ones who haven’t  read your book yet. If they can’t understand the central motivations or conflicts that are propelling your plot, then it might be time to either add a second perspective to fill in the gaps or switch to a different POV.

Note: If you decide to query with just one POV, make sure your opening pages are from the POV of that character, especially if they’re the only character mentioned by name in the query. Even if you say your book has multiple POVs, anyone reading your submission is going to expect to meet the “main” character from your query immediately. It could be jarring or confusing if your book begins with a totally different character who seemingly has nothing to do with the query they just read.

How do you structure the query?

All queries, regardless of the number of POVs, should answer the following questions: Who is this book about? What do they want? What kind of world do they live in? What is stopping them from getting what they want? What happens if they don’t achieve their goals? As I mentioned above, there’s no one size fits all with queries, but here is an example of a general structure to follow.

I believe strong queries always begin with character regardless of how many POVs you’re juggling. People read books for the character, and you want to hone in on who your “main” character is right away. Who are they? What’s their personality like? What do they care about? What do they want? Why do they want it? If you are going to be mentioning 2 characters, you need to do this even more quickly as you’ll only have one short paragraph to devote to each character to establish all of the above (as you’ll see in the sample queries at the end of this post).

Once you’ve set up your characters, you want to expand on your world. When you have multiple POVs, it can be tempting to start with the world building instead of character. If you have a truly unique world you can certainly do that, but in most cases, world building without a character to filter that world through can seem dry and boring. Instead, establish your character first, and then include elements of the world to showcase how the world intersects with the character . How has the world shaped the character? How does it make it harder or more complicated to achieve their goals? What unique problems stem from the way your world is set up?

This is also where you want to mention your other POVs if you want. You don’t need to go into a lot of details or even name them, but you can include a brief description of any other characters who will be accompanying the “main” character on their journey.

Finally, you want to end your query with a clear explanation of your conflict and some solid stakes. Who or what is keeping the characters from achieving their goals? And what happens if the team fails? It can be tempting to be vague here and say that if the characters fail, it’ll be the end of the world. And it could very well be the literal end of the world is at stake–which you should definitely mention–but also make sure you tie this back to the character and give them a personal investment to not fail.

There you have it! A few tips for how to approach writing queries in general, but with some specific thoughts on stories that have multiple POVs. Like I said, there really is no one way to write a query. As long as it’s engaging and communicates answers to the questions I mentioned earlier in the post, it’ll probably be great.

If you’re still struggling with crafting a query for your multiple POV book, one of the best pieces of advice I received was to look at the jacket copy of books with multiple POV–especially books you’ve read. This is a great way to see how specific plot points were handled, how many POVs were mentioned, how much world building was included etc. And lastly, don’t forget to rely on critique partners and take advantage of any established authors or agents offering query critiques. Good luck and happy querying!

 

SAMPLE QUERIES

Query for WICKED FOX by Kat Cho

Pre-Order | Goodreads

In modern day Seoul, no one believes in the fable of the gumiho anymore—an immortal nine-tailed fox that feasts on human energy—making it the perfect place for fifteen-year-old Gu Miyoung and her family to hide in plain sight. Miyoung knows her harsh reality too well: on the outside she must seem like the perfect Korean daughter, but inside she’s a monster that must feed to live. However, that doesn’t mean she has to kill innocents. Saddled with a conscience she doesn’t want and guilt she doesn’t deserve; she seeks out criminals to prey upon instead.

Hahn Jihoon knows his silver tongue and deep dimples will get him out of any scrape. But when he’s attacked by a dokkaebi—a Korean goblin—he finds that even his charm has its limits, until a mysterious girl appears and saves his life. She is vicious and beautiful, but that’s not what draw his attention—it’s her nine tails.

Miyoung doesn’t expect to see the boy whose life she saved again, but when Jihoon turns out to be one of her classmates at a new school, she panics. Jihoon is fascinated by her very existence and no number of threats will make him forget the night she rescued him. Miyoung doesn’t want to kill Jihoon, but in her family, being a dutiful daughter means keeping her secret no matter the cost.

Still, as Jihoon starts to chip away at the walls Miyoung’s put up, she begins to see that the human world has more to offer than she’d ever imagined. But entangling Jihoon in the secrets of a gumiho brings its own risks, and Miyoung must ultimately decide what is more important to her: preserving her immortal life, or protecting his mortal one.

Query for THE DEVOURING GRAY By Christine Lynn Herman

Pre-Order | Goodreads

(Note: Christine queried her agent with only 2 POVs. I generally don’t recommend doing more than 2, but this is an example of a succinct and engaging way to include 3 POVs should you choose.)

After the death of her sister, seventeen-year-old Violet Saunders finds herself dragged to Four Paths, New York. Violet may be a newcomer, but she soon learns her mother isn’t: They belong to one of the revered founding families of the town, where stone bells hang above every doorway and danger lurks in the depths of the woods.

Justin Hawthorne’s bloodline has protected Four Paths for generations from the Gray-a lifeless dimension that imprisons a brutal monster. After Justin fails to inherit his family’s powers, his mother is determined to keep this humiliation a secret. But Justin can’t let go of the future he was promised and the town he swore to protect.

Ever since Harper Carlisle lost her hand to an accident that left her stranded in the Gray for days, she has vowed revenge on the person who abandoned her: Justin Hawthorne. There are ripples of dissent in Four Paths, and Harper seizes an opportunity to take down the Hawthornes and change her destiny-to what extent, even she doesn’t yet know.

The Gray is growing stronger every day, and its victims are piling up. When Violet accidentally unleashes the monster, all three must band together with the other Founders to unearth the dark truths behind their families’ abilities… before the Gray devours them all.

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