Today’s question — “Should you reveal the ending in a query?” — is inspired by a question from reader J.P.:
I’ve assumed that it’s okay to have “spoilers” in the plot summary of my query letter. Am I wrong? My book is a mystery. Do agents like to have mystery books’ punch lines revealed before they read the book, or do they like to find out the answer for themselves? Should I put the answer to my mystery manuscript into my query?
Should You Reveal the Ending in a Query?
It’s totally fine to reveal the ending in a query or synopsis. Sometimes a query won’t deal with the entire plot and you can save your revelations for a synopsis (if requested or if sending one). But, either way, reveal your twists and turns. Withholding exciting plot points isn’t going to make the agent or editor crave to read it and find out…we most often don’t have the time to read every single manuscript through to its conclusion, no matter how delicious the mystery pitched to us in the query.
There’s a big bonus if you reveal the ending in a query or synopsis. If you indeed have some show-stopping plot twists, I want to know about them as soon as possible. True surprise is one of the most desirable emotions that you can make your readers feel. If your novel is packed with surprises, if the mystery is unpredictable and twisty, give us a sense of that, tell us exactly what happens, and I will be that much more eager to read the manuscript.
Some writers think they have an amazing and unique idea (and some genuinely do) and therefore they don’t want to reveal the ending in a query, but every idea is about execution. No matter how great your plot, I still need to see it come together. So revealing plot points isn’t the end of the world…it will at least give me a teaser of the book itself. (For more info on describing plot in a query letter, follow the link.)
I spent five years as a literary agent, and I saw tens of thousands of queries. Hire me be your query letter editor, and I’ll help you avoid common traps and rise above the slush.