Query Letter Genre Essentials: Pitching An Ensemble Cast Novel | Writer’s Relief

Ensemble cast books—stories featuring plotlines that follow multiple characters—offer a scope and depth that make the narrative structure attractive to writers and readers alike. But summarizing an ensemble cast story in a query letter presents special challenges. Fortunately, Writer’s Relief knows the genre essentials—and a few tricks of the trade—that will help you write the perfect query letter for pitching an ensemble cast in a query letter.

The Challenges Of Summarizing An Ensemble Cast Story In A Query Letter

Emotional engagement. Readers—and literary agents—often confess that they “fall in love” with characters in books. Characterization drives a reader’s emotional involvement in a story. Many authors find it difficult to capture the emotional life of a single character in a query letter—so trying to make a reader fall in love with multiple main characters (in the same number of words, all at the same time) is a real challenge.

Plot momentum. Traditional stories use plot to ratchet up the tension and drive readers toward a single compelling question: What happens at the end? That progressive action is what keeps readers turning pages—and query letter writers have tough choices to make when deciding how to present that singularly focused rising action in a query letter summary. But ensemble cast novels often ask you to follow several plots all at once, and that can make it more difficult for readers  to feel the driving momentum in the book blurb.

Length of book summary. With so many characters and plotlines to manage, it can be difficult to keep the summary of your book short and sweet—which is what literary agents prefer in query letters.

How To Write A Fantastic Query For A Multiple Main Character Book

To circumvent some of the difficulties of summarizing an ensemble cast story, here’s one approach you can take.

In your first paragraph, introduce three (maybe four) characters who are the most interesting or who have the most to lose. Offer a very short, precise description of each character—you have to make every character memorable and shining with just a few words. Then describe each character’s primary dilemma. What does he or she want? Why can’t he or she get it?

If your story brings the characters’ lives together, use your second paragraph to begin to weave the tapestry of your plot. Show how plotlines begin to overlap and complicate each other, and hint that the characters are moving toward a shared revelation or climax.

In your final paragraph, you may want to drive home your thematic interests. Don’t give away the ending of your ensemble cast book; instead, offer a comment on how each character stands to learn and change through interaction. And you may want to remind readers of the consequences if goals are not met.

Examples Of Book Summaries For Ensemble Cast Books

By studying a few summaries written by copywriters at publishing houses, you might be able to score some ideas on how you can summarize your own book.

Here are a few examples of books that follow multiple main characters (Publisher’s Weekly).

Remember, Literary Agents Understand The Difficulties Of Summarizing Ensemble Cast Books

Literary agents understand that a book summary of an ensemble cast book will be different from a book summary of a traditional story. That’s not to say that ensemble cast writers can give themselves permission to disregard basic query letter rules and etiquette. But if you’re writing an ensemble book, know that the challenges you face are shared by other writers in your situation. And your future literary agent may wind up rewriting your book summary anyway when it comes time to start pitching your story to publishing houses.


Question: Do you enjoy ensemble cast books? What advice do you have for writers of ensemble cast books?