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Saturday, January 10, 2009

Writing the Query Letter – Everything Else

The Hook, The Setup, The Conflict, and The Consequence are the four parts of the query letter. I believe you can write a killer query using those four parts. I've also added another item to consider when writing the query letter. The rhetorical question.

I studied my query and decided that although it had received some praise, it could be better. Since the query letter is the gateway to getting your manuscript read, I wanted to have the shiniest gate I could.

And so I set out to accomplish it. I worked—hard. I broke my query letter down into the four parts and worked on them individually. Then I studied the query letters of others. I printed out the query letters of authors who had landed agents. I emailed friends who I knew had received significant requests and begged them to let me see their queries. Then I sat down at the kitchen counter and spread the queries out on the counter. I started at the top, took notes, and wrote my query by hand. This didn't just "happen." I made it happen. You can too.

Everything Else:

1. Some agents say to dive right into the book. Some want the genre and word count up front. Do your research and switch the parts around according to the agent's tastes. But generally, I like to start my query with the title (in all caps) and word count with a lead into my hook.
I am pleased to submit for your consideration my young adult urban fantasy, THE MIRROR. In this 95,000-word tale of magic, mystery and romance, sixteen-year-old Annie Jenkins must control the magic to balance the realm. It's too bad her unknown abilities are hidden beneath her inhalant addiction.
2. I noticed that almost all of the query letters had some sort of paragraph after the blurb that told a little more about their book. Marketing, a twist on something, a comparison to published books. Something. So I crafted one of those for my novel.
Not just another ghost story, the Shadows in THE MIRROR bring a magical twist to life beyond death. THE MIRROR will appeal to readers who enjoy the paranormality of A GREAT AND TERRIBLE BEAUTY, and also to those who fell in love with the romance of TWILIGHT.
3. The bio. Many authors agonize over this. I have no publishing credits, so I simply omit this portion of the query. Many agents advise the same thing. Then you need to wrap it up with a simple, "If you would like to consider THE MIRROR, I'd be happy to forward the complete manuscript at your request. [I put requested material here, like if they ask for the first three chapters, the first five pages, etc. Maybe a personal blurb about their blog or something if I feel it's relevant.]"

And end with, "Thank you for your time and consideration."

So my query looks like this:
I am pleased to submit for your consideration my young adult urban fantasy, THE MIRROR. In this 95,000-word tale of magic, mystery and romance, sixteen-year-old Annie Jenkins must control the magic to balance the realm. It's too bad her unknown abilities are hidden beneath her inhalant addiction.

Whenever she's high, Annie has vivid visions of a death she can't remember and a boy she's never met. When she meets Jonathan Clarke, the ghostly boy from her hallucinations, she realizes her drug use has masked the abilities she's inherited from her magic-keeping mother. Wielding magic isn't everything it's cracked up to be; Annie discovers her newfound powers can't cure her terminally ill mother.

Annie learns she has the rare power to bring immortal beings (Shadows) living in another realm back into the human world. Jon has been searching for someone with Annie’s Mirror power for a century. He's desperate for her to restart his heart so he can become human again, but his Reflection can't be completed until she balances the magic. Their problems double when she learns there are evil Shadows who plan to kill her and take control of the realm. One of Jon's old friends is leading the resistance and attempts to recruit him, while Annie discovers one of her friends is really working against her. If Jon and Annie can't find a way to achieve balance, Reflections and potions won't do any good. There is no spell to revive the dead.

Not just another ghost story, the Shadows in THE MIRROR bring a magical twist to life beyond death. THE MIRROR will appeal to readers who enjoy the paranormality of A GREAT AND TERRIBLE BEAUTY, and also to those who fell in love with the romance of TWILIGHT.

If you would like to consider THE MIRROR, I'd be happy to forward the complete manuscript at your request.

Thank you for your time and consideration,

ElanaJ
I hope you've found something useful you can use in The Writing of your Query Letter. Please feel free to email me at elanajohnson@QueryTracker.net if you have a specific question about queries or to discuss anything query related. Good luck!

12 comments:

Suzette Saxton said...

Elana, I have learned so much from your query letter series. I can't thank you enough for taking the time to write such a thorough article, and for sharing your query with the whole world.

Lady Glamis said...

What helpful ideas! I am thrilled to have this as a resource. Thank you!

I will be writing queries soon, and this is the first place I'm coming when I begin.

Christine Fonseca said...

Wow..nicely done. Thanks for taking this time. This last one was very helpful - just like the other parts of the series

Patrick said...

Great set of articles Elana. Well done.

Cole Gibsen said...

This is really some blog you guys! You should be really proud. Keep up the great work.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

Thanks for the great advice. Any suggestions for writing the synposis?

Mary Lindsey said...

Hi Stina. We'll be posting a synopsis article soon. Great suggestion.

ElanaJ said...

Thanks, everyone, for the comments! I'm hopeful that you found one thing you can use to improve your query. :)

Kate Karyus Quinn said...

I love all the examples you've included - that is what always helps me truly understand something.

Kestrel the Awesome said...

I love this series! It is so much more helpful than everything else I've read on query writing! QTers will be seeing my new and improved query soon. =)

disorderly said...

Elana, you are officially my hero. The way you've broken down the query letter process into easy-to-manage steps is brilliant. THANK YOU! :-)

Emily said...

I have read advice from many people about how to construct a proper query letter, but yours is by far the best. Thank you for going to the time and effort to make this available to those of us who are still crafting our query. After following your steps, I feel a confidence in mine that I haven't felt before. Again, a million times over, thank you!