Monday, October 15, 2007

Monday Mania: Query Letter

One of our readers submitted her query letter. Feel free to make comments, but please keep them constructive.

Critique Archive 0006:

Dear Ms. Agent, October 15, 2007

Like all aspiring authors, I am seeking an excellent agent for my manuscript. I am also looking for an agency that is willing to represent an author who has published successfully in a regional market, but would like to make the transition to national.

MY NOVEL is a romantic suspense novel set in the 1930’s, with roots in Providence, Rhode Island. The main character's story touches upon mental illness, falling in love during the greatest recession in America, and finding the answers to a troubled past in war-torn Europe. This manuscript is written in first-person and is approximately 90,000 words.

I have won writing awards at several local contests (from the League of Utah Writers). I'm also a member of a critique group.

Please contact me by phone, email or mail if the excerpt from MY NOVEL holds interest.


SASE enclosed


Stephanie Black said...

I'd leave off the first sentence. You're stating the obvious.

Why refer to yourself in the third person in the first paragraph ("an author")? Maybe you could say that you have published X and Y novels in a regional market with X publisher and are now seeking representation as you make the transition to the national market and you chose agent A for B reason.

The paragraph with your novel's hook is too vague. I'm a little puzzled by the phrase that the novel has "roots" in Providence, RI. Do you mean that most of the story takes place there? And saying the story touches on mental illness or falling in love during the Depression doesn't tell us what the story is. Who is the main character? What does she want? What stands in her way? Be specific.

Hope this helps!

Josi said...

I agree to skip the first paragraph and jump right to the book description, but tell the story. For example:

Fran's world has been torn apart by the first world war and she wonders if she'll ever have the life she was raised to believe would be hers. Paco, however, offers her everything she'd ever wanted. However, Paco's demons of mental illness and poverty force her to examine everything she's been taught about the road to happiness. Can love truly conquer all?

Like Stephanie said we need to know what her conflict is, who she is, why her story is worth telling.

After the intro, introduce yourself, mention your publications by name and include your contest awards and any other credentials you might have like articles, college degrees, professional writing experience.

You did great at keeping it short and too the point, which is exactly what a query is. You want to focus on making sure you're paragraph introducing the book makes them want more.

Good luck!

Heather B. Moore said...

I agree with the other comments. You have some red flags here. You don't want to say you're an aspiring author (shouts "I'm not published"). It's redundant to say that you're looking for an excellent agent. If there's a particular reason you're contacting THIS agent (meeting them at a writers conference, or referred by another client) you can say that--but not in the first sentence.

The first paragraph should be a hook. Even something that reads more like a 100-150 word blurb. Tell us the main character's name. Who is she? What's the main conflict?

Being a member of a critique group is nice, but it's dead weight in a query. Maybe specify what you have won awards for (but don't go on and on). Really, the only awards that will attract an agent's attention are the nationally recognized one.

Overall, I like your professional tone. You are moving in the right direction!