Monday, November 17, 2008

Monday Mania--Query Letter

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

Critique Archive 0018:

Dear Ms. XXXXX,

I've chosen to contact you due to your representation of an author whose work I truly enjoy, XXXXX. I thought you might be interested in my 84,000 word YA manuscript, THE REFUGE. It is the first installment of a planned trilogy.

When Narissa discovers she's been shifted to an alternate dimension, she resolves to locate the elusive gate that links back to her world. As she begins her search, Narissa finds herself the object of unwanted attention and gossip, which escalates as people begin to notice the way she's captured the interest of one of their leaders—prickly, reclusive Daman. It is only after deciding her new friendships are worth abandoning her quest to return home that she discovers how to leave. Will she cling to the life she craves or choose to return to the responsibilities of caring for her younger sister?

I would love the opportunity to send sample chapters, or the entire manuscript, for your consideration. I've included a SASE for your convenience. Thank you for your time and attention, I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,


XXXXX XXXXXXX

P.S. As a professional courtesy, I'd like to let you know I'm also querying two other agents.

6 comments:

Stephanie Black said...

It sounds like an intriguing plot--I'd just like a little more in the way of information and specifics. Was her passage to the other dimension orchestrated by someone, or did she discover the portal by accident? Why is this new world the life she craves? Who, specifically, is her antagonist, and what is the antagonist's opposing goal? What is at stake?

Heather B. Moore said...

The P.S. is not necessary. Unless an agent requests a full manuscript, they assume that you are querying more than one agent. But if a full is requested, you need to give exclusive reading rights.

Becky said...

Thanks for the input, ladies! Perhaps this would be a better description:
When Narissa discovers she’s been accidentally shifted to an alternate dimension during a routine land annexing, she resolves to locate the elusive gate that links back to her world. The city’s council act willing to help, but knowledge of the portal has been lost. This, combined with the fact that some of the council members don’t want people to know how to leave the Refuge, convince Narissa to find it on her own. As she begins her search she finds herself the object of unwanted attention and gossip, which escalates as people begin to notice the way she’s captured the interest of one of their leaders—prickly, reclusive Daman. Narissa is aghast to discover the gossips are right about Daman’s feelings for her, and is even more horrified to find herself reciprocating. Are her new friends—especially Daman—worth abandoning the idea of returning home to care for her younger sister?

A couple of questions:
*I've found conflicting advice on this and I'd love some clarification: Since I don't have any publishing credits, do I skip that paragraph of the query or do I put a short blurb about myself? Obviously, I can't claim to be an expert on alternate dimensions--I've never been to one!
*Is it better to start the query along the lines of what I've got, or to put a hook first?
*How long should the book description be? I've heard 3-4 sentences, but I've also heard 2-3 paragraphs.

Annette Lyon said...

Maybe you can combine the two descriptions--the first one is punchier and crisper.

Definitely skip over your personal bio. No need to point out that you haven't been published.

I've heard agents disagree on whether to put the hook first or to open the way you do. It's almost a toss-up, it seems. I'd personally go with the hook to try capturing their attention quicker.

Check out agent Nathan Bransford's blog for advice on length. He's noted that the best queries fall in a specific word (rather than sentence) range--which I'm not remembering precisely right now, but I think was somewhere around 150-250 words.

Good luck!

Heather B. Moore said...

2-3 paragraphs of a book description borderlines on a short synopsis. I'd keep it to 1 paragraph (3-5 sentences).

Pink Ink said...

I am intrigued by the romance part of the synopsis. (I am a sucker for romances :-).

The synopsis comes across as fantasy, so the part about the sister at the end seems a little surprising. Maybe mention that early on??