Okay I promised to show the sample of the query letter which landed me my agent. This particular letter is at 100%. Which means every agent and editor I sent it to asked for at least a partial on the manuscript. Something I'd always been told about query letters is to never include an excerpt of your book in your query. No one likes it and it's bad form. I went ahead and included an excerpt for two reasons:
1. I knew the excerpt was good
2. It said so much more about the book than I could have.
So there are a lot of rules about query letters, but the really important ones are:
-Be intelligent (don't call your manuscript a fiction novel, because a novel *is* fiction)
-Have several people review your query to make certain you don't have a bunch of grammar errors going on
Your query letter should accomplish three things: It should tell the agent/editor about the plot, the characters, and the author.
Here's that sample:
Dear Awesome Agent,
“Wh—what happened?” My voice sounded foreign and hollow.
He stared down at me, his ashen face hard with lack of emotion. He seemed to be measuring me. I looked away, unable to meet the eyes that held no shred of compassion.
He took a deep breath as though he were about to lecture a child. “You’re dead, Summer Dawn Rae.”
The last thing Summer remembers from her own time was the truck smashing through the driver’s side of the car. She should have died in the crash. Instead, she is rescued by Taggert, a soldier from the year 2113. Sent by Professor Raik, a scientist with political power, Tag travels back in time to save teenagers who would otherwise have been killed in tragic accidents. Summer learns that she has been saved to help repopulate a dying world where men and women have been rendered sterile due to disease and genetic mutation.
But Summer mourns the loss of her twin sister—and quickly realizes things in the future are not exactly as they have been explained to her. She must make her way in a world lost to disease and insanity with only Tag to depend on for protection, friendship, and possibly something more. Fighting the crazies, the politics behind the crazy war, and the scientist’s true intentions, Tag and Summer realize that the future can’t be saved anywhere, except in the past with the twin sister Summer refuses to leave behind.
SR: The Revolution is a science fiction YA novel that is a cross between Uglies and Twilight. It’s a story proving the human heart is stronger than science, and the bond of sisterhood can change the face of the world.
I currently have two published YA contemporary novels: To Catch a Falling Star, and My Not-So-Fairy-Tale Life, as well as an adult paranormal romance novel, Loved Like That. To Catch a Falling Star won the best fiction award with my publishing house in 2001, and My Not-So-Fairy-Tale Life sold out of its first print run and is currently on a second printing in a niche market. I have a time travel YA book, Eyes Like Mine, releasing in July. I am an editor for Precision Editing Group, do school visits, and speak to youth groups on a regular basis.
Thank you for your generous time. I enjoyed spending time with you at the editor’s retreat here in Utah and look forward to hearing from you.
And here is another query that I'd say had a 70% positive reaction:
Dear Awesome Agent,
Twelve-year-old Frederick Eugene Hazzard (Hap) works in his family magic shop, Hazzard's Magical Happenings. Knowing about magic the way he does, Hap knows that everything is illusion-and he doesn't believe in magic. He doesn't believe in the paranormal. And mostly, he doesn't believe in aliens. Hap's belief system is knocked out of orbit as he and his friend, Tara, are accidentally abducted by a ship full of aliens. With the Intergalactic Communications Enforcers (ICE) chasing the aliens and their human captain, Laney, Hap and Tara are reluctant guests for the travel to the other side of the universe.
There they meet Amar, the last living of the nine unknown scientists from India's mythology. He's sworn to protect the secrets hidden within the nine books of his brothers. The books contain information that, if placed in the wrong hands, would systematically destroy the universe. In a desperate attempt to get home, Hap and Tara unwittingly deliver the device that enables the books to be read to the space mafia boss, Don Nova, getting the scientist captured and sentenced to die in the process. Rescuing the scientist, getting back the prism, and escaping Nova's clutches requires courage, ingenuity, and a little pocket magic.
Now Hap and Tara must race Nova in a search spanning the universe for the missing nine books before the world and families they love are obliterated. Fighting Neubins, surviving intergalactic phone calls, and discovering the secrets of Stonehenge, the pyramids, ghosts, and the Nazca Lines is just the beginning in proving the universe really is a big place-a place only Hap Hazzard can save.
The Hazzardous Universe is a 67,000 word middle grade novel that includes a little soft science, a little mythology, and a whole lot of adventure. It easily fits in with other middle-grade boy adventure series such as Percy Jackson and the Olympians, or Fablehaven.
I currently have two published YA contemporary novels: To Catch a Falling Star, and My Not-So-Fairy-Tale Life, as well as an adult paranormal romance novel, Loved Like That. To Catch a Falling Star won the best fiction award with my publishing house in 2001, and My Not-So-Fairy-Tale Life sold out of its first print run and is currently on a second printing. I have another YA book (Eyes Like Mine, time travel) coming out summer of 2009. I won the fantasy/science fiction short story contest sponsored by Media Play for The Man in Mandalore. I write at least two books a year, am actively involved in school visits and speaking to youth. I am a member of SCBWI, and an editor for Precision Editing Group.
Thank you for your generous time. I look forward to hearing from you.
You can see that even in a query letter, I have no clue how to be brief. Everyone says keep the query letters short. And they are absolutely right. But brevity isn't something I'm good at. If you can tell your story in a shorter frame, then by all means DO IT! For me, my letters are under a page--as they should be, and they tell about the three important things: the plot, the characters, and the author.
I hope the examples help. :)