Monday, February 1, 2010

Monday Mania--Query Letter

Two of our readers submitted query letters for critique. Feel free to make comments, but please keep them constructive.

Query #1
Critique Archive 0033:

Dear ______________

I’m seeking representation for my completed, 65,000 word, middle-grade fantasy entitled, Little Pig, Little Pig.

When Eli, a 1950’s farm boy, receives a pair of magical, mind-reading piglets from an anonymous sender, he thinks it’s the beginning of something wonderful. What the boy doesn’t realize is that the pigs have been delivered because of his habit of telling tall tales. The more Eli lies, the faster the pigs grow and the hungrier they become. When his pigs take to secretly raiding neighboring feed supplies and even harming other animals and people, Eli’s impoverished farming community is in danger of financial ruin and even serious injury. Eli must stop the pigs before they hurt anyone else but the pigs have multiplied and the boy discovers they intend to force him to mail their offspring to other deceitful children. Can Eli defeat the products of his own dishonesty before they destroy other families and towns? Or is it too late to tell the truth and make up for what he has done?

I would appreciate the opportunity to send you a few chapters, or the entire manuscript of Little Pig, Little Pig at your request. Feel free to contact me via phone, email, or the enclosed SASE. Thank you for your time and consideration.



Query #2
Critique Archive 0034:

Dear _______

Michael Anderson has never set foot on Earth, but it haunts him as much as the fear that he will never live up to the legacy of his astrophysicist parents. So when his parents construct mankind’s first artificial, traversable wormhole, he sets out on the mission to explore the source of a mysterious signal coming from the other side—a signal originating from an eerily Earth-like world.

Twenty light years from home, an ancient alien ghost ship materializes in mid-space and starts to chase them down. To make matters worse, Terra, Michael’s mission partner, begins acting strangely, avoiding him and refusing to share her work. As the ghost ship draws nearer, Michael must answer: what do the aliens want? Why won’t they respond to his transmissions? What caused the alien civilization on the surface of the world to disappear? And is Terra the one going insane—or is it him?

Genesis Earth is a 73,000 word science fiction novel. While it stands on its own as a complete story, it has potential for at least two sequels. I have one short story published in the January 2010 issue of The Leading Edge (Brigham Young University’s science fiction & fantasy magazine), and in past years I have won first and second place in the annual Mayhew short story contest at BYU.

Thank you very much for your consideration. As noted in your submission guidelines, I have enclosed ______.




Josi said...

Query #1--Shorten the descriptive paragraph, focusing on the main points of the story--character, conflict and climax. I would also like to hear about you, if you have credentials and publishing credits, list them (Query #2 author does this well) if you don't have credentials, no worries, list how long you've been writing and any writing groups you might belong to. You want to give them reason to see that you're serious about your craft.

While it's perfectly acceptable to intro the way you do, with the word count and genre-audience, it's a pretty dry sentence. The first line in a query is as important as the first line in a book. Can you rearrange information to make the opening punchy?

It sounds like you have a fresh idea with a good moral wrapped in entertainment. Good luck.

Query #2--I really liked your opening line, it caught my attention immediately. I would suggest honing the descriptive paragraphs to just one and focusing on the important information, character, conflict climax. You have all the information we need right there, well stated, but I think shorter would be better.

Great way to list the pertinent details of the title, word count and genre, it transitioned smoothly and I liked that you stated your credentials well. If you have any education, you could include that too.

I also liked that you referenced the submission guidelines in your concluding paragraph. It makes the query sound more specific to that exact agent/editor.

Good luck to you both.

Brent Boswell said...

Thanks Josi! :) I'll make some changes right away.

Anonymous said...

Query #1 & #2: It might be nice to have your queries a bit more personalized (I know you are looking for feedback on the basic letter).

Either at the beginning or the end of the letter, state why you are submitting to the particular agent.

Query 1: I think the descriptive paragraph is great, but the whole of the query needs to be more personal (why you are submitting to that agent, and a little about yourself).

Query 2: Too many rhetorical questions in the 2nd paragraph. Maybe limit it to one, the "biggest" question that carries the most conflict.

Bethany Wiggins said...

I read recently on an agents blog that a query letter is a business letter. Remove the extra fluff and keep it short and to the point.