Monday, December 6, 2010

Writing Query Letters

Writing Query Letters

Bar-complaint_001Apparently there’s some kind of “tradition” floating about the publishing industry called the “Query Letter”. The Query Letter is a concise one-page description of your work and about you. It can include elements such as a teaser, a short paragraph about the book, and an author’s credits. I’m not going to pretend I know diddly squat about writing them here. All I know is that they’re a stepping stone, the first step to publication. It must entice a potential agent just enough to get them to read a synopsis or even the whole book.

But like lipstick on a pig, not every agent will love your query, no matter how well-written the query (or the book) is. It’s just something to get you into the door, to distinguish you from the 100 other queries that agent has received that day. (It’s not a job I’d envy). The ironic thing is that the best authors may not write the best queries, and vice-versa. Yes, I keep telling myself that. Actually a bad query just sucks.

Here’s the only real piece of advice I have. I think queries should represent the book. Put the most heartfelt part of your story into the query and go with it. Let your self show. Oh, and try to avoid grammatical and spelling errors.

So what do you do when you think you’re ready to query? Here are 3 sites I recommend posting your query on for feedback:

Agent Query Connect
Query Tracker Forums
The Public Query Slushpile

With that said, here’s the latest query for Steam Palace. Comments encouraged.

December 6, 2010

Agent Name
City, State, Zip

Dear Ms. Super-Duper Agent,

After meeting your Evil Twin, you might just wonder which one you are.

In a world swimming in mechohorses and dirigible aivies, where the former New England colonies created a British-style monarchy, a newborn twin is stolen. Sophia is raised in a noble house and provided every advantage, while her unknown twin Viola suffers crippling poverty. A score and three years later when they first meet, Sophia is destitute; her family name and lands a victim of an unfortunate dispute with the King. Meanwhile, to Sophia’s horror, her doppelgänger Viola lives a rich, vile life off the profits of sin.

To restore her family name and ‘save’ her newfound sister from an ignominious fate, Sophia enters Viola’s dark world of the Steam Palace, a floating den of iniquity built upon a derelict barge. When Sophia’s rebuff of the Duke—Viola’s secret lover—leads to an imminent invasion the monarchy, Sophia wonders which is truly the ‘Evil’ twin. She must unite with wretched Viola to protect their families before their steam-powered enemy exterminates their hated race…Americans.

STEAM PALACE, a Steampunk Adventure, is complete at 120,000 words. I have completed a Creative Writing certificate course at the University of Washington, completed Holly Lisle’s “How To Revise Your Novel” online course, and I co-host a local critique group.

Thank you for your consideration.


  1. Sound advice and great sites. Queries are indeed difficult. I wish you good luck on your submissions.
    Edge of Your Seat Romance

  2. Line Item Corrections:

    Fragment: ... her family name and lands a victim of an unfortunate dispute with the King.

    Missing word: ... invasion "of" the monarchy.

    Writing queries sucks. It's right up there with resumes.

    - Eric

  3. I have seen on various sights not to put the address of the agent at the top. Just begin the letter with the date and Dear Uber-Agent.

    Of all the manifestations of this query, I think this is the one Andrew. Very nice. Tight, succinct, clearly your voice can be heard. I like it a lot.

    Best of luck.

  4. I'd rather edit and revise than write a query. I totally suck at the process.

    I was lucky enough to get a query critique from the freelance editor Lynette Labelle, and she has some suggestions for making my own query stronger.

    I need to revise it and send it back so she can post it again.

    Good points to keep in mind. Especially about how the query should reflect the novel.


  5. It just gets difficult at times!
    Yours makes it so simple and beautiful..
    First time here.

  6. Andrew, I cut and pasted your query into word and made comments and highlighted a few things. I like to be thorough that way, lol. If you want the whole thing I can email it to you. Sorry if that's a bit weird. I'm in critique mode for CDCoffelt so I went with it.

    But here's the general gist:
    What I see: who? Sophia
    What does she want? Restore her family name and save her sister from a life of sin.
    Who/what is in the way? This is cloudy, but I’m guessing Viola herself in some ways, and the monarchy?
    What are the stakes? Extermination?

    It looks like all the elements are here, and I think it’s pretty good. There were a few spots I had to re-read for clarification, but that’s just because I’m not a heavy steam punk reader.

    I made some other line comments and highlighted adverbs and adjectives. Some are necessary, but you could drop many of them.

  7. @Raquel: It's almost as hard as writing the whole book.

    @Eric: D'ohh! Thanks

    @Anne: I've seen it both ways. It's a business letter, so I think it's okay.

    @Donna: It should reflect it but not just be a synopsis. Sort of the spirit vs the letter of the novel. :)

    @2: Just keep working on it!

    @Charity: Sent you an email.

  8. Andrew, fantastic job on the query! I love this phrase in your explanation above it: "lipstick on a pig" Hehehe. :)

    I do think you could zilch some of the adverbs, but that's just personal preference.


Constructive comments are welcome.
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