Q/A: What’s a Query

Q/A Wednesday: What’s a Query?

While awaiting final feedback (and not trimming the rest of my novel), I’ve been fine-tuning my query.

There are many websites and resources that speak far more eloquently than I, but in short, a query letter is what you send to an agent or a publisher to entice them into representing or publishing your novel.

They say to keep it under a page.

Captain Picard furrows his brow and reaches towards you,
Captain Picard understands the struggle.
Step One: Always address it to a specific person.
Step Two: Launch into your basic novel facts (“word count”, genre, title) and your hook. Hone your hook to a sharp point. Make it intriguing and unique in all the world.
Step Three: Give a short synopsis paragraph or 3, similar to a book blurb, but giving away a bit more plot than that. This is hard. This is astronomically hard.
Step Four: Mention a little about yourself and name any writing accolades you may have.

Read up on the agent or editor you’re submitting to and tailor your query for them. Selecting an agent is another post, but don’t just create a form letter and blanket every agent. Feel free to write a sentence or two at the beginning of your query about what drew you to this agent/editor- did you meet/talk with them? Do you follow their blog? Do you enjoy the other authors they represent?

This is my first time writing a query letter.


Let me amend that.

This is the first novel I’ve written a query letter for. This is about the 50th draft, but I’m posting it here as an example anyway. The benefit of reading this blog is you get to read as I share what I’ve learned as I go along. I’ll just have to wait and see if it works:

Dear Agent Name, [Specific name]

I would like you to consider representing my 120,000 word fantasy novel, DEMON MARKED. [Polite request. Word count. Genre. Title.] When Lilyan’s so-called demon marks are exposed, she’s forced into exile. Disguised as a pilgrim, Lilyan finds a new home and awakens her birthright, but the call of blood proves stronger than the safety of her new life. [hook/pitch]

Lilyan is pleased with her life as an apprentice church inker, but she hides a dangerous secret. Her so-called demon-marks are an automatic life sentence to her family for aiding-and-abetting (and worse for her). She knows she should run, but stalls, until her inadvertent exposure endangers her family. Accepting exile to keep them safe, she disguises herself as the pilgrim she wishes she were. Lilyan’s search for safety takes her to the very edge of the haunted Murienridge Bluffs… and beyond. [Brief Synopsis. About 3 paragraphs]

[More plot exposed here]

[Hints about the ending, but no details, to entice them!]

Lilyan has a sister to save, in the last place she ever expected to see.

Demon Marked is my first novel. [Yeah… I don’t have much here, yet.]

Thank you for your time. [Hmmm, maybe I should let them know to just ask if they want more. Oh, wait, That’s the point of a query, so that seems a bit redundant. Perhaps I’ll just keep it short and sweet.]

Morgan Hazelwood

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