So I've been noticing a something lately that has me concerned: query letters that consist of nothing but summary, summary, summary. And I said the word "summary" three times because that seems to be the popular trend: three paragraphs of summary, end of letter. When did this become okay? Well, I'm here to correct this wrong and save the misinformed query inquirers from rejection. Today and today only, I shall write about a topic that I have been beating into submission for six years:
THE QUERY LETTER
*cue ominous music*
I've gotten rejections. It happens. But I have also gotten requests for partials. Quite a few, in fact (I think the status stands at two for Blind and three for Giving Light). Granted, the acceptance side of my red badge of courage box isn't overflowing, but I'm still rather proud of my humble five. This, I feel, gives me some credibility to say what does and doesn't work in a query (and the fact that I've been studying exactly what does and doesn't work in a query for six years).
I will use my query for Blind, because I like it best. In this example, I sent it to Kathryn Green:
Dear Ms. Green, (if the agent doesn't list a particular name, it is all right to do a "Dear so-and-so Agency".)
Beth isn't crazy. Sure, she doesn't like to hit the college party scene quite as hard as her friends. Sure, she would rather talk about books than pretend to be interested in football to lure in guys. Sure, her dreams are being haunted by an adorable Aussie who's been dead for five years and claims he's her soul mate -- and she believes him. But none of that makes her crazy, right? The 42,000 words of my young adult novel Blind prove that all girls are a little crazy, especially when it comes to issues of destiny, happiness, and any guy with an accent. (Summary. Short, sweet, to the point, hookish. I know it is one of the hardest things in the world to get your story down to a paragraph, but it CAN be done. Have someone unrelated to your story help you. They will know what needs explaining and what isn't necessary to the short summary. Online forums like Absolute Write help with things like this.)
I believe you would be an excellent agent for Blind due to your previous success with the Blue is for Nightmares collection. Beth's dreams are just as real as Stacey's, yet in a different way: instead of prophetic, they are encounters. The relationship Beth experiences in her unconscious state is not a warning to save others -- it becomes a chance to save herself. (I cannot stress how important this paragraph is, and yet it is frequently left out. This paragraph tells the agent why YOU picked THEM. Why you chose to send a query to them specifically. It tells them that you took the time to research them and didn't just send letters whilly-nilly to every agent in New York. If you didn't take the time to research them and chose the best agent for you, why should they read your book?)
I'm currently undergoing my own crazy college experience where I am a staff member for Passages, our literary magazine. This summer I placed second in the Daily News Short Story Contest for my story "On a Holocaust", as well as attended the Backspace Writers Conference in New York. In February my poem "Who Do You Want To Be?" will be published in Credo magazine. (Credentials. It's all right if you don't have any; this is the only paragraph that can be excluded.)
Thank you for the taking the time to consider my novel. I very much look forward to hearing from you!
Simple, neat, to the point. No need for paragraphs and paragraphs of summary; save that for your synopsis. The query is simply to hook the agent on your book's idea, not to explain every sweet detail. Like I said, if you are having problems getting your summary down to a paragraph, check out Absolute Write forums. There's some helpful people over there.
I hope this helps add to the partial-requesting side of your red badge of courage box :)