Query Letters that Win
The life of an agent constantly revolves around the email inbox. We have a love/hate relationship with the inbox, as it can be a constant reminder of how much work needs to be done, but providing some special “gems” at any random moment (i.e. notes from authors, good queries, publication offers and more) One of the biggest challenges for any writer is to write a query letter that has the kind of “win” that leads to a request for the valued object – the book it represents. Every conference, blog and book that discusses query letters will provide a formula in writing a good query letter. Yet the there are some characteristics that should naturally be evident in the letter, all which require one important ingredient – lots of heart.
How will an agent see the heart in your query? Through a strong log line, a good hook. The best sign that a person has written a book that shows heart is the ability to rope in the agent’s interest from the first sentence.
All twelve-year-old Dillon wants is to be a real dancer. And the opportunity of a lifetime just waltzed into his world—a chance to compete for a summer scholarship at Dance-Splosion, the biggest studio in the state. The problem? He’s got to hide it all from his best friends and current dance crew, the Dizzee Freekz. Kassie, their leader has one simple rule: dance studios are for sell-outs.
–I will always refer to this as the awesome book that got away. It landed in another agent’s hands (my awesome friend no less). I’m excitedly waiting to see this book on shelves next year; as this query presented a great hook that also had a wonderful book to match.
Most teenagers, when they come of age, get tattoos as an act of rebellion. But what if those tattoos were Magic, and determined your future? What if they told the world what you would do for the rest of your life? This is the world of Inked, where avoiding getting a tattoo, getting Inked, isn’t an act of rebellion… it’s self-inflicted exile.
–Thankfully this wasn’t the book that got away and I’m excited to see Eric Smith’s book published by Bloombury Spark in the near future. It has a great hook, appealed to my sensibilities as a reader (and agent), and really embraced the “geek” that I want in my titles. Good queries will appeal to the nature of the agents’ personal tastes. If you can garner a reaction from an agent in a matter of 3-4 paragraphs, it’s an effective query letter. And the quicker the response, the more likely your query letter stood out in an overcrowded inbox.
Herman Lingenfelter Vanderbrüt has only known misery at The Bunchard School for Boys in Germany’s Black Forest. He lives in a chicken coop, is ridiculed by the headmaster, and works on an assembly line to produce Black Forest cuckoo clocks. But when several boys disappear, Herman soon discovers why–Smackers the Glunk is hunting children in the woods. With the help of new friends, Herman narrowly misses the Glunk’s razor-sharp teeth and flees to the Cursed Deeps, an underground labyrinth of tunnels where even more danger and an untold secret await him.
-If anyone follows me on Twitter, I have mentioned my love of cuckoo clocks. The author had me requesting a partial as soon as I saw the word “cuckoo.” Pages were requested, with a request to read the entire manuscript shortly after. I now hope that someday once the revisions are complete, I can see this book again.
I’m pleasantly surprised to find a literary agent that is actively seeking proposals specifically on roller derby. Especially someone who is currently in the derby scene. Hopefully this allows me to forego describing the world of women’s flat track roller derby and its exponential growth around the world over the past few years.
I assume no explanation needed here. Let’s just say there was an immediate response, and the final product (NO MERCY: Roller Derby on the Flat Track) was beautiful.
When the agent sees the heart in your query, and it’s something that easy to connect too on more than one level, there’s a good chance a request will be made to see your book (phase 1 of operation-get-your-book-published)