I labored over this query letter. I researched (pretty sure I’m the queen of research), read examples, read so many articles titled “How to Write a Query Letter”, and then I pounded it out. I knew it wasn’t terrific, but I considered it decent enough. After all, I only needed to get one agent’s attention, right? This is what I ended up with (names and addresses removed, just pretend it’s done in official business-letter style):
I am seeking representation for my debut novel Origins, an urban fantasy with a focus on werewolves. I found your name on AgentQuery.com and learned through your website that you were seeking new clients. With your interest in sci-fi/fantasy authors, I believe my novel would be a good fit.
Origins is just over 90,000 words and is intended to serve as a jumping off point for a further series. It begins with 3 college students in Chicago who are abducted by a team of werewolves and transported to a secret compound in the jungles of Peru. There, they are turned into werewolves themselves. Jesse and Dylan are made to fight other werewolves in the arena for sport, while Kate is used as an experiment on how the transition affects her unborn baby.
Told from the perspective of multiple characters, each chapter focuses on what one character is experiencing at that point in the story. In addition to the three initial protagonists, additional characters are granted chapters as they become relevant. On the surface, Origins is about survival and escape, but it also explores the nature of entrapment, the role of family, and what it means to be a monster.
As already mentioned, this is my first completed novel. I have recently completed James Patterson’s Masterclass and was chosen as a semi-finalist in his 2017 co-author competition.
Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience.
So, what went wrong? I have some ideas, and some of these are parts where I disregarded recommendations because I didn’t think the letter made as much sense without them.
I actually think this is pretty solid. It’s fairly generic, but it states my purpose, my connection to the agent, and why I think my novel would be a good fit for them. It’s important to give them the name and genre of your novel here.
It’s important to quickly list your word count, too, so I did that right (yay!). But then I said that I planned for this book to start a series. Which is true, but not a good idea to tell them. I’m not trying to sell them a series, I’m trying to sell them a single book. That’s information better kept to myself until things progress further.
I also don’t think I did a good job introducing my novel. It sounds kind of boring, but I couldn’t come up with anything better to say. How do you condense something so big into a couple of sentences that accurately convey what your book is about?
I talked about themes. I couldn’t think of anything content-wise to follow Paragraph 2, so I tried to generalize what I wanted them to understand about the story as a whole. That’s another recommendation I skipped. Don’t tell them what themes are in your book. If you’ve done your job right, they’ll be able to tell. A better thing to focus on is what conflict your protagonist is facing, what decisions they have to make, and what hurdles stand in their way.
Writing credentials. I don’t have any. Not any that count, at least. I’m sure they don’t care that I had poems published in the Fall Foliage magazine in the fifth grade. I don’t know if they care about the co-author competition, but it’s all I have, so I put it in there.
Nailed this one. Polite, to the point. This is not where you beg the agent to read your book, or insist that it’s the best thing they’ll read this year. Obviously you think it’s worth something if you’re sending it to them, so don’t lay on the praise. Let your writing speak for itself.
So, those are the mistakes I’m pretty sure I made. I’ll never truly know, because none of the agents told me what made them reject my novel, but I think I have it figured out. This part, at least. And these lessons will help me to make my next letter better than this one.
Stay tuned. I think next time I’ll share some of the responses I got to my query.