The letter that queries …
I’ve been sending out query letters to over 70 agents in the last year or so. I just learnt that I’ve been doing it all wrong We’d worked on the query letter and polished it and reworked it till we were sure that it was OK. But what we neglected to do was get a second opinion and that proved to be fatal. Somewhere along the way, in between all the reading on how to do an effective query letter and how to do a great synopsis, I seem to have got things muddled. Instead of writing a query letter, I’d been trying to write a query letter with an embedded synopsis. This was finally pointed out to me yesterday when I submitted my query letter for critting :p
Most online resource on query letters says to stick to about one page in length and to stick with three paragraphs – the first an introduction giving your title, genre, word count etc., the second details about your story and the third a description of yourself and your qualifications. Mine ran to four paragraphs I think and two of those were devoted to the story and yet, I didn’t do too good a job of it – as was pointed out to me I thought that the whole story, both the beginning and the ending, had to be there. But it turns out that what I should have done was provide a teaser. Describe how the story starts and get them hooked but not go beyond that point. If they want to know more, then they can ask for a partial or the full manuscript. Simple, and yet apparently so easy to overlook.
My revised query letter turned out to be only two paragraphs since the first paragraph with the book title, genre and word count turned out to be a single sentence :p I merged that with the second paragraph detailing the story and came up with a much, much shorter two paragraph query. This time however, I’m going to get it critted before I try submitting to anybody else :p