Friday, November 16, 2012

Queries, Part 2: Writing Your Query Letter

Photo by Zion
For something so simple, a single page, queries can seem remarkably complicated. And, for something so simple, they're very important because they may be the only opportunity you have to connect with an agent.

Last post, we talked about how to prepare before writing a query. This week, we're going to talk about how to write that query.

What kinds of things should you include when writing a query letter? In my opinion, it's a great idea to start with the basic three paragraphs, and then add more if you choose.

Introduction

This can include why you queried the agent or mention of a recommendation you might have from a client of that particular agent. Also, you can add here if you've met the agent, how your books are like others the agent may know, or even put a hook. In addition, don't forget to include your genre, word count, and it doesn't hurt to let them know your manuscript is complete.

Book Summary

This is a brief summary about your book, introducing your character, highlighting the conflict, and making the agent want to read more.

Bio

You can tell the agent about yourself here, anything that qualifies you to write the book you wrote. Also, you can include any writing organizations you're with or any writing awards you've won, as well as a blog or website readers connect with you at.

Sounds simple enough, right? Well, simpler is better. You get one page to grab that agent, so anything that's going to make them notice you (in a professional way) is great.

Here are two sample query letters, one by myself and one by our lovely Pepper, for you to see how we've both taken the basics and added our own style to them (while still staying within one page).

Query #1

Dear (name of agent),

I’m seeking representation for my completed 88,000-word romantic comedy, A Lot Like Life, which finaled in this years Genesis contest, and also finaled in the RWA Gotcha contest. Sharing the humor and quirky characters of such novelists as Jenny B. Jones and Janice Thompson, A Lot Like Life focuses on a main character who finds love, family, and faith in a town that’s been known to search the night skies for UFOs.

Mia Langford paints life as she sees it. Her current painting, Dumped and Fired, is just another reminder her life is way off course. When her father dies, she’s summoned to the unusual town of Whimsy, where the religious north side is constantly at battle with the superstitious south side. Her estranged twin sister welcomes her and reveals they’ve jointly inherited the tattered inn their father intended to fix up and open, giving Mia another reason to run from her life. But when her sister offers to buy her share if Mia stays five months to renovate the inn, the only things stopping her from leaving are escape from financial debt and the chance to pursue her art. That, and the mailman, of course.

Lucas Scott’s parents are the epitome of the north side—religious, perfectionists, and not at all happy with Lucas’s choice to deliver mail for a living. So when he meets Mia, rebellious and uninhibited by her beliefs, he’s drawn to the woman who accepts him as he is. But Mia’s secretive past reveals a woman quick to run from commitment and his not so secretive past taught him not to trust women. However, the more time they spend together, the more their views mesh, and they begin to fall in love. When the sisters start receiving warnings to stop fixing up the inn, both sides of town clash, and Lucas struggles to protect Mia from an unknown threat—as well as his true feelings. After the inn opens, Bigfoot sightings and a kidnapping stop Mia from leaving, but will their connection endure once Mia and Lucas solve the mystery?

I am a member of ACFW and have two well-established critique partners. In addition to a group blog, The Writer’s Alley, I manage my own blog. I have the opportunity to use those two avenues, as well as other social media to help market the book.

This is a simultaneous submission. Would you be interested in seeing more of A Lot Like Life?

Query #2 

It was a pleasure to meet you at ACFW, especially after having sent my Contemporary Romance proposal to you earlier. Now I am pleased to introduce you to my Speculative Fiction, Heartless.

Sophia Quinn is an Ancient – a 300 year old Healer from Celtic descent who has two primary purposes: Save those she can and destroy all the others. Sent to infiltrate a new cult of vampires hidden in the hollows of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Sophia meets Ethan Taylor, her contact and a hybrid vampire. Torn between wanting to kill him and other less hostile feelings, Sophia and Ethan embark on a perilous mission to battle the cult father and a psychotic scientist bent on immortality. Joined by her siblings and a fifteen year old Appalachian girl, they battle against forces much darker than the moonless Appalachian sky – maybe even the guide she’s grown to trust. How can Sophia trust her heart to someone who doesn’t have one? Is she willing to sacrifice the duty of family calling for a life outside of that legacy? Will Ethan be the key to a one-thousand year old prophecy or a spy for the undead?

ACFW’s Genesis contest was the first time I submitted this novel for someone’s critique and it ended up finaling in the contest. Although vampires in Christian fiction have been fairly taboo in the past, with successful novels like The Jerusalem Undead Trilogy by Eric Wilson, the doors and hearts of some readers are opening to the possibilities. Due to the very ‘spiritual’ history of vampires in general, their stories become perfect opportunities to discuss the pull of darkness against the ‘call’ of the light.

Set among the mountains and valleys of my home in the Blue Ridge Mountains, the novel combines the mystery and mysticism of the Celtic culture passed down to their Appalachian ancestors. It is 75 % complete, presently at 60,000 words and will be completed within two months. It is geared toward the fast-growing YA audience i.e. “Breath of Angel”, Karen Henley, Waterbrook Press, but would also fit within the adult supernatural/speculative fiction realm.

I’ve completed the Christian Writers Guild-Journeyman course, started a thriving group writer’s blog, attended the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference annually, and had the privilege of attending my second ACFW conference this year where we met. I hope to write many books in various genres in the future.

On a personal note, I am a pastor’s wife, mother of five, speech-language pathologist, and university instructor who has an abiding love for dark chocolate, jazz music, and any movie that makes me laugh or cry. Laughter is necessary for maintaining my sanity. God’s grace is necessary for maintaining my faith. Chocolate is…well…just necessary.

I hope to develop a long-term relationship with an agent and am open to his/her guidance in not only the marketing process, but the writing also. I look forward to hearing from you.


How do YOU write queries? Are you quick and to the point, or the kind that takes the whole page? And if you haven't written a query yet, what are some questions or concerns you have?

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Cindy is a Colorado native, living near the mountains with her husband and three beautiful daughters. She writes contemporary Christian romance, seeking to enrich lives with her stories of faith, love, and a touch of humor.

To learn more about Cindy, visit her at her personal blog, www.cindyrwilson.com

9 comments:

Jill said...

This is great information, Cindy! I haven't written a query at this point in my writing journey, but this will be a great resource when the time comes. I agree, chocolate is always necessary. :)

Loree Huebner said...

Ooooh, I hate the query letter process.


You given great tips to follow, Cindy! I've written many queries and still find it very stressful.

Lindsay Harrel said...

Great examples!!

Cindy R. Wilson said...

Jill, I also agree about the chocolate! I hope the information ends up useful.

Cindy R. Wilson said...

Loree, query writing can definitely be stressful. It really helps to have a support system of other writers to help and edit :)

Cindy R. Wilson said...

Thanks, Lindsay! Hope you have a great weekend!

Jeanne T said...

Thanks for this, Cindy. I haven't written a query, yet. But I know I will sometime in the not too distant future. Your suggestions are helpful, and seeing yours and Pepper's queries was great. Thanks!

Cindy R. Wilson said...

You're welcome, Jeanne! Good luck on your future queries!

Karen Schravemade said...

These really are fabulous examples, Cindy! The queries are both so well written. Your book sounds like SO much fun!! I love the bit about the painting, "Dumped and Fired". That made me chuckle!

And the vampire story - who knew our sweet Pepper had such a dark side?! LOL. Sounds brilliant - right on the money for a young adult audience.