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HALFWAY TO THE GRAVE query

 
Well, folks, it's my turn to share my query letter. As you will see from my query below, you don't have to have a good query to snag an agent. I will freely admit that I suck at writing queries. My first attempts were so long and rambling, I'd probably put half the agents to sleep by the time I got to my contact information. So after a slew of rejections, I'd trimmed my query letter to just the barest, barest essentials, and made sure to submit to places that allowed me to include sample pages, since I thought my pages were decent even if my queries weren't.
 
So here was my query:
 
***
 
Dear [agent's name],
 
I am seeking representation for my fantasy manuscript, Halfway to the Grave, set in present times and completed at 103K words.

Cat is daddy’s little girl with a vengeance and she’s after her father, the deadbeat who wasn’t alive when he raped her mother. It will take the help of another vampire to find him, and to show her that being half-dead doesn’t have to be all bad.

Halfway to the Grave is a novel with heat, humor and teeth. Please see the synopsis and pages 1 – 5 for your review. My SASE is enclosed for your reply. Thank you for your time.
 
Best regards,
Jeaniene Frost
[contact information]
 
***
 
And because my former agent used me as an example before on her blog, below is her commentary on my query:


"Very brief, but it doesn’t need to be long, because her opening pages are great. I don’t need a long query to see that she’s got a clever way with words, a protagonist with a cool background and an intriguing goal. 

Heat, humor, and teeth. I love that. And it does have all that: It’s sexy, funny, and tough. I have to admit, the short query looks ultra-confident to me. It allows the work to speak for itself. (Not to say I want: Dear Ms. Agent: Enclosed please find first five pages and synopsis. Sincerely, Ms. Writer.) But I like the brief character sketch plus main goal plus main obstacle approach. Short and sweet. Then a sample of the writing that shows off the tone. Then a synopsis if I need further details about the story. Perfect."
 
***
If you want to see the sample pages I'd included, you can go here.  Read up to the sentence "Hells bells, it was my lucky night." because that's where page five ended on my double-spaced sample. 
 
 
So again, if query letters are kicking your a$$ but you feel like your opening scene could be enough to get you a request for a full, sometimes a really short query plus sample pages is all you need. I'm proof of that. Of course, don't send sample pages unless the agent's submission guidelines allow you to, and ONLY send the number of pages those guidelines show. Following directions should be Query Rule #1 for all writers.
 
 
-Jeaniene Frost

Comments

( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
sleepingfingers
Oct. 29th, 2007 12:13 am (UTC)
Thank you for sharing your query and your agent's response to it. Reading the query (and the first chapter through the link) makes me really want to read the novel. :)
frost_light
Oct. 29th, 2007 01:47 pm (UTC)
Thanks so much!
(Deleted comment)
frost_light
Oct. 29th, 2007 01:49 pm (UTC)
The first query WAS awful. Ugh. I shudder to even look back at it. It's a perfect example why not to think that your first attempt is your best attempt, lol.
(Anonymous)
Nov. 15th, 2007 05:57 am (UTC)
Good for you...
What's interesting (though pull-my-hair-out frustrating) is that your successful query breaks numerous *RULES*. For instance, you don't say why you are specifically pursuing this agent, you don't talk about your background, no mention of other work out or in process. You reference the SASE enclosed, which I hear is an indication of an amateur to mention. And there are at least several other things that are "wrong" with this query. So why did it work for you? (I'm glad it did for you, but you must understand the frustration.)
I'm also wondering how you received any comments about the first query. Did Rachel provide those after-the-fact? (Surely, all you got was a form rejection the first time, right? Please tell me that - if not, just lie, it will be kinder.)
frost_light
Nov. 15th, 2007 06:59 pm (UTC)
Re: Good for you...
"you don't say (1) why you are specifically pursuing this agent, (2) you don't talk about your background, (3) no mention of other work out or in process."

(1) I originally queried Rachel when she was with Donald Maass, BEFORE she sold several UF/paranormal novels, so there wasn't a particular reason I chose her except for the fact that she was at a very respectable agency. (2) I had no literary background to speak of, either with publishing credits or relevant education, so I couldn't mention what wasn't there. (3) I had no other work out, and while I'd written other novels in this series, I didn't mention them because if an agent wasn't interested in book one of the series, then he/she could care less whether I had books two or three finished as well.

Why did this query work for me? Well, it wasn't so much the query that interested Rachel (as she mentioned in her notes). It was my sample pages she liked. Now, these were the same sample pages that another agency rejected, so when people say it's all about subjectivity, they're not kidding. I know that answer doesn't really help you while you're going through the extremely frustrating query process, but I hope it does highlight not to take rejections personally, and to query widely. Also, Rachel provided this feedback *after* she'd signed me and sold my novels. The first time I queried her, I received a form-letter rejection with no reason why. But I revised, revamped my query, waited several months, and tried again, so there's something to be said for stubborn persistence, too :)
(Anonymous)
Nov. 16th, 2007 04:19 pm (UTC)
Re: Good for you...
Thanks for your reply to my exasperated note.
I also have no relevant literary experience, but was directed by someone "in the business" that I still must say *something* about what I do or who I am. I think I will remove that from my query now. Thanks. Your starting point for the ms is probably better than the original for the market's expectations, I suppose; although personally I liked the original better! It is all subjective, isn't it? I don't see why every book has to start in the middle of action involving characters we don't care about yet. The best books of the past certainly don't. But, we gotta do what we gotta do, I guess.
Anyway, good luck going forward, and congrats!
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )

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