Tales in Publishing: Query example

Tales in Publishing: 
Query example

I'm sharing my successful query to others in hopes it exemplifies what to do and helps other authors craft their own. Queries are one of the most difficult things for an author to do. From trying to sell yourself to buttering up the recipient, by far the hardest part is to condense your book baby down to blurbs.

For those who are brand new to the scene, if you want to go the more traditional route of publishing (not self-publishing), you usually will need to send a query letter off to publishers and/or agents to get their attention in hopes they'll read your entire manuscript, love it, and represent you. Sounds pretty simple, but there's a format to follow, expectations, and things you should do to to increase your chances. The letter itself is in white and the explanations are in red.

Dear AGENT'S NAME (unless they specify not to send it to one person),

What happens if bees go extinct? In the not so distant future, scientifically modified Emlyn and Ace find themselves thrown into the role of saviors on a perilous mission where their tenuous relationship could save or destroy mankind. (This is your pitch/hook, so sum up the premise, plot, and main characters in a couple sentences. Imagine you must sell the book with only this statement. I spent the most time on this, revising, revising, revising).

Recently, Evernight Teen published my story “Dare” in the Kissed Anthology. (This can appear later, but I wanted them to recognize me as one of their authors from the start) Let me now introduce you to Apidae, a completed YA dystopian romance novel of 55,000 words imbued with eco-fiction and sci-fi themes. (This is standard. Up front they need to know the genre, length, and the sub-genres might make them see it as unique and worth reading) Since as long as she could remember, Emlyn Apidae had always known she was different. A life as a rebel orphan on the run, a governmental agency constantly after her, and her weird relationship to her kindred species, bees, all set her apart from others. That is until she meets Ace, the cocky walking weapon who is just like her, and apparently the one person mentioned in her mother’s last words. Ace, after a stint as a double agent, finally is united with the girl who is his destiny and mission, only to find her beautiful but prickly. Due to their toxic venom, she is the only woman he can ever have a life with and him for her, only Emlyn doesn’t seem to like ultimatums and secrets even less. As the war between rebels and the corrupt government closes in, Ace is bent on self-sacrifice for love and revenge, while Emlyn must choose between her heart and the future of mankind. (This is the synopsis part, quite difficult to condense hundreds of pages to a paragraph, so start small and add details later. Here, I gave everything you need to know without spoilers, subplots, or other characters. I let the reader get to know the two protagonists, their situation--complications and plot--and a vague climax that makes the readers want to know the ending.)

Blending a teenage love story into seemingly hopeless settings and a nonstop action filled plot seems an arduous task, but having BA’s in English, Dramatic Arts, and an MA in English, gives me a vast background of knowledge of character and world building. I’ve published two shorter works, “A Jaded Life” (in Literary Journal Circumambulations) and “Dare” (in Evernight Teen’s Kissed Anthology), and I am also a college English Lecturer. (This is your resume. You only put what you think is relevant to writing. From my experience, they love to hear about degrees in English, and a list of formerly published works is a necessity. If you don't have any, think about working on smaller works to be published on websites, anthologies, literary magazines, popular magazines, etc. Previous works prove that you have what it takes and they'll feel confident taking a chance on you) I strongly believe in the effectiveness of publicity through social media and blogging; however, I am looking for representation in the center of the publishing world to champion my full-length manuscripts. It would be a pleasure to work with an established publishing company such as PUBLISHING CO/AGENCY which truly fosters a welcoming community of authors and staff. It would be a pleasure to extend the relationship already fostered with your company. (Here, you butter them up a bit through researching their site, company, and/or agent. I didn't do much here but remind them they knew me and worked with me. What could go here is flattering them through facts of famous authors they represent, bestselling books they represent, etc. Do your research. Make sure it is personalized for that person or company. You could tell them your book would pair well with their interest in quirky fantasy, for example, if that is true).

I look forward to hearing from you soon and humbly thank you for your time. (Here you might want to add some phrasing asking if you can send them your full-length manuscript or something in addition to whatever they asked for with this query. Pay attention to their submissions website. My publisher asked for the entire manuscript, so there was no need to ask. Some ask for first 3 chapters, 50 pages, a 2 page synopsis, etc. If they do not ask for the entire thing, then ask them if they want it.)


Lisa Borne Graves

(Put in all your links; if you don't employ social media, set it up, as publishers and agents expect you to employ it. If you are serious about your writing, buy a domain name. They're pretty cheap. If you are published, create author pages and link them.)


Overall, this is probably the sixth query letter I've drafted. The first one I based off of other authors' letters and helpful blogs. I also had a published colleague edit my first one for me which really helped tremendously. By the third one, it became much easier. If you struggle, that is completely normal. A lot of authors complain about queries. I don't mind it so much. I write them as soon as I'm finished the rough draft for two reasons: the story is fresh in my mind and so I have time to perfect it, editing it as I edit my stories.
If the query sparked your interest, you can buy the novel here.