I found writing my query letter was one of the most gut-wrenching parts of the whole “getting an agent” thing. It pales beside the agony of waiting to hear back on fulls, but on the “awful spectrum” I’d still happily place it somewhere between Vogon poetry and a back to back screening of every Michael Bay film ever made .
First off, there are a bunch of differing opinions around the traps on how to do it. For what’s it’s worth, I relied mainly on the advice of the wonderful Anne Mini and her superlative blog , Janet Reid and the dreaded Query Shark (who incidentally shit-canned me with a form rejection faster than a prom-night BJ) and of course, the dearly missed Miss Snark (much <3). These people have given you all the resources you need to craft a good letter, and each is far better versed in schooling you than I am. You just need to figure out a) Who to believe and b) When to ignore everything they say and just go with your gut.
The act of condensing your 80-90k labor of love into a single page, a single hook with enough “voice” to sell your writing skillz seems impossible, and I don’t claim to be any kind of expert, but I’m thinking that I must have done something right. Looking at my battered little “query results” spreadsheet, this query letter netted me a total of 4 partial requests plus 12 more full requests in a little over 3 months, leading to four offers of representation. Along the way, I got 22 form kicks to the bollocks and a bunch of “no response”.
Incidentally, it never hurts to resend a query if you get no response from the agent, even if said agent is a “no response means no’ kind of person. The worst that can happen is you get no response again. The best that can happen is a partial/full request and an offer of rep, which happened to me. Without further foreplay, here it is:
Griffins were supposed to be extinct. Maybe that’s why she couldn’t let one die.
Yukiko’s hunt for a legendary beast has gone horribly wrong and now she’s stranded; a sixteen year old girl in the country’s last wilderness, with only a furious griffin with broken wings for company. Even though she can hear his thoughts, even though she saved his life, all she knows for certain is that he’d rather see her dead than help her. But trapped together in the wilderness, Yukiko and the griffin find a friendship that neither expected.
Her homeland, Shima, is on the brink of environmental collapse, flora and fauna decimated by mechanization and the toxic, Guild-controlled fuel called chi. Upon her return to civilization, Yukiko’s father is imprisoned by the Shōgun. She becomes entangled in deadly court intrigue and a blossoming romance with a young samurai. Enlisting the aid of a rebellious guildsman and an anarchist cabal, she pits herself against the authorities, facing jealousy, betrayal and murder in the hope of seeing her father freed, her homeland saved and the griffin fly again.
STORMDANCER is an 80,000 word steampunk fantasy novel. It’s ‘Free Willy’ meets ‘How to train your dragon’ in dystopian feudal Japan with a Rage Against the Machine soundtrack.
My first 50 pages are enclosed. Unfortunately I was unable to include a SASE – I live in Australia and our postal system is run by muppets. I apologize for the inconvenience this will surely cause. Hopefully one day my great sun burnt country will enjoy a postal system not reliant on horse and carriage or koala bears. I hear rumor that we’re getting running water installed next year, which I’m quite looking forward to.
If you could respond to me by email, I’d be very grateful. Thanks for your time.
I will say it doesn’t seem to hurt to do something a little bit different (the joke about muppets in the postal system got a few lols, and some running gags going on some of the full requests). Of course, I’d clip that entire paragraph on an e-query. I’d usually replace it with something to prove I’d done a little research about the agent I was querying (I ❤ ur blog, etc), presuming that information about said agent wasn’t as scarce as straight men at a Lady Gaga concert.
Note: “Doing something different” doesn’t mean painting the query letter in your own blood or kidnapping the agent’s zebra. Just sayin’.