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Carolyn Howard-Johnson
March 5th, 2012, 08:08 PM
This is a letter I wrote thattargets media that specialize in senior readers. Obviously, it is a query not to get published or get an agent, but to get poublicity. Most newspapers are interested in storiesby, about, or of interest to people over fifty-five. Some target that audience specificcally. It was printed on a letterheadwith complete contact information in the header and award logos in the footer. Note that I've annotate the letter so you can see how it is broken down into parts. That's what I do in the Appendix of The Frugal Book Promoter (www.budurl.com/FrugalBkPromo (http://www.budurl.com/FrugalBkPromo))
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The FolliesFootlighter<o:p></o:p>Joelle Casteix, Editor<o:p></o:p>128 S. Palm Canyon Dr.<o:p></o:p>Palm Springs, Ca. 92262<o:p></o:p><o:p> </o:p>Dear Ms. Casteix,<o:p></o:p><o:p> </o:p>What you at the Palm Springs Follies started is ratherlike a film of falling dominoes run in reverse—one domino after the otherstanding and marching into their older years with pride and gusto. (Here the letter establishes a connectionto the theater’s demographic.)<o:p></o:p><o:p> </o:p>I attended your Follies many times when I lived in PalmSprings and owned a business there (Carlan’s Fine Gifts in the Palm DesertMall). In fact it inspired me to begin writing a novel at the age most arecontemplating retirement. (Here theletter establishes a local connection as well as a connection because of age.)<o:p></o:p><o:p> </o:p>It is pretty amazing to have one’s first novelpublished at sixty-two, but I think my story is typical of aging America and Iknow you agree. We are not aging. We are rarifying.<o:p></o:p><o:p> </o:p>Today as we approach fifty, we may have what was once afull lifetime to do something else. Start a new career. Fight intolerance. Helpraise a grandchild. You name it. I have done or am planning to do all of thosethings.<o:p></o:p><o:p> </o:p>My first novel, ThisIs the Place, is set in Utah at a time when that state is surely in thenews. The 2002 Winter Olympics. Polygamy. Bombings on Temple Square. There waseven a cover story on genealogy in Timemagazine last year. My love of genealogy was one of the inspirations for mybook. (Here the letter establishes aconnection with current events.)<o:p></o:p><o:p> </o:p>The media are finding it interesting that I started anew career at an age that many are considering retirement. In February the Los Angeles Daily News ran a story on meand I was also interviewed by a Los Angeles TV station. (Here the letter establishes credibility.)<o:p></o:p><o:p> </o:p>If you need more information, find a picture, a bio,and the first chapters and prologue to ThisIs the Place by going to:<o:p></o:p>howtodoitfrugally.com/this_is_the_place_excerpts.htm (http://www.tlt.com/authors/carolynhowardjohnson.htm).<o:p></o:p>Find reviews for it athowtodoitfrugally.com/reviews4.htm.<o:p></o:p><o:p> </o:p>I am enclosing a first-person essay and a headshot incase you can find room for me on the pages of your Follies Footlighter. If I can do anything else to help you or wecan work together in some other way, please let me know. Thank you so much foryour time and consideration.<o:p></o:p><o:p> </o:p>Sincerely,<o:p></o:p>Carolyn Howard-Johnson<o:p></o:p>

Carolyn Howard-Johnson
March 8th, 2012, 12:43 PM
Here is another excerpt from the Frugal Book Promoter's Appendix. This one for agents or publishers. Remember, though. You want your query letter to be unique; it shouldn't slavishly follow any template. And this one is annotated in bold so that you can deconstruct it and figure out how to make the essentials apply to your book.

Because query letters are important for many steps in thepublishing and marketing processes, I include several examples for you to useas inspiration.<o:p></o:p>
<o:p> </o:p>Sample query for anagent or acquisitions editor.<o:p></o:p>
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An author must carefully researchan agent’s or publisher’s preferences. The construction of this letter worksfor most any query, but the tone would not be suitable if an agent representsonly nonfiction or speculative fiction. <o:p></o:p><o:p> </o:p>
Dear Agent or Editor: (Note: You will use a carefully researched name here.)<o:p></o:p><o:p> </o:p>Memory is subtle like the caress of a spider’s webacross one’s face or the sweet scent of jasmine in the approaching dusk. It evokesemotion—the sweet, the painful, the frightening—one by one or all at once. Itis our connection to the souls of others and to our own identity.<o:p></o:p><o:p> </o:p>Harkening is a collection of creative nonfiction that does thosethings. It moves through the generations of a single, isolated family living inUtah. It touches on the repression of women, the pain of prejudice, the warmthof family. It moves lineally from the 20s to the present, revealing the livesof a dysfunctional but loving family. (Thisis an example of a short soft-sell synopsis.)<o:p></o:p><o:p> </o:p>I have a varied background as a writer. I was a staffwriter for The Salt Lake Tribune andam now a columnist for the Pasadena StarNews. My novel, This Is the Place,was published by AmErica House in July of 2001 and is already an award-winning noveland has received favorable reviews like this one from Library Journal:<o:p></o:p> “Howard-Johnsonstrengthens her novel with behind-the-scenes details of Mormon life and historyin a book suitable for all collections, particularly those where . . . OrsonScott Card’s . . . books are popular.” (HereI used one of those all-important blurbs we talked about in this book.)<o:p></o:p>
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I also have many years’ experience as a retailer and,in that capacity, as a speaker at tradeshows and a contributor to industrymagazines. (Note: This letter is asample from my early writing days. This paragraph shows how to plumb pastcareers for information about your ability to promote.)<o:p></o:p><o:p> </o:p>I am enclosing pertinent information including a briefbiography, some promotional material, and my favorite story from Harkening based on a childhoodexperience. (This letter was sent byUSPS. It would offer these materials on request if it had been sent using e-mail.)<o:p></o:p><o:p> </o:p>I was impressed by your client list and hope you willconsider representing my work. (It wouldbe better if you can be specific about the authors and titles on that clientlist.)<o:p></o:p><o:p> </o:p>
Sincerely,<o:p></o:p>Carolyn Howard-Johnson<o:p></o:p><o:p> </o:p>

Mary Anne Landers
March 8th, 2012, 03:21 PM
Thank you, Carolyn. Here is one of my sample queries for an agent. I welcome you and anyone else to critique it. No need to be nice. If I'm screwing up, I'd much rather learn about it BEFORE I query an agent!



Dear _______:

Thank you for the information on your website about submitting material to your agency. I learned about you through your client______ ________, a Facebook friend of mine. Please allow me to query you concerning my completed novel The Pillars of Creation (futuristic romance/science fiction; word count 75,000; pen name: Genevieve Moultrie).
</SPAN>
Far out in the Milky Way, the Pillars of Creation are great column-shaped clouds of stardust. There the remains of old stars form new ones. This story tells how it also gives rise to new love.
</SPAN>
Eleni Cyrillos, a troubleshooting agent for the Galactic Union, is assigned to investigate astrophysical anomalies in the Pillars of Creation. Her abilities include psychometry; she can psychically sense the composition, uses, and source of an object. The mission is fraught with danger; but it is fellow researcher Brother Tourmal, a member of a powerful but sinister religious order, who well and truly disrupts her private universe. They fall in love despite his vow of chastity and her suspicions about him.

Amidst this tempest of inner conflict and defiant passion, Eleni’s special power enables her to discover life in a form hitherto unknown: planets in the process of becoming sentient beings, with one "mother world" that has already attained this state. Tourmal’s superiors want them destroyed; she is determined to save them. But she must win him to her side.

A mishap forces the couple onto the sentient world as castaways, where their love is consummated. But can it last once they are rescued? With more dangers facing the expediton, and distrust of one another eating away at their hearts, can Eleni and Tourmal save these special planets, and their love?

I have two degrees in English; I have far more published credits than I can list here. These include short fiction in various genres, including science fiction and romance; reviews; and articles in print and on blogs. I am knowledgeable in the sciences relevant to this novel.
</SPAN>
I see The Pillars of Creation as the first in an open-ended series of self-contained novels set in the same cultural backdrop---a universe of frontier worlds in which the level of technology is high, but the level of social order approximates that of the Wild West. My aims include realism in the protagonists and their interactions. Their relationship develops in a manner that is quite down-to-Earth, even if the setting is anything but. My target readers are looking for romance a bit outside the usual characters, storylines, themes, and settings.

I look forward to your reply.</SPAN>

Sincerely,</SPAN>

Mary Anne Landers

(contact info)</SPAN>

Carolyn Howard-Johnson
March 8th, 2012, 06:49 PM
OMG! I lost this huge critique of your letter, Mary Anne. I'm devastate! I'll copy it and take it to word, then copy and paste. I hope I remember everything!

Carolyn Howard-Johnson
March 8th, 2012, 07:15 PM
Dear _______:

Thank you for the information on your website about submitting material to youragency. I learned about you through your client______ ________, a Facebookfriend of mine. Put here why you thoughtshe would be good. Please allow me toquery you concerning my completed novel The Pillars of Creation(futuristic romance/science fiction; word count 75,000; pen name: GenevieveMoultrie). This sentence is very formal.It doesn't let your voice or personality come through. Also word count can besaved for the very end. Try to keep this sentence more of an intro into yoursynopsps/pitch. Something like "MyXX (title) is a little bit romance, a little bit science fiction written underthe name XXX" Don't use both "futureistic" and"sci-fi." They are a bit redundant and we'd get the"futuristic" part anyway in the snopsis.

Far out in the Milky Way, the Pillars of Creation are great column-shapedclouds of stardust. There the remains of old stars form new ones. This storytells how it also gives rise to new love. Thisis a nice sotrytelling way to begin your synopsis.

But here we get into a bit oftrouble. Active sentences. Start withsubjects, verbs follow. When you have helping verbs (is, am, was, were, being,has, had, etc.), you may be in a bit of trouble. So, "The mission is faught withdanger" is perfect. But "wherethere love is consummated" would have more power if it said "wherethey consummate their love."<o:p></o:p>
I think youwould benefit from The Frugal Book Promoter for this letter. Especially if youuse the Index to find all the parts on pitches, synopses, etc. I think this canbe shortened considerably. Also, you seem to be hiding things behind longwords. Like, what exactly are Eleni's powers. Straight up. "Eleni has somesuper powers like xxxx. They let her (give some details about what she does withthem here." In other words, try to recreate a little excitement about thishuge moment in the book! <o:p></o:p>
Eleni Cyrillos, a troubleshooting agent for the GalacticUnion, is assigned to investigate astrophysical anomalies in the Pillars ofCreation. Her abilities include psychometry; she can psychically sense thecomposition, uses, and source of an object. The mission is fraught with danger;but it is fellow researcher Brother Tourmal, a member of a powerful butsinister religious order, who well and truly disrupts her private universe.They fall in love despite his vow of chastity By the way, is this a Christian book? Could it be sold that way. If so,that deserves a special paragraph on that aspect of it. Christian books SELL! and her suspicions about him.

Amidst this tempest of inner conflict and defiant passion, Eleni’s specialpower enables her to discover life in a form hitherto unknown: planets in theprocess of becoming sentient beings, with one "mother world" that hasalready attained this state. Tourmal’s superiors want them destroyed; she isdetermined to save them. But she must win him to her side.

A mishap forces the couple onto the sentient world as castaways, where theirlove is consummated. But can it last once they are rescued? With more dangersfacing the expediton, and distrust of one another eating away at their hearts,can Eleni and Tourmal save these special planets, and their love?<o:p></o:p>
In synopses/pitchesfor readers, question make good cliffhangars. But this query letter is going toan agent. He/she will want to know about your amazing ending…the twist—whateverit is.

I have two degrees in English; I have far more published credits than I canlist here. These include short fiction in various genres, including sciencefiction and romance; reviews; and articles in print and on blogs. I amknowledgeable in the sciences relevant to this novel.<o:p></o:p>
Lack of detailabove again gives the reader the feeling you are hiding something. Try, "Ihave been writing for XX years so, naturally, I have many short stories andessays published by the likes of xxxxx, and others." Also, we don't want to hide the importance ofthose degrees. Is on a graduate degree? From where? Do you have anyteaching/speaking/marketing skills? Then say so. Agents and publishers like toknow that you have the ability to market your book. Now you can see why thesynopsis neeeds to be shorter. You need some room for a little more of YOU.

I see The Pillars of Creation as the first in an open-ended series ofself-contained novels set in the same cultural backdrop---a universe offrontier worlds in which the level of technology is high, but the level ofsocial order approximates that of the Wild West. My aims include realism in theprotagonists and their interactions. Their relationship develops in a mannerthat is quite down-to-Earth, even if the setting is anything but. My targetreaders are looking for romance a bit outside the usual characters, storylines,themes, and settings. <o:p></o:p>
The last paragraphis fine, though it may, out of necessity, need to be shortened, too. Also, how old are your target readers? Thismight be a good place to mention suitable for Christian audience, if it is. <o:p></o:p>
You'll find anassortment of query letters for all kinds of needs in The Frugal Book Promoter(www.budurl.com/FrugalBkPromo (http://www.budurl.com/FrugalBkPromo)),The Frugal Editor (www.budurl.com/TheFrugalEditor (http://www.budurl.com/TheFrugalEditor))and Great First Impression Book Proposals (www.budurl.com/BookProposals (http://www.budurl.com/BookProposals)). Isaw a bit YOU shining through when you said ""even if the setting isanything but." Don't be afraid ofthat!

I look forward to your reply.

Sincerely,

Mary Anne Landers

(contact info)<o:p></o:p>

Mary Anne Landers
March 8th, 2012, 08:38 PM
Thank you for your critique, Carolyn. Sorry you lost it at first. Lots of helpful advice here, especially the part about my voice coming through to an agent and establishing my credentials. I'll keep it in mind when I revise the query.

BTW, no, this is NOT Christian fiction. I don't read it, let alone write it. I'm not the right religion for that.

Will be back tomorrow.

Carolyn Howard-Johnson
March 9th, 2012, 12:20 PM
I'm sorry I lost the first critique. You know how one always feels the the thing one lost was better than the new one? (-:

I asked about Christian fiction because you mentioned "his vow of chastity." Of course, I realize that there are many scenarios for such a vow but I thought I'd mention it, just in case. The only Christian fiction I've read is what I've edited for authors. But I know it sure does sell--even for those authors who self-publish.

Thank you for the opportunity to critique. It is an act of bravery to do that in public. BTW, would you be willing to let me publish the critique in my newsletter in a future edtion? I could credit with links and a mention that you are looking for an agent. One never knows who might see it.

And thank you for your support during this forum.

Best,
Carolyn

Mary Anne Landers
March 10th, 2012, 12:56 AM
Sure, Carolyn! Go right ahead and publish my query and your critique. It'll be interesting to see what kind of feedback we get! Thanks again.