Sunday, October 29, 2006

A query about queries

Today at the meeting, Rick asked me what bio info I put in the query letter that got me an agent. I promised I'd post the letter. Here it is, with some explanation:

I saw on publishersmarketplace.com and your web site that you have made many recent sales of single title romances. I thought you might be interested in YOUR CHEATIN’ HEART, a single title romantic comedy of about 98,000 words. This novel is complete, and I have not submitted it to publishers.

[In actuality, I would tailor that paragraph to say exactly what the agent had sold that made me think he or she might like my novel too. You absolutely must do this. Your research on the agent should happen before you query the agent, not after the agent offers you representation. If you have two offers, of course you must weigh them against each other. But you shouldn't query anyone you're not almost positive you'd want to represent you. That would be a waste of your time and theirs.]

As a record company’s top agent in public relations crisis management, i.e., babysitter to the stars, SARAH SEVILLE just spent nine months in Rio trying to keep rock singer Nine Lives out of jail long enough to record his new album--and barely succeeded. Now she needs a triumphant success so that she can claim her promotion in the New York-based job she loves. Trouble is, her new assignment is to prevent the breakup of the raucous country band the Cheatin’ Hearts, headed by sexy QUENTIN COX. As she edges closer to Quentin, she discovers layers of secrets. It seems Quentin is taking the spin doctor for a spin.

The Cheatin’ Hearts have stayed on top of the charts two years following three rules. Rule One, no sex with other band members. Rule Two, no sex with reporters. Rule Three, no sex with record company spies. Quentin figures he’d better follow the rules, because he made them. And because if you break a rule, you’re out of the band. But he can’t resist this beautiful pink-haired girl, and inevitably he breaks Rule Three with hot Sarah Seville. As he falls for her, he finds out that she has plenty of secrets of her own, and one of them comes knocking on her door: what really happened to her in Rio.

[Two-paragraph summary of the book, styled like back cover copy.]

I’m a PRO member of Romance Writers of America. YOUR CHEATIN’ HEART is my ninth completed manuscript. I am a doctoral candidate in rhetoric and composition at the University of Louisville, and I have taught writing at Louisville, the University of Kentucky, and Auburn University. I have also edited and written for numerous newspapers and professional journals. I now live in Atlanta, where I work as a freelance copy editor for medical publications.

[If I had to do this over again, I would compose this paragraph as carefully as I composed the paragraphs about my book. I also might take out the "ninth completed manuscript" part. I think the jury is still out on whether this makes me look like a Dedicated Writer or a Loser. But in general, you want to list anything you've done that lets the agent know you can be the professional writer publishers need.]

Please find a SASE enclosed for your response. Thank you very much for your time. I look forward to hearing from you.

Please share your successful letters! Or if you have questions about your query, maybe we can help you. Post the parts that are giving you trouble.

1 comment:

Carla Swafford said...

Jennifer, I love seeing this. A successful query letter. And you did what I've always thought made more sense -- keep the description of the book to a burb. Typing a page or more always appeared to be an overkill to me.

Most editors and agents know from the first couple of sentences whether or not they're interested.

Thanks.