My new friend the one who writes YA paranormal novels sent her query letter off and has received requests for partials. I just get giddy when I hear another unpubbed author break through one of the large walls of resistance on a writer’s journey. I was lucky enough to read it and I can see why she’s been successful. So, I thought I’d share what I think makes a great query letter. It’s a combination of literary agent Barbara Poelle’s webinar and my friends formula.
The body of your letter should be broken into three parts; The Hook, The Book, and The Cook.
The Hook: This known as the tagline or the log line and it explains your book in one sentence that will entice a reeader to want to buy it or in this case, an agent to read it. You can look at it as a one line slogan for your book.There are a lot of examples out there that include the main character, what they want, and the conflict. While my favorite doesn’t include the conflict, it hooked my curiosity and reeled me in. If it doesn’t work for you, enter logline/tagline in your search engine.
This is from Chuck Barrett’s blog entry regarding his novel Toymaker.
“The Toymaker spent twenty years of his life making toys–for spies.”
The Book: This paragraph or two paragraphs should include GMC. Goal, Motivation, and Conflict. This is the time to use action words, not vague adjectives like epic, and stellar. You need the letter to describe your main character, his challenges and what he does to face them. This is not the time to explain the backstory and make the agent fall asleep. You want them to read more…as in your entire manuscript.
The Cook: This final paragraph is about you. Why did you decide to write this book? What do you bring? Is it a legal thriller and your a paralegal, tell them that. Have you been nominated or won any writing awards, include it. Do you belong to any groups that support your genre, let them know. However, don’t tell them information that is not pertinent to the book. It’s great that you are a mother of teenagers, but that doesn’t mean your YA is great because of it. If you don’t have anything, keep it brief, a sentence or two and close your letter.
Now none of this matters, if you don’t first do your homework on the agents submission guidelines and follow them.
What do you think should be included in a query letter?