Friday, March 20, 2009

query letters

So I think I might have a publiser interestd in my book. Great! So why am I still sending out query letters? Agents! Just because you've got a publisher interested, or even if you HAVE a publisher, doesn't mean you can't benefit from some insider advice. Agents can help you get better deals, negotiate contracts, focus your career, promote your book, make your next sale, etc. This is not to say you don't have the greater share of the work to do; no agent is going to do stuff FOR you. They're a partner. But still, it be nice to have one. Do I write a form letter and send it out to a dozen agents? No, of course not! Do you like form rejection letters? In the very least I customize the first paragraph according to each agents interests/what they're currently representing and looking for. So here's what a sample query letter for TREASURE TRAITOR looks like:

Dear (names ommitted),

I love your blog and have found it very helpful in understanding the writing and publishing industry. I also admire the kind of books you represent, especially young adult fantasy with strong female protagonists. That’s why you may be interested in Treasure Traitor, my YA fantasy of 60,000 words.

Fifteen-year-old Renagada (Rena) wants nothing more than to live in peace with her best friend. There's only one problem. Her best friend's a vulture.

Rena lives in a pre-industrial world of superstition, where a woman’s only hope of power is to become a monara, a warrior who can speak to animals and use them in battle. Rena comes from a prestigious line of monara and longs to live up to her mother’s expectations, but she is a unitalker, only able to speak to her carrion-eater bird Acha. When Rena overhears her parents planning to kill Acha, she must flee with him into the desert, where danger and adventure await.

Soon into the journey Acha is shot and Rena pledges a year of service to a healer’s military regiment to save him. The healer informs her carrion-eaters only live a short time; Acha will die soon. To find a cure, Rena must escape from the regiment, join a crazy cult, befuddle bandits, traverse deadly deserts and travel to the heart enemy territory. Worst of all, she must sacrifice the one treasure dearest to her heart.

I am a member of Tulsa NightWriters, Oklahoma Writers Fed. Inc. and Oklahoma Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers. This past year I had a young adult fantasy short story published in two paying markets- Beyond Centauri and Storystation.com. I won second place for my young adult fantasy novel Ghosts of Gibson High from the Oklahoma Writers Federation Inc. and two honorable mentions for YA fantasy novels in the world-wide Writers of the Future contest. Treasure Traitor was one of them.

Thank you very much for considering my novel. I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,
Laura Popp
laurajanepopp@gmail.com

OK, short, sweet, to the point. I started by relating my work to what they do, (and a little flattery never hurts). Then I inserted my hook, a snappy two-liner that grabs. Then comes a more detailed but short discription of the plot. It probably would be better to allude to the romance that serves as the story's subplot; I'll edit that next time I send it out. Then I go into my credentials, and finally thank them for their time. But of course, I'm not perfect. If anybody wants to comment on this and make it better, please do!

Writing tip of the week: Craft your query letter, your greatest selling tool, to specific agents and editors.

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