Want To See My Query Letter?

I have so many friends who are talented writers. And some of those talented writer friends are beginning the daunting task of QUERYING.

(If you don’t know what querying is, this post probably isn’t for you, although you may want to bookmark it.)

Writing a query letter is so hard. You can find tips everywhere on how to do it, but still, it takes several drafts and hours of painstaking editing to get it just right.

So if it will help, I’ll post mine. I’ll also point out things I would have done differently now, as well as things that worked. And if you’ve read my book, then this should help you out a lot.

Oh, PS – this was an email query, which is why you don’t see any addresses at the top.

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Dear Ms. Ramirez,

After reading about Trident Media Group on www.agentquery.com, I would like to submit my 65,000 word novel, The Clearing, to your agency for consideration. As the first book in a three-book series, The Clearing is a young adult novel with a similar feel to Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight, but also with elements comparable to those in the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling and the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon.

Sixteen-year-old Natalie Watson’s world is turned upside down when her parents die in an apparent double suicide. With nowhere else to go, she moves from her hometown of Atlanta, Georgia, to the tiny town of Lubec, Maine, and enrolls in the boarding school run by her Aunt Tessa. From the first day, Natalie is bullied by a small group of students consisting of her pretentious roommate, Michelle, along with Michelle’s boyfriend and best girl friend. Still reeling from the tragedy she has suffered and lacking the energy to fight back, Natalie takes it all in stride and hopes for better days to come.

During the course of her first semester at Lubec Academy, Natalie becomes acquainted with two very different boys: Liam Abernathy, a strange, quiet type who’s rumored to be somehow responsible for his sister’s disappearance a year earlier; and Ethan Gillis, the popular school stud who dates Natalie’s roommate. In spite of her fear of Liam, Natalie becomes curious about his mysterious late-night excursions into the forest – and unwittingly finds herself at the center of a power struggle that occurred three hundred years earlier.

Meanwhile, Ethan struggles to cope with the loss of his mother, and turns to Natalie – the girl he tormented for months – for sympathy. While Natalie is consumed with the alternate world Liam is revealing to her, she is also drawn to Ethan’s charm and normalcy.

As she navigates the blurred line between the concrete and the supernatural, Natalie must decide which path to pursue: the comfortable one with Ethan, or the extraordinary – yet dangerous – path with Liam. Things become even more complicated when Natalie discovers that the parents she has mourned might be alive, after all.

I graduated from the University of Alabama with a Bachelor’s degree in advertising and a second major in Spanish. While I have not had any previous work published, I have been writing stories and books since I was old enough to hold a pencil and have always dreamed of writing as a career. As a high school Spanish teacher, I am very familiar with my target market of teen girls and believe that I can write books they will love to read.

Thank you for your time in considering The Clearing. I am querying other agents, and I hope to hear from you soon.

Sincerely,

Anne C. Riley

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Things I think I did well in this letter:

1) I think I did a good job of making the story sound intriguing. This is a hard thing to do in a few short paragraphs. If you’ve tried it, you know.

2) I like how I broke it up into lots of mini-paragraphs. Don’t forget: Agents read all day long. The kinder you are to their eyes, the better.

3) I like my little bio paragraph down there at the end.

4) I’m glad I remembered to tell her I was querying other agents (something you should do, by the way!)

5) Overall, I think the letter shows that I can write well. The tone is good, sentence structure is good, and there aren’t any typos.

Things I would do differently now:

1) IT KILLS ME THAT I COMPARED MY BOOK TO TWILIGHT. And Harry Potter. Really, Young Anne? REALLY?! Comparisons are good, but why the HECK did I pick those two? And Outlander isn’t even YA! Although it does have the time travel thing, so maybe. MAYBE. But Twilight and HP, no. I bet I was one of like 45 million wannabe authors that said MY BOOK IS LIKE TWILIGHT! Ugh. *shudders*

2) I wish I would have given her more about how the book ends. Listen, Grasshoppers: You are not supposed to do that. Be vague, I mean. It’s not supposed to be like the back of a book jacket. I should have revealed exactly how everything is resolved, where my twists were, etc. That was not a good move on Young Anne’s part.

(PS: If you’ve read The Clearing and you’re thinking, “What is she talking about? Natalie’s parents were never suspected to be alive!” Well, they were in an earlier version. In fact, in one version, Natalie and Liam found Natalie’s dad in Giles’ basement. BOOYAH. Your world is rocked.)

So that’s about it, friends. I hope that helps you. Happy querying, and don’t let those little rejection slips get you down… if you can help it.

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11 thoughts on “Want To See My Query Letter?

  1. Jennifer says:

    This is the part of going for publication that absolutely confounds me. Writing the perfect query feels like knowing the right shoes to wear to sorority rush – everybody gets it but me. lol I’m really glad you shared it and I’m even more curious about Clearing now that I’ve read your letter. I’ve been an Outlander fan for years and years. Congrats on your success!

    1. Anne Riley says:

      Jennifer, rest assured you are not alone! It is so confusing and your analogy about the shoes is spot on! And PS – not everybody gets it! In fact, I think it’s much like publishing itself in that the “right person, right book, right time” thing comes into play a lot. Keep working. Your query letter will be perfect.

  2. Heather McCorkle says:

    Thank you for sharing your query letter with us. I love seeing your notes too about what you would have done differently with it. And wow, love the sneak peek at the different endings!

  3. Ben Langhinrichs says:

    Thanks for sharing this. I have to admit that I cringed when I saw the comparison with Twilight and HP, but I imagine that agents who deal with YA probably just roll their eyes and ignore that. The reference to Outlander is better, as the fact that it is not YA means that it hasn’t been mentioned in every query all year.

    In general, the rest is well written and intriguing. Good job, and congrats on getting through the process (relatively) unscathed.

  4. Carol Holaday says:

    I loved reading your query and I can see why it got attention. I’ve been watching the query trainings at Pitch-U and you hit all the things they talk about when writing a query. Even though it probably stung a bit to throw in the Twilight reference, it probably was very helpful. My first thought was ‘attractive, mysterious, dangerous boy,’ and then, just a few sentences away, there was Liam. So it was a good thing.

    Thanks so much for sharing your letter. The more we practice and learn from those around us who have been successful at this, the better our chances of getting our own words out to the world.

      1. Elizabeth McCann says:

        I am so new to book writing I am green! But have been toying with the idea of writing children’s books for the last few months. We have recently moved and with the many changes it has stirred my creative juices to write! I have just finished one manuscript and beginning a second one. I am researching the process of getting published and your letter is a tremendous help!
        I rather liked the twilight reference because it helped me know what to compare your book to.

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