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14 September, 2008

Chronicles of a Lesser-Known Writer: Part XI - What I Heard About Query Letters

Okay, it's six a.m. here in Missouri and on a stormy Sunday morning, I should be underneath the bed. But, alas, I'm not. I've been up for the past two hours or so, waiting out a cricket that somehow managed to sneak inside my house and take over. If I sneak up on it and stand really still, though, it will come out from underneath the bathroom vanity and stare at me. I just have to be quick about serving it up the "crunch of death." If I'm not, and I'm not, it slides back into hiding and keeps driving me nuts.

So I'm awake... Thought I'd use my time wisely and send out the post I was planning to send out early next week. No time like the present, right? Right. Let's get to it then, shall we? It's not like I'm going to get to sleep anytime soon anyway.

Alright. The query letter. What should it contain? What should it not contain?

Information your query letter should contain:

- agent's name
- genre agent represents
- some indication that you've researched the agent prior to querying
- title of your manuscript
- word count
- protagonist information: briefly - who (name), what (description), when (setting), where (setting), why (conflict) & how (goal/purpose)
- antagonist information: briefly - who & why, or possibly who & how, or possibly what & why, or possibly what & how
- author's credits (if applicable; also, optional)
- author's name
- standard font style & size
- black ink

Information your query letter should NOT contain:

- how well all of your friends, family, co-workers, and worst enemies like your manuscript
- how much time you put into your manuscript and all the research you've done
- why you feel your book is unlike any that's ever been published, or how it's different
- an accounting of your lifelong love affair with writing
- more than one page, if at all possible
- funky looking font styles and sizes, colored text, clipart, etc.

Keep in mind this list isn't exhaustive. But if we use the points I've listed above, our resulting query letter might look something like this:

Dear(Agent's name),

I elected to query you because of your preference for Gothic novels, and because of your longstanding reputation as an expert in the field of Gothic Studies.

Hannah Blake is a vampire from the year 1614, living in modern day Cinncinati, Ohio. She's managed to keep her true identity a secret, until the day she encounters a past love, who just happens to be a vampire from the same time and place as she. Only now, centuries later, Darr Aston is one of the Dark Ones, and she is still a member of the Light Colony. In their own time, dark and light warred until death, and today the legacy of battle continues. The only thing keeping the two of them from clashing head-on is the memory of what they once shared.

Blood Lust is an 80,000 word work of Gothic Fiction. My previous publishing credits include my 1997 horror novel, Damned to Death, which was published by Squiggly Books, and a variety of topical articles in several noteworthy online and print magazines. Blood Lust is my second novel.

Thank you in advance for your time and consideration of this query, and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Aspiring Author

Or course, being a writer and all, especially one with a brilliant imagination, you'll add your own unique twist to your query letters. This is just what I heard about query letters. Basic, I know, but possibly a good bag of bones from which to devise a skeleton. What do you think?

Note: "Blood Lust" is a figment of my imagination. I do not write Gothic Fiction, not that I have anything against it, because I don't. Nor do I know a great deal about it. It's just that I'm a romantic at heart and there's a flipping cricket that won't DIE underneath my bathroom vanity! I'm experiencing a bit of blood lust right about now, so please bear with me.

This ain't over... Either you'll see me in handcuffs on the news, with the silhouette of a blazing house in the background behind me and the state trooper who is leading me away, or the wine will finally kick in, the toothpicks holding my eyelids open will snap, and I'll be able to catch a few Zs. Or a few crickets...


Fabián Fucci said...

Hello, a very informative post to me, as I am preparing my first book. Thanks for the insight!

Terra Little said...

Thank you, Fabian. Thanks for stopping by, too. Glad you found something you could use. Come back again!

Rose said...

Girl you are crazy! Did you get that darn cricket? Great information Terra.

Terra Little said...

Yes...(insert spooky, Vincent Price-esque laugh here)...caught that little sucker! Thanks for stopping by!