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scarletfox
03-31-2005, 08:11 AM
Hey guys,

I REALLY need help with the opening for my query letter, I'm really pleased with the rest of it, but know that my opening is horrible! So, could y'all please tell me what you think I could do to fix it?

Thanks!

Dear (name)

I am seeking representation for my Young Adult novel entitiled (name), which is complete at approximately 215 pages. This is a simultaneous submission.

Chacounne
03-31-2005, 10:56 AM
You're a fisherman trolling for an agent, so you want to load your hook with the best bait you have. Start with an exciting description of your book, then you can slow down with the facts.

Hope that helps,
Chacounne

scarletfox
03-31-2005, 08:39 PM
Chacounne,

Thanks alot, that really helped. My new opening is much better now!:D

victoriastrauss
03-31-2005, 09:28 PM
I am seeking representation for my Young Adult novel entitiled (name), which is complete at approximately 215 pages. This is a simultaneous submission.Page count is irrelevant. Use word count--that's what agents and editors want to know.

If you're querying agents, no need to mention it's a sim-sub. Agents expect it.

Otherwise, this is a perfectly serviceable opening sentence. You can make it exciting in the next paragraph.

- Victoria

Chacounne
04-01-2005, 07:59 AM
I have to admit, I'm confused about your advice. I was going on what I'd read in the article by Marilyn Henderson "Write a Query Letter That Sells" on the main Absolute Write site. (I've tried to put a clip in here, but it won't work properly, sigh!)

I've seen similar advice, about putting a hook upfront, in other places, although I don't remember where at the moment. You're definitely the expert in this situation, and I'm not trying to dispute your advice, but I would love to hear your reasoning.

Thanks,
Chacounne

brinkett
04-01-2005, 06:45 PM
I don't think it matters if you start with "I'm seeking representation for..." or go right to your pitch. I'd imagine that agents skim past the genre and word count information and go straight to the pitch, anyway. After all, it doesn't matter what genre it's in or how many words it is if the query doesn't grab them (though it would let them know right off the bat if they've been queried for a genre they don't represent or if a novel is too long).

There is no one right way to do a query letter. Some agents put their "perfect query letter format" on their web site. They all contradict each other. If an agent has a preference (like seeing title, genre, word count first), do it that way for that agent. Otherwise, I doubt it matters much. The important part is your pitch. If it grabs the agent, they won't care if you put the title and genre first or last. If it doesn't, they still won't care.

the debster
04-02-2005, 03:10 AM
The absolute definitive guide to composing the perfect query letter is Katherine Sands' MAKING THE PERFECT PITCH. Printed just last year, all the info is still timely.

Don't let the title fool you. Although the term "pitch" or "pitching" is film-related jargon, the literary crowd is cluing into it. Succinctly it means: be short, be concise, don't wast my time.

Ms. Sands interviews elite NY agents, and in many instances they write their own letters instructing us as to what they consider the perfect query letter.

As for YOUR query letter, at the risk of loosing your prospective agents attention right off the bat, don't hit them with boring details. In the first sentance merely reinforce that you have performed research and found that they are the right agent for your (GENRE--most important thing for them to know. This clues them that you: 1) know your market, and 2) know that they personally represent this genre). Then mention your title.

Next paragraph launch into the description of your project. 3-4 sentances max. Jacket flap, exciting details only!

Save the more mundane necessities for the closer. ie; I look forward to sending you the synopsis and sample chapters for my (COMPLETED--mention this, and IT had better be polished and YOU had better be ready to stand in line at the post office to send it out ASAP) # (word count here) manuscript.

By using this type of format and accessing other tips in the Sands book, my query rarely gets turned down.

I hope this is of help.
DJLedford

Christine N.
04-02-2005, 04:41 AM
I agree with deb. I have some really great links on writing a query, but they're on my other computer. Most of them were for Romance writers, but the theory is the same.


Start with Dear Whomever (make sure you have a name, sending To Whom it May Concern, or Dear Agent, is tacky and unprofessional in writing circles)

Give a brief explanation of where you found them, or say something about why you're submitting to them (so and so says recommended you to me, or Some Site said you were interesting in YA fiction) Not too long, and specify for each agent.

Launch with the book, and here's where you put your hook. With my first book, I used a question (much thanks to Maestro) . Give a quick synopsis, much like you would read on the back of a book jacket in the store. Make them want to read it. (If you were submitting an actual synopsis, make sure you include the ending in that, but leave it from the query.)

Here's where you put the stats: ie "Such and Such is a 45,000 word novel.

Actually, if you search back through the Share your work forum, I think my final query is there. I got lots of help from people there, and it got my book read by two different publishers whereas my original got nuttin' but rejections.

Ah, heck, I did the search and here's the link.. http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=5218

You can see how my own query went from just ok to really great and how much help I really got.

Savannah907
04-02-2005, 04:55 PM
Watching an actual query letter take shape is so much more instructional than just reading "here's what they want". Some of us do much better with a "show" rather than a "tell" when it comes to learning something. Thanks for going through the extra trouble to search out the link.

Good luck to you, Scarletfox. Let us know how it goes.

Savannah907
04-02-2005, 05:49 PM
Christine, I was thinking about one of the things you said- your query got you read, but you're not there yet. Congratulations on getting that far in the process. I'm not there yet, myself. When you were reworking the query, you had to eliminate redundancy and overuse of certain attention getting words. Have you gone back through your book to see if any of it needs this same reworking/tweaking?

Perhaps a good (close) critiquing of the first 5 pages will show you common trends in your writing that will trip you up in the acceptance process. Highlight the things you catch as you read through again, then go back and fix them. Let a few critique partners in on the task. Read the book "The First Five Pages" by Noah Lukeman. Take what you've learned to the rest of your book to make it stronger and more acceptable.

Best of luck with your next query.
Savannah,
sharing life, hopes and dreams
www.SavannahLatamy.com

brinkett
04-02-2005, 10:28 PM
Christine sold her book (see her signature).

Christine N.
04-03-2005, 01:52 AM
Oh yeah, I did sell it. LOL. The query just gets your foot in the door, your book has to do the rest of the work. Since this thread was specifically directed at the query, I just left it at that.


I'm working on a new book now, while I wait for this one (see below) to be released.

victoriastrauss
04-04-2005, 03:15 AM
I've seen similar advice, about putting a hook upfront, in other places, although I don't remember where at the moment. You're definitely the expert in this situation, and I'm not trying to dispute your advice, but I would love to hear your reasoning.In my opinion, an opening sentence like scarletfox's (assuming word count rather than page count and leaving out the simsub thing) is like "said" in dialogue: it conveys important information but at the same time is invisible, so it doesn't interrupt the flow of whatever comes next. Having used this basic and familiar beginning, you can then get to the "hook" in the second paragraph.

It also gets an important issue out of the way right at the start: that your subject/genre is appropriate for the agent's interest and that the word count is reasonable. So many people don't bother to research the agents to whom they submit, or have ridiculous word counts. Why should the agent read the whole query, only to find out it's for a novel of 300,000 words? I'd bet that even if you put the word count/genre at the bottom, many agents will skip down and read that sentence first.

Still, while my own preference would be for starting with the genre/word count info, I really don't think it matters so much where you put it--as long as you do include it.

- Victoria

scarletfox
04-04-2005, 05:43 AM
Hey, what do you guys think of starting the letter off with question(s) to hook the agents interest and then giving the genre, title, and word count all in the same paragraph. Is that a good format?~scarlet

Zolah
04-16-2005, 12:20 AM
Hey, what do you guys think of starting the letter off with question(s) to hook the agents interest and then giving the genre, title, and word count all in the same paragraph. Is that a good format?~scarlet

Well, my agent told me that she hates quotes and questions in queries. She says that a query letter should be 'professional' - as in, give the important facts such as genre and word count (because if those are wrong the agent won't read any further) and then give a succint rundown of the story, any relevant experience and previous publishing credits. And that's it. She told me that she cannot stand it when someone treats a query letter like the blurb on a paperback. But she is only one person, so another agent might feel entirely differently...

scarletfox
04-21-2005, 01:27 AM
Hey guys-

first of all, thanks for all of your great advice! Its really helped my opening alot. This is basically what I've boiled my opening down into. Please tell me what changes y'all think i need to make

Thanks again!

Dear (Agent's Name)

What would you do if you were forced into an arranged marriage? How would you respond? Would you turn tail and run, or would you grit your teeth and bear it for the good of all? These are the questions Prince Henry must answer for himself in my Young Adult novel, Marriage, which is complete at approximately 49,000 words.

Julie Worth
04-21-2005, 01:42 AM
Hey guys-

first of all, thanks for all of your great advice! Its really helped my opening alot. This is basically what I've boiled my opening down into. Please tell me what changes y'all think i need to make

Thanks again!

Dear (Agent's Name)

What would you do if you were forced into an arranged marriage? How would you respond? Would you turn tail and run, or would you grit your teeth and bear it for the good of all? These are the questions Prince Henry must answer for himself in my Young Adult novel, Marriage, which is complete at approximately 49,000 words.

What would you do if you were forced into an arranged marriage?


Seems wordy. How about: What if you were forced into an arranged marriage?


How would you respond?

This is repetitive. I’d delete it.

turn tail
grit your teeth
for the good of all

Clichés, not to mention that this reminds me of the Runaway Bride. And worse, the question isn’t all that interesting. Running away...that’s it? Isn’t he throwing away a Crown?

These are the questions

I see only one question: should he run or stay.

approximately

That’s implicit in the three zeros.

scarletfox
04-21-2005, 07:25 AM
Julie-

Thanks so much for your great critique, it certainly showed me that I still have alot of work left to do....anyway, if you don't mind, could you possibly do the same for the other opening I've been considering. Thanks!

Dear (Agents name)

A dragon, savages, faeries, and an arranged marriage to an idiotic princess are only some of the problems that Prince Henry has to face in my Young Adult novel, Marriage, which is complete at approximately 49,000 words.

Julie Worth
04-21-2005, 03:37 PM
Julie-

Thanks so much for your great critique, it certainly showed me that I still have alot of work left to do....anyway, if you don't mind, could you possibly do the same for the other opening I've been considering. Thanks!

Dear (Agents name)

A dragon, savages, faeries, and an arranged marriage to an idiotic princess are only some of the problems that Prince Henry has to face in my Young Adult novel, Marriage, which is complete at approximately 49,000 words.

A list followed by dry information. That doesn’t interest me at all—except for the idiotic princess, and that’s ‘cus I’m partial to idiots.