After a year and a half of constant rejection, I finally revised my first query into something a little more focused. It’s not quite as rambling as my first and it seems like maybe I knew a little bit more about what was going with my own book on at this point.
I viewed your recent manuscript wish list requests via manuscriptwishlist.com, and I hope to interest you in The Tarrowburn Prophecies, a 95,000-word fantasy novel featuring a mystery of otherworldly proportions and an independent female protagonist with the power to solve it.
Moreina di Bianco is a small town village healer and nothing more…or at least that’s what she’d like to believe, but visions that plague only her serve to remind her on a regular basis that she’ll always be different. Despite her second sight, Reina is one of the few citizens in the kingdom of Castilles who doesn’t believe in the thousand-year-old White Sorceress Prophecy. How could a talisman and a lone woman save the kingdom from the war that has raged on for four long years, a war that looks ever more desperate with each passing day? So, when ironically unforeseen circumstances declare Reina the White Sorceress with the ability to rescue the kingdom from the grasp of a power-hungry General, she’s forced to accept the truth within the prophecy’s words and must take fate into her own hands.
Reluctant to accept help, Reina’s only company on her journey is her estranged and mysterious childhood friend, Quinn D’Arturio, and a dashing captain who claims to be her protector. There’s just one problem with her new companions. They, too, are featured in the prophecy. But what woman wants a suitor, let alone two, when she’s faced with ending a war, finding the true king, and rightfully seating him on the throne?
I have an undergraduate degree in Marine Science and a Master’s in Business Administration, but writing has long been my true passion. After eight years in the pharmaceutical industry, I moved into the world of animal welfare where I currently work as a nonprofit marketing director for Humane Pennsylvania. I do plenty of writing in this role, but none of it fiction. In my opinion, the only thing better than snuggling puppies and kittens is writing fiction, and I endeavor to make it my lifelong career. Additionally, I currently write part-time as a freelance writer for blogmutt.com and writeraccess.com. The Tarrowburn Prophecies is my second novel, but the first I’ve written with the intention of doing something other than stashing in a desk drawer. Please note that the full manuscript is currently under review with another agent who understands that I have continued querying while she reviews. At your request, a synopsis and the first 50 pages can be found below (in a larger font for hopefully easier-on-the-eyes reading). Thank you for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you soon.
L. Ryan Storms
Guess what? This query is still pretty wild and it’s way too long—this time over 400 words! You probably noticed that I did a little work on the manuscript since the last version. (My word count is about 4k higher than the last query as a result of the first time an agent gave me feedback!)
First off, in this version, I started with the reason why I contacted this particular agent and it’s okay. Nothing flashy here (notice no comments on personal appearances). It’ll do the job, but now I find I usually like to give a little more detail in this paragraph, like the fact that the agent and I share a love of Outlander or that this agent just mentioned on Twitter that she was looking for kick-ass heroines and alternate world settings. Something along those lines.
The hook is still too long and too “un-hooky.” (Sure, that’s a word.) I still ramble a little, albeit not quite as much as before. After nearly two years of querying, I still hadn’t figured out the heart of my book and how to present it! (More on this in an upcoming post.)
The worst part of this query, though, is the fact that I’ve made my bio nearly as long as the two preceding paragraphs about the book itself! Typically, you want your query to contain a sentence or two about you, but this is definitely more important if you have publishing credits to share. No one cares what my degrees are in, where I previously worked, that I liked snuggling kittens and puppies, or that I wrote another manuscript and don’t want anyone to ever see it. This information is completely irrelevant. (Okay, most of it is completely irrelevant. Degrees are good, but they don’t determine your success as a writer.) Also, notice I still haven’t used caps when mentioning the title of my work.
My thought at the time I was using this query was that agents were interested in knowing who they would be working with just as much as as they were interested in knowing what the book was about. Wrong. Yes, of course they want to know who they will potentially be working with, but at this stage of the game, they don’t care. That’s for future emails and phone calls to determine. Right now, the only important information they need to know is the premise of your story. And if you can’t manage to sum that up in the neat, little package of your query, they’ll have to pass.
So, work that hook!
7 thoughts on “Querying (Part II)”
I cringe at the first queries I sent out – like you said, they rambled on and were far too wordy! Got it down to three semi-short paragraphs (I think about 250 – 300 words). Anyway, nice work!
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Thanks! Like I said, if it helps someone, it’s worth sharing my cringeworthy moments! (Just don’t ask about middle school. Those are some cringeworthy moments I refuse to share!)
Keep on keeping on. I am pretty sure the query gets revised more than the manuscript (at least I feel that way, so I don’t number my query versions like I do my manuscripts — ahem, that’s at version 7 now)…mind-numbing to say the least! Thanks for sharing your journey!
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Ohhhhhh I could totally work that hook… and break that hook…. oh! Sorry. I was distracted by the picture. But I agree with you!
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I’m horrified by the idea of having to cram my novel into a one-page letter. But I’m getting started on that, already, and doing lots of sanding. Maybe by the time I’m ready to query it will be pretty?
It is 100% horrifying, is it not? The good news? It gets easier each time you do it. (Not necessarily less unpleasant, but easier at least!) You see how many tries it took me and believe it or not, I’ve even done refined more from my 4th version!
I think of querying as almost a gateway. “Good for you! You wrote a novel! Now sell me on it in 3 paragraphs!” 🙂
Also good news, though? No matter how many rejection letters you get, you can always keep polishing and querying anew. And if *this* book doesn’t work out, you’ve got boatloads of practice for the next one. These are all things I keep telling myself!