Saturday, April 21, 2012

Query Sample - Structuring Your Query



I was asked to post the query letter I had written almost a year ago, during my first attempt at getting VIOLET STORM published. Out of nine agents [all queries were via email], three responded asking to read more. The process stopped there because I needed more time to develop into a stronger writer. I spent the next year working harder on the craft, partnering with a developmental editor, and getting feedback from my writers group. 


Here is the original [email] query (July 15, 2011): 

Dear Ms. _____:

“Somehow I know what’s coming next. From the dark and angry sky shoots a lightning bolt, frightening and horrifyingly dazzling at the same time. It slices through the atmosphere, mad in its rush to pierce the earth—but not before it strikes me first….”

                  Violet Storm is the epic story of Aeva Storm, a sixteen-year-old girl whose nightmare begins when she wakes up in the Outer Boundaries, a long stretch of forsaken land that is far beyond the safe borders of her home. In her quest to piece together everything that’s happened, Aeva discovers that Agria, her hometown, is now nothing but a wasteland. After being pursued by Ravinals—men who hunt humans—she is rescued by a brooding exile named Karth, whose knife fetish shows her exactly how he’s survived in the Outer Boundaries. Meanwhile, a renegade group, known as The Alliance, have assembled to destroy the Monarchy of the City of Light—the entity they believe to be responsible for the destruction of Agria. Having been a champion athlete and fighter, Aeva is immediately recruited to carry out the most important mission—to assassinate the Monarch—whether she wants to or not. That’s when she meets a charming runaway named Ruven, who stirs up desires Aeva refuses to acknowledge, and has a secret that is even more jarring than his ruby-red eyes. But amidst all the horrors of her new reality, there is something even more terrifying: Aeva is exhibiting unusual abilities. People begin to suspect that she has been physically altered into a Modi—a modified human—technology known only to the City of Light.

                  At 95,000 words, written in present tense and first person point-of-view, Violet Storm is set in the far future after a catastrophic event nearly wipes out the human population. This story is full of action, romance, deception and surprising twists. Young Adult fans of the Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins with an interest in post-apocalyptic landscapes, like those created in The Road by Cormac McCarthy, will enjoy this fast-paced, action adventure.

                  Violet Storm is my debut novel. I hope you'll wish to read more. Thank you very much for your time.

Sincerely,
Anna Soliveres

*****
I've made some changes to it since then. Querying is definitely intimidating. But the structure I decided to use was the following:

1. Hook
2. Brief Synopsis (minus the ending)
3. Overview including: word count, tense and POV used, similar published and successful works, and anything I've learned about the agent specifically (how I learned of them, their most recent published books/authors)
4. Brief info about me (which would be longer, had I any publications...)

*****
Thinking about querying VS again and I have a few changes, the hook (taken directly from the book). I would love and certainly appreciate to get your feedback. I updated the hook and changed a few words here and there.

Dear Ms./Mr. _____:

"You must think I'm so selfish. Because why would I want to waste time caring about someone who helped mesaved meright? You have no idea what I'm going throughwhat it feels like to live this outrageous lie. To know that underneath this glamorous mask, I am nothing but a sheep in wolves clothing..."

                 Violet Storm is the epic story of Aeva Storm, a sixteen-year-old girl whose nightmare begins when she wakes up in the Outer Boundaries, a long stretch of forsaken land that is far beyond the safe borders of her home. In her quest to piece together everything that’s happened, Aeva discovers that Agria, her hometown, is now nothing but a wasteland. After being pursued by Ravinals—men who hunt humans—she is rescued by a brooding exile named Karth, whose skills with all things sharp shows her exactly how he’s survived in the Outer Boundaries. Meanwhile, a renegade group, known as The Alliance, have assembled to destroy the Monarchy of the City of Light—the entity they believe to be responsible for the destruction of Agria. Having been a champion athlete and fighter, Aeva is immediately recruited to carry out the most important mission—to assassinate the Monarch—whether she wants to or not. There she meets a charming outcast named Ruven, who stirs up desires Aeva refuses to acknowledge, and has a secret that is even more jarring than his ethereal crimson eyes. But amidst all the horrors of her new reality, there is something even more terrifying: Aeva is exhibiting unusual abilities. And people begin to suspect that she has been physically altered into a Modi—a modified human—technology known only to the City of Light.

                 At 93,000 words, written in present tense and first person point-of-view, Violet Storm is set in the far future after a catastrophic event nearly wipes out the human population. The story is full of action, romance, deception and surprising twists. Young Adult fans of the Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins with an interest in post-apocalyptic landscapes, like those created in The Road by Cormac McCarthy, will enjoy this fast-paced, action adventure.

                  Violet Storm is my debut novel. I hope you'll wish to read more. Thank you very much for your time.

Sincerely, 
Anna Soliveres


8 comments:

  1. What timing-- I just sent off my very first query while gulping in fear and feeling a little queasy. Thank you for posting your example! I'm sure I will be repeating the process again.

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    Replies
    1. It is VERY nerve-wracking, isn't it? Best of luck, and in the mean-time, keep your mind off of it, and stay busy, busy, busy! =)

      Cheers,
      Anna

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  2. Anna - This story kicks! As a teacher, I would say with a fair degree of certainty that many of my teenagers would be interested in Violet Storm. I think you have a commercially viable idea brewing here. Many young adults are looking for futuristic fantasy. Their tastes are much more sophisticated than mine when I was their age.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Joseph! Truly, it gives me hope. The story has been a labor of love and heartache, that's for sure. I'm ready to work on the next story trying to claw its way out. =)

      Cheers,
      Anna

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    2. Being a part of this dialogue with you both gives me such renewed hope and removes a sense of isolation I've felt with this process. I love both your book ideas and am cheering you on!

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    3. Me too! Writing can be such a lonely endeavor. I get so excited connecting with other writers--only we know and understand the unbalanced emotions that comes with it. Plus, there's so much to learn!
      Have a wonderful Tuesday! :)

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    4. For what it's worth, I'm not a big fan of hooks in queries. The agent is more interested in content and whether it's an idea he can sell. I might use the hook in a synopsis though.

      The meat of the story, (your second paragraph) should be broken up into smaller bites. When the eye sees one big block of text it makes it hard to read, or at the very least, the reader become resistant to read it. I might smooth out some of the copy too so it's leaner and gets to the point quicker.

      Your third paragraph compares the story to other well known novels. I remember several agents ranting when Harry Potter and Twilight was all the rage. Every query they were getting was comparing the queried novel to the current hot book. I might suggest you research the agent's client list and see if any of his other authors' books are like your book. It would mean more to the agent if he knows you read his clients' work.

      One last suggestion: "...I am nothing but a sheep in wolves clothing..."
      Ref: wolves clothing

      This is incorrect since wolves should be possessive. It should be [wolves'] with an apostrophe at the end. Or [wolf's] if you want to make it a singular possessive.

      Hope some of this helps.

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    5. Thanks Maria! It does help. I showed my editor the query as well and she had similar suggestions. In fact, her first words were "this is awful". LOL I was thinking that "wolves" needed an apostrophe--thanks for clarifying that for me!

      I am now using a different structure recommended by Nathan Bransford.
      Which is similar to the recommendation my editor gave me as well.

      http://blog.nathanbransford.com/2008/03/query-letter-mad-lib.html

      Thanks again for the tips! :)

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