Having trouble writing your own query letter? Can’t imagine what it all looks like in the end? Hopefully you get some inspiration from these examples of query letters that actually landed agents.
After the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest, I began to query agents and luckily agent Pooja Menon of Kimberley Cameron & Associates was quick on the draw to give me “The Call”. Below was the query letter that grabbed her attention:
Dear Pooja Menon,
DREAMCATCHERS, a young adult urban fantasy completed at 67,000 words, was one of the three finalists for this year’s Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest in the young adult category. Publishers Weekly said, “the characters fill out well in the process, and the superhero-styled action scenes are good fun for readers.” Expert panelist Charlie Olsen said, “Pure brain candy, Dreamcatchers will appeal to fans of comic books with its superpowered action.”
Seventeen-year-old Jane Doe’s sweet and innocent appearance is the perfect means to sucker people into helping her get what she wants: her life back.
Waking up with no memory is frightening enough for Jane, but after surviving an earthquake, fleeing from an institution and wandering through the slums of the Trench, the last place she thought she would find trouble was in her dreams, or rather, the space between dreams and reality.
Stumbling upon this new world, Jane comes face to face with the stuff of nightmares that take whatever form their Dreamer fears most, be it a three storey tall monster, an exploding metal man, or a pair of deadly oversized spiders. As they hunt down their frightened Dreamer, their destructive actions wreak havoc on the Trench in reality, killing innocent bystanders. When a group of misfit teens, called the Dreamcatchers, arrive to protect their beloved neighborhood, Jane impresses them, and herself, with her ability to control the dangerous creatures.
Jane soon finds out that in places like the Trench, those without a past just can’t be trusted. Her amnesia becomes a closely guarded secret, and her innocent looks make it easy to win the Dreamcatchers over. There’s only one problem: Sam. Her growing feelings for the charming leader make it hard to keep up the pretense and she’s driven to stretch her lies just to stay with him. She wants to confide in him, but more than anything she needs to uncover her past, and using the Dreamcatchers seems the only way. Torn between remaining in her newfound life and her desire to find her real family, deceptions run high and each new clue drags her further into the Dreamcatcher’s nightmarish war that could leave her with no place to call home.
I am a twenty-eight-year-old true geek at heart, enjoying anything from Star Trek expos to comic conventions on my days off from driving 400-ton dump trucks in Northern Alberta. As a jack of all trades with a resume boasting registered nurse, English teacher and photographer, writing is one thing that is here to stay. A desire to entertain is nothing new for me, which is what I hope to accomplish with Dreamcatchers, and to continue to do throughout my future writing career.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Rebecca Phillips and I met in Seattle for the 2012 ABNA finals and have kept in touch ever since, along with the rest of the finalists. Rebecca is a fellow Canadian who lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia with her husband, two children, and one crazy kitty. She absolutely loves living so close to the ocean. When she’s not tapping away on her trusty Toshiba laptop, she can be found vacuuming up cat hair, spending time with her family, watching reality TV, reading all different genres of books, or strolling around the bookstore with a vanilla latte in her hand. She’s also the author of a contemporary young adult two-book series, Just You and Someone Else. Below is the query letter that caught agent Carly Watters’ eye. You can also check out the advice Carly gave on Canadian vs American Literary Agent Misconceptions.
Dear Carly Watters,
I am currently seeking representation for my 69,000 word contemporary young adult novel, titled OUT OF NOWHERE.
At eleven years old, Riley Tate witnessed the sudden death of her father. Now, at sixteen, she still can’t bring herself to step on “the spot”—the section of kitchen floor on which her father landed after collapsing from a brain aneurysm. For someone like Riley, a hypochondriac with anxiety issues, moving on is never easy.
Since losing her dad, Riley has become obsessed with the human body, how it works, and what can go wrong with it. Reading about diseases distracts her from the things she’s not ready to deal with, like the fact that her mother started a whole new family with a man who has more muscles than brains and tries to act like her new dad. And that her doctor thinks she’s a mental case. And that her ex-boyfriend dumped her because she wouldn’t have sex with him. But she refuses to let anything—especially not a guy—interfere with her dream of becoming a surgeon.
When she meets Cole Boyer in an ER waiting room, Riley realizes immediately that he’s far from the safe, predictable boy she usually goes for. A fearless daredevil with mysterious scars and a thirst for all things dangerous, Cole is like an accident waiting to happen. Still, despite their differences, they forge an unlikely friendship that eventually blossoms into something more. Dating someone who’s so casual about death has its challenges, but as Riley soon learns, not everyone can be—or needs to be—saved.
OUT OF NOWHERE was one of the three finalists in the 2012 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest, YA category. Publishers Weekly called it “a very good example of a contemporary coming-of-age novel, with well-rounded characters and honest emotion”. With a blend of heavy issues and humor, OUT OF NOWHERE explores the total randomness of life, death, and love.
Gail Nall lives in Louisville, Kentucky with her family and more cats than necessary. She has degrees in US history and law. She spends her early mornings writing contemporary middle grade fiction, her days helping keep the doors open at a homeless shelter, and her evenings reading and trying to stay up past eight o’clock. Her obsessions include hiking and camping, travel, figure skating, and eating. Gail is an active member of SCBWI, and is represented by Julia A. Weber of J.A. Weber Literaturagentur.
Dear Ms. Weber:
Ever since thirteen-year-old Casey Fitzgerald was cast as the apple in her kindergarten production of The Five Food Groups, she’s known theater is her destiny. But when her best friend Amanda wins the lead role in the school musical, the curtains close on Casey’s dream.
There’s no way Casey can get into the performing arts high school cast in a bit part as a nun. Her life is over – unless she can reinvent herself. The new Casey does karate and plays poker, and she finally gets actor Trevor’s attention. There’s just one little problem – Trevor is Amanda’s boyfriend. Casey must decide if her great new life is worth losing Amanda’s friendship. So much for ex-drama queen.
Complete at 51,000 words, EX-DRAMA QUEEN is an upper middle grade novel pitched as Glee meets middle school. I am querying you because I enjoy following you on Twitter, and I remember reading that you were looking for contemporary upper middle fiction about friendships. I am a member of SCBWI and a former high school drama geek. I recently won an honorable mention in the middle grade category at the 2012 SCBWI Midsouth Fall Conference. Per your guidelines, please find the first three chapters, a synopsis, and a short author bio pasted below. Thank you for your time and consideration.
Richard Pearson grew up in Little Rock, Arkansas. As a child he consistently performed, often without request, for anyone who would listen to him. He eventually found his audience, and spent most of his years in high school rehearsing various plays and musicals. At Rhodes College, Richard took numerous courses in theatre and creative writing (though his major was Sociology) and has never stopped writing or performing since graduating in 2004. Aware that he had to pay the bills somehow, Richard worked as a paralegal for many years, but eventually decided (thanks to some loving coaxing by his husband) to attend law school in 2007. After graduating from Rutgers School of Law in 2010, Richard passed both the New York and New Jersey state bar exams. He currently practices part-time out of his home in Hoboken, New Jersey. Richard is represented by Eric W. Ruben of the Ruben Literary Agency
Dear Mr. Ruben,
Due to your express interest in quality LGBT fiction, I think my novel THE ROLE would be perfect for you. There are few novels written about what it is like to rehearse for a Broadway play, and fewer still that focus on the gay men who dominate the industry. My novel offers readers a backstage pass, revealing that sometimes the greatest story on a Broadway stage happens behind the curtain.
Mason Burroughs always wanted to be on Broadway, but after years of trying, he is on the verge of giving up. However, everything changes when he runs into his old acting school crush, Kevin Connors. Kevin is the lead in a hotly anticipated new play, but the show cannot start until the director finds an actor with the right chemistry to play Kevin’s gay lover. Convinced that their reunion is a sign from the theatre gods, Kevin gets Mason an audition. Mason taps into his old feelings for Kevin, and lands the role that could finally make his Broadway fantasy come true.
Unfortunately, getting cast turns out to be the easy part. Mason is constantly pushed to the brink of collapse by his personal trainer, stripped naked – emotionally and literally – by the megalomaniacal director, and forced to surrender his identity to bring life to his character. Thankfully he has Eric, his boyfriend of many years, whose loving support grounds him in moments of weakness. But as Kevin and Mason perfect their onstage romance, the lines between life and illusion begin to blur, presenting Mason with the ultimate question. Will he succumb to his desire for Kevin in order to show the world the epitome of passion on stage, or will he stay faithful to his true love Eric, and risk letting his life-long dream slip through his fingers?
I practice law across the Hudson in Hoboken, and spend my spare moments writing and acting. I wrote this novel to escape the sterile language of the law, and to tell a story I longed to read as a gay man who grew up in the Arkansas theatre community.
THE ROLE is complete at 90,000 words. Per your guidelines, I have included a synopsis (I have a more detailed one available) & my first chapter. I am happy to forward any materials (including the full manuscript) upon request. Thank you for your time and consideration.
Richard Pearson, Esq.
Joshua is the author of Framing Monsters, as well as a number of fantasy/sci-fi short stories under his pen name J. David Bell, including Scarecrow, Aphasia (published in the collection BEYOND THE GRAVE), The Burning of Sarah Post (published in the collection COVER OF DARKNESS), and Cats in the Backyard. He loves to read, watch movies, and spend time in nature. He’s the self-proclaimed world’s worst singer, but he plays a pretty mean air guitar. Below is the query which tickled the fancy of Liza Fleissig of Liza Royce Agency and (cue the applause) comes out in fall 2014 by Margaret K. McElderry Books (Simon & Schuster).
Dear Liza Fleissig:
In a near-future world of dust and ruin, fourteen-year-old Querry Genn struggles to recover the lost memory that might save the human race.
His story is Survival Colony Nine, a futuristic Young Adult novel that follows a small band of refugees as they fight for existence in this hostile land. The narrator, Querry Genn, suffers from traumatic memory loss induced by an encounter with the Skaldi, alien antagonists that swarm the wasted planet’s surface. Unable to recall his past or his identity, Querry is both protected and tormented by the colony’s authoritarian commander, his father Laman Genn. But there is a secret in Querry’s past, one that makes him at once a target of the Skaldi’s wrath and a key to the colony’s future. The discoveries Querry makes about himself, his father, and his family will change his life–and the fate of humanity–forever.
Survival Colony Nine is currently complete at 74,000 words. I have begun drafting a second installment in a possible three-book series. The story told in Survival Colony Nine, however, stands on its own.
I am the author of the book Framing Monsters (2005), a survey of classic and contemporary fantasy and science fiction film. In addition, I have published numerous short stories in the fantasy and science fiction genres; these appear in such publications as A cappella Zoo, Niteblade, Farspace 2, andCover of Darkness.
I have included a synopsis and the first ten pages of Survival Colony Nine. Thank you for your consideration, and I look forward to hearing from you.
Joshua David Bellin