Tuesday, January 06, 2009

I always thought writing a query letter would be, well, not that hard. I've read the blog posts and Web site tips. I understand the basic idea. Besides, I reasoned, I'm a journalist. I make my living distilling loads of information into the most interesting and informative bits.

My novel is with beta readers right now, and I'm not ready yet to start the next novel, so a week or two ago I started working on my basic query letter.

It's hard.

I feel like sticking my tongue out at the smug self I was a few months ago. Now I've got two drafts with two different openings and I don't know whether they both majorly suck, or if one is better than the other. So I'm posting them below for your review.

And these are only the first few sentences. I'm leaving off the rest of the query because, well, the novel isn't ready yet, and also because the rest of the query is the same for both. It tells more about the novel and also has the requisite bio stuff. I apologize in advance for the extreme similarities between these.

One more thing: I'm having a last-name crisis for my MC, so I've used two different last names here.

So (deep breath) here goes:

Query 1:

Dear Mr. Agent Man,

Lottie Griffin just landed the biggest front page story of the year, which should have been enough excitement for her first week at a new college. After all, she nearly tripped over the body of a dead student on her first reporting assignment, and probably launched a brilliant journalistic career. Until then, her biggest goal was just to fit in and make new friends.

But then the dead boy’s popular best friend asks her out, she’s welcomed into a clique of Southern sorority belles, and discovers the most infuriating person she’s ever met is also her sexy, enigmatic editor, Jack.

Query 2:

Dear Mrs. Agent Woman,
College sophomore Lottie Stuart doesn’t want to make the headlines—she wants to write them. She just enrolled at a new college, just got hired at the school newspaper and nearly tripped over the dead body of a student while on her first assignment. Now she’s got a front-page story and a sneaking suspicion the student’s death wasn’t just another drinking binge gone bad.

Life gets more complicated when the dead boy’s popular best friend asks her out and she’s welcomed into a clique of Southern sorority belles. She also discovers the most infuriating person she’s ever met is also her sexy, enigmatic editor, Jack.

Thoughts? Comments?

For those also writing query letters (and having a hard time), here are a few of my favorite blog links, all to agents/publishing gurus who read gajillions of these a week and are superbly helpful. Try their sidebars to find query-related posts:

And then there's Query Shark, where I might soon humbly submit my query in high hopes it will get ripped to shreds. Then I can take the good shreds and rebuild it. I could also go to Evil Editor, but honestly EE and his minions (no really, that's what they're called) intimidate me. I'm waiting to grow a slightly longer backbone before venturing there.


Tracy Marchini said...

I emphatically choose number 2. Much clearer, with a great opening line!

Chad Sayban said...

I'm with you on writing query letters. I've already started working on mine, and I'm still writing my first draft. I just know it's going to take a long time to get it right.

I agree with Tracy, the second one is much cleaner. However, the sooner you can get the 'tripped over the dead body' line in, the better. That really piqued my imagination.

Crimogenic said...

I'm also struggling with my query. So I feel your pain.


I think the opening line on #2 is great. Clear and to the point. The query flows pretty good. Seems like you're close to perfecting it. I wouldn't put 'of a student' in the second sentence, just 'nearly tripped over a dead body.' But what do I know, I'm struggling with the same process.

fairyhedgehog said...

I prefer the second one.

I've tried writing a query letter and it's much harder than it looks. Your second one looks good to me.

BBJD said...

I agree. The second one is better.

Hope it goes well for you.

Evil Editor and the Minions are intimidating. However, having gone through two - yes, two - critiques from the Minions, I can honestly say I am happy for the experience.

They like to have their fun, but ultimately they care about helping writers write better. There has been more than one success story to come out of that blog.

For what it's worth, I vote for Evil Editor.


The Rejection Queen said...

Yes, I revised my query letter today. Can you believe it took me a whole day to finish it? It is very difficult to do. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. The synposis and the query letter are the hardest thing to do. We have to be like sales people in that respect, but I'm not a sales person. I am a writer.

shannon said...

Another chime for #2!

Kiersten said...

Second is by far the stronger option, but it needs some cleaning still.

I really do recommend EE. And the trick there is to take his advice, take my advice (ha!), take the advice of people who are nice and actually say worthwhile things, and ignore everyone else.

Justus M. Bowman said...

I'm speeding through, and I see people are choosing #2.

Let me tell you the first negative thing that entered my mind: you use the word "just" too much. You use it three times in the first paragraph, twice in one sentence. Can you do without "just"?

Lenore said...

I'm for number 2 as well, though you know you can still make it tighter! :)

Anette J Kres said...

Your second letter is FAR better than your first. It grabs my interest more, uses humor, and isn't awkward in places as the first is. Good luck with Evil Editor!