Query Letters – AGH!

So as you all have probably read on this blog at one time or another, I’m in the middle of writing an awesomely fantastical young adult trilogy. Well, book one, Crystallized, is officially DONE! Woohoo!

What does that mean? It means the last few days I’ve been hopelessly poring over endless agent blogs, query forums, and other websites in an attempt to understand this monster known as the query letter.

On one site, my query letter is praised for being awesome. Then another site rips the very same letter for breaking all the basic rules. A third says it’s okay, but too vague.  I was almost afraid to look at the fourth.

It’s frustrating. Many of the rules I find some sites preaching as “the only way” are disregarded on others. Some agents say you must have the best hook/tagline ever while other agents say taglines are evil. What’s a writer to do?

Here’s what I’m thinking; go with your gut. Agents are people, even if they are people who’ve read so many query letters that they want to set their hair on fire. They love to read. That’s why they became agents. So are they really going to toss your query because of a rhetorical question when your story is amazing and intriguing? My guess is, probably not.  Will they throw your query away without reading it if you start with the “I’m seeking representation…” paragraph instead of the “hook” paragraph? Somehow I really doubt it.  Just make them want to read your story.

So, for your reading pleasure as well as your scathing criticism, I’ve included the latest version of my very own query letter at the bottom of this post. Have a thought about it? Leave me a comment! See a problem with it? PLEASE tell me. Want me to critique yours in return? Absolutely! Feel free to send me any query letters you are working on at authorlmtaylor (at) gmail (dot) com.  I’d be happy to give you my thoughts based on this past week of painful research 🙂

Also for your reading pleasure, here are some of the sources that actually DID help me with my query writing adventure. Take a looksie!

Check out these links for great query letter information and advice!

  • AbsoluteWrite: How to Write a Query Letter by Andrew Jameson.  This is the most succinct and to the point advice I have found.
  • A Quick Guide to Query Letters.  This lists some of those rules I mentioned earlier, many of which I feel are subjective and never absolute. However, the first few points where they give the basic questions a query letter must asked REALLY helped me. I wrote those questions and then wrote answers to each question. Bam, there are the elements of your query letter – then you just have to organize and work on wording 🙂
  • QueryShark.  Here are tons of query letters, ripped apart (ahem, I mean critiqued) by a literary agent. Very useful!
  • The Complete Nobody’s Guide to Query Letters.  Good, especially for Fantasy/Sci Fi writers. This is a perfect example of how a nobody author sold a SERIES by using techniques that are often portrayed as gigantic No-No’s. See, no rule is absolute 🙂


Dear [agent’s name],
I am seeking representation for my young adult fantasy novel, Crystallized, complete at 85,000 words. The sequel, Fractallized, is in production.
Rachael, a prodigy in an oppressive society, is no stranger to trouble.
When a powerful crystal necklace jumps from her dreams into real life, Rachael is haunted by a desperate plea for help from the mysterious woman who sent it. Unfortunately for her, the use of magic in Shendara is not only heretical—it’s punishable by death.  
Then again, so is possession of Satu Fae, the illegal fairy-tale book given to Rachael by an enigmatic boy when she was five years old.
But magical powers in a structure-driven society are difficult to hide. Rachael soon finds herself an outcast, banished to the surrounding forest and struggling only to survive. After all, the forest is a forbidding place, what with the likes of elementals, thieves and possessed sorcerers making it their home.
When Rachael is captured and taken prisoner by one such sorcerer, she soon learns the strange plea for help was only the beginning of her troubles. The people of Shendara don’t believe in magic; they haven’t seen the thousands of spirits, imprisoned for eons in nothingness, as Rachael has.
If Rachael can’t escape to stop impending disaster, the townspeople will experience the spirits’ fierce determination to live once more—no matter the cost.
Thank you for your time and consideration,
Lisa M. Taylor
[contact info]  




About Lisa Taylor

Hello! I'm an author, and in my time as an author I've realized that there are thousands of authors out there that just don't get the attention they deserve. So I'm hosting this "Writer's Block Party" so you can get to know the people that create the stories we all love!
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10 Responses to Query Letters – AGH!

  1. Tracey says:

    The only thing a query must be is compelling. I have one piece of advice though. Editors may not want to take on a series right off the bat. In fact, some say not to query with a series. State instead that the story stands alone, but you have ideas for turning it into a series… but only if the story truly stands alone.

    Congratulations on finishing book 1 and best of luck!

    • Lisa Taylor says:

      Thanks, Tracey! I’ve been told that before and toyed with the idea of not mentioning the second book. But I feel kind of like a fraud. I could easily re-write the ending of my book so it would be stand alone, but as it is, I as a reader would be pretty annoyed if there is no sequel. There are no really unanswered questions, but a lot of growth still possible for the characters at the end of the book.

      If I try for ages and no one will accept my book because it is a series, I’ll re-consider. But first, I want to give it a try as it is. So we’ll see what happens. Thanks so much for commenting! Everyone has been really helpful.


  2. Ouch,,, that sounds like a painful process. I guess you are right about going with your gut about the Q letter. Thanks for the links, will definitely check them up cos soon I might jsut start querying mine. your query above… i think if I was an agent I’d be asking for a partial from your MS. sounds interesting. 🙂

    All the best, Lisa!

    • Lisa Taylor says:

      Thanks CeCe 🙂 I hope you’re right! Next I need to write my synopsis, my back cover blurb, and anything else specific agents might ask for me to send. Then I’ll start sending! Scary thought >.< Best of luck on your MS!

  3. Lisa,

    You need to personalize the letter to each agent you write. Obviously, you can’t really do that in your template, but, back when I was researching this myself and attending conferences, every agent I talked to or read said they want you to tell them why you queried them. Tell them why you think your book is a fit with their agency. Briefly, of course.

    I’ve also read that if you have credentials or a platform, you should mention them in one of your final paragraphs. I’d say if you have a lot of followers for Writers’ Block Party, you should mention that, since a built-in platform increases your ability to sell books. If you’ve been published before or have other relevant experience that’s worth mentioning too. Anything you can do to look like someone they can sell easily.

    Best of luck on your journey!

    • Lisa Taylor says:

      Thanks for your comments John!

      I’ve heard the same thing about personalizing. I do plan to change the position of the intro paragraph and/or add personalization depending on the agent and their preferences (if i can find them).

      As far credentials, I don’t have much. Do you think this blog says enough about my writing or readership platform? I’m not sure…I might ask around for advice on that, thanks for mentioning it. I’ve been told mentioning self-pubbed books is shooting yourself in the foot unless you’ve sold 10,000+ copies of it (which I haven’t even come close to!)

      Thanks again for your advice, John. Every bit helps!


  4. Pingback: The Query | Nicola L. McDonald – Writer's Blog

  5. Food Stories says:

    I have enjoyed reading your site so I’ve nominated you for the Illuminating Blogger Award for illuminating, informative blog content. You can check out the details at my site … http://foodstoriesblog.com/illuminating-blogger-award/ … Hope you’re having a great Memorial Day weekend!

    • Lisa Taylor says:

      Wow, thank you!! My blog is booked through June but on July 2nd (the first available date I have), I’ll write the award post and nominate others and thank you formally. Please don’t think I’m putting it off because I don’t care, I’m super excited! I just don’t want to push any authors out of their scheduled spots! I hope you had a great holiday too!

      • Food Stories says:

        Whoa … You are super dedicated and organized to be done that far out, I’m so impressed 🙂

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