Tuesday, August 12, 2008

My Query

Morning All! Below I have posted my query letter for THE BETTER PART OF DARKNESS. The original query is in black and my comments are in blue. Hope it's helpful. :) And please make sure to check out Colleen's comments on her blog! It's also posted over at FinePrint's blog.
Dear Ms. Lindsay,

I'm seeking representation for my 90,000 word urban fantasy, THE BETTER PART OF DARKNESS, where the beings of heaven and hell have come out of the closet, and they aren't the things of Sunday school lessons and Hallmark figurines.

First paragraph – The Introduction. The goal here was to fit the facts: why I’m writing the letter, word count, title, and genre. Often writers will stop at this point, and I have as well with other queries in the past, but if you have a tag line, use it! The trick with using a tagline is to make sure it’s short. You don’t want to start your introduction paragraph off with a long explanation, or a hefty paragraph. Keep everything light, and the reader will find it easier to read. Notice how all my information is in one tidy sentence.

Eight months after dying on the job and being resuscitated an hour later, CHARLIE MADIGAN is back patrolling Underground Atlanta for the ITF, Integration Task Force, an agency designed to police and monitor immigrant beings from Elysia (heaven) and Charbydon (hell).

Second Paragraph - I jumped right in, introducing my main character. One sentence that is packed with a lot of information. My character’s name, job, a little teaser about her near-death experience, and also the world in which she lives. With fantasy, it’s easy to get bogged down by explaining your world. If you can weave some basic world info into your paragraphs, that’s much better than using an entire paragraph to info dump. And it’s always helpful to remind yourself that the agent reading the query is a smart person; trust them to get it. Pick a few words and sentences to explain your world and characters, and they’ll get the picture.

With her partner HANK, a siren from Elysia, Charlie makes sure the co-mingling of species goes without incident. But when her pre-teen daughter, EMMA, learns that a beloved babysitter is lying comatose in a hospital from accidentally ingesting After Glow, a new off-world drug, Charlie takes it personal. She discovers a link between the new drug and the Charbydon Political Party, becoming a target and a possible tool for bringing darkness to the city of Atlanta.

Third Paragraph – The plot. Think back cover book blurb here. Trying to explain the plot in three sentences is pretty difficult, but read some blurbs, get a feel for how books are boiled down into a few sentences. Go back to your early notes and use them to identify those main points you might have written down. Play around with your sentences, cutting, moving around, until they read as smoothly as possible.

My character, Charlie, is a tough woman typical of urban fantasy heroines, but she's also a single mother to a headstrong kid, and a divorcee to an ex who wants her back so badly, he's bartered his soul to a demon who's come to collect. Her personal life is just as complex as her work, making her, I believe, a unique addition to the genre.

Fourth Paragraph – Here’s where I diverged a little from my other queries and took a gamble. I added an extra paragraph. Normally I would have skipped this and made my fourth paragraph the “bio” part of the letter, but I really wanted to showcase Charlie and felt I had a unique enough character to do that. Two sentences. I kept it short, but packed a bunch of conflict into the paragraph.

I'm a 2005 RWA Golden Heart finalist in the paranormal category and a 2005 Laurie winner for best single title romance novel. I'm also a recipient of the 2005/2006 North Carolina Arts Council grant fellowship in writing.

Fifth Paragraph – I hate to write about myself, so yay for brevity here! I had other things I could have added to this paragraph, but there’s really no reason to list every single accomplishment. I want my story and my writing to speak for itself. And, hey, if you don’t have any writing kudos to list just give a one-sentence over view of any writing organizations you’re in, or that degree you have, or if you have experience that relates to your book in some way.

I've pasted the first few pages below, and I hope to hear from you at your convenience.

Sixth Paragraph. Just wrapping things up here, following guidelines and ending it short and sweet. Done.

Best Regards,

Kelly Gay

Okay, so the biggest keys for me when crafting a query is brevity (think, ‘just the facts, ma’am’) and sentence structure. The goal is to make the read easy, while showcasing the book. At the first go-round, my queries are usually two pages. But then I cut, move things around, and dissect sentences. I try to find places where I can combine sentences and possibly take out words, and I always, always, always think about flow. This is a great time to show your skills as a writer, don’t waste the opportunity on complicated sentences, too much detail, and back story.

And if I’m having a hard time summing up a particular point, I find it helpful to just sit in a quiet place and imagine myself trying to explain what my book is about to a non-writer friend. It always starts off a little uncomfortable and shaky, but inevitably, there’s always a sentence or two that pops into my mind that I end up using.

That's it. Hope some of you found a few things helpful in all this! :)


LeeAnn Flowers said...

Thanks so much for your insight. That was a great query. I wish you well with this book and your next one.

Michelle Miles said...

Hi, Kelly. I found you by way of Colleen Linday. Great query and thank you so much for taking time to break it all down for us struggling with our own queries. :)

Best of luck to you with your book. It sounds amazing and I'm looking forward to snatching it off the shelf at my local B&N.

Tia Nevitt said...

I thought it was an excellent query. I especially liked the way you showcased Charlie in a paragraph by itself. And obviously, it was a good gamble.

Anne Barton said...

Kelly, seeing your query along with your comments is really cool. I love your tagline! I also liked your advice about trusting the agent to get it. Thanks for sharing this...I'm heading over to see what your agent said about it too!

K. said...

Aw, shucks; thanks LeeAnn and Tia!!

Hi Michelle! Thanks so much for visiting my blog and for the nice words. :)

ANNE!! Hi to my fellow Pixie! Glad you stopped by and like the post!

Unknown said...

Kelly, your explanations were so helpful and read alongside of Colleen's post it really gives a full picture of an effective query. Thank you for your explanations a the end about how you cut the query down and come up with your tag lines, very good advice!

Cali MacKay said...

Fantastic query! You make it seem so easy. A big thanks to you and Colleen for the insight.

Best of luck on your book!

Unknown said...

Great query, Kelly! Thanks so much for sharing it with us. You really do make it look easy. I can't wait to read the book!

Anonymous said...

Kelly, thanks for sharing your query. I am in the query process and appreciate your example and wisdom! I understand why it's a great query--you sold me on your book! :) Cha-ching! :)

K. said...

You're very welcome, Sheri! Thanks so much for posting and the kind words! :)

Thanks, C. Taylor! I really appreciate the comments!

ccallicotte4, glad to know you liked the post! :D

Thanks, Nancy! That's wonderful music to this author's ears! :) And good luck with your query!

Ingrid said...

Nicely done Kelly! I always felt like I was operating in a vaccuum when I wrote my own queries, so it's nice to see someone else's work.

Anonymous said...

So when does this book come out again? Man. Don't make us WAIT like this.

Great info, and thanks so much for sharing.

C.J. Redwine said...

Nice job, Kelly! =) Can't wait to read the book.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for your tips! I love your query, and it's no wonder Ms. Lindsay requested your manuscript and represents you now. I can't wait until your novel's out--I want to read it, too!

Sonja Foust said...

Great query and great commentary! I learned a few new things I wouldn't have thought of before. :)

Anonymous said...

Hello Kelly,

It's a great query. If it's okay to ask, I'm just wondering how many agents you sent it to before you signed with Colleen?

Thank you,

Merc said...

I found your blog via Colleen's via Authoress, and loved your post on your query, Kelly!

Great query--I can see why it worked. :) Thanks for sharing and commenting on what you did and why--that helps break it down even more. B-)

I wish you the best with your series. :D


K. said...

Thanks Ingrid and Michael, my fellow FinePrint siblings! :D

CJ!! Another Pixie visit. Hee. Thanks for stopping by!

Hey Joya! Glad to see you here again! Thanks for the nice words! :)

K. said...

Sonja! Hi! :D Great to see you here, and thanks very much!

Sam -- without looking I think I sent out a round of ten with this query (I like round numbers ;-)). And I believe out of that number, three didn't request pages (two never replied at all, so I'm not sure what happened there, and the other said it wasn't for her). It was while I was awaiting responses to requested material that I saw Colleen had hung out her shingle, so I shot off an email to her as well. And the rest, as you know, is history. :)

Merc, thanks so much for the comments and good wishes. I appreciate it! :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for sharing your experience, Kelly. It give a would-be published writer hope ;-)


Theresa Ragan said...

This is a great query, Kelly! And look where it got you! Can't wait to see your book on the shelves. Thanks for sharing.

K. said...

No problem, Sam. :) And good luck to you on your writer's journey!

Theresa Ragan!! Hi woman! Thanks so much for stopping by! :D

Kira said...

Thanks for sharing! I'm stressing over a query right now, so it was great to have an example of a succesful one!

Cindy Nord said...

Lovely....simply lovely. I award your sharply brilliant query with a generous sprinkling of Pixie dust!!!!

Great job,
Cindy Nord

Ronald L. Smith said...

This is really great. Congratulations and thanks for sharing.

Kay Cassidy said...

Great job with this, Kelly! You already know I love your query, but I think doing the 1-2-punch blog with Colleen is so cool. I sent my workshop attendees a link to both of your blogs so they can get a sense of your query in action. :-)

Rock on, Pixie Chick!!!

K. said...

Thanks so much, Kira and prince!! :D

Hiya Cindy & Kay, my Pixie Chicks. Thanks for stopping by ladies!!

Bella said...

Colleen's blog sent me to you. Wonderful query and good luck with your book.

K. said...

Thanks, Bella! :)

Selestial said...

Great query :D I swear I've seen it somewhere before, but I've gone to so many dissection sites over the past few months that I see queries in my dreams. Congrats and I look forward to snatching your book off the shelf :D

Victoria Mixon said...

Hi Kelly,

Thank you for posting this with your commentary! It's extremely helpful to other writers.

I want to let you know you have a small typo: "The trick to using a tag line is too make sure it's short." You've got one too many o's in too. I looked for an email address to let you know without outing you, but couldn't find one, so please feel free to delete this comment after you get it! :)


K. said...

Ack! Thanks for pointing that out. I don't mind at all. You can 'out' me any time, Victoria! :D

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing your quesry letter, and your thinking process as you wrote it. I'm going after agents now and feel I need to improve my letter (sent off to 15 agents that deal with YA fantasy - my genre - and have gotten 10 rejections so far). Being able to analyze one a published writer sent off helps tremendously!! Can't wait to read 'Better Part of Darkness' and check out you other books.

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