Practice Query

This is the first fiction query I’ve ever written (I’ve written a number of non-fiction queries, between my mag-article writing class and applying what I learned for the the bit of time I thought I still wanted to write non-fiction).

Dear Agent-whose-Name-I–Actually-Know,
Linnea is 17 years old and a single mother when she is asked to marry a monstrous snake so the prince can get to his own arraigned marriage. Not usually the type to be brave, Linnea thinks unaccountably of fairy tales when she considers the situation, and a mysterious old woman with odd instructions seals the deal.  Linnea disenchants the beast who turns out to be Kennett, the elder prince of a twin birth.  To prove his loyalty to his younger brother, Kennett joins him on a quest, unknowingly leaving Linnea to face new monsters alone.
Let Evening Come is the novelization of the Scandinavian folk tale “King Lindorm.”  It appealed to me as one of the less common tales that doesn’t end at the marriage but goes on, requiring characters to adjust to new requirements, in-laws and the demands of children, along with the more traditional fantasy elements of the fantastic.  Among these is the mixing of Arabian Nights magic with the folklore of Scandinavia, and summer solstice, when the sun never sets and often shares the sky with the moon.
Many people are aware of Dawn as a turning point toward hope, but in each day there is also Twilight with its promise of coming rest. Living in the Far North I have experienced my whole life the extended daylight of summer and the weariness of newcomers who can’t rest during the unending light. And as a mother myself, I identify a great deal with Linnea, a young mother knows what it means to long for rest while continuing to fight because there is no one else.

Thank you for your consideration.
–Amy Jane

It ends pretty abruptly, and sound more hubris than cooperation, so I’m afraid it give the wrong impression.  But I’m cool with it for a first try.  The format I followed was the 3-paragraph model: Hook, Background, Bio.

That is, say something interesting from your story, flesh it out a little, and explain your connection to it if you have one.

I slapped this together (with 5 pages left to go on my 4th revision) because there’s this contest going on here and since I have no actual feedback/experience with fiction queries I was hoping I’ll be one of the 50 he chooses to get ripped on.

Maybe I’ll get something useful out of it.  Anybody else do comment here.  Are you interested yet?  What questions does it leave you with?

8 thoughts on “Practice Query

  1. I surely am interested. :-)

    I’m not an expert on the query letter, but I recently came across an Amazon short called “How to Write a Great Query Letter”. It’s a free download, so it is at least worth a try, and when I skimmed it the writer seemed to make some good points. I’ll include the link below.

    How Write Great Query Letter

    Hope this helps you!

  2. Cool, Abbey! I’m glad it’s interesting to you.

    And thanks for the link. I have one of the books this fellow has written (and it’s a useful book) so I’m very curious to read the “short.”

  3. I’m not saying that I actually know what i’m talking about, but i’ll try to give you some pointers of things that I notice.

    When addressing your query, you’ve got a good start. Do NOT put ‘Dear Agent’ or ‘To Whom It May Concern’. The best bet is to say ‘Dear Mr/Ms. Agentslastname’. Good job there.

    Your first sentence should be a distillation of your novel and should be set apart from the other paragraphs. Try summing up your book in twitter, limiting yourself to 140 characters. If you need a few extra, that’s fine, but keep it snappy and intriguing. You want to use as few words as possible but giving the most information.

    If you don’t mind, i’d like to give you an example using your own words.

    “17 year old single mother Linnea finds herself caught in the matrimonial web of a prince with ulterior motives.”

    Doesn’t that make you want to read more? I know it makes me want to find out what it’s about. And the next paragraph is where you get a little more in depth.

    “LET EVENING COME, my ?? word novelization of the Scandinavian folk tale “King Lindorm” finds Linnea meeting a mysterious old woman who seals the deal on an arranged marriage with odd instructions. Linnea disenchants her soon-to-be husband who turns out to be Kennett, the elder prince of a twin birth. To prove his loyalty to his younger brother, Kennett joins him on a quest, unknowingly leaving Linnea to face new monsters alone, all the while adjusting to the new requirements of in-laws and the demands of children.”

    Or something to that effect. I don’t know about your novel’s twists and turns, but you get the idea. Always put your title in all caps. Mention your word count.

    For your next paragraph, don’t say why you wrote the novel. An agent may ask what inspired you when he or she is on the phone telling you he/she has sold your novel to a publishing house six months down the road, but for now they don’t care. Instead, write about why you are the best person to write this novel. From your present query, I’m guessing that you have no other publishing credits?

    “A young mother myself, living in the far north, Linnea’s story is very much like my own. This is my first novel.

    Thank you for your consideration.

    –Amy Jane”

    Don’t forget to add your contact info under your name.

    I think it may just be for spaces on your blog, but these little ~ signs should not be present in your query.

    Take a look at my How To Write A Query post ( ). There’s some good info there, straight from the agents themselves. There’s a good section on what to write if you don’t have any prior publishing credits in there. Have you studied Scandinavian folk tales before? Mention it. Are you Scandinavian? Mention that. Only include stuff that relates to your story. And keep it short.

    You’ll have to rewrite the paragraphs i’ve made up above, to reflect the finer details of your novel, and agents don’t like queries written by people other than the writer themselves.

    I hope this was helpful!

  4. Blue– hope you weren’t waiting on the bound copy. I was counting on you for a test reader ;)

    Cassandra– Thanks for your input. I appreciate the feedback.

    The query is an exercise for my “back-up plan.” The editor I’m showing it to first said she doesn’t actually like queries {erk!}. She just wants a synopsis (that gives away the ending) and the first 25 pages to make her decision on.

    It’s if she doesn’t want it I’ll have to start researching agents and fine-tuning this. And I’m enough of a realist I expect that’s coming next, so I’m preparing myself.

  5. Your first sentence loses me. How does a prince and arranged marriage flow from the protagonist you’ve just named?

    “Seals the deal” is a cliche. Is there another way to say that?

    Does the mysterious old woman have to be in the summary? It’s not as interesting as other details.

    “fantasy elements of the fantastic.” – reword

    You might play up the “beyond the marriage” part and mention your own marriage in your final paragraph. I think that’s a very unique selling point for your book, and you’re well qualified to speak on it.

  6. @ Becky: “You might play up the “beyond the marriage” part and mention your own marriage in your final paragraph. I think that’s a very unique selling point for your book, and you’re well qualified to speak on it.”

    I’m confused what you’re referring to. I’m “well qualified” because I’m married? That doesn’t strictly follow…

    I want to mention the married part since that’s so essential, but if the audience is truly YA (which I cyclically doubt) I imagine the marriage would be down-played more than otherwise. If I throw out the YA expectation, I could see making a bigger deal of the uniqueness. This is the sort of question I’ll want to ask whatever agent I end up with: How to decide where it goes.

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