It was suggested to me after my last posting that perhaps I was being too rough on those unfortunate souls who sent queries asking if it was ok to send a query and that perhaps I should, well, lighten up. NEVER. Haha. That felt good.
However, for those of you who like your literary agent blogs nice and polite, and who probably spend your afternoons wishing puppies could talk, you all are in for a real treat. Because today I am going to dissect a really good query letter and extoll its virtues. Let us all learn from Emily Conrad, who was both gracious enough to send me a good query letter and generous enough to let me use her as a guinea pig. A really good query letter writing guinea pig.
Without further adieu*, here is her stellar query letter with my comments in brackets.
Dear Mr. Bransford:
[spells my name right, goes for the proper “Mr. Bransford” approach, which is always appreciated, doesn’t call me Mr. Brown. Also, the salutation is in the same font as the rest of the e-mail, showing me that she did not just tack it on to a generic letter]
Sixteen-year-old Hannah’s faith was seriously injured by the accident that killed her sister, so when her chance at popularity – senior Will Raditz – moves into the basement, she sets aside following God to fit in with boys, friends, and fashion trends. [Gets right to the point, condenses the essence of the plot into one sentence, and hooks me right away. Popular guy moves into the basement — what’s not to like???] Eventually, she must decide: is it time to pull the plug on faith? The 67,500 words of my inspirational young adult novel The Boy in the Basement follow Hannah’s unique and often humorous journey to the answer of this question. [Boom. Tight, concise three sentence opening paragraph. Tells me the plot, genre, and leaves me wanting more.]
I graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh’s French and creative writing programs in January, 2005. While at the university, one of my short stories won the Eighteenth Annual Writing Competition. My poetry was published in Bellowing Ark (summer, 2004), and in The Wisconsin Review (summer, 2005). [Good solid writing credentials. Won awards, has been published in journals]
I chose to submit this novel for your consideration after I saw Emily Ever After listed on your MySpace page as a novel you wish you had represented. [Researched me individually! Not a generic query! Knows her work is up my alley!] Not only did I enjoy reading the book, but it is similar to my writing in that it represents a Christian who makes mistakes as she struggles to follow her beliefs in a world where it is easier to join the crowd. [Pulls my own preferences back to her own work. Subtle and effective.] You can read the first chapter of The Boy in the Basement on my website, www.emilyconradauthor.com. [Has a website!]Upon your request, I am prepared to send the complete manuscript. [Finished the manuscript before writing the query]
Thank you for taking the time to consider representing my work. I look forward to hearing from you. [Polite and professional]
Needless to say, I asked to see the manuscript in ten seconds flat. While any agent would be extremely lucky to have a client like Emily and she is a very talented writer, ultimately we did not make an agent/client match. BUT STILL. That one’s on me and my oft-flawed personal taste, not on Emily, and I’m confident she’ll find the right agent. She deserves a big salute for writing such a great letter and for conducting herself so professionally.
Now I’ll let you get back to wishing puppies could talk.
*This was a joke, I know it’s “ado.”