Nathan Bransford, Author

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Example of a Good Query Letter

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, [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]

Emily Conrad

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."

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Can I Ask You A Question? (um, you just did)

I don't know what is in the air or the water or the pumpkin pie mix these days, but people are being excessively polite lately. Not excessively polite as in they're infused with the holiday spirit, more like politeness so excessive that it's no longer polite.

I've been getting tons of query letters from people asking me if it's ok to send me a query letter. Yes. You heard correctly. A query letter to see if it's ok to send a query letter. Not a letter to see if it's ok to send a manuscript (which is what a query letter is), but literally emails that read "May I send you a query letter?"

Now, I don't know if you can tell from these posts, but I am a philosophical person. I don't need to be contemplating the nature of the universe while I am sitting at my desk at 8:07 in the morning. I don't appreciate being prompted to ponder the infinite, mobeus-strip implications of receiving a query letter to see if it's ok to send another query letter. I mean, what if I say yes? If I say yes, that it's ok to send a query letter, then when I receive the next letter I will have received two query letters and I never asked to receive two query letters. Or what if I say no, you can't send me a query letter? But by receiving the first letter I had already actually received a query letter, thereby invalidating my denial. DO YOU SEE WHAT THIS DOES TO ME?

In the end I always just delete the meta-queries or throw them in the trash. Save it for the philosophers, people!

So please, I beg of you. Do not make your prospective agents ponder the nature of the universe early in the morning. Just send the query.

And another thing! (can you tell I'm fired up this morning?) Do not send your emailed queries with the read receipt thing turned on! It smacks of intrusion and makes me think you're the type of prospective client who is going to send a 600 page manuscript and then email me two hours later asking me if I've read it yet. You don't need to know when or where or how I read your email. Just know that I've read it. Unless of course I was unable to do so because my brain was stuck in an infinite loop thanks to a meta-query.

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