You wanted it you got it. Below you’ll find an example of a query that tickles the old partial-requesting region of my brain, the very powerful section of gray matter that manages to overrule the part of my brain that says, “But you already have 12 partials and 2 fulls in your inbox!! What are you trying to do to me??”
First I’m going to just print the letter so you can get a sense of the flow, and then I’ll point out some of the parts that I thought were particularly effective. Thanks very much to author for agreeing to participate! As always, please be exceedingly polite in the comments section if you’re providing feedback or disagreeing with something, because otherwise I might just have to activate the part of my brain that deletes impolite commnets.
I have been reading your blog since (the dearly departed) Miss Snark mentioned it, and I have enjoyed and learned a lot from your posts. I like your straightforward style, and I hope you will be interested in my novel.
When her husband leaves for a month-long overseas charity project, Candice Warburton is facing a possible cancer diagnosis and grieving the recent and unexpected deaths of her much-loved in-laws. The last thing she needs is the man who broke her heart ten years ago as the new client at work. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what she gets.
My 85,000 word women’s fiction novel, LIFE, LOVE, AND A POLAR BEAR TATTOO, explores how a tiny crack in a marriage can widen into a devastating split, and how honesty, however painful, is always worth the price.
Several of my several short stories have been published, most recently in Dark Cloud Press’s THOU SHALT NOT anthology. My co-written entry in the 2005 Three Day Novel contest (www.3daynovel.com) was honored with a short-listed finish.
Thank you for taking the time to consider my submission.
The thing I like most about this query is that it flows extremely well. A good flow is perhaps the most important aspect of any good query. Whenever I come across an awkward turn of phrase (like “I’ve written a 100,000 word historical fiction.”) or extended passive voice (“the main character was betrayed and has decided to not be a sucker anymore”), or if there’s a poor word choice where it’s clear it’s not a typo, 99% of the time I reach for the rejection button. Professional writers just don’t make mistakes like this — the sentences wouldn’t look right to them. This author, on the other hand, doesn’t have a misplaced word in the entire query.
The second thing I like about this query letter is that there is very good conflict. The main character is clearly reaching a crisis point in her life, but rather than being explicitly told she’s reaching a crisis, we’re shown: She may have cancer, her in-laws have passed, and then there’s the hook — an old flame has resurfaced at the worst possible time. It’s a very solid opening. Both ingredients of the hook are present and accounted for: Quest (overcoming cancer and grief), conflict (arrival of old flame).
The third thing I like is that there are really subtle details that go a long way toward establishing a sense of who these people are in a very short space, which, as everyone knows, is one of the hardest things to do in the short form of the query letter. In just the first paragraph we learn that her husband is spending a month on a charity mission (good person), just as she learns she might have cancer (she needs him) and as she’s grieving the loss of her in-laws (she was close with them). All of these things heighten the tension for the impending arrival of the old-flame (danger!). This isn’t a typical story of a woman-done-wrong-by-bad-husband-who-falls-into-bed-with-high-school-sweetheart, you get the sense that this is a good human whose life just got extremely complicated and who might make a human mistake in a weak moment. All of that conveyed in just a couple of sentences. Very tough to do, but very well done.
Then in the third paragraph she brings it home by giving a nice sense of the themes. At this point I wouldn’t even have needed the writerly qualifications in the fourth paragraph, but that’s just icing on the cake. It’s also an appropriate length, and she gets extra points for mentioning the blog.
So there you have it. Quite a strong query letter.