Saturday, September 06, 2008

Query letter fear!

Query letters strike fear in my heart. So let's rip apart one of my query letters just for fun. My comments are in ( )'s and not part of the real letter. Please no laughing. Just join in and point out any useless crap you see or let us know your own Query mistakes.

Yes, this is a letter that has received a few rejections.

Dear Ms, Mr, or Mrs. (Gotta get this right but how do we find out if a woman agent prefers Miss, Ms. or Mrs.???)

I’m an avid reader of your blog. Thank you for all the great information and insight you post there. (Too much sucking up? Not enough?) I would like to submit my manuscript for your consideration.

Eyes of My Killer:

Thriller-Suspense, approximately 70,000 words.

Misty reads eyes. She needs only to glance deep within your eyes to see your soul, your world, and all your secrets. But her gift has gotten her into trouble before as it doesn’t always give a clear picture. Not everything she “sees” makes sense. Random thoughts, images, and emotions come through haphazardly. When she comes eye to eye with a serial killer Misty goes to the police for help. In shock, she can describe the brutality and horror she saw in his eyes, but not the man himself. She knows the police think she’s a kook, but she has to make them listen.

Max Jennings is a by the book cop and he’s on the trail of the nastiest serial killer in Angel Fall’s history. When Misty McAllister walks into his squad room and declares she knows who the Angel Fall’s Strangler is because she met him at the mall, Max labels her a whacko. When the strangler leaves a message on Misty’s doorstep in the form of a dead body Max labels her a suspect, but Misty insists it’s a warning. Now she’s in a race for her life and only man can help her, the one who doesn’t believe her.

Full manuscript is available upon request. Thank you for your consideration. (I know the bio goes here but I don't have one. Does blogging count?)

Ciao baby,

One Aimlesswriter

Thoughts? Issues? Your query?


Zoe Winters said...

holy crap I'm glad I'm never doing that again. Well theoretically, I will probably have to write SOME type of sales type letter in the future I'm sure, especially if I ever try to sell subsidiary rights.

Erica Orloff said...

Hi Aimless:
I love queries! It's just sales, pure and simple. :-)

First, I don't know any woman professional ANYWHERE who prefers Miss or Mrs. ONLY use Ms.

Second . . . I think it's a pretty straightforward query. I think the main thing I would do is make it sizzle more. Just from reading the query, my mind thinks, "Been there/done that." I.e., there have been so many movies and books where the psychic sees the killer and the cop disbelieves the psychic. So . . . I would pull in what makes YOURS unique. Is it the brutality of the crime? Who is bring killed? And so on. Something has to set your book apart. Is Misty funny? Quirky? Has being psychic ruined her life? Is it something she inherited . . . did she see her mother struggle with it? Does she hide from the world? Embrace it? Only you know what makes your book unique--and tight as this letter is, you don't tell the agent what that is.


laughingwolf said...

sell the sizzle, not the steak, erica? :O lol

Erica Orloff said...

laughing wolf:
Gotta get the sizzle with the steak. ;-) You only have 30 seconds to grab an agent in a query.SIZZZZZZZLE . . . . . .


Merelyme said...

I don't know much about query letters but I wish you the best of luck!

Aimless Writer said...

Good insight! Now I have to figure how to insert what I think to be the spark that will surprise them.

Note on Miss, Mrs, Ms. Here in NJ Ms. is most common but when I was working a woman from a southern state corrected me very strongly when I called her Ms. "Excuse me! That's Mrs. Donald ...." I almost fell off my chair. lol

Erica Orloff said...

Hi Aimless:
Interesting . . . though I would doubt in NYC that you would run into that querying agents. I think today 99% of people know that professionally, it's the safest route. Gosh . . . I remember when it was first used--the uproar over it. lol!

Anonymous said...

Aimless: If I were an agent, the low-to-middling quality of the writing in your query would raise red flags. Examples:

In She needs only to glance, you should drop the to.

In But her gift has gotten her into trouble before as it doesn’t always ..., I strongly recommend a comma after as (though this isn't a hard-and-fast rule). You make this mistake four other times by my count.

Add two hyphens in by the book cop.

If Angel Falls is the name of the town, your apostrophes are incorrect; it should be Angel Falls'. (Also, does anybody else find that name really trite, sort of soap-opera quality?)

Many agents might think sheesh, if this is the best she can do with a 300-word query, wonder how the ms reads?

All this leaves out the story itself, which from your pitch feels like a made-for-TV movie (Max falls for Misty? Knock me over with a feather!).

Anyway, hope this helps. It's all just one gal's opinion, of course (and this gal agrees that you should default to Ms., BTW). Best of luck!

Melanie Avila said...

I think you have some good suggestions here already. I just thought I'd share that you inspired me to possibly post mine on my blog when the time comes.

Good luck!