Monday, September 24, 2012

Examples of Query Letters for Novels that Sold

by Jill Williamson

This past summer, Roseanna White wrote a great post called, What does the perfect queryletter look like? This is an excellent post with an excellent example. I like examples. And I think you do too. So I scavenged up some more examples of query letters to post here today. These are three letters that worked. The books were published. I cut off the names and addresses here for privacy, but make sure to include those in your own letters.


First is the query from Melanie Dickerson’s The Woodcutter’s Daughter, which became the novel, The Healer’s Apprentice. Melanie was an unpublished author when she submitted this letter to agent Mary Beth Chappell, who agreed to represent her as a result of this submission.

 Dear Ms. Chappell,


The Woodcutter’s Daughter is an 88,000-word historical romance. Sleeping Beauty meets Pride and Prejudice when a betrothed prince falls for a woodcutter’s daughter whose secret identity endangers both their lives.

Rose’s status in fourteenth century Germany is low, so when the town healer asks her to be her apprentice, she is determined not to ruin her chance at respectability. The problem is, she gets sick at the sight of blood and is more suited to making up stories than sewing up a gash. Lord Hamlin is honor-bound to wed his betrothed, but when he is wounded by a wild boar, Rose is the only person available to tend his injury. Against his will, Lord Hamlin is drawn to her beauty and integrity, so much so that he devises a plan to end his betrothal so he can marry Rose. In the end Lord Hamlin defeats Moncore, his betrothed's enemy, and (... I [Jill] cut out the spoiler in case you haven't read the book!) 


The Woodcutter’s Daughter won first place in the 2007 Fiction From the Heartland Contest, finaled in the Dixie First Chapter Contest, and won fourth place in the Gotcha! Contest's Inspirational category.

I am a member of Romance Writers of America (RWA), American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), and the assistant coordinator for the ACFW book club, which reaches over 500 Christian fiction readers. My short stories and articles have appeared in national children and teen publications. I have an active blog, www.MelanieWrites.blogspot.com.


Please allow me to send a synopsis and the first three chapters of The Woodcutter’s Daughter for your consideration. Thank you, and I look forward to hearing from you.


Sincerely,


Melanie Dickerson




Melanie did a great job. She gave the title and length right up front. Then she gave a great hook. "Sleeping Beauty meets Pride and Prejudice." Brilliant. She also gives a tight one-paragraph synopsis, mentions that the story finaled in a contest, then ends with her professional writing affiliations and that she's published some articles and short stories. She also says what she wants at the end: "Please allow me to..." That's important. This was a great letter.

Second is my query letter for Prince Gidon, which became By Darkness Hid. I was, technically, an unpublished writer when I submitted this letter to Jeff. I had been planning to publish Jason Farms, which became Replication, with a small press. (So glad I waited!) I did write an early reader missionary book for my church, which isn’t exactly a novel. And I had published several articles.


Dear Mr. Gerke:

Bloodvoicing is a gift, an endowment to communicate from one gifted mind to another. For a slave to have the gift is unheard of, yet one slave has more power than all the rest combined.


A young adult fantasy novel, Prince Gidon tells the story of two young people with a unique, ancestral ability to speak to, and hear, the minds of others: a slave forced to serve a prince who wants him dead and a young woman masquerading as a boy to avoid a forced marriage. The novel alternates between their points of view until their stories collide on the battlefield.


Judging from the steady stream of medieval fantasy novels on the bestseller lists, young adult readers remain fascinated by epic fantasy adventures. Projects similar to mine like Eragon, Dragonspell, Chosen, and The Bark of the Bog Owl bring a fun mixture of fantasy and faith to the Christian market.
I have two books contracted. Jason Farms will be released in spring 2009 (a young adult suspense novel from The Wild Rose Press), and A Mango and a Mud Church will be released in 2010 (an “all reader” book from Beacon Hill Press). My articles have appeared in Brio, Brio & Beyond, Shine Brightly, and Devo’Zine. My husband and I have worked with teens in the youth pastor role for nine years. I researched medieval life and swordsmanship for three months before I started to write this novel and can provide a works cited page.


If the premise appeals to you, I would be happy to meet with you to discuss the project. My agent, Terry Burns at Hartline Literary Agency, can provide a marketing proposal and the complete 96,000-word manuscript.


Sincerely,


Jill Williamson


Enc. Synopsis, One Sample Chapter




Jeff told me that this was one of the best letters he'd seen. What impressed him was my opening hook paragraph. He also liked the "...until their stories collide on the battlefield" line. In my letter, I tell very little about the actual plot. But it was enough to bait Jeff to want to see more. I mentioned the market and some successful titles from the time. I also gave my publishing credits paragraph and ended with what I wanted from him.

Finally, Cara Putman’s letter for A Fort Robinson Summer, which became Sandhill Dreams, book two in her series with Heartsong Presents. This letter is a little different because it is for a book two. Cara was already published when she submitted this letter.

 Dear JoAnne,


Enclosed please find three sample chapters for A Fort Robinson Summer as well as a detailed synopsis and chapter by chapter summary.


A Fort Robinson Summer is the story of Lainie Gardner and Thomas Beckner and the challenges they experience on the home front during World War II. Lainie is Audrey’s best friend in Canteen Dreams, and a year has passed from the end of that book and the beginning of this one. Lainie and Tom’s story is told with the K-9 Training Camp at Fort Robinson, Nebraska, serving as the backdrop. During World War II half of the K-9s used in the army during the war were trained at Ft. Robinson, a quartermaster post tucked in the northwestern corner of Nebraska near South Dakota and Wyoming.

From the moment Lainie and Tom meet, sparks hot enough to light the prairie on fire fly between the two. Tom is assigned to train the dogs that have been sent to the army by a patriotic public. The only problem is he’s deathly afraid of dogs after being bit by one as a child. Lainie travels to Fort Robinson to find a civilian job at the post after her plan to ship overseas with the Army Nurses Corp. is ended by illness. A Fort Robinson Summer tells the story of their romance.


It is my pleasure to submit this proposal for your consideration. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.


Have a blessed day!


Cara C. Putman



Because Cara didn't have to sell herself as a writer, she didn't need to mention word count, give a premise hook, or publishing credits. She was simply able to focus on the plot. She gave two paragraphs about the story and ended with her request.

What do you guys think? Any questions?

17 comments:

  1. Amazing queries! And great examples to look at when working on mine!

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  2. Great example letters, thank you for sharing. I can see how important it is to "tease" on the book, without giving everything away yet so that you can capture the intrest to send the first three chapters.

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  3. Jill, thanks for sharing these great examples. Between the two of you (you & Stephanie),I might actually finish my YA this year.
    As a 'late bloomer', so to speak, I have learned more here than any other place. Thanks so much! Y'all give ... and give.
    God bless y'all ...

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    1. That is such a nice thing to say, Debby! Thank you. I hope you do finish your YA this year! :-)

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  4. Thanks for the great post! I like reading query letters for some reason... If I don't just become a full-time author, I think I'd like to work as an agent or publisher.

    Anyways, thanks again!

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    1. It would be a lot of fun to be an editor. I got to spend a little time with my editor this last weekend, and one thing she did was invite my friend Diana up to her hotel room to show Diana her bookcover for the first time. My editor had it on her laptop. It was so great to witness that moment. And editors get to do that for authors--make their dreams come true. There is also the crushing of dreams, I suppose, but most editors do it kindly and try to encourage as they reject. A very cool job indeed.

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  5. Very helpful examples!
    ...But I thought ya'll weren't going to post today? I'm glad you did anyhow!! :) How was Texas?

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    1. Yeah... we're tired. We got confused. LOL!

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    2. Jill is being kind - I'm the one who got confused, and Jill was the one who reminded me that today is actually Monday. Sheesh. Texas was good but tiring :)

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  6. What do you do if you don't have any writerly achievements to add to your query letter?

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    1. You simply leave off that paragraph and end with the "I've enclosed or attached sample chapters" paragraph. Editors don't care if you've been published before if your idea is great. If you idea is so-so, the achievements paragraph might help you.

      But think back to that pretend acquisitions meeting I wrote. An editor has needs to fill. He/she is looking for projects and knows what she needs. If the timing is right, it's right.

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  7. Where do you put the contact information? At the end, or the beginning, or wherever you see fit? Thanks for the great post, by the way.

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    1. I think you are generally supposed to put your contact info at the top of the page. If you want an example, most writer market guides have sample query letters in the front of the book.

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    2. Leah is correct. You can center your name, address, phone and email at the top of the page or justify them to the left or right.

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  8. I missed this yesterday, but it was a great surprise when I logged on this morning! This looks like a great bunch of query letters, and I'll definitely come back to this when I prepare to write one!

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  9. Very cool post. :D I honestly had no idea on how to write a query letter before, but these will be awesome guides for when I'm ready to pitch my book. Thanks for posting!

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  10. Useful post, thank you! I'm not at the querying stage yet, but it's interesting to learn about anyway, and it'll come in handy some day.

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