A Visit from Published Author, Stacey Kennedy

  Writing the Dreaded Query Letter…

No doubt, the query letter is scary! How are you able to sum up your book into one page to snag the agent’s/editor’s attention? Lauren’s blog has been so fantastic at showing examples of queries, explaining what works and what doesn’t. I wish I had this resource when I first started out. When I sent out my first query, I had no idea what I was doing…so today, I’m going to share what I’ve learned to maybe help an author who is staring at their computer wondering what to do.

I’ve seen some queries from Lauren’s postings that, in my opinion, are too long. As authors, we want to put as much as we can on the page to show our story’s potential. But the truth is, you don’t need to. Too much information can work against you and only confuse the agent/editor. I saw a perfect example of this from a query posted on SlushPileTales where it read like a synopsis. The problem with this is, unless you can give a full synopsis of your story—4-5 pages—then avoid this type of thing. What happens is you can only give minimal details, which makes it then seem like your story has plot holes and is all over the place. If you leave the agent/editor scratching their heads, wondering how to figure out your story, they’re going to reject it.

Here is my advice to you:

Start out with a hook—a tagline that sums up your story.

Example :

Love is born between strangers, yet built upon a bond soul deep―one Alpha’s vow to protect his mate from looming danger, all the while, mending her soul and stirring her wolfish desires.

By doing this you have summed up your entire story in just a few lines and have set out clearly what your story is about. It’s punchy, bold, and clean.

Next, don’t summarize your entire story, such as every plot point. You want the agent/editor to be excited over your concept, not confused by it. How do you do this? Exactly like you would with a reader. Back cover blurb it, baby! Write something that jumps off the page and snags the agent/editor to ask for more.


A vicious werewolf attack in Plymouth, Minnesota leaves a young woman violated, bitten and now, transformed into werewolf. But Rynn Murphy doesn’t have to face this transformation alone—she has her mate by her side. And the charming Briggs―Beta to the Patriarch, Valor―is eager to ease her into this new life and mend her battered soul.

With only weeks to adjust to her new fur, Rynn, follows Briggs while he assists in locating the daughter of the Montana’s Alpha, who was abducted from her home.  But this journey is not without danger. And soon, they discover the ones who have taken this young wolf do not want her found and will stop at nothing to keep her hidden. Or so it may seem, as bodies begin to drop around them, the murderous attempts start to appear more as a hit than a smoke screen—leaving only one question, who is the intended target…

So, the opening intro to your query so far is your tagline and blurb. Bam—you’ve hooked the agent/editor from the first line and kept up the interest highlighting your story. It’s clean, which shows the agent you’re style of writing is organized, and that if they request a partial, what they’ll find in the story is much the same.

Next, you move onto the book information. How many words is your story? What genre does it fall into? Who is your target audience? What publisher are you aiming to sell to? All of this is necessary for the agent to see if they are a good fit to represent you.

Lastly, the agents/editors want to know a little about you—and I don’t mean your journey to becoming a writer, anything about your personal life, or that your story has been compared to a Nora Roberts book—all it needs is a one paragraph bio. Exactly like you’ve done up above, you need to make it pop off the page. What makes the agent and editor want to work with you? Are you involved the writing community? Have you won any awards? Have you taken a course? Has your work received some great reviews?

Even if you’re a brand new author, there are still things you can say. You want to show the agent/editor that you’re serious about your writing. Try to get involved as much as you can. Join the RWA (for romance authors), volunteer, get your website up and start blogging. Do anything and everything to show that you are promoting yourself, and that if an agent/editor picked you up, you would work hard.

Always remember, the point of a query is to get them to ask for more. I know how tempting it is to want to put in as much as you can, to give all the information about your story, but it’s not necessary. They will learn all the fine details once they read the opening chapters and synopsis. At this stage of the game, you only want them to send that email requesting a partial or a full.

Of course, this is only my opinion, and there are many ways to write a query letter. Good luck and I hope my experience with queries assists one of you in your journey toward success!

Thanks, Stacey!

Posted on September 30, 2011, in Advice, blog, book, book publishing, Inspiration, literary agency, manuscripts, publishing, queries, Query Dice, slush pile, submissions, writers and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. Thanks again, Stacey! I just picked up 13 Reasons Why by Asher simply because I LOVED the BLURB! I couldn’t get through 10 pages without crying, however. What an incredible premise!!! THAT’S the kind of book I want to write! I look forward to the stuff on synopsis. I just wonder how necessary they really are if an agent loves the book? Or is that more for the potential publisher’s sake? It’s so wonderful of you take the time to help us out this way. Hope your weekend is going well!

  2. Stacey, thanks for giving us a great example! This will be very helpful as I am finishing up two manuscripts and will be needing to send out some query letters in the near future!

  3. Stacey,
    I’m hoping your suggestions come as a result of a question I asked Lauren a week ago about the difference between a synopsis and a book jacket promise. If I get the gist of what you are saying, there’s just no need to put a full synopsis into a query, but a book jacket promise would work much better. I saw this method on a website that focused on strictly query writing, so I’ve been using it ever since. I actually enjoy coming up with the hook and filling out the “back cover blurb” as you called it. I’d probably fail miserably at a full synopsis because I’ve written and read so many play synopsises, is that a word, that are usually catchy and to the point. This is valuable information for future writers. For me, it is usually those “blurbs” that get me to read a book in the first place. Once again, you’ve taken us down a much needed road. I hope people are paying atatention! 🙂 Thanks!

    • Hi Don,

      I thought you said it best right here – “For me, it is usually those “blurbs” that get me to read a book in the first place.” It hooks the reader in to “need” to read that story, which is exactly why it works best in a query letter. You want to get that same response from an agent. They can learn all the great things in your story from your synopsis.

      To be honest, I think it’s impossible–maybe someone could do it, but I certainly couldn’t–to put a full synopsis into a one page letter. It’s why you see Lauren asking so many questions through the examples. Not enough information is given, because it’s very hard to cram all that in, and it makes it look like your story isn’t organized, which it actually might be.

      Maybe I can come back soon and I’ll do a post about synopsis. They are, in fact, the devil! 😉

  4. Thanks for the advice, Stacey, and for giving us an example of your to put it to use. I love this: “back cover blurb it, baby!”

    I’m so excited to try this out, that my fingers are flexing in anticipation!

    But first to read a few great examples from my own favorites…

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