Querying

Or, making an example of myself…

Probably not the best opening gambit...

Probably not the best opening gambit…

Welcome to the latest in my series on trying to get published for the first time. As promised in my last post, this time I’m going to post the query letter I’ve been sending out to agents.

Before I do, I thought I’d share just a few of the basics of querying – I’m no expert, as this blog attests to, but I did a fair bit of research before writing mine, and a fair bit of redrafting before sending it. Also, those of you who aren’t trying to (or succeeding at) getting published may be interested in the background.

As I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned in a previous post, by and large there are three things that should be sent to agents. The first is a query letter, the second is the first three chapters of the novel and the third is a synopsis of the rest of the novel. And that’s most likely the order they’ll be read in. Query letter first, if that piques their interest then they’ll have a read of the goods, and if they’re intrigued by that then they’ll have a look at the synopsis to see if your grasp of plotting is as hot as your writing voice.

The query letter itself has (and again, I’m basing this on a load of research rather than any actual expertise) three jobs: introduce the novel, sell the novel, introduce the author. And all of that in somewhere between 150 and 350 words depending on which source you follow. The ‘selling the novel’ aspect can cover anything from who it’s aimed at, why it’s culturally relevant now, anything that could be used as PR, authors it may sit alongside (opinion is divided on this – it can sound egotistical, but if it comes across as if you’re giving a clue as to the audience that may be interested rather than saying you’re as good as a master of the genre then it’s a good shorthand) and all manner of other bits and bobs. The other two parts – introducing the novel and introducing the author – are a bit more self explanatory and it’s the former of the two that is more important than the latter.

I’m posting this both to see what you think (having not read the novel you won’t know whether it’s an accurate intro to it, of course) and as another example people can stumble across online – the more examples the merrier, I discovered while I was scouring t’interweb for hints. So, enough waffle. The only thing to be aware of is that I would add a sentence in to explain why I’ve specifically targeted the agent I’ve sent it to. Here it is:

Dear xxxx

I’d like to introduce you to A Calling-on Song, an urban fantasy novel set in modern day small town England and complete at 87,000 words.
 
Reclusive university drop-out Robin is back in the town he loves, desperate to rebuild his identity. Pursued by a mysterious vagrant and haunted by strange visions, he’s determined to carry on as normal. When injuries transfer from vision to reality and he discovers the vagrant knows more than he should, Robin finally turns to his fellow drop-outs for help. Drawn into a group of self-professed wizards and dream readers, the battle is on for his sanity, his life and the soul of the small town he can’t leave behind. Oblivion is calling and not everything can survive.
 
Centred on a dying high street and filled with British folk-tales, the novel is a timely look at the importance of celebrating what you love. Fans of Neil Gaiman and China Miéville will enjoy the blend of myth and reality.
 
I’m a 33 year-old Londoner and based elements of the novel on my experiences working in now-extinct record shops in Tunbridge Wells. Since then I’ve trained as an actor and, after a few years leaping out at people while covered in fake blood, given it all up to watch adverts for a living. I’ve written copy for websites, had a short story published in the Mosaic anthology by Bridge House and an introduction to a Grant Morrison graphic novel published by Hachette.
 
The full manuscript or a more detailed synopsis are available on request. Thanks very much for your time.
 
Kind regards,
Blah blah blah.
 
Any thoughts welcome. Another post will follow in the not-too distant future with a bit of industry feedback.
 
@BornToPootle
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