But now I'm better, if a little weak. And I'm back to finish what I started, this discussion on queries. I queried for my book, From Halvmane's Shore, with little success. I don't know if it was the query itself, or that I'd tried to sell an 80,000 word epic fantasy (not my smartest moment, that), or if it was the first few pages I sent along with it (did you know that as long as the agent/publisher doesn't specifically say not to, you can paste the first five pages of your novel into the email and no one will get annoyed with you?). What I do know is that book wasn't ready to be published, and as my first book idea, it wasn't going to be ready any time soon.
So I wrote my current WIP, The Complete Guide to Being Evil. I'm so much more excited about it, and I'm convinced it will be my breakout novel. For it to be so, I have to present a killer query to show it off.
So what makes a good query? It starts with the three C's: Character, Conflict, Choice, in that order. After you have those, you have to be sure it carries the voice of the novel. And it should be right around 250 words long, arranged in three paragraphs. So as an example, here's what I have so far:
Riches, youth, magic, Kalara has it all. She's a classic evoker--hurling fire, ice, and electricity is her specialty. As her father always said, the classics are important. Here I've introduced the Character Kalara as un-apologetically full of herself, and a daddy's-little-girl.
Meet Whitcomb, a powerful necromancer who doesn't want anyone discovering he's selling the souls of the dead who go through his funeral home. Kalara finds out he's also a mage, and lets him know they have that in common in an endeavor to network. His response is an attempt to teleport her into the Hudson River, and it almost works. Scared for her life, she elicits the help of a devil. The Conflict is that "this town ain't big enough for the both of us." Giving both Kalara and Whitcomb's specialties as magi has given some of the setting, as does saying they're by the Hudson.
Enter Evander, son of a devil. He's fresh from failing his final test to become a devil, and making a deal with a mortal would save him from disgrace. He has Kalara sign an overly fair contract: in return for borrowing his power for five days, she has to give him a heart from one of his enemies so he can eat it and grow stronger. If she fails to deliver the heart, he eats Kalara's instead. Choice: Kalara chooses to solve her conflict through evil means. There's also stakes: if she fails, she dies.
THE COMPLETE GUIDE TO BEING EVIL, finished at 60,000 words, is a quirky Urban Fantasy. And of course, always say title, word count, and genre. If you have publishing credentials, put those here. Some agents also want a "why I wrote this" segment, though I assume for most people the reason is "because I love writing."
I know this example isn't perfect, but I hope it helps you in your efforts to write your own queries. If I ever get a book deal I promise to come back and show you the final version of the query that does it for me! Until then, I'll try harder to stick with my normal posting schedule. Though I am compiling a spreadsheet of fantasy agents and their various submission guidelines, which I'll have to share here once it's completed.
Are you still on your original story idea? If not, what number book are you on? How many books have you queried for, and how many queries did you send out for each?