A query letter is sort of like speed dating. You only have a few seconds to make an impression. Some editors and agents claim query letters aren’t important, but others say they’ll refuse to read a manuscript if they aren’t impressed with the letter. So it better be good, just in case.
Mary Kole, from the Andrea Brown Literary Agency attended the Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers conference last year, and handed out a worksheet to our class to help us figure out our query letters. I’ll include a brief version to help you out, if you struggle with this the way I do.
- What is the Genre of your story and which audience is it written for? (Twilight is a paranormal romance for the YA market)
- Who is your character? (Edward Cullen is your typical teen vampire. Good looks, fast car, no pulse.)
- What is the strange thing going on in his or her life that throws everything off-kilter and launches the story? (Then he meets Bella Swan)
- What (or who) do they want most in the world? (for the first time, Edward wants a human being more than anything. And he wants her alive.)
- Who (or what) is in the way of them getting what they want (their obstacle)? Edwards bloodlust could drive him to either kill her or turn her into a monster like himself.
- What is at stake (no vampire pun intended) if the character doesn’t get what they want? If Edward doesn’t get Bella or, worse, if he hurts her, he’ll be alone forever. Literally.
This helped clear up my query letter a lot. Now I can make a good impression when I jump in the "speed dating" pool and start sending out to agents and editors. Just remember to leave the cheesy pick-up lines home.