Working on my query letter now. A bit daunting because they say most agents only read the first 3 sentences. So it has to be great from the get go! For those not in the literary world, a Query letter is basically a Cover Letter. So just like if you were applying for a job, you need to talk about what you bring to the table and who you are and pitch what makes you (or in this case, the story) the one they need.
Note: Never send off your query letter for a novel, unless your novel has been gone over and over and has been polished to perfection from start to finish. Never send off a query to an agent if you have not finished your book! If an Agent does reply they will most likely ask for at least the first 50 to 100 pages and quite possibly the full manuscript. You cannot wait to see if they reply and only then do your last line edit. Now in Non-Fiction this can be done, but never in Fiction. You must be ready for that opportunity!
As they say in the industry; The Hook, The Book, and The Cook.
So first you have the pleasantries at the top of the page like the name of the book, how many pages, genre, ect. Then you need to list some "Comps". That basically means other story lines that may be similar to your own. You want to pick an author or subject that is well known, but not to well known that your comparison comes across cocky. So don't say for example, oh its just like Steven Kings Cujo. They don't like you thinking you are already in his league. 99.89% of the time your not even close. So either you use an up and coming author with similar story lines or style, or a more famous author but not one of their well known books. Not an easy task. A lot of reading required. I think I will pick 1-2 books and 1 or 2 movie plots to compare too. Will make it a bit different than the rest and set the stage.
Then if the editor had kept reading this will lead him or her into the more critical part..."The Hook". Also known as the "Logline" in the movie and TV biz. Basically that catchy hook that gets them excited enough to keep them reading the rest of your query letter. This has to be either fun, entertaining, exciting, simple punchline that really makes them interested that they may be reading about something or someone different.
Then the next section is "The Book". This part is basically giving them the meat of the story so they can get an idea of the direction you are going and where you may take the reader. Also not an easy task. Similar to a synopsis but condensed and more exciting.
The final section is "The Cook". Now this section is basically your bio in a nutshell talking about how or why you wrote this book and why you are the right person they need to tell this story. Now your bio can be rewritten depending on what kind of book this is. Meaning that if it is an action/adventure story, you might tell of your travels, or explorations that you can share in your story that other's may not have experienced. Or if it was a romance book, one could change one's bio to reflect more of your prowess in relationships, or long hard history of falling out of love. The bio will also reflect any accomplishments in the literary world you may have already achieved like previous published works or awards.
Now all that sounds tough enough, now just think this is all a potential agent will get from you about your book. They don't get to read the first chapter or anything. You and your story are solely sold by this one piece of paper. Talk about a hard-core pitch!! It's all or nothing so this Query letter has to be the best you can make it. It may fail more than once, in which you will need to rewrite it again and again until it works for at least one agent! You only need one!
Now if you did it right, then the good news comes. An agent will respond and ask for either the first 15, 50, or 100 pages. That is a big feat unto itself, so feel proud if that happens. That means you are on the right track. Now your story has to be great as well to get them to totally fall in love with it enough to give you that great call wanting the whole manuscript before
offering to represent you. The dream of any author. Only thing better would be to get several calls so that you actually have a choice on who you go with. Many author's will usually just jump at the chance and say yes to the first agent that makes an offer. Especially if they have had rejections in the past. Sometimes author's have had dozens or even hundreds of rejections before getting that good call. So needless to say they may be anxious for a good call. I know I would be.
My plan is to write 3-4 different style query letters. Then have some beta reads on those with my editor and a few other trusted beta readers, then I will probably take bits of each and condense it all into one finished piece to use and trust will be my piece 'de resistance. In other words a Query letter than actually works!
Then all you have to do is send it off and wha-bam, your in right? Ha ha ha. Yeah right. Like I wrote before, plan on rejections or no reply at all. Only a small percentage will actually reply when they reject you. If you get ones of those be happy. Even better if they give you some pointers to work on before reapplying. That is a good sign that your story has potential, it just needs some rewrites. Take all the critique you can get, especially from the pro's! Also before you send off your query letters you will need to do lots of research for the right agents. You do not want to send off your romance novel to a agent who only deals in childrens stories, or your action/adventure to an agent who only wants non-fiction. Lots of prep work to be done.
So one little page. So much work. So much to potentially gain! Just go for it!