Dear Query Shark,
I would like you to consider Polaris, my YA romantic suspense novel for your list. The manuscript is completed at 81,000 words.
Don't start with this. It's not the most enticing part of your query letter. It's the housekeeping part: the word count, that it's finished. Put it at the end. And you can leave out that you want me to consider this. Of course you do. I want you to keep breathing, and have a long and happy life, but I don't start my letter to you with that.
I see this a lot. I think it's because you feel awkward just leaping into the deep end of the query. Don't be. A quick drop into cold water is EXACTLY how you want to start a novel (and thus a query.)
"Don't play with fire," this is one of the first lessons we learn as children. "You will be burned," Valerie's mother said. How is that possible? She thought, the only way it would be so is if that love was lost, and that- Valerie knew- would never happen.
It's unclear to whom "she" refers.
Don't play with fire is something you'd teach a little child. It doesn't have anything to do with love. "You'll get burned" obviously IS about love relationships. It's jarring to have them together. I can see your writerly eyeballs rolling as you think "it continues the metaphor" but it doesn't. It punches a hole in the metaphor and it's confusing to your reader.
Oops, she was wrong.
With a future that has been meticulously planned and a destiny left unfulfilled, 21 year old Valerie Burke takes a gruesome journey through her past as she remembers her former existence with Dean Morrow, the ex-boyfriend who left her, disappearing without a trace for only God knows what reason.
That's one sentence. There are places for long ass sentences in novels, indeed there are. There isn't much room for them in short-form work like queries.
Remember, agents are reading fast. We're not curled up on the couch with kitten and cup of tea. We're reading at midnight after a long day in the office, and trying to figure out if your novel is something we want to read. It's MUCH more helpful to have shorter sentences and just get to the heart of things.
"Destiny left unfulfilled" doesn't actually say anything.
She is a lost, empty vessel that is searching the dark planes of her life for a single light in the black abyss, a North Star- a Polaris, that will guide her home- then she finds him.
More empty images. It's not that I don't like the images, I do. But without the substance of the novel, it's filigree on a house with no foundation, and I am NOT buying a house with no foundation.
Hand-in-hand with her best friend, Matt Larson, this high-school art teacher channels her surreal memories and buried secret into art therapy: This will be the beginning of a process which forges a woman from the fleeting shadow of a child. Valerie becomes re-born, like a pheonix from the ashes of an ill-fated love, just in time to be knocked on her butt again.
Did you misspell phoenix or is that a UK spelling? The occasional misspelled word won't kill a query (misused words, however, will) This paragraph is more filigree.
She is murdered by a stranger and resurrected by an angel of her past- Dean Morrow, who saw that coming? Now, Dean and Matt, who have two very different ideas about justice and who are irrevocably in love with the same woman, join to hunt down the wanted perpetrator. This trio of star-crossed lovers will be caught in a web of secrets and vindication and Valerie will consequentially have a choice to make.
Wait. Wait. Wait. The person I think is the protagonist of the novel is dead? This is the paragraph that finally, sort of, gets to what the novel is about.
Below is the preface to Polaris, it is just over two pages long. Thank you for your consideration and time, I look forward to hearing back from you.
Preface? Preface? That odd high pitched sound you hear when you tilt your ear to the left is the QueryShark screaming under her reef in the Slough of Despond. (The QueryShark dwells in a slough, not a sea)
Never, ever, NEVER use a preface or a prologue or chapter 0 or whatever you are calling the part that comes before chapter one, as sample pages. Chapter one, pages one up to whatever the number agent wants (QS asks for pages one to three/five)
There is nothing in this query that remotely supports the idea this is a YA novel.YA novels have characters in their teens, not twenties.
This is a form rejection.