You don't need the date in the body of a query letter. I know when you sent it because my email management program tells me.
Don't lead with this. I personally don't give a rat's asterisk about why you queried me but I know some of my ilk like to see this
kiss-up stuff personalization. It goes at the end of the query. Start with the story.
My completed novel OUTLAWS
Don't worry about the title, and whether it's working or final or whatever. Publishers have final say in the title of books and at least half the books I've sold have undergone title changes. In other words, don't get too attached to the "perfect title"--just like washing your car is a sure fire way to make it rain, loving your title too much means it's Gone In 60 Seconds.
Josh Grant's puritan upbringing by Amish grandparents did not prepare him for life as a city cop. It did prepare him to live as a reclusive farmer in the mountains of Southern Idaho where he relocated. The lifestyle served as his personal pergatory to atone for his self-imposed guilt for not protecting his wife and son from the drug ravaged city crime. His isolated hideaway, where the only responsibility was to his animals, served as santuary for a while.
Did you even run spell check before you sent this?
You're still bogged down in backstory. How Josh got to Idaho, and Grandpa and Grandma aren't relevant. He's there now. Start where the story starts.
It starts here ----->When he stumbles onto the bloodied body of his friend at the general store he reluctantly calls on his street skills to protect his friend's daughter Jolene from the thugs who murdered her father. Together they must survive attacks from the ruthless gang bent on eliminating witnesses to the murder.
Consider this: Josh finds his friend, Felix Buttonweazer murdered at the general store. Now he must help Felix's daughter Jolene hide from the ruthless gang determined to eliminate witnesses.
Names are a big help on keeping everyone straight.
The gang kidnapps Jolene and Josh must go on the offensive. Along the way he finds renewed reason to live.
If they're bent on eliminating witnesses, why do they kidnap her? Why don't they kill her?
Well, no, you actually have to spell this out in a query.
Thank you for your consideration.
I sense you're getting impatient here, with both the critiques and the comments. You've written the novel, and you just want to get started on getting it in front of people. I'm impatient too, and easily frustrated (just ask the minions who have to deal with me in the office on a daily basis--they have bolt holes for when it gets rough!)
Right now, you need to step back and give this query some breathing time. At least two weeks. Don't read the comments (in fact, I'm going to shut them down). Just let this percolate for awhile.
Go read some good novels. Give yourself some time off. Then come back, read through the archives again (you're missing the template of how to talk about plot in a query) then start over.
> Dear (agent):
> Imagine being a homicide detective in a drug ravaged city where your wife
> and young child are the victims of a drive-by shooting.
>Detroit detective, Josh Grant lived through that - barely. Plagued with
>self-loathing over his failure to protect his family, he quits the force
> and moves to the mountains of Southern Idaho where he exists as a
>reclusive farmer just as his Amish grandparents had.
> On a trip to a country general store for supplies he stumbles onto the
> bloodied body of the store owner and interrupts the attempted rape of the
> owner's daughter, Jolene. Josh recognizes the motorcycle gang's logo as
> that of the notorious Outlaws, a vicious biker gang he's dealt with in the
> past. In his rescue of Jolene, Josh kills one biker and holds another for
> arrest. He and Jolene join forces to prevent further attempts by the
> Outlaws to avenge their fallen brother and eliminate witnesses to the
> murder. Holed up at Josh's isolated farm, he and Jolene survive an all-out
> gun battle with the gang, only to have Jolene kidnapped by the leader of
> the gang and held hostage to lure Josh into his gun sights. With his back
> to the wall and no help, Josh must end this - his way.
> OUTLAWS is a completed 66400-word action/romance novel.
> My professional experience as a police lieutenant in a large Ohio city
> imbues this novel with a ring of authenticity only experience can bring. I
> have published articles in major trade publications including Police Chief
> and Law Enforcement.
> Thank you for your consideration.
This is how your query looks when you copy it from one email and paste it in another or FORWARD. It's blue, it's got the > thingies, and it's hard to read.
The QueryPolice won't show up at your house. Agents will still glance at your query, BUT it's REALLY hard to read, even on a computer screen. A LOT of agents are reading on their iphones and smaller screens.
Don't do this.
Command D: Duplicate message. Invest a couple minutes in finding out how your mail program does this and then USE IT. And NEVER forward a query email. Never.
I don't retype every pitch letter to editors. I duplicate the basic message and then personalize it (Dear Reagan Arthur, I'm desperate to do a book with you cause I adore everything you publish. Pleeeeeze buy this)
Now on to the actual substance of the query:
Dear Query Shark:
Imagine being a homicide detective in a drug ravaged city where your wife and young child are the victims of a drive-by shooting.
Dear Query Shark:
No thank you. This kind of abrupt statement is akin to a rhetorical question. It's not the most effective way to open a query letter. For starters, I don't have a wife or a young child. While I can certainly read books featuring heroes who have those stakes, the reason I care about the wife and child is because I am sympathetic with the hero, NOT because I have a wife and child. There's a big difference.
This is all backstory. And it's backstory that kills this query letter. Why would I want to spend any time at all, let alone a couple hours in the company of a man who is clearly so despondent and reclusive? There's nothing here that catches my sympathy or my interest.
Let me holler on my soapbox again: the purpose of a query is to ENTICE an agent to read your novel. This isn't.
The story starts here -----> On a trip to a country general store for supplies he stumbles onto the
bloodied body of the store owner and interrupts the attempted rape of the owner's daughter, Jolene. Josh recognizes the motorcycle gang's logo as that of the notorious Outlaws, a vicious biker gang he's dealt with in the past. In his rescue of Jolene, Josh kills one biker and holds another for arrest. He and Jolene join forces to prevent further attempts by the Outlaws to avenge their fallen brother and eliminate witnesses to the murder. Holed up at Josh's isolated farm, he and Jolene survive an all-out
gun battle with the gang, only to have Jolene kidnapped by the leader of the gang and held hostage to lure Josh into his gun sights. With his back to the wall and no help, Josh must end this - his way.
You've given me the entire synopsis here so there's no sense of wanting to know "what comes next" which you MUST have in a query.
OUTLAWS is a completed 66400-word action/romance novel.
This is not a romance novel in any way shape or form. This is a straight up piece of commercial fiction.
Thank you for your consideration.
This query doesn't work. There's nothing fresh or original about the plot. I have no sense of connection to the characters, and no reason to care about what happens to them. The villains are stereotypes. I'd be MUCH more interested in this if the motorcycle gang were the good guys.
This is a form rejection.