Honing Your Query Letter

CleaverUniqueFNVI was putting together a submission letter the other day. The submission letter is basically like a query letter that an agent will use when submitting a manuscript to editors. The manuscript that I was submitting is a young adult urban fantasy not only told from two points of view, but also with two  separate story lines that become entangled into a third. It’s a great manuscript with all kinds of unique, interesting fantasy elements dealing with alternate realities and some not so human beings. But it’s also very much a contemporary young adult manuscript with some romantic elements in it. I was wracking my brains trying to write a paragraph that gives a little information about the story. Sometimes I just filch the short synopsis about the manuscript that the author wrote in their initial query to me. After all, you guys work so hard on these and my client had caught my attention with it, so it was well written and pretty enrolling. But my client’s initial query letter to me had taken two paragraphs to describe the story and I didn’t really want to do that. I like to keep it short and sweet.

The purpose of my submission letter, and the purpose of your query letters, isn’t really to give a full synopsis of the whole story. My aim was to include enough about the story to remind the editors to whom I’d already pitched, about the manuscript. It’s a little different when querying, because when writing a query letter to agents you don’t usually have that initial phone or face-to-face interaction. But there were a few editors that I hadn’t spoken to and to whom I was just sending the submission cold. So the other purpose of my submission letter, and which is in line with when you query agents, was to pique the interest of the editors so they’ll really want to delve into the manuscript and maybe even put it on the top of their “to be read” pile!

What I ended up doing was crafting a letter that only touched upon some of the interesting parts of the manuscript. I introduced it as a compelling, fast paced and romantic young adult urban fantasy, which it is. I leaned more heavily on one character’s story than the other’s. That doesn’t do a disservice to the second character, because the point of my letter is to get the editor to read the manuscript, not retell or recap the whole story. I did mention the second character, but only in relation to the first. The editors who read this manuscript will get that it’s told from two different points of view when they read it. They’ll see that it’s two story lines that mesh. Telling them that in my submission letter just doesn’t matter. I finished up the paragraph with, It’s a story about alternate realities and staying true to the people we love. That’s what the crux of the story is to me. It’s one of the (many) things that excites me about this story.

Now of course there is so much more to say about this manuscript! I mean, there are really many more elements of the story that are totally cool, unique, well done, and thought provoking. But when I’m sending a submission letter, or when you’re querying an agent, it’s important to remember what the purpose of your letter is: to get the person to whom you’re writing to read the manuscript.125601871_80da5938f9_z

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One response to “Honing Your Query Letter

  1. Cool insight into an agent’s modus operandi. Good luck to you–and your author–with this project.