Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Queries: The Writer's Gateway

I swear, I spent so much time writing and re-writing my query letter this weekend that I had no idea what it said any more. I could read all of the words, but I no longer had any idea whether they formed coherent thoughts.

dragon shadow

For those of you who don't know, a query letter is the approximately 200 words that an agent reads (or, more likely, skims over) that help them decide whether or not to give your book a shot. Agents frequently get hundreds of query letters a week, so the letter really has to stand out to make the agent think to him or herself, "I want to know what happens next!"

Another thing about query letters: They're completely subjective. One agent will love a letter that just doesn't do it for another agent. But, if you're querying the right kind of agent (aka one who represents the genre and age group of the novel you've written) you're at least headed in the right direction.

dragon in the desert
Photo by Trey Ratcliff

I submitted my latest query letter to the Evil Editor's blog, and he critiqued it. Evil Editor is rather known for his sarcastic humor when critiquing. (As one might expect. He's not Angelic Editor after all). It didn't seem like he had a whole lot of negative to say about the query itself. More about the entire concept of the book, so I've taken that to mean that I didn't represent the book well. Or, you know, he falls into the category of agent for which my query "just doesn't do it. Because, quite frankly, I've already written, re-written, and revised the crap out of this book, and I'm not taking it back to the drawing board!

I wrote about five different versions of my query letter this weekend, trying to take into account the things Mr. E. Editor said, and, because I don't have much else to show for my weekend, and I am firmly committed to this whole weekly blog post thing, I'm going to share the latest version. Here it is (with a cool, fire-breathing photo first):

fire breathing dragon vehicle
Photo by Trey Ratcliff
In an alternate 1950s, dragons rule the skies and their master, the Dragonlord, rules the Americas. Uncle Joe is the Dragonlord’s trusted lieutenant; he eliminates any threat to the Dragonlord's power. Thirteen-year-old Cat Pearce is stunned when Uncle Joe announces her father is a traitor on national television. With his mesmerizing eyes, cut from the skulls of young dragons, Uncle Joe can look through his television cameras and transfix his audience into believing anything he says.
Sure, her dad liked to play around with the science that’s the Dragonlord’s domain, but Cat didn’t think it was that big of a deal. When Cat pulls her father’s lifeless body from the flaming wreckage of her home, she understands just how far Uncle Joe has taken his power-hungry purge. And his television station is right in Cat’s hometown. Of course, it’s surrounded by dragons, and Uncle Joe can compel obedience, but Cat’s pretty sure she can figure out some way around all that. She’s already discovered one of the dragons has a weakness for peanut butter cookies, so there's her way in. No matter how long it takes, Cat will get her revenge on Uncle Joe.
DRAGON BAIT is an upper MG Fantasy complete at 62,000 words. As per your guidelines, I have included [whatever the agent’s guidelines say] below. Thank you for your time and consideration. 

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