Today for Publishing Talk I thought it would be fun to show the transformation of a query letter from one that was not gaining requests to one that led to offers. Sound fun?
The first letter is the very first query that I sent out for my debut, Gravity. You’ll notice immediately that it has one major problem–it’s boring! Boring does not equal requests.
First query letter:
Sixteen-year-old Ari Alexander falls for an alien…and elicits a war.
Ari enjoys a privileged life: posh clothes, political dad, and a future planned for her the moment she was born. But amid the fancy lifestyle lies the true control over human existence—the Ancients, an alien group living below the Earth’s surface. Their existence is forgotten among most, feared by others, and irrelevant to Ari. Until she discovers the most popular boy in school, Jackson Locke, is an Ancient spy.
Now, her disregard turns to obsession. Obsession with his world and his mission and the out-of-this-universe feeling she gets around him. But as she dives deeper into the secrets of his kind, she learns horrifying truths about her own. Then again, he’s an alien spy, not someone to trust and certainly not someone to love. So when she discovers he needs information she possesses, her first instinct is to stay quiet. Little did she know a single word could make the difference between negotiations and genocide.
I read you were interested in YA sci-fi and hope you will consider, Gravity, my YA sci-fi romance. It is complete at xx,xxx words and a finalist in Utah’s RWA Great Beginnings contest.
This query wasn’t getting the job done, so I rewrote it–several times. I went through countless drafts, posted the query on several forums, and bugged my CPs to death to read it over and over. Why? Because I understood that I needed my query letter to hook the agent/editor into reading my sample pages. In other words, it’s important. Very important. So after many revisions, I finally had a workable query with a request rate around 70 percent.
In the future U.S. capital, there is only one rule that matters: Don’t. Ever. Peek. And sixteen-year-old Ari Alexander just broke it. She expects instant execution or some kind of freak Ancient punishment, but instead she finds Jackson, the most popular boy in school, asking for her help.
Because Ari isn’t just any girl. She’s a military legacy, trained by her father, and exposed to war strategies and societal information that no one can know—especially an Ancient spy, like Jackson.
Ari knows she should turn him in, but forever curious, she keeps his secret. Now her curiosity has turned to obsession, and against her instincts, she’s falling for him. But Jackson wants more than Ari’s attention. He needs information that she possesses. Revealing the information would betray her father, but keeping it risks a war.
Gravity is complete at xx,xxx words and a finalist in Utah’s RWA Great Beginnings contest. It’s Matched meets Avatar to the beat of Katy Perry’s “E.T.” Please find the first five pages below per your guidelines.
Is this query letter perfect? No way. I see TONS of things I would like to fix. Did it work? You betcha. ☺ And that’s all that matters. You don’t need a perfect query letter. You need a query letter that works.
And just to make this fun, I am offering up one query critique (by me, of course). If you’re interested, respond in the comments and I’ll choose one winner. Happy querying! ☺