Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Technical Topic -- Query Letter

La Belle Americaine was asking about query letters. I've pulled out mine and set it here for whatever interest it might be.

Went something like ...

Dear Agent,

[60 or 80 words of why I went to this agent. Basically -- who she represented that I admired.]

I've just completed the manuscript of a 120,000-word, Regency Historical, Anneka. May I submit three chapters and synopsis, or the entire manuscript for your consideration?

[100 words on my publication credits.]

Anneka is the story of Grey, spy master of the British, and Anneka, sneaky, experienced agent of the French. They disagree about politics, philosophy, national pride, and how to brew coffee, but they agree on one thing – Napoleon's invasion fleet, lurking in Boulogne harbor, must not sail.

Sometimes at odds, sometimes forced into an unwilling alliance, Anneka and Grey flee rogue French agents, dodge knives, argue moral choices, pluck bullets out of secondary characters, play subtle spy games, and gradually, inevitably, fall in love. Grey must discover that Anneka's cunning, deadly competence rests upon idealism and rock-solid integrity. Anneka must learn to trust Grey, even as he makes her his prisoner ... even as he betrays her. In the end, they are both willing to sacrifice life, and their life's work, to stay together. Anneka makes the fateful choice between Grey and her loyalty to France.

I see their relationship as Bogey-and-Bacall – the tough, tender, sexually-charged mating dance of a man with a duty and a woman with a mission.

How do enemy spies make love? ... Very carefully.

Please let me know if you would be interested in seeing Anneka.

Yours truly,


  1. ha! I like it. The bit about Bogey and Bacall was a very nice touch.

  2. Whee, that's great and funny and... I will never be able to write a good query letter.
    But maybe I should finish my book first ;)


  3. Anonymous12:12 PM

    Sheesh. They should have used that for the blurb! Of course now I'd love to see the inquiry letters for MLAS and Maggie, assuming you did them (but it sounds like you didn't have to since they bought both SL and MLAS at one go...)

  4. Hi Moth --

    Bogey and Bacall are just so perfect together.

    That's the goal I'm shooting at. The relationship a B&B show us. (It's an impossible goal, of course.) I'm trying for that understanding, that sort of communication. That heat.

    Ah well. Every manuscript is a new chance to get it a little closer to the goal.

  5. Hi Nina --

    *g* I would say to finish the manuscript. Yes.

    This query ...
    I think what I'm trying to say when I post the query is that you can leave all kinds of information out of a query.

    We don't find out that Anneka is 'dark-haired' or where her family comes from. We find out she's sneaky.

    And the query doesn't have to tell the actual story. I just chat about the story without conveying too much information.

    When you finish the manuscript and write the query -- and may that be soon -- you have so very much freedom to do this in your own voice.

    You can just go wild.

  6. Hi Anon --

    Once you get an agent, you don't have to write query letters any more. That's your agent's job now.


    What happens is -- you sell the agent. That's what the query letter and the writing sample are for.
    Then the agent takes over the business of selling the manuscript to editors.

    When you sell your second and third and so on manuscripts 'on proposal, you will write a synopsis or detailed outline and the first three chapters.

    So, however hard it is to come up with a good query letter, you only have to do it once.

    Synopses, on the other hand, you will always have with you.