Query letters arriving in droves this week!
Jumping right in...
Original Query Letter
Dear [Literary Agent],
I present to you a recipe for a 90,000 word high fantasy YA novel with
a scientific flavour named EVOLUTION: THREADS OF CONTROL.
1. One average nerd (Jimmy Ranfaz) with fantasies of superpowers and adventure.
2. Tree-descendant humans from another planet (Ulfitron) seeking new saviour.
3. One old nemesis returning to wipe out Ulfitronians.
4. One powerful native (Juvall Spelding) with utter disdain for nerd’s
1. Activate nerd’s cranial abilities and send him to Ulfitron for training.
2. Show his frustration at mastering cranial powers.
3. Throw in one near death experience for nerd and native from attack
4. Introduce one lost source of knowledge on how to beat nemesis,
closely followed by a hazardous journey to locate the source by nerd
5. Finish off with one complex deception of the Ulfitronians regarding
their beliefs and nerd’s true origins.
6. Garnish with nerd’s dilemma of saving Ulfitronians or finally
rising above mediocrity.
Caution: Calling nerd average in front of him has catastrophic results.
The complete dish is available on request. Thank you for your time and
I’m not going to go in and line-edit this one because I don’t think it’d be beneficial. The problem here is (and I have to apologize to the author in advance for my candor) bigger than that.
While I appreciate the creativity of the recipe approach, I’m afraid that straying too far from the suggested format (three paragraphs, consisting of a hook, a synopsis, and a bio) might make your query stand out from the crowd in a not so good way.
The unusual format is a bit distracting from the story you’re trying to tell, which is the purpose of the query in the first place. I also worry about what it could tell the agent, which is that your story isn’t intriguing enough in and of itself to attract attention, so that you have to resort to what may be viewed as a gimmick (Again, I apologize for the honesty. This book might be AMAZING. It’s just hard to tell in this format).
Yes, there have been instances where someone has broken ‘the rules’ and gone on to have great success, but my advice is not to bank on being the exception to the rule. Agents have seen it all.
A query letter is, in essence, a business letter. In business, you want to be taken seriously. If you want to stand out from the crowd, I would suggest focusing on writing an action-packed, high-stakes, ‘voicey’ query letter…and stick to the suggested format.
I say all this even though it’s probably majorly disheartening to the author because a) I’d want someone to tell me, b) The book might be great and it would be a shame to get rejected because of a totally fixable problem, and c) I love my readers to death and want you all to be super successful authors (Yup, that includes you, reading this right now. I love you! Tons! I want to kiss you. ON THE MOUTH! Okay, too far. But you get the point).
Best of luck, author!
And peeps, feel free to jump in with your comments or just to tell me to shut up :)