Here is another version of a query I sent out last year. I hate to have to admit that this one was sent to one of my favorite agents (yes still). She is all over the web and blogs with great advice for novice writers. No I'm not going to say who she is but just be aware that there are a lot of agents out there who post a lot of advice and information about who they are and what they seek in submissions. It would definitely benefit you to research any agent as much as possible before you query them. Especially if they have posts out there somewhere with SPECIFIC query writing advice.
Yes she rejected me, but my querying skills and knowledge were still in their infancy back then (as you can see) and she was very kind in her rejection, even if it was probably still form. So, the query:
May 11th, 2009
I am writing to you seeking representation for my young-adult fantasy-adventure/commercial fiction crossover novel which has the working title, Warrior-Monks, and is complete at approximately 475,000 words. The sequel, which is untitled, currently exists only in outline form. I am including a synopsis but will not include any sample chapters because your listing in the publishers marketplace suggests query only.
Looking back and knowing my novel I understand why I had such a problem with defining the genre, but I wish I would have researched genres more before making some of these ridiculous claims. My novel is YA. It is probably part fantasy and part adventure but it is not commercial fiction. I don't know where I got that idea. I think I must have thought that made it sound like it would sell. What nonsense.
I believe that you would be an excellent fit for an agent to represent me because you list your specific interests as young adult fiction including fantasy as long as it is unique and really stands out, which I believe describes Warrior-Monks almost perfectly.
This is good. Showing you researched an agent and are aware of their specific interests is a very strong point in a query - or so I'm told. The language I used is not that great though. I should have left out "for an agent" and everything after and including "which I believe". Oh well, good idea, just poor execution.
I love Eastern Cultures and the many art forms they incorporate such as – Martial Arts, Calligraphy, Japanese Swords, and the Tea Ceremony as well as all the traditions and high level of art that go into them. I also love Magic and Fantasy and Eastern Religions such as Buddhism, Hinduism, and Taoism. Warrior-Monks incorporates all of these themes in a fantastic way which has never been done in young adult fantasy to my knowledge.
We've all seen this bit of clunk before and I really don't know why I was so attached to it at first. I can't believe that in this query I thought this would suffice for pitch, hook, plot and everything. I mean from this query there is no clue as to what HAPPENS in the novel. I guess I thought that since she allowed a synopsis to be included in the letter that would do the trick but after this query she probably didn't even read the synopsis. Would you have?
I have never been published but I am confident that many authors like Christopher Paolini and Brunonia Barry have proved that you do not have to be a highly experienced or best-selling author to write an incredibly entertaining book. I also do have some personal qualifications to write this story. For example my own mother died when I was eleven years old and I was then sent to live with a cruel aunt and uncle and eventually did end up at a reform school in Northern Idaho which although strange, was not nearly as fascinating as the place in which my characters find themselves within this book.
This is weird. I mean first of all it's not necessary. Second of all it makes no sense because nowhere in the query does it say the the MC's mother died or that he was sent to live with an aunt and uncle or any of that. I suspect that I pasted this part in here from another query that included more plot in the pitch and am ashamed to admit how horrid this looks in this example.
No I'm not. I'm not ashamed of anything because this is a process and I have already learned a great deal and continue to learn more everyday. In the beginning I was just being lazy, and maybe a little egotistical, thinking my MS would sell itself. Don't do that. Be humble but confident; believe in yourself and never give up and you will achieve your goals. Even publication if that is what you seek.
Please feel free to reply to this email, or to call me on my mobile phone at any time at 206-555-1212, or even to write to me at home at:
Thank you for your consideration of this proposal. I look forward to hearing from you soon.
Matthew M. Rush
Thank you for querying me. Unfortunately I am going to have to pass at this time. Please don't take this rejection as a comment on your writing ability, because it isn't intended to be one. I'm sure another agent will feel differently.
Best of luck to you with the submission process.
REDACTED Literary & Media Representation
Of course this is a form rejection. I do like that she qualified her rejection, it was nice at the time to think that it had nothing to do with my writing. I now know that this is almost always the case. Great novels get rejected everyday because of weak or even good but not great queries. It's too bad that agent's don't have time to just read pages from everyone who seeks representation but that could only happen beyond the event horizon and regular space-time just doesn't work that way.
Take this as a lesson that it doesn't matter how good your novel is. In fact when querying agents it might help to think of your novel as being bad just so that you spend that much more time polishing and researching your query. You only get once chance to make that all important first impression so arm yourself with knowledge and a query as close to perfect as you can get.