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Is My Query Letter Good Enough? You Be the Judge!

Updated on March 11, 2015

Seeking Input

If I want to know how to bake the perfect cake, do I go to my local car mechanic for advice?

Of course not!

Nothing against car mechanics, but chances are I could search for months and not find a mechanic capable of making macaroni & cheese let alone a delicious cake.

I jest of course. My uncle Jim, on my mother’s side, could install a transmission with the best of them, and he knew how to make a great tuna casserole, so I know it’s possible.

This is all leading up to a point so bear with me.

If I need advice on writing, it seems to me that the prudent thing to do is ask advice from writers.

Duh!

So that’s what I’m doing. I’m about to begin the query process with my new novel, “Shadows Kill,” and I want your opinion on my query letter. Since a query letter can make or break a writer, it’s pretty important that I send in a great one.

Let’s take a quick look at the major components of a good query letter, and then I’ll share mine with you and ask for your opinion.

I don't have a book cover yet so this will have to signify shadows
I don't have a book cover yet so this will have to signify shadows | Source

Query Letter Components

There are four main parts to a query letter:

  • The introduction
  • The pitch
  • The biography
  • Thanks

Let’s take a look at each part in a quick summary of each.

The introduction is your chance to meet the agent or publisher and establish a rapport with them. Tell them right out of the chute what your letter is all about. Tell them the length of your novel and the genre. Tell them why you have chosen to query them with your book. This personal connection is important, so take the time to read up about the agent and find a link between their needs and your book. If you met them at a workshop, this is the time to mention that fact. If they have represented authors who are similar in style to you, this is the time to mention that fact. When you read my opening paragraph you’ll see how I chose to make this connection with a fictional agent.

The second paragraph of your query is a brief summary of your book. Keep it very brief, one or two paragraphs, but cover the main points. This is a daunting task. You are basically asked to summarize the entire story line of a 100,000 word book in one paragraph, and in so doing you need to make the book sound interesting. In other words, good luck with this task. Spend considerable time with this section as it can make or break your chances of having the agent read your manuscript.

The biography is your chance to toot your own horn, but knowing what to toot is very important.

Unless you are a famous writer, the agent will be more interested in your pitch than who you are. Mention if you have won any writing awards. Mention if you belong to any writer’s organizations and mention your publishing credits. If you’ve been published in magazines then now is the time to mention that fact. How about self-published books? To an agent they are not terribly important. You can mention them but don’t waste much time on it.

And finally give thanks and invite them to read a sample chapter of your book. Do not send that sample chapter unless they ask for it and whatever you do, do not add an attachment with a sample chapter they have not asked for. Just invite them to read more and say goodbye.

And that’s all there is to it! Four or five paragraphs….one page….whittled down to the basics….and the future of your book rests on how well you write this letter.

Now let’s see what I’ve come up with for “Shadows Kill.”

This is where bad query letters belong
This is where bad query letters belong | Source

My Query Letter

Dear Ms,

My 100,000 word novel, Shadows Kill, is a psychologically complex suspense/thriller in the same mode as the James Lee Burke novels, with a touch of the paranormal. I see from your bio that you passionately believe in strong, and yet flawed, characters, and ELI BAKER is as strong, and flawed, as they come.

Baker is a decorated war hero, a philosopher, a former military policeman and investigator who now works as a maintenance man at a Catholic Church in Olympia, Washington. He coaches Little League baseball, works at the local soup kitchen, tosses back beers with his best friend, FATHER JIMMY, and leads a rather quiet and unassuming life. He is also a vigilante. He has killed five men, all degenerate killers and sexual deviates. He is a hunter and he is good at it. When his father, a twenty-year veteran police detective, is killed while serving time for a murder he didn’t commit, Eli loses all faith in the criminal justice system, and decides to clean up society one recidivist at a time.

And then the SHADOW MAN enters his life. The Shadow Man has a personal beef against Baker, and to settle an old score, he is kidnapping, torturing, killing and then displaying in public the women in Eli’s life. He taunts Eli by telling him when the next murder will take place. The clock is constantly ticking, and Eli must race against that clock to discover who the Shadow Man is and what family secret is driving this maniac to torment Eli and kill the women he loves.

Will Eli unravel the secret before he loses everyone he loves?

A former classroom teacher, I am now a freelance writer with more than 2,000 articles and two self-published novels. My articles have appeared in Living Magazine, Our Iowa, and Grit. Shadows Kill is the first in a planned series featuring Eli Baker. The second book in this series, Shadows Over Innocence, is now half-completed.

I believe in strong characters capable of effortlessly carrying a story on their backs, all the while wringing us dry of our emotions. I believe any good agent feels the same. I want you to meet Eli Baker, a man you will either love to hate or hate to love.

Thank you for considering Shadows Kill. I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,

William D. Holland

360-878-1757

www.williamdhollandauthor.com

holland1145@yahoo.com

Thank you for your help
Thank you for your help | Source

So What Do You Think?

I’m a big boy and I can handle the truth. In fact, I need the truth. Is this query letter interesting enough to entice you to read a sample chapter? If you were an agent, would you be interested?

If not, then tell me why not in the comment section below. You will be doing me a huge favor by doing so.

It would be impossible for me to over-emphasize how important a query letter is if you have dreams of being published by a publishing firm. It is make or break time. The query letter literally is the difference between your book being completely ignored and your book being read by someone in the business who can do you a whole lot of good.

Agents and publishers literally receive hundreds of query letters each month. What makes yours special? If you can’t answer that question then don’t bother to send the letter out.

In advance I thank you for your help.

2015 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

Comments

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    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Glimmer, query letters are an art and they are pure luck. The stars have to perfectly align, and that's what I'm hoping for.

      Good to see you, my friend. Thank you!

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

      Glimmer Twin Fan 2 years ago

      I don't know anything about query letters so this was an eye opener for me. I liked that you found out a little bit about who you were sending the letter too. I would think that would draw someone in and they would appreciate it.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      My pleasure, vkwok. Best wishes to you when you do send them out.

    • vkwok profile image

      Victor W. Kwok 2 years ago from Hawaii

      Thanks for sharing this Bill! Now I have a good source to look to when thinking about writing query letters.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Zulma! A writer who doesn't want honest criticism better get out of the game. No worries at all, my friend.

    • phoenix2327 profile image

      Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon 2 years ago from United Kingdom

      OK, you want honest, here it is. While I was reading the synopsis my first thought was, "This is 'Death Wish'". While Eli Baker and Paul Benjamin led different lives, they both appear driven by a misguided sense of justice and vengeance. A potential agent may think the same and stop reading right then and there. If, however, you can convince them to keep reading, the fact that the killer eventually targets Eli for, as yet, undisclosed reasons, may be just enough of a twist to pique the agent's curiosity and have them ask for more.

      For what it's worth, I like the twist and am more anxious than before to read this book. Hope I wasn't too rough, but I know how much honest criticism means to you. Have a lovely day at your mini-Eden.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      And thank you again, Anna, and Anna's interloper. :)

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Anna. I hope that boy of yours is doing better. It is such a helpless feeling having a sick wee one. Best wishes to you and Happy Weekend.

    • Anna Haven profile image

      Anna Haven 2 years ago from Scotland

      I am very late to the party Bill apologises. I had a very ill wee boy for a few weeks with double pneumonia. :( He is a lot better now but we had a hospital stay.

      Well I have no previous experience of query letters but I was going to search through your back catalogue for advice. Your letter sounded good and your novel exciting. I think you done the right thing shortening it a bit and I think you are definitely onto a winner.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      It's my pleasure, Mary. Thank you!

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 2 years ago from New York

      Thanks Bill. I'm in the middle of a learning curve right now and your advice is the top of the curve.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Mary, in the end, it is your call. You are going to read conflicting advice on queries....do the basics, try to make it grabbing and interesting, and send it out.

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 2 years ago from New York

      I checked out querysharkblogspot and have a lot more reading to do there but found it helpful.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks, Catherine. I appreciate it. I'll take a look at it this afternoon as soon as I finish with my customers.

    • CatherineGiordano profile image

      Catherine Giordano 2 years ago from Orlando Florida

      This article was in my inbox today. It may be useful to you http://writersrelief.com/blog/2015/03/query-letter...

      I subscribe to various free writing sites and I often learn a lot from them.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Mary! I decided to completely re-write the letter with a bang opening. We shall see. :)

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 2 years ago from New York

      Your letter certainly made me want to read your book. The letter itself is a cliff hanger. Obviously I have no experience with query letters but from a writer's standpoint this is so well written.

      Sha, however, made some very valid points. I have no doubt you will come up with the best letter to send and will successfully have another great book published.

      Voted up, useful, awesome, and interesting.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Mel. There are several schools of thought on queries, so check out the suggestions from a couple of those who commented before you write yours.

    • Mel Carriere profile image

      Mel Carriere 2 years ago from San Diego California

      It was a very captivating and well written query. I wish you luck on this latest endeavor, and I look forward to reading it myself. I'm going to bookmark this if you don't mind so I can use you query as a template for my own. Great hub!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      It is worth a great deal, Deb, and I thank you!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Manatita, it helps me to read your thoughts on this. Thank you! I especially like the 95,000 suggestion instead of 100,000....first impressions are important and I think that's a great suggestion.

      Blessings on this rainy Sunday

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Jim. I'm a big fan of both Patterson and DeMille. If I remind you of them then I'm quite happy. Let's hope this query letter does the trick.

      Have a great Sunday in New York.

    • carter06 profile image

      Mary 2 years ago from Cronulla NSW

      I think you have covered all your bases Billy and your pitch certainly entices the reader for more..it's clear, articulate and well written..but I personally think you will win them over with your self belief in your story..an author once said to me 'if you as the author, don't believe it's a good story no one else will either and you won't be able to convince anyone to read it.

      Very best of luck when you send it in..Cheers

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      You have enticed me, for what that is worth. Go get 'em, Killer!

    • manatita44 profile image

      manatita44 2 years ago from london

      Dear Bill,

      Bravewarrior and I are uncannily similar. In my case, I know that 100,000 words is a long book and hesitated as to whether it should be where it is. After the fourth read, I was going to put it exactly where bravewarrior suggested, except that to me it was too important, to be so low down.

      She may have a point about the Shadow, but I would not change it. With the exception of the mention of 100, 000 words, everything else seems well-pitched and exactly where they belong. In fact, even the 100, 000 is where it belongs in this query, and I'm only saying that it can be thought of as a big book.

      Don't say I told you, but tell her 90 or even 95, 000, and worry about the extra five or ten later on.

      An excellent query with the right things in seemingly the right order and with the right length. Much Love, Bro.

    • Jlbowden profile image

      James Bowden 2 years ago from Long Island, New York

      Bill:

      If I were your agent I would definitely ask for the first chapter of your novel to be sent to me, besides a wedge of that tuna casserole from uncle jimmy! (; No doubt in my mind that this is not only an awesome query letter, but it has also gained my interest in your new book.

      I often enjoy novels written by James Patterson and Nelson Demille. And I know both of these writers, particularly Demille have a sleuth or mystery man, if you will. Who are usually their main character and whom both of these authors usually identify in the intro of their novels.

      So in a way your story pitch reminds me a bit of the work Patterson and Demille usually write about. Again thanks for sharing a great read about writing query letters! Voted awesome and 2 thumbs up!

      Jim

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Sandra! I really appreciate the input and you are right...I have a great group of friends for sure.

    • Sandra Eastman profile image

      Sandra Joy Eastman 2 years ago from Robbinsdale MN

      Wow what great group of friends and great advice. I'd start out with a bang to grab the agents attention and relate that to why you picked him to send the query. In addition I think you should tighten it up to shorten it. As far as Writers Digest: their advice is good but doesn't apply to all genre's. You such a good writer you'll find a way to give them the details while still getting their attention. You've built a great Query so far. You just need to sand out the rough edges and make it smooth as a baby's behind. Good luck and hugs

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Jeannie! If I self-publish it I'll let you know.

    • Jeannieinabottle profile image

      Jeannie InABottle 2 years ago from Baltimore, MD

      I don't know about an agent, but I am certainly interesting. I love reading books with a paranormal edge to it. I would love to read the novel when it is published. :-) Consider me your first reader / buyer.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      All great suggestions, Catherine. Thank you. I knew I could count on the community to help me.

    • CatherineGiordano profile image

      Catherine Giordano 2 years ago from Orlando Florida

      I have never written a query letter, but I can offer one suggestion. remove "he leads a quiet and unassuming life." You have already showed us that by describing his life. Start a new paragraph with "He's also a vigilante. That sentence is a shocker so don't bury it. Also, in writing a short story, it is good to start with a hook. Perhaps that applies to query letters. "Eli Baker is a quiet man living a quiet life in a quiet town when he forced to outwit and out fight a man who is torturing and killing the women Baker loves. Baker is a strong man, but is he strong enough to bring down "The Shadow Man" before he kills again." Now tell me the backstory about Baker's skills, his friendship with Father Jimmy (who I assume is key to the plot or else why mention him) and his hobby of vigilantism. Then tell me why The Shadow Man is a formidable foe. Then end at a climatic moment. "The Shadow Man has bound and gagged Baker and locked his in the truck of his car. Baker must escape or his wife will be the next victim."

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Not at all, Will. I didn't take it personally at all. Thank you, though.

    • WillStarr profile image

      WillStarr 2 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Oops! I reread my comment and it sounded like I was addressing your letter in particular, Billy, but I only meant it just as a general point for all of us in writing a query letter.

      My apologies if it sounded like I was criticizing your letter. I wasn't. It's a fine letter!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Well we wouldn't want that, would we? Thanks for the advice, Will, and have a superb weekend.

    • WillStarr profile image

      WillStarr 2 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      BTW, since an agent's time is limited, so too should be the word count in your letter. The count that most agents like to see is about 200, so if your letter is far above that, see what you can do in some self-editing.

      If the letter is too long, it may very well be filed in the wastebasket.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Will, and that is the most relevant question of them all.....you went right to the heart of the matter, my friend. If it's ever published I'll send you a copy.

    • WillStarr profile image

      WillStarr 2 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Does the letter showcase your writing talent and make the agent want to read your book? If so, it's a good query.

      BTW, I now want to read your book!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Flourish! You won't lose me as a follower or a friend. I don't ask for help unless I truly want it, and I left my ego at the door a long time ago. :)

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Heidi, as always, your advice is golden. I completely re-wrote the query letter after receiving all these fine suggestions. I streamlined it with more punch in a shorter format. We'll see how it goes.

      Thank you my friend and Happy Friday to you.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 2 years ago from USA

      Dearest Bill - The book itself sounds terrific, and you have more than a great start for a knock 'em dead query letter. Some editing is necessary. Kudos to you for putting yourself out there for feedback. I like that, Bill. You'll get many different perspectives. Here's mine, for whatever it is worth:

      1. The beginning needs a strong hook worthy of your novel. Whether you follow Heidi's or Sha's excellent tips or take another path completely, your opening paragraph needs to set you apart and connect immediately. The most important thing should come first, and right now it's the number of words. Don't do that. Instead, make the agent go, "OOOOOooh, tell me more about this story."

      2. Tighten your language as much as possible. I bet agents have even shorter attention spans than most people. For example: replace "he is kidnapping, torturing, killing and then displaying" with more active versions that leave off the -ing.

      3. I'm not sure I'd use "maniac," as the term seems dated (1980ish? -- Don't hate me!) My concern is that it may lend an unfair perception that there are other aspects in the novel that are dated. Try "madman," "psychopath," "sociopath" or something similar if you need a replacement.

      4. Use MLA, Chicago or APA Style in referring to your book manuscript and published articles (i.e., underlining, italics, quotation marks).

      Okay, Bill, I'm going to stop now before I lose you as a follower. Remember that feedback is a gift and I love you. You are a wonderful writer, and I wish you the absolute best. I wouldn't have invested time giving you this criticism if I didn't believe in you.

    • heidithorne profile image

      Heidi Thorne 2 years ago from Chicago Area

      First, I applaud you for stepping onto the traditional publishing path. It's a tough one, tougher than self publishing in my opinion. And kudos for being brave enough to let your hubber pals weigh in.

      You know I'm always going to "sales-a-tize" a query letter. So take that into consideration with my commentary, 'kay?

      1. Dear Ms.? I'd use her first name instead. When I get a Ms. Thorne letter, I think it's from a lawyer or an unimaginative/"old school" direct mail house. Connect as a modern, friendly equal.

      2. Lead with Passion. Lead with the 2nd sentence, "I see that..." Again, connect as a friendly colleague and equal who shares the same interests.

      3. Who & What Are You? I'd move the two ending paragraphs about you as near to the lead-in as possible. That might sound odd. But agents and publishers buy the story of the author, not just the story of the book. How did you come to write this novel? Though it was good to reference what style and genre your book is like, what makes this novel and you unique?

      Can't wait to hear how this goes. We'll be looking for the "what I learned from selling my novel" hubs. :)

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Dora. The problem is deciding which expert to listen to for advice. Agents all have their own preference, so which way do you turn for the "ultimate" answer?

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Isaac Weithers 2 years ago from The Caribbean

      According to the book, your letter is perfect. I am anxious to hear the response. Thank you for sharing and thereby teaching --you're so good at that.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I appreciate you stopping by, Molly, and I'll gladly share my contact info with you. Thank you!

    • Molly Layton profile image

      Molly Layton 2 years ago from Alberta

      I'm not the right person to ask about query letters, as this is the first time that I've ever gotten close to one. The sections in all caps feel a bit unprofessional to me. That's just a gut feeling. I have no idea if your query is of good quality or not.

      I do know I have all your contact information now.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Alan, I totally agree. I re-wrote it last night and the section after the bio is gone. I respect your opinion and appreciate your feedback. Thank you, Alan!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Maj, I need all the luck I can get, so thank you for the best wishes. All input is helpful, my friend.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I appreciate your input, Alicia. Thank you! Even though you have never written a query letter, I'm sure you have read many books, so anything you have to say is helpful.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you so much, Faith. To answer your question about the Caps, it is suggested you do so in order for the agent to immediately recognize who the main characters are. :)

      Have a wonderful Thursday. Your input is very helpful.

    • alancaster149 profile image

      Alan R Lancaster 2 years ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire)

      The opening sentence sounds like an ego trip, Bill, unworthy of you. After the 'Dear Ms...' I'd start: 'SHADOWS KILL...' with the word count etc to follow and the genre description after that.

      If you don't mind me saying, your synopsis is too long. By the time she'd got halfway through she'd yawn. Chop it, or she'll think she's already read the book. The bio is about right, but the following bit about 'characters carrying the story' is a reiteration of the opening. Either chop the opening about the strong characterisation or just mention it in passing during the synopsis.

      6/10. 'See me' (always got that in my exercise books).

    • travmaj profile image

      travmaj 2 years ago from australia

      Hi Bill, I spend so much time reading comments on your post I almost forget to reply. I am intrigued, and although not the genre I would look for, after reading your letter I wouldn't want to miss it.

      I do agree with Wiccan and other re reversing the opening and second para.

      Shows how old I am, last time I wrote a query letter they were looking for an introductory letter and a separate synopsis. How things change. Wishing you the best of luck with this query letter - not that you need it , looks good. Cheers Maj

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 2 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thank you for sharing the very useful guidelines for writing a query letter, Bill. I've never written a query letter in my life, so I'm certainly not qualified to advise you. I do like the advice of previous commenters to rearrange the paragraphs and to start with a gripping description of the plot, though.

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 2 years ago from southern USA

      Hi Bill,

      I feel that I should not put in my two cents worth, as I have never written a query letter. Your letter really has me interested in reading your novel. Reminds me of that show Dexter.

      I do think Sha has some great suggestions, as well as mproop. Lea made some excellent points too.

      I have a question, why did you put ELI BAKER, FATHER JIMMY in all caps in your letter?

      Your sentence seems a bit fragmented or missing a word or two, or possibly could be two sentences. The beginning is what is throwing me off. "A former classroom teacher, I am now a freelance writer with more than 2,000 articles and two self-published novels."

      I am looking forward to reading your book. Exciting times ahead for you.

      Blessings

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Lea, it did help and I thank you. In the end I completely re-wrote the query letter. LOL I figured if that many people weren't satisfied with it then it needed a re-write. I'll try to share the new one soon.

      I know you are such a wonderful fan. I'll try not to let you down, Lea.

      bill

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Bill, thank you, and in the end it is my decision, just like it is every writer's decision. We have to go to bed at night comfortable with the decisions we make. Thanks for the advice, buddy.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Bill....your comment is right on...the key is to get it in front of the right reader.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Well, Ruby, I sure hope you're right because I'm running out of years to make it. Thank you dear friend.

    • Sparklea profile image

      Sparklea 2 years ago from Upstate New York

      Hi Bill, it is late, but I wanted to zip through the hub page notifications, and I can't go to bed until I comment on this great hub. Having read Shadows Kill I confess I locked right into your query letter.

      I have written many, many query letters over the years and I certainly can relate on how difficult it is to summarize in one paragraph what a book or article is about. In YOUR case confining 100,000 words in one paragraph is astronomical!

      Having said that, I have read and re-read your query, which I believe is excellent. You presented the story succinctly and provided a lot of vital information about your book in as few words as possible.

      After reading the comments, I agree with Brave Warrior and a couple others (I think) who suggest you begin with the second paragraph. Then AFTER you write, "Will Eli unravel the secret before he loses everyone he loves?" I would THEN type the first paragraph.

      I know one Hub friend stated that your mention of your father being killed is unnecessary...however, I believe it is needed to explain why Eli loses faith in the Criminal Justice system and decides to clean up society himself.

      IF you DO rewrite the query I hope you share it again...This is a vital book and I AM PLANNING on seeing it at the top of the New York Times Best Seller list...so I am glad you are taking your time...writing, rewriting, slicing, dicing...I know it is frustrating because I do it with essays and magazine articles I have published in the past! 100,000 words makes me exhausted thinking about it!

      I hope this helps, Bill, signed one of many of your biggest fans :) :) :) Lea:)

    • bdegiulio profile image

      Bill De Giulio 2 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Bill. I'm torn between leaving it as is and taking bravewarrior's advice about moving that first paragraph. I have no experience with query letters but something is telling me not to begin with the word count. I will say that if this doesn't pique an agents interest they are in the wrong business. In the end the decision is yours so go with your gut feeling. Best of luck.

    • DrBill-WmL-Smith profile image

      William Leverne Smith 2 years ago from Hollister, MO

      Your query should definitely do the job for the right reader... that is the key, of course, to get it to the right agent. Best wishes! You are way out of my reading interests, so I cannot comment on that. But, it will be great to be able to say "I knew him when..." ;-)

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Fuller 2 years ago from Southern Illinois

      I don't know what the agent will think of your query letter, but I think it is great. I want to read the book. Your description of the character, his life would pique anyone's interest enough to want to publish your book. Bill a gifted writer like you will write a best seller. I really do believe that. Best wishes my friend...

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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      That's what I need to hear, Wiccan. Thank you so much. I think a writer gets too close to a book after six months of writing and can't see the obvious. I really appreciate your input.

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      Mackenzie Sage Wright 2 years ago

      I like it Billy, but I personally think it would be stronger if you reverse the first 2 sentences in the first paragraph. Example:

      "I see from your bio that you passionately believe in strong yet flawed characters; I would like to introduce you to ELI BAKER, who is is as strong and flawed as they come. Eli Baker is the protagonist in my 100,000 word novel, Shadows Kill, a psychologically complex suspense/thriller in the same mode as the James Lee Burke novels, with a touch of the paranormal."

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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      jptanabe, all great suggestions and I thank you. I'm working on a new query letter right now, and all of these suggestions are very helpful. Thank you!

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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you so much, YaYa....I'm crossing my fingers that I can interest an agent. Otherwise, you'll have to wait a year before I self-publish this one.

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      Jennifer P Tanabe 2 years ago from Red Hook, NY

      Great letter! While the "touch of the paranormal" adds interest, I agree with the above comment that it's unclear how it features in the book from the rest of the description. So I might just cut it. Also, that sentence about his father being unjustly convicted and killed seems unnecessary. I would just end the paragraph with "He is a hunter and he is good at it." and move straight to the Shadow Man entering his life. There's time in the 100,000 words to find out why Eli became a vigilante! Otherwise I'd want a sample chapter to read.

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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      It does help, Deb, and I thank you for it. I'll let you know if I'm successful. You'll be able to hear my cheer from Iowa.

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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you very much VenkatachariM. Every writer should have a supporter like you.

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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks John! I can't wait for it to be published too...if it ever is. It may just sit in my files for years with no one wanting it.

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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Sara, I appreciate your thoughts and I'll certainly consider them. That's why I wrote this article...to pick your brain...so thank you very much.

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      Angela Levens 2 years ago from Bi-Locational...Not so cool as to be bi-coastal. Just Middle America and L.A.

      Wow, that is awesome!!! I'm not a big fan of suspense, my personal life is weird enough... lol. I have to say though you have me wanting to read more, already the characters intrigue me. Your presentation is amazing, although I'm sure they are bombarded with great work all the time. I can tell you though I will be standing in line. I also love the fact that you're creating a series, I hate reading a good book and after 200 pages or so you are just done. I wish you immense success!!!

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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you very much, Sally. I appreciate that.

      bill

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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I appreciate that, Tim. Thank you very much.

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      Deborah Neyens 2 years ago from Iowa

      I haven't read all the comments to see what others have said, but your query letter is pretty close to perfect. The one change I do think you need to make is to start with a different first sentence. Your first sentence would make a great second sentence but is too slow for an opening line, IMHO. Just as you would start a novel, you need to grab us from the very opening words. Hope that helps!

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      Venkatachari M 2 years ago from Hyderabad, India

      I think your query letter is perfect in all respects. You summed up the novel very brilliantly in it. It's awesome and I hope your publishers would definitely okay it.

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      John Hansen 2 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Great article here Bill, and if I was an agent I'd be asking for that sample chapter immediately. Your query letter is very good, I can however see that Shauna's recommendations are relevant ones. I can't wait for this novel to be published as it is in the genre I enjoy reading most.

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      Sara Sarwar Riaz 2 years ago from Michigan, USA

      Good afternoon Bill. I have not had the opportunity to spend much time on hub pages this past week owing to other obligations, and was indeed pleased to discover this article by you upon my return. I have read some query letters before but have never written one myself, hence I do realize the order of formatting and descriptive constraints one may face while tackling this task.

      I think your letter sounded precise and brilliant, with just the right amount of detail imparted while leaving the urge to discover more about the characters. I do have one humble suggestion though. In my opinion, the shadow man deserves a little more focus and presentation, being the salient character and the one lending the flavor of intrigue to your novel. You could probably do with lesser description about Baker, since he is our everyday rather mundane hero, who's life gets enthralling because of the entrance of shadow man in it.

      That is just my very non-professional take on it, I am sure you would receive much valuable input from other fellow readers on this forum. That being said, your book sounds very interesting and you deserve its timely publication in order to celebrate all the hard work and immense talent invested in it.

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      Sally Gulbrandsen 2 years ago from Norfolk

      Hi Billy

      I don't have any experience of writing a query letter such as yours but nevertheless think you have done a splendid job. It certainly piques my interest and I do hope it brings you everything you deserve, heaven knows how hard you have worked for it.

      Sally

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      Melissa Propp 2 years ago from Minnesota

      Bill, I will freely admit that I've never written a query letter yet, so take this with a grain of salt..but I also am a regular reader of the query shark Janet Reid and in my personal opinion, I think you are burying the lead. I would take your first paragraph and move that toward the bottom and start off with paragraph 2.

      One thing I would clarify is that you say Eli is a vigilante who has killed 5 men. Then you say in the next sentence that his father was killed in jail, he loses faith in the justice system, and starts the clean up. I guess I would need clarification. Which came first? Did he become a vigilante because of his father's injustices? Or was he already a vigilante and this "pushed him over the edge"? If he had already killed 5 men before his father's imprisonment, then it sounds like he had already lost faith in the system...

      Also, you mention the book has a hint of paranormal but I don't see the hint in your query. Maybe you could somehow add a bit of tease for that element into your query also?

      It sounds like a fascinating book (serial killer/paranormal elements are right up my alley). I can't wait to see it published!

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      Tim Mitchell 2 years ago from Escondido, CA

      I agree bill. You are so much more acquainted with the world of fiction writing than I as well as being very talented with it. I can barely write a poem at times and short stories are a struggle. I can read numbers and create reports more easily. The bottom line is what we both are pointing out I believe. I like how you tailored the letter to the specific reader rather than be a 'canned' letter. That was brought to the forefront with the fist paragraph nicely. A great example to learn from. Others reading this will learn and discover. A highly recommended read!

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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Tim, thanks for sharing that. I think it is basically the same thing...the same goal...make them interested enough that they want to discuss the proposal more. I think your example is very helpful. I have done similar work when I was in the business world. I think that's why writing a query letter is not that difficult for me. As long as we keep the ultimate goal in mind, writing any such letter shouldn't be that difficult.

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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      You are very welcome, Larry. Thanks for the visit and I'm glad it helped you.

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      Tim Mitchell 2 years ago from Escondido, CA

      Great article Bill. I had never heard of a query letter until now. I do see how it is a great marketing tool. Other than my limited experience here at HP seeking discovery learning my experience is with technical writing - reports, assessments, analysis, and etc. Not sure if this helps or not. However, I do thank you for the opportunity to share from those experiences.

      In a one page letter format I use to begin with a short and concise paragraph that presented them with an opportunity. Then I followed in a bullet format five benefits in about three words. Next to those benefits I placed a one sentence summary of the features of those benefits. Finally with as few paragraphs as possible I supported the benefits with supportive explanation information. My goal was always to get them to invite me to their office to discuss the report, assessment, and analysis and its future.

      I attached that one page letter to the report, assessment, analysis available for their review at a latter time. However, that was a closed corporate environment. I viewed it as there were three alternatives that executive decision maker would choose from. Yes, No, and maybe or another view is 'to do', 'to not do', and 'rethink'. I imagined them sitting at their desk going through all their new opportunities.

      Ultimately I knew if it made it to the 'to do' pile it would be given personal attention. The 'to not do' did not matter where it went. The 'rethink' pile went to an assistant for a second view while expecting of that assistant a summary of the details related to the business endeavor.

      Again, two different fields of writing are being compared. I have 'no' experience with novels or the business of publishing as an investment opportunity seeking a Return on Investment and the costs to publish. My experience was presenting in a condensed summary an opportunity. How they would benefit. Important features. And, with hope opportunity be presented in return.

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 2 years ago from Oklahoma

      I've always been pretty decent at most writing practices, but I've never been good at query letters.

      Thanks so much for this helpful guide.

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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Ann, with a comment like this one, I might as well just retire now while I'm on top. LOL Seriously, thank you! Big-headed? Truthfully, I never think my work is good enough. Even your praise is hard to take. Don't tell anyone, though. If they all want to think I have my act together then great. :)

      Seriously, thank you dear friend.

      bill

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      Ann Carr 2 years ago from SW England

      Well, I'd immediately phone you and grab this novel before anyone else gets their hands on it; not only that I'd make sure the follow up was mine as well.

      You're so good at this stuff; you must be by now if you've been reading all your advice on the subject!

      It's clear, concise, packs a punch in itself and leaves the reader thinking, 'I want some of this!'

      Wonderful, brilliant, superb.... Better get out the saw to widen those door frames, bill! Just kidding, you're too modest to be big-headed.

      Have a brilliant Wednesday, bill.

      Proud to be your friend,

      Ann

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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I appreciate it, Vellur. Thank you for taking the time to give me input.

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      Nithya Venkat 2 years ago from Dubai

      I have never written a query letter, your query letter is clear and gives a picture of what to expect from your novel. I am no expert but this is my view.

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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Barbara! Any friend of Burke's is a friend of mine.

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      BarbaraCasey 2 years ago

      I was intrigued enough to read your letter all the way through, so you hooked my attention from the get-go... especially with the James Lee Burke comparison. Good luck with your queries!

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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks for your input, Sha. It's interesting because I follow Reid, and I've seen her recommendations, but then you read others like the Writer's Market and the Guide to Literary Agents, and they suggest it be written like I wrote it here. I'll have to give it some thought and do more research on it.

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      Shauna L Bowling 2 years ago from Central Florida

      Bill, I've been looking at query samples in Janet Reid's blog. She's got a page where she critiques query letters, then posts the revisions.

      One thing I notice is all of them begin with the riveting details of the book, not the word count; that comes later just before the bio.

      With that said, I would open with your SHADOW MAN paragraph (it's full of tension and intrigue), then present Eli Baker. The paragraph you devote to him is descriptive, but not compelling.

      I'd move the first paragraph (word count and title) to just after the question, "Will Eli unravel the secret before he loses everyone he loves?" Then finish with the last three paragraphs as you have them.

      Here's the link to Janet's Query Shark page: http://queryshark.blogspot.com/

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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks for your input, Pops! I appreciate it. As for Toby, I'm glad he'll be with you for awhile. He's like a favorite pair of slippers....a comfortable old friend. :)

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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you, Mary, and I'll be proud to say that you are my friend.

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      breakfastpop 2 years ago

      I think the letter rocks. It piques my interest and I already want t read this novel. You say just enough, without going on and on. By the way billy, I have parted company with Resurrecting Tobias, but Toby, Pete and Maria will live on with me forever. I look forward to your next book, because you are one hell of a great writer.

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      Mary Hyatt 2 years ago from Florida

      I have never written a query letter, Bill, but yours sounds like a good one to me. When you become rich and famous, I will be proud to say I knew you back when......

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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you very much, Janine. I appreciate and respect your input on this. Have a super Wednesday. Here's hoping it is puke-free, my friend.