Way back when I thought I was going to go the traditional route to publishing, I invested a lot of time and energy into two query letters (one for my first YA book and the second for my remaining unpublished novel I co-wrote). The letters did well enough for themselves, garnering requests for both full and partial manuscripts. Ultimately, I did not find an agent, but I did learn a lot about the publishing process. Hearing ‘no’ a lot is tough, will make you genuinely afraid to check your inbox and more or less fuck with your ego, but I always felt I was doing something right to get return responses. (For reference, here are some query letters that worked.)
Even though I am bypassing agents and publishers this time, I still think it’s a good exercise to write out a query letter. In this instance, the query letter will serve as a way for me to better focus and determine how and who I’m pitching the book to. It’s longer than a logline (even if I do incorporate one) and less than a synopsis (which I still need to do, along with a book trailer).
I am seeking representation for my contemporary novel, Room 702, complete at 90,000 words**.
One hotel suite. One year. One-hundred seventy-six different nights. The Winchester Hotel is an active property in Beverly Hills, California. Luxurious and discreet, it is a perfect location for business meetings, weddings, affairs, and other important life events — including the death of an A List celebrity. Told from the omniscient perspective of the room, the reader has a front row seat to the drama that unfolds in the suite. Although each chapter is unique, the characters’ lives intertwine in a way only possible in a major metropolis like Los Angeles.
In my search for an agent, I felt my novel would be a good match with your sales***.
Thank you for your consideration. I look forward to your response.
* – there are numerous ways of identifying which agent is the right one for you. I personally have a 10 page document with agents I would query. Most of them have been chosen because of their sales record and how I think my work would be most successful.
** – industry standards differ for different genres. 90K is a good fit for contemporary fiction, but well within the parameters.
*** – I would list specific examples here. I want the agent to let them know I’ve done my homework.
This is an rather unconventional query. First of all, it’s very short. This is because I do not have time to get into the specific stories of the cast in the book – there are simply too many characters. Second of all, it’s a bit gimmicky. I’m not certain how an agent would respond. My hope would be that in referencing their past sales they would understand that I had done my homework and perhaps overlook the somewhat hokey hook. Furthermore, while many experts would say to mention any other published works, as mine haven’t been ‘conventionally successful’ and furthermore were le gasp! self-published, I don’t see any need to mention them. In my mind, the ‘brands’ of Courtney Brandt and Ann Benjamin are very different (although I would disclose the information if I did have an agent, obviously).
Ultimately, in the absence of an agent, what about you, dear reader? Would you request pages of the above manuscript? Or would you pass?