Friday, July 16, 2010

An observation on query letters

Hi, I know it’s been awhile since I’ve written. I’ve been busy with a lot of things lately, the latest being that I’ve been sending query letters out to literary agents with no such luck. At first, I was upset about this but after reading my query over again, I’m starting to see why they have rejected me (It’s been six times so far but I’m still not giving up). Here’s a sample of my query letter that I sent to one of my agents.

Dear Agent:

I don’t know about you but I think that the vampire/werewolf genre is a little overdone in the publishing world. When people say the word ‘Shapeshifter’, They automatically think about the one animal that’s been grazing the publishing world for years: Werewolves. Today, I’m hoping to put a brand new spin on it with my 115,000-word YA paranormal titled The Electric eel Bandit

Bradford Mayfield is a shape shifter on a mission: To find out who killed his parents five years ago. When Bradford goes to a homeless shelter to search for the truth, he runs into all sorts of problems along the way including meeting another shape shifter who’s only intent is to kill everyone she gets her hands on, fighting bad guys across the globe without anyone getting suspicious about who he really is and falling in love with a girl who could cause him to die all over again.

This story has all the action, romance, and suspense that a YA paranormal should have, not to mention that there aren’t any werewolves or vampires coming along to save the day. Brief bio: This is my first novel. I have a B.A. in Fiction writing from Columbia College Chicago.
The manuscript is ready to submit at your request. Thank you for your time and consideration on reading my query and sample chapters of my novel. I hope to hear from you soon.


What I did wrong:

First of all, I didn’t give them a hook or something that could connect me to that agent on why I’m contacting them in the first paragraph (i.e. why did I contact him? What made him think he was the best person to represent me?). I gave out this huge speech about how my manuscript is different from every other book that’s out there in the universe! Yikes! Back to the drawing board again.

Secondly, The manuscript is too long. I managed to look up the word count on my calculator by 250 words per page for courier (I still don’t know how to add the word count in Times New Roman, sorry guys) and I found out that it was 116,000 words (464 pages to be exact) which is WAY TOO LONG for a YA novel!!! Luckily, I have cut it down since then and it’s now 107,000 words (428 pages) and I’m still trying to find ways to cut it down to at least 90,000 (360 pages) if I can.

The Second paragraph is where things tend to get a little tricky. I think it could have been better if I had summed up the entire story in three sentences. I should have given this agent more information on why he’s searching to find the person he suspects killed him and his parents (His stepfather Vernon Stevenson). I think I should have summed it up the second part about the obstacles that he faces along the way in one sentence and then tell them about the ending (As much as I would love to give you an example of this, my mind has to require total concentration for this to occur. Who knows? I may post it later).
The third paragraph is the worst. I should have made the fourth paragraph my third paragraph and be done with it altogether. Why did I have to be such a show off about everything? Why couldn’t I have researched query letters before I wrote one? Sigh. You live and you learn.

Luckily, I’m researching query letters as I speak and starting all over again. This time, I’m going to study it and incorporate what I see into my own writing. I better get started on it now. See ya soon.