How do you get an agent or a publisher? You write a query letter. Maybe it’s called that because you’re asking the question, ‘are you interested?’
You only get one shot at each agent and each publisher, and they’re very busy people. If your letter doesn’t grab them, they won’t read the rest of your submission. This is why the query letter is so important, and it’s why I rewrote mine maybe twenty times.
The most important part of the query is the ‘blurb’ for the back cover of the book. The aim of it is to give an idea of what’s in the novel and make people want to read it, all in around 100- 150 words. Doing this was a wonderful exercise in clarifying the main thrust of the book, being succinct and choosing words carefully.
Although seven agents and, so far, three publishers rejected my novel, one agent picked it up, so it can’t have been too bad. Also my agent, apart from rewriting my brief bio – I would never have thought of mentioning the masks – has used the guts of my query letter in her proposal/query to publishers. I thought you might like to see it, so here it is. This is what my agent sent out, along with the prologue. She didn’t send any chapters. The idea is that they’ll look at the submission quicker if it isn’t too long.
‘I’d love to interest you in this YA story which is the first in a possible four-part series with the provisional title Diamond Peak.
Lethal Inheritance a combination quest, love story and surrealistic journey into the mind, and has the sexy characters, flashes of humour, terrifying battles and mix of fantasy and reality that made the ‘Twilight’ series so popular with a wide readership.
If last night was real then Ariel should be dead, but her mother has disappeared, there are bruise marks on her neck and that hideous beast in the photo looks frighteningly familiar.
When demons kidnap her mother, Ariel is catapulted into a mysterious realm in a hidden layer of reality. Stuck on a rescue mission she doesn’t want, she must negotiate an intriguing and unpredictable world where demons who feed on fear are hunting her, and they’re aiming to kill.
Traveling with her is a quirky old guide who says he can fine-tune her mind into a powerful weapon and Nick whose power is more than either he or Ariel can handle.
Tahlia Newland has written scripts for theatre in education, and short stories for children and adults. Her short story, Between 1980 and 2003 she performed in dance, theatre and nightclub shows for children and adults; including school tours with Young Australia Workshop and the NSW, Victorian and Queensland Arts Councils. She is presently writing, working as a casual high school teacher; and in her spare time makes Venetian style masks. See http://tahliasmasks.wordpress.com. ‘
If you type ‘how to write a query letter’ into your search engine, then you’ll find plenty of articles on how to write a good one, and that’s what I did. I got the theory, then I had to write something that filled the criteria. Easier said than done, but it’s worth working at because without a good one, no matter how good your book is, no one will want to look at it.