Can I read your successful query letter? Got my fourth rejection today for Nine Days, in less than 24 hours. I know that there are all sorts of resources out there about 'how' to write a query, and I followed the basic instructions but it still feels like it lacks that certain something. I'd really like to see some real-life query letters that actually grabbed an agent's attention. Thanks -- MK

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Well, I had an agent.  Don't have the query any longer, but here's the deal:  I had credentials, 4 books written, and a very short query letter.  Three short paragraphs, I think.  Good luck!

I think you have to just go with your instinct as a writer.  What would grab your attention?  Tell them a bit about yourself (just the important stuff, like where you've published, anything else that might establish your credibility as a writer), a bit about the book (the basic setup is all you need--why is it compelling?), and a bit about why you think that particular agent might be a good fit for you--other authors they represent with whom you have something in common.  I found my agent through a personal connection, so I'm not sure my standard query letter--which resulted in many rejections--would be very useful, even if I could find it.

As somebody yet to find an agent, this is interesting. Problem with all the query letter advice I've seen is that it seems to be the perfect recipe for a boring query letter. Most suggest structures similar to the one Jon suggests, but some have some fairly rigorous "you have to do it exactly like this or else" rules that seem to suck the life right out of any query letter. I felt mine were getting stale and so I kind of shook them up a bit and stopped trying to make it just a template of what I've studied online. I think it still follows most of the basic rules I learned, but at least I think it's largely more interesting. We'll see if it helps increase my chances any. 

I think I'm kind of like you in that I followed all those rigorous rules, and while my query 'gets the job done' (in that it follows all those rules), it just feels a bit pat. I'ma have to figure out a way to shake it up.

Yep, rigorous rules can really smother a good query. I got no clue if my change-up will help at all, but it feels a little more natural when I loosened up a little. I also think you might even still be able to follow the rules but when I stopped trying to follow the rules to the letter and focus more on making my story sound exciting, I was actually surprised that I was able to do both. IMO, sometimes a little too much emphasis is placed on certain rules that true creativity gets lost in the flow.

Good advice as always, you guys (Jon & I. J.)... Thanks!

I used to send different versions to 10 agents at a time, see which one produced the best response rate. Best ever was 50% asking for partials when I led off -- first sentence -- with my manuscript had just won contest at a Midwest Writers Conference.

I think about one sentence is all you get. Hook'em with something.

Jack is right!

Leading off with a publication credit? That sure as heck goes against certain "you have to do it exactly like this" models I've seen. lol 

I've recently started putting in a tagline I made up for my book as the first line. Since I haven't just gotten a big contest win in, I figure this will probably be the most eye-catching line I can come up with. I hope it becomes a bit more eye catching then the previous lifeless lines I've used in the past. I also loosened up my language a bit. Not to the point where it's totally unprofessional, but I don't want it to seem like it's just a template either. Here's hoping my new efforts work.

Good luck!  Jack's point was that they won't make much of an effort to read past the first thing you tell them.  So you tell them what will impress them.

Well, tagline is probably the most hooky/impressive thing I can lead with with minimal publication credits. We'll see how it goes in the future, I suppose. I'm hoping the entire letter is strong enough to at least catch some eyes.

What's your tagline, Jonathan? Let's see if it grabs me!

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