Why isn’t there a Query Letters for Dummies? Maybe because people who write books aren’t dummies or agents don’t want dummy clients or dummies are to dumb to ask for this. Who knows. But as a Dummy, frankly, I’m fed up! Enough with all this use your best judgement! and Memorize stringent formatting expectations! advice. Where can I find a guide so stupid-simple that it takes the thinking out of the process, a guide I can simply plug my story details into? Where can I find a cheat code, a madlib query letter?
Oh, right. This is it. I put together a foolproof query letter formula, complete with formatting, industry standards, and silly examples. Of course, this is just one style, and like most writing related things, there are about a bazillion ways to do it well,. Still, an example, a simple example with instructions, can be helpful. Use this as a scaffolding to craft your first query letter, or compare this formatting to your current letter. Either way, taking a look at this letter formula should help improve your query letter:
Your main character, conflict, and hook.
Formula: When [Main Character] faces [Inciting Conflict], the [Main Character] must [Find a way to overcome conflict or face consequences.]
Example: When fifteen-year-old arachnophobic inventor, Bob the Builder, finds his beloved death ray stolen by space spiders, he’ll need to conquer his fear of spiders to save the Earth.
Paragraph 2 and 3:
Specific details of your characters, plot, and relationships. This will be things like how your character(s) will try to solve the conflict, who your characters are to each other, and any new developments that may make things more difficult.
Formula: [New Character] is [Interaction] with [Main character] because of [Conflict]. But [Main character] is [New Relationship Conflict].
[New character(s)] and [Main character] must take [specific action] to fix [Inciting conflict.] But [New conflict] is escalating, making things even more difficult.
Example: The CIA arrests Bob for letting his death ray fall into the hands of evil spiders. If that wasn't stressful enough, spider-loving CIA agent Webster reveals that the space spiders have already taken over Area 51, the Spiders’ new base of operations. Bob isn’t comfortable with how close Webster is to her pet spiders, or that she speaks with a suspiciously spider-like lisp.
Webster gives Bob just one month to Storm Area 51 and recover his beloved death ray. If he fails, the CIA will incinerate Bob with their own, much jankier death ray, a fate worse than death.
A final paragraph with your hook and stakes to leave the reader wanting more.
Formula: But when [Character(s)] take on [conflict], the [character(s)] face [Additional conflict] that makes solving [inciting conflict] even harder. This poses a [internal challenge] for [main character] in addition to an [external challenge]. [Main character] must [experience some sort of character growth] to solve both the [Internal Conflict] and [External Conflict]
Example: But when Webster and Bob storm Area 51, Bob discovers that a bunch of dank teens have already stormed the base! Bob and Webster infiltrate the unwitting group of teens led by the especially dank Patrick Bohan, but terrifying space Spiders are everywhere, and the death ray is nowhere to be seen. Bob must find a way to keep the stupid kids away from the space spiders, appease the CIA, and find his death ray, all under the nose of the eight-legged beasts he fears the most.
Your genre, word count, COMP TITLES, and a short bio, full of things relevant to your writing.
Formula: [TITLE] is [Age range] [Genre] novel, complete at [WORD COUNT.] It will appeal to fans of [comparable book TITLE BY AUTHOR published within the last 5 years.] I am a [bio information].
Example: BOB THE BUILDER STORMS AREA 51 is a YA Sci-fi novel, complete at 90,000 words. It will appeal to fans of REINCARNATION BLUES by Michael Poore. I studied memeology at the Pentagon, where I fed aliens daily, giving me first hand experience with space spiders.
Thank you for your time and consideration,
(If the agent’s instructions don’t ask for sample pages, stop reading this guide, congratulations, you’re finished! The whole thing should roughly be between 200 and 400 words, about 300 on average. If the agent's submission guidelines do mention sample pages, read on.)
[SKIP TWO LINES]
YOUR TITLE by YOU
[Skip two lines]
Copy-paste plain text from your manuscript into Notepad, then paste that plain text into the email. (I know, I know, this removes your indents. But what you might not know is that indented and formatted text appears different on different computers. Plain text from Notepad it will ensure your work is readable. Also, please, follow the agent's instructions on # of pages!)
At the bottom of the text, type END.
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