The query letter--according to seasoned veterans in the writing community--is the single most important element when submitting your manuscript to agents and/or publishers. It lets the agent know who you are and what your book is about in a very quick, 1-paged nut shell.
Think of spending countless hours on a 400 page manuscript, only to have to turn around and squeeze all that 400 pages of that into 1 or 2. NOT EASY! It's like writing that little summary on the back of book flaps at Barnes and Noble. You have to use the ink on your paper to literally scream "YOU WANT ME," demanding their attention with every fiber of your being! You have to frantically claw your way to the surface of the growing pile of muck on their desk in only 2 or 3 small desperately written paragraphs! Have I made my point yet? Oh yeah, and by the way, if you don't, you're back in the "slush pile" with the rest of the wanna-be-authors.
I've been putting this little project off for a while. Seriously, it's just a daunting of a task... worse than writing a novel you ask? Absolutely! Luckily, I'm not the only writer who's had a little bit of a love/hate relationship with the query letter. On his website, writer Nicolas Sparks (author of the famed Notebook, ladies, I'm sure you've heard of it) confessed that it took 17 drafts and 2 weeks of revising before he was satisfied with his Notebook query letter! I'm not alone!!
Anyway, I started it today, my first draft of a query letter, and I wanted to share that first draft with you. Does it suck? Probably? Does it need some work? Most definitely! But I thought it would be entertaining to compare my first draft to my last draft. Hopefully (fingers crossed) there will be some marked improvements!
So here it is, ladies and gents... the first draft of my query letter:
I am thrilled to introduce you to my first novel, Keepers of the Flame, the first of three in a trilogy I hope to have the privilege of working with you on.
I have an extensive repertoire of writing that I completed through my work as a History Major at Brigham Young University and the University of Nebraska Law School, where I am currently in my second year. Writing is not a foreign language to me—I love it—which is why I’m delighted to be presenting my first novel!
Keepers of the Flame, is an intense political thriller that follows the lives of one powerful government family as they are torn apart by lies, secrets, mistrust and an almost unquenchable lust for power. While their older brother seeks to establish a permanent place in the new regime, two siblings fight back at the overreaching hand of government, joining a nation-wide, underground movement as it sets out to restore the fundamental values of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. In our day in age where political upheavals, and uproarious government scandals, are an all-too-common occurrence, this novel paints a powerful picture of what life can become if a country succumbs to the pressures of an all-powerful government, who promises the false allure of security by stripping freedom and liberty from a people.
Like George Orewell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, or Suzanne Collin’s The Hunger Games, both classic novels in which a few seemingly unimportant individuals strike out against totalitarian regime, Keepers of the Flame explores the potential demise of a nation, as a few brave individuals struggle to right the wrongs built up by a power-hungry government. Not unlike George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, who fought for independence from King George’s tyrannical rule, the siblings become intimately acquainted with the deep meaning of freedom and independence as they struggle to answer the time-honored debate of right and wrong.
Keepers of the Flame explores all the treasured elements of the human soul’s fight for survival: liberty, freedom, love, family, loyalty, patriotism and courage. And yet, this novel is unique from other novels in two ways. The first is that it tells the story of the government’s actual demise. Rather than glossing over the downfall of a strong government, Keepers of the Flame unabashedly tells the story of how the lure of power can reach into the hearts of faithful leaders, tainting their minds until they are as corrupt as the evil they once fought against. Second, this novel is uniquely marketable to large audiences. Unlike many political thrillers, whose deep literary analysis can often thwart the numbers in readership, Keepers of the Flame’s commercial nature will appeal to a wide variety of readers, reaching past the normal boundaries of genre to every type of booklover.
I have reviewed some of the works you have represented in the past (examples), and would be delighted to work with you on this novel.
Enclosed are the first three chapters of Keepers of the Flame. The novel is approximately 100,000 words and fully complete. Let me know when I can send you the full manuscript.
Julie T. B. Hansen