Shannon Stacey

Weekend Question: The Query Letter

I’ll be forgoing the actual question this weekend. My reason for that is here. Instead I’m posting a mock query letter and I hope any authors who stop by will check it out, give a quick comment on what you think works or doesn’t, what’s worked for you, etc.

NOTE: I’m not asking for critique of MY query. This is an example only, for illustrative purposes.

I’ve added a couple of notes as to why I went the way I did with certain things. Please feel free in the comments to ask those “but what about…” or “but what if…” questions. And it’s a little long, so I’m putting the query after the jump.

Don’t forget, if you’ve got an anything-writing-related question, email it to me at with Weekend Question in the subject line! All questions are posted anonymously, and authors who wish to answer anonymously can email their answers to me, as well.

The Mock Query Letter:

Shannon Stacey
123 Main Street
Somewhere, NH 00000

28 February, 2008

Jane Doe, Associate Editor
Big Publishing Press
100 Fancy Avenue
New York, NY 10010

Dear Ms. Doe:

My name is Shannon Stacey and I’m currently published with Samhain Publishing and Ellora’s Cave Publishing.(1) I recently finished a 90,000 word light paranormal romance, Insert Kick-Ass Title Here(2), and I’m hoping you’ll consider it for publication with Big Publishing Press.(5)

To break the curse of immortality, Alex MacLaren has to save life of a Donald MacBaine descendant and fulfill his father’s battlefield oath. But it’s been two hundred sixty-one years and the line has dwindled to just one woman. Amanda Bane is one of a long line of scholars—except for that one feisty Highlander who died at Culloden—until she uncovers a secret somebody’s willing to kill for. The last thing she needs is to fall for an immortal Scot willing to throw her under the bus…literally.(3)

If you’re interested in reading Insert Kick-Ass Title Here, I’d be pleased to send you the manuscript upon request. I have enclosed an SASE for your reply, and I look forward to hearing from you. Thank you for your time and consideration.(4)


Shannon Stacey

(1) Yes, it’s unusual to have this up front instead of the third paragraph being credentials. My books are pretty much my only credentials so instead of trying to stretch it out, I left it at that. If the blurb captures an editor’s interest and she’s interested in what I’ve done, she’ll just go to my website anyway. I chose to do this way in the interest of white space.

What is white space? I did a screencap of my Word doc to show it:

(2) That mentality of sticking something there knowing there’s a 90% chance they’ll change it anyway doesn’t work. You want an amazing title that captures his or her attention.

(3) Eight-eight words. And, to be honest, I still think it’s too long.

(4) Standard stuff.

(5) There are many, many people who open with the book blurb here, and it’s not wrong. My personal take on this: I don’t want the editor to read the blurb for the first time trying to place what kind of book it is. I’ve told her pretty much what she needs to know, so there’s less distraction for the blurb.

And that’s it. It doesn’t need to be wordy, and hopefully piques her interest enough she’ll request the partial without giving her enough detail to think it sounds like something else she’s done. It’s easy on the eyes, doesn’t waste her time and serves its purpose.

And, besides comments, if anybody has links to good query examples, feel free to post them. I know if you go to Kristin Nelson’s blog and scroll down to “Agent Kristin”s Queries: An Inside Scoop”, she has examples of successful queries (that are all totally different than my example

5 comments to “Weekend Question: The Query Letter”

  1. Charlene
      · February 29th, 2008 at 5:20 pm · Link

    Clean and to the point! Although don’t you have some awards you could add to your credentials? :groucho:

  2. Natalie J. Damschroder
      · February 29th, 2008 at 6:27 pm · Link

    On (1), I’ve seen a few agents say if you’re published, state it up front. Don’t bury it at the end. And if you’re published, other credentials are less important.

    Strictly in the interest of completeness, I have to ask…

    “Alex MacLaren has to save life”

    Should that be THE life? :grin:

    “To break the curse of immortality,”

    Whose immortality?

    Donald MacBaine
    Amanda Bane

    After listening to some RWA Idol-type things, I’d suggest that some editors and agents would find this confusing and/or say it makes them think too hard. It might be less of an issue if you put the time period in there somewhere. Or you could say “But after two hundred sixty-one years the line has dwindled to just one woman, Amanda Bane, one of a long line of scholars…”

    “—except for that one feisty Highlander who died at Culloden—”

    I may be dumb, but I don’t get that reference. Is it saying that there was one person in her ancestry who wasn’t a scholar?

    “until she uncovers a secret somebody’s willing to kill for.”

    So when she uncovers the secret, she’s no longer one of a long line of scholars? What does she study?

    “The last thing she needs is to fall for an immortal Scot willing to throw her under the bus…literally.”

    Perfect. Might be enough to get a request no matter what else the blurb says. :grin:

  3. Lynn
      · February 29th, 2008 at 11:39 pm · Link

    “I recently finished a 90,000 word light paranormal romance, Insert Kick-Ass Title Here(2), and I’m hoping you’ll consider it for publication with Big Publishing Press.”

    This is a solid book info/intro line. Neat, to the point, and you’ve covered the necessary info without the usual ho-hum “Insert Kick-Ass Title Here is a 90K light paranormal romance” intro line. I like to write very brief query letters, so here I’d probably drop the “with Big Publishing Press” part to make it tighter.

    Second paragraph I’d whittle down to 50 words or less, and remove absolutely everything the editor doesn’t need to know. Look at phrases like “and fulfill his father’s battlefield oath” “it’s been two hundred sixty-one years” and “except for that one feisty Highlander who died at Culloden.” Those three phrases alone = 23 words.

    I’d delete half of the first line of the third paragraph “If you’re interested in reading Insert Kick-Ass Title Here” because if s/he reads as far as that paragraph. she’s interested. :)

  4. Shannon
      · March 1st, 2008 at 12:10 am · Link

    :doh: A typo. Niiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiice. See, I was illustrating why we ask somebody else to read them before sending them out. :rofl:

    I’m going to try to pare that blurb down tomorrow, if for no other reason than to illustrate it can be done. And I just deleted a whole long explanation of what I was trying to get across because I’ve stated often you don’t get to explain—the words live or die on the page.

    So I’ll see if I can get it down while trying to get all the information across. Maybe it’ll help somebody trying to learn how to pare their own down.

    A challenge! :groucho:

    Although don’t you have some awards you could add to your credentials?

    Some finalings I’m very proud of no, but no actual awards.

    Yet. Maybe.

  5. Emma Wayne Porter
      · March 1st, 2008 at 6:51 pm · Link


    Reading the blurb, I wasn’t sure if “the secret someone’s willing to kill for” had something to do with Alex — is the secret Alex’s immortality-ending mission, or is there an interfering third party involved? If so, what does the third party want?

    The reason I thought this was important was because it’s complication/conflict for Alex if someone’s trying to keep him immortal by killing Amanda before he can, if you see what I mean. It’d make for a lovely multi-dimensional problem, him keeping her alive long enough to kill her himself, I guess.

    On the other hand, if someone wants to destroy him, they NEED him to kill Amanda so he’s mortal, right?

    On still another hand, if it’s Amanda they want dead… Does their goal of killing her have anything to do with Alex? If so, how? And (wait for it…) why?

    Also, does “the secret” cause a goal reversal?

    I guess it comes down to character-centric details vs conflict-centric, and to me, it seems like the bulk falls on the side of character when conflict might yield a sleeker blurb.

    Um… Yeah. I’m going back to my hole now. Sorry.

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