Writing a query letter that hooks the reader

I found another great link on query letter writing, this time from author Jackie Kessler on the Deadline Dames blog. Jackie graciously provides the query letter that got her 11 requests for the full manuscript, then five offers of representation. Within a week after she chose which agent to sign with, her book, Hell’s Belles, was sold in a three-book deal. Awesome!

And when you read the query letter, you’ll understand her success. It’s funny, exciting, intriguing.

(Of course, her book had to be as good as the query to get this kind of follow-through success, which I’m sure it was, and that’s another reminder to polish, polish and polish some more before you send out your work so it’s the best that it can be.)

As I’ve said before, I always had a hard time writing query letters, and as Jackie points out, it is a different skill. A query letter is a business letter, and writing a business letter is different from writing a novel. One of the things that has really halted me is trying to explain my story in just a few sentences. But something Jackie says in her post made a lightbulb go on over my head when I read it: Hook the reader with the query. Don’t tell the story, just give them the hook, an expanded tag line that will make them want to read more. (Jackie goes into a lot more detail about her query letter, so do read her post. It’s actually just part one of three. I haven’t read the other two yet, but I plan to.)

Last night, I was at my critique group and told the other members about Jackie’s query letter. During our conversation, I described how well Jackie’s letter expressed the writer’s voice, the humor in the story and the personality of the main character with just these few words — another feat I admired because I have found it daunting. One of the other participants in my critique group said it was as if the character had written the query. Perfect! I thought that was such a great way to look at it. How would my main character describe his predicament in just a couple sentences?

What other good query letter writing tips do you have?

Write On!

What do you think?