Writing That Killer Query

by Keith Rommel
The Internet Writing Journal, October 2002
So, you've finished your novel and you're looking for advice on how to write a query? I'll tell you up front that I'm no expert, but I have done a lot of research on writing that "killer query". I eagerly used the gathered information to write my query and quickly solicited it to a handful of agents. Pacing the floor for weeks, I awaited word and reaction to my query. I was disappointed to find my "killer query" was nothing more than a bland explanation of something I lived and breathed for over a year. I was crushed and faced with a dilemma. How was I going to explain 66,000+ words in a single page and make someone else believe in it? Impossible. Though reluctant, I immediately returned to the drawing board, and reworked my query, trying to find a voice that would allow me to stand out from the crowd. When I completed it, a second batch of letters went out. During my wait, I edited and edited my novel over and over again.

This time when the responses came in, I'd gotten a few positive responses. I jumped for joy and counted my blessings. I chose the agent I thought was the best one for me and I returned the requested chapters.

The difference between my first query and my second was simple. I added something others refer to as the "hook". The hook is the line(s) that "nabs" the agents interest and has him/her request your manuscript. So, what exactly is the hook and how did I use it? Before I show you my hook, let me explain why it is a hook.

I set everything up with the powerful question "Why?" and immediately answer that question. I feel if you create a thought-provoking setting and toss in a simple question such as "Why?", it stirs the imagination. I feel it might even say: "Keep reading, you'll find out." That compels the agent to read on, seek that answer. I give the answer, but also tease a bit more as to the stories contents.

Below is the query for you to view and use how you will. I feel it is a good premise to start your own and even help bring about some ideas. Whatever you decide to do with it, I hope you find something useful in it.
Name of agent
city, state
zip

Dear Name of agent:

Thousands of years ago, Sardurvial fell from the grace of God along with Satan and an untold number of other angels. Today, he finds himself battered and bloody, hiding in a cold dank stairwell fearful of those he once trusted.

Why?

Sardurvial can only ponder the many answers to that question as he struggles with the pain from his injuries and pushes himself to his knees. Interlacing his blood caked fingers, he raises his eyes heavenward and prays with all of his might...

He wishes to earn his way back into the heavens, to make right everything he's done wrong. And what he's done wrong, he believes, is beyond repair.

But he's heard about the forgiveness one can seek and it gives him hope...

He will begin his journey by facing the ghosts from his past. But to do so he will need time to heal first. And when an unsuspecting nurse coming home from a long night at the hospital stumbles upon him and offers him assistance, he can only wonder if it's a blessing or an omen...

Sardurvial Dissenting is a supernatural suspense thriller beyond the scope of the current market of supernatural thrillers such as The Fallen and the Devil's Advocate. It is a story about overcoming personal obstacles, seeking forgiveness, and finding love. It has a strong male protagonist, a horrifying and cunning villain, and a series of disturbing surprises that build to an ultimate shocker of an ending. At 66,325 words and 288 pages, it is paced for a quick-and-easy read.

To date I've had one mainstream fiction novel published that is currently undergoing a national promotion campaign that began January 1st, 2002 by Phenix and Phenix based out of Austin, Texas. I've also had articles published as well as radio and internet interviews conducted. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Sincerely,

Keith Rommel

(place your contact information including telephone number and email address here)
Now below is a variation of my query letter that was changed to meet the tastes of certain agents I was querying. Read it and see the difference...

Name of agent
city, state
zip

Dear Name of agent:

Thousands of years ago, Sardurvial fell from the grace of God along with Satan and an untold number of other angels. Today, he finds himself battered and bloody, hiding in a cold dank stairwell fearful of those he once trusted.

Why?

Sardurvial can only ponder the many answers to that question as he struggles with the pain from his injuries and pushes himself to his knees. Interlacing his blood caked fingers, he raises his eyes heavenward and prays with all of his might...

He wishes to earn his way back into the heavens, to make right everything he's done wrong. And what he's done wrong, he believes, is beyond repair.

But he's heard about the forgiveness one can seek and it gives him hope...

He will begin his journey by facing the ghosts from his past. But to do so he will need time to heal first. And when an unsuspecting nurse coming home from a long night at the hospital stumbles upon him and offers him assistance, he can only wonder if it's a blessing or an omen...

Living in an age where it seems one tragic world event follows another without any signs of relief, society at large has turned to religious based stories in search of a greater meaning of things to come during the end time. Like the Left Behind series, Sardurvial Dissenting, is religious based fiction with the content reading like a supernatural suspense thriller. It is a story about overcoming personal obstacles, seeking forgiveness, and finding love. It has a strong male protagonist, a horrifying and cunning villain, and a series of disturbing surprises that build to an ultimate shocker of an ending. At 66,500 words, it is paced for a quick-and-easy read.

To date I've had several articles published as well as one mainstream fiction novel published by Barclay Books which has received dozens of reviews complimenting my strong narrative abilities. I am eager to share this unique story with you and look forward to your timely response.

Sincerely,

(insert your name and contact info here)

**Keith Rommel is the author of the supernatural suspense series entitled Spirit of Independence.

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