I’d like to thank Taylor for stepping forward and letting me post and comment on her query letters. I think it takes a certain bravery to post your early query efforts on the internet for all to see. Not only that, she’s given me permission to comment.
Here is her first query:
The night of their college graduation, Maggie McGregor broke Will Buchanan’s heart. She thought she was doing what was best for both of them. They had their whole lives ahead of them. Neither of them needed to be tied down by the expectations of someone else. They deserved a chance to live their dreams, not compromise them for the sake of each other.
Maggie McGregor is a strong, intelligent college student with her future all planned out when she meets Will Buchanan. He’s everything she’s ever wanted in a man; he’s handsome, funny, considerate, and he’s not afraid to go toe-to-toe with her. In the safe, uncomplicated world of college, they thought happily-ever-after would be easy. But when faced with the real world, Maggie chooses to go her own way rather than changing her plans for Will. She has spent the past four years studying at Oxford and working to become a successful novelist. Now that she’s succeeded, it’s time to head home and face her past, specifically the man she rejected to pursue her dreams. But can Maggie find her way back to Will Buchanan or has too much time passed for either of them to return to how they used to be?
A modern day tale, A STEADY WISH tells the story of Maggie and Will and their journey back to each other. An adult Maggie’s memories provide the history of her relationship with Will as she moves closer to being able to embrace an adult life with the man she loves. With the help of her friends and family, Maggie realizes that she doesn’t have to compromise her dreams to be with the man she loves.
This romance novel is complete at approximately 90,000 words. A STEADY WISH is not only about the love between Maggie and Will, but the problems facing many graduating college students and young professionals today: should I plan my life around someone else? How do I know what will and won’t work out? Am I ready to live with that regret?
I am a senior English major, feminist studies and religion minor, at Southwestern University, a small liberal arts university in Texas. I wrote A STEADY WISH over the course of three semesters, while maintaining a 3.5 GPA. Other than a few articles in my school newspaper, I am unpublished. I also have a daily blog, tmlunsford.blogspot.com. With A STEADY WISH complete, I am currently writing my next novel, a Regency romance. I am in the process of finding an agent, so I am sending this out to several different agencies.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Taylor tells me she got no requests based on this letter. For me, and my unexpert, non-agent-y eyes, it’s a little long and lacks focus. There’s no real pitch here. We’re told a lot about the characters, but it seems this query focuses on backstory more than the unfolding, real-time story. Also, I can’t really identify a hook in here.
Taylor’s second query got her lots of partial requests. This one is for a different project, the Regency romance she references in her first query.
After doing research about your agency, I thought you might be interested in my novel.
My Regency romance novel, The Warrior Groom, complete at 91,000 words, is a reimagining of My Fair Lady where Henry Higgins asks Eliza for deportment lessons. It is a standalone novel with the potential for expansion into a trilogy.
Katherine Burns convinced herself long ago that marriage was not for her, opting to embrace the independent writing life modeled by Jane Austen. When Colonel Aidan Cavanaugh, the Marquess of Pierston, who recently arrived from India, asks her to help him learn the ways of the ton, she never suspected that his interest in her was of a decidedly romantic nature.
Before she knows it, Kate finds herself falling in love with this man who asks so much of her, yet gives so little of himself. It is up to the battle-hardened, but dashing new marquess to show Kate that she can be both a writer and a wife, despite what society might tell her.
I am a senior English major, feminist studies minor, at Southwestern University, a small liberal arts university in Texas. My previous publishing credit is “Agape” in the anthology A Rush of Wings (Naked Reader Press, 2010).
Notice how much shorter this is. Not only that, we have a clear hook with the My-Fair-Lady-turned-on-its-head line. This is what’s known as high-concept—an idea you can sum up clearly in one sentence—and it’s a wonderful thing to have. We also have a clear inciting incident (the hero coming to the heroine for deportment lessons), as well as an indication of the romantic conflict.
Taylor honed this pitch at Pitch University, and if you want to see her progression and comments from the experts over there, you can find that here.
Here is Taylor’s third query.
My contemporary romance novel with a paranormal twist, I’M WITH CUPID, complete at 87,000 words, is a modern reimagining of the myth of Cupid and Psyche.
Cal Michaels aka Cupid has spent all of his life helping other people find their perfect partner. He now runs a major online dating website and is trying hard to live as a mortal. Matchmaking is a job for the gods, not humans, so when Cal’s mother, Venus, takes offense to the growing popularity of romance consultant Prue Harrison, Cal agrees to go see what this matchmaker andwedding planner has done to piss off the goddess of love. Within seconds, he realizes he doesn’t want to mess with her life- he wants to be a part of it.
Prue Harrison helps people begin their happily-ever-afters, but she doesn’t think she’ll ever start one herself. It’s easier to make other people happy than risk herself on men who abruptly leave her once she’s fallen in love with them. In spite of her reticence to date her biggest competition, she’s drawn to Cal, caught up in the chemistry that sizzles between them.
Cal never expected to fall in love with a mortal. Olympian law prevents him from revealing his true identity and declaring his feelings for her, making building a lasting relationship difficult. If he tells her, he loses her forever, but if he doesn’t, he could risk permanently breaking her heart. And if the goddess of love find out, Prue will have more to worry about than just a broken heart.
I recently graduated with a degree in English from Southwestern University, where I developed a fascination with studying retellings and tracing common themes through literature. I have a short story, “Agape,” in the anthology A Rush of Wings (Naked Reader Press, 2010). Another of my short stories is scheduled to be published by the same press in September.
She tells me she received some of full requests based on this query, and I can see why. She’s managed to condense her characters and their conflict into a few snappy lines. The romantic conflict is especially clear, especially on the hero’s part, and then she hits us with a hint at higher stakes. Great job!
Thank you, Taylor for putting yourself out there, and sharing your query efforts with us. I hope people find these posts helpful. You can find Taylor at her blog as well as on Twitter (follow her—she’s fun and funny).
Want to participate by sharing your queries with the world and hopefully helping out other writers? Contact me!