A Query

So, I’ve been working and reworking on my query letter — the one-page thing I’m supposed to submit to literary agents that

A.) Defines up my entire 143,000 word novel in 200 words or so.

B.) Introduces myself as somebody worthy of publishing.

C.) Gives some insight into my writing style.

and D.) Makes them maybe consider possibly asking for a portion of my novel so that they may reject it and laugh at me.

Turns out, this is the hardest thing in the world to do.

First up, a query letter is not really a summary; a query letter is more of a hook or blurb meant to entice. It’s kind of like the junk found on the back jacket of a novel, or the lies told to us innocent movie goers during the trailers to upcoming films. Second, it’s really, really, really difficult deciding what elements of the novel to include in such a short space. Strange Beasts features an asston of characters and several plot lines that all tie together in the end (hopefully well) and boiling the thing down to its barest elements is like trying to explain to a stranger what your spouse is like as a person using only a general description of his or her face.

I’ve  done so much research on how to write a query letter that I think I’ve totally psyched myself out of writing a good one. Most of the time, the advice is super-conflicting,  something like, “Follow these guidelines. Never deviate; agents hate that except when they love it. Sometimes the best queries are the ones that break all the rules. But don’t break all the rules. Or any of them.” Then they give some examples of successful query letters, none of which follow the rules. It’s very frustrating.

In the end, I just wrote some shit. Then, I rewrote that shit again. And again and again and again. I’ll probably write it three or four more times, too. It gives me something to do, I suppose.

All of this prefaces what I really wanted to say, which is that I’m posting the current form of my query letter below. I welcome any and all comments, good or bad, that are out there waiting to be offered. I’ve heard that the Internet is full of opinions; I’d like some please.

And here we go:

Set in a dying Alabama town in the years following a lengthy war between mankind and a race of giant monsters, Strange Beasts in a Small Town tells the story of Agnes Stegall, an ex-monster hunter who is asked by the residents of Verbena Fields to kill a giant garbage monster believed to be threatening the town. Basically, she says “no,” but with more profanity.

There are reasons for this, of course. It’s been ten years since Agnes helped destroy most of the giant monsters, so she’s kind of retired. Plus, being of a generally disagreeable nature and prone to bouts of sour stomach when confronted with social interaction, she is reluctant to get involved. But then the townspeople call on King Vislor — a neurotic monster hound with such an obsessive reverence for humankind he helped kill his fellow monsters in its defense — for aid instead. Because Agnes believes King Vislor’s presence will have disastrous consequences for everyone involved, she begrudgingly attempts to undo the chain of events her reluctance, and the people of Verbena Fields, have caused. She’s too late, though; King Vislor is coming, bringing along thousands of humanlike creatures he’s created — living representations of his infatuation with mankind. Soon, Agnes recognizes the destructive lengths King Vislor, his creations, and the townsfolk are willing to undertake to keep Verbena Fields safe and must fight against these forces while simultaneously battling the monsters looming in her past.

Complete at 143,000 words, Strange Beasts in a Small Town is a comic science fiction story that pays equal amounts homage to the anecdotal storytelling of the south and the giant monster films of the 1950s and 1960s. Author Adam Armour, a writer/photographer for two Mississippi newspapers, has earned 11 Mississippi Press Association awards for his work. His short fiction has been published in several popular online sites, including Everyday Fiction, Big Pulp Magazine and Flash Fiction Online.

Thank you for your time.

Adam Armour





4 thoughts on “A Query

  1. I have no experience with query letters, but after writing several artist statements, I do feel your pain. I like it. I don’t know what a publisher is going to want, but now I want to read it. So, you know, if you want a proofreader or anything, I’m available!

  2. You folks are too nice.

    Query writing is a definite skill. I think I hate it. I know there’s no magic “thing” that agents or publishers want, but many of these sites dole out advice about how to write queries, and then proceed to give examples that follow none of said advice. I mean, I get it. There’s no formula. But if that’s the case, stop telling me that there definitely IS a formula. Just one that doesn’t always work except when it does.

    Ugh, this crap gives me a headache. Oh, and Lynn, thanks for expressing interest. You give me hope for the future. Lord knows I need it.

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