My Query Letter – Can I Get A Do-Over?

In my last post I talked about a personalized response I got from an agent who, although she said “no”, shared with me the four reasons why she was knocking me back. Her generous reply was quite illuminating.

The easiest problem to fix was my email address. “aussieauthor” suggested to her that I might not be able to write, punctuate and spell like an American. For the record I like, totally can, but it wasn’t too hard to create a new email address. So from now on, I’ll be sending my query emails from “turnbullauthor”.

But evidently the biggest problem was with the query letter itself. It didn’t give enough information about the plot, nor did I share any information about myself. So yesterday I sat down to correct all that. Well! Who knew that it would take three hours to re-draft a one-page letter?

Query letters must do a lot of work. They need to communicate to an agent who you are, what your book is about, who your characters are, what is their central problem and how do they go about fixing it, how long is the book, what genre it is, why you’ve written it, and what is it about you that makes your take on the subject worth investing some time in. It all needs to be done in just the right tone and with just enough details to make the agent think “Who is this undiscovered gem of a writer!?!?!” And it all needs to be accomplished in one page without cheating by setting the font to 8 points.

That’s a whole lotta heavy lifting and I had already spent hours and hours getting my query letter right. It’s worth putting in that time because you only get one chance per agent to make an impression and you need to make it in 30 seconds or less. Preferably less because these agents get dozens and dozens and dozens of these letters every week.

But apparently my query letter still needed work. So yesterday I reworked it and reworked it and reworked it. Man, it’s draining. Because you have to do all that in one page, every word counts. But eventually I did it. Well, sort of. It’s one page if you don’t count all the contact info I add at the bottom. That’s not really cheating…is it…?

Then I sent it over to Bob to proof read and he thinks it’s…to quote his very word…fabulous (did I mention he’s also my First And Biggest Fan?) so now, moving forward, I feel a whole lot better about approaching future agents. But now of course I’m wondering if I might have received a different response from some of those “NO!”s I got from agents I’ve already approached. D’OH!! WAAAAAH! I WANT A DO-OVER!

About Martin Turnbull

The Hollywood's Garden of Allah novels blog is by Martin Turnbull, a Los Angeles based historical fiction author of a series of novels set at the Garden of Allah Hotel, which stood on Sunset Blvd from 1927 to 1959. Check him out at and Facebook: "gardenofallahnovels"
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2 Responses to My Query Letter – Can I Get A Do-Over?

  1. Betty says:

    I think a better new email address would be “

    You do realize, don’t you, that by numbering your queries, you may eventually get to “Agent 99”, which could result in utter Chaos.

    (By the way, Agent #14, Martin is sooooooo well versed in American culture and the American venacular that he completely understands that rather lame pun–in fact, he probably wishes he had thought of it himself.)

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