I gave my query letter to my husband to read, and after a little prompting, he admitted that my new letter does not make him interested in reading my book (although he has read it, and does very much like it). He suggested that I look at the backs/inside flaps of some of our fiction to see how books are sold to readers—and then apply that to my query letter. I think he has a pretty good point.
(He also joked that I needed to make it sound like a “bodice-ripper,” using words like “pumping” and “throbbing.” “There’s no such thing as false advertising when it comes to getting an editor to read your book,” he said. I think I’ll pass.)
So here’s an example of a book summary. I bought The Betrayed, by Lisa T. Bergren simply because it sounded interesting (and it was only $1.00). I’ve not actually had the time to read it yet, so I have no idea if the book is any good or not; I purchased it by summary alone.
The Year of Our Lord 1340
The secret, a half millennium old, has been revealed. An illuminated letter, long buried by the Church—prophesying a fellowship of men and women possessing powerful spiritual gifts—is the catalyst for a profound war that will being either a new age of enlightenment or a darkness the world has never seen before. As the Gifted gather and gain strength, and find further clues as to where God is leading, their enemies grow more intent on controlling them.
There are two paragraphs to the summary, but let’s start with the first one. This is not too different from my own book, it seems. It sounds like there is an element of the supernatural involved, plus there’s some sort of war about to break out. I have both.
So, what is the catalyst for the war in my book? Well, that’s actually a secret that won’t be revealed until the third book, but Ciaran is the catalyst for the skirmishes that break out in the first book. But note that there are no characters mentioned in this first paragraph (they’re not introduced until the second).
In a small group in Tennessee, more than 2,500 years of peace has been shattered. For years, rumors have been flying among the Canichmehah that there was a new type of vampire in existence—the “Others.” They have mainly been known by the dead humans they leave behind. But one of them has defected, and the truth is worse than the rumors. The Others turn or kill every human they bite, they appear to have no laws or morals, and they are organizing themselves for some secret purpose—although their intention seems obvious: wipe out the Canichmehah and their human servants.
Okay, so let’s have the second paragraph from The Betrayed.
Watching the Gifted from afar in Venezia is Cardinal Boeri, who is determined to use the blessed power of the Gifted to secure his own place in the hierarchy of the Church. The doge, the duke of Venezia, has reasons of his own to seize control. But the greatest menace is the evil Lord Abramo Amidei, driven to turn the healer Daria d’Angelo to his own fold or destroy her in the process. He is determined to tear apart the firm fabric of her faith as he preys on the weaknesses of those she loves. For Amidei knows that together the Gifted are undeniably strong and growing stronger. But if he succeeds in dividing them, the Gifted—and then the world—will be his.
Here we see an introduction to the main characters and what roles they play in the plotline which was laid out in the first paragraph (the vagaries of the plot in that paragraph are also more defined here).
Kalyn is a star student in her junior class, a cheerleader, and just sixteen when she takes her place as an adult among the Yaechahre—the vampires’ human servants. She is placed in the care and tutelage of Anselm—an 800 year old vampire who is introverted, perfectionist, and rather fond of Monty Python. Under normal circumstances, the only excitement in his life comes from his adopted brother, Micah, who is his Odd Couple opposite: disorganized, lighthearted, and irreverently Jewish. But when Anselm rescues one of the Others from being murdered by his own kind, he, Micah and Kalyn lose their perfect, peaceful lives, and become the sole defenders of their people in the front lines of an emerging war.
Okay, there’s a start on yet another query letter (my third attempt, I think). I wasn’t kidding when I said this could drive a person mad. At some point I’m just going to have to say “screw it” and send it out. I may or may not get any agents’ interest with this letter (or any of its previous incarnations), but I sure as to hell won’t generate any interest if I never send it out.