I wrote a query letter for contacting literary agents in my effort to have my novel published. I haven’t written a query letter for quite some time. In fact, the last time was in the early 90s when I wrote one for my book “Novel Openers.” That letter worked, because one of the recipients of the letter, McFarland & Company, decided to act on it and eventually published my book.
That query was very detailed and very long. I spent a lot of time thinking through my book idea, and also spent many hours sampling sources for the thousands of quoted opening lines that would eventually appear in the book. Making that query short and simple simply never occurred to me. I wanted to show potential publishers that I had done my homework and could hit the ground running, so to speak.
For fiction, the guidelines usually state that your query will be no more than one page in length, and will include a hook, a one paragraph synopsis, and a few sentences describing your experience, background, and any other stuff that might convince the agent or publisher that you are deserving of a chance to provide more information or perhaps even a chapter of your book.
I thought about displaying my latest query letter here, but in it I provided my Web site address so that any agents who go so far as to actually read the letter might accidentally click on the link and end up here. If so, they might be reading my letter a second time and realize that the letter could now be read by people around the world. Oh, what the heck. Here it is:
A calamitous baseball game in 1912 is the unlikely catalyst for a sea change in the community focus of the small town of Stillwater, Indiana. How will the narrator, George Belt, his schoolmates, his mentors, and Stillwater’s citizens overcome seemingly insurmountable odds in their quest to establish a basketball team at Stillwater High School? The answer can be found in my 148,000 word commercial fiction novel, “The Boards of Stillwater.”
Stillwater’s dearth of facilities and athletes is a thorny challenge to Ivan Stetler, a recent addition to the faculty of Stillwater High School. Ivan, a well-known area athlete and early player of basketball, was a natural choice to take over coaching responsibilities at Deer Lake High School. Ivan, however, left the largest town in Kimball County abruptly and moved to tiny Stillwater. His presence, as events progress, becomes not only a blessing but also a burden. His mysterious relationship with a tyrannical, reclusive newspaper publisher in Deer Lake seems to have hexed the efforts of the newly formed Stillwater Athletic Association to establish a program of athletics for Stillwater’s youth. Despite seemingly insurmountable odds and numerous setbacks, Ivan, his aspiring basketball players, and the members of the Stillwater Athletic Association prevail. The story of Stillwater basketball in the years 1912 through 1915 is based upon the real history of the ascendance of basketball in Northern Indiana. It is a history lesson but it is also a comedy. It is filled with facts but also with fun. It is a slice of life in the early Twentieth Century in a place that didn’t exist but certainly could have.
I have authored one book, a collection of opening lines of novels, titled “Novel Openers.” That book was published by McFarland & Company. I have been writing for many years for my own pleasure, and blog at www.earthdump.com. I have written a number of short stories (none published anywhere except on my blog) and an assortment of historical pieces. I found my inspiration for “The Boards of Stillwater” in an interview I conducted with an old fellow who played basketball in the early days in Indiana, and in the hundreds of period newspapers articles I read during my subsequent research.
Thanks for taking time to read my query. The full manuscript of “The Boards of Stillwater” is available upon request.
So there you have it. Anyone with ideas about how I might juice it up a bit, bring ’em on.
If the spirit moves me, I might also print here my query letter to McFarland & Company.