19
Jun
09

The one that worked

Back when I was searching for an agent, there was nothing I obsessed over quite as single mindedly as my query letter. I wasn’t alone in this, everyone who had a book they wanted to get into an agent’s hands was freaking out over the things. They were the first test, the first blood on the sand, and, as someone who has great troubles with brevity, a personal agony that had to be conquered.

Of course, there are tons of sites for working on queries. I enjoyed Evil Editor and the late, much lamented Miss Snark in particular. But those sites particularly focused on what is wrong with a specific letter, so I thought I’d take a break from pontificating about writerly things and post my query letter as an example of a not-so-perfect missive that actually worked.

So here it is, the query for The Spirit Thief that got me my agent:

Dear ,

In a world where everything has a soul, and an opinion, Eli is a wizard with an uncanny knack for getting inanimate objects to do what he wants. He’s also the age’s most famous thief, with a price on his head large enough to fund a small war. But that’s not nearly enough for Eli, he has a higher goal: earn a bounty of one million gold or die trying. Of course, “die trying” is exactly what Miranda Lyonet, the wizardess in charge of catching Eli before he ruins the reputation of wizards everywhere, would prefer he did. The Spirit Thief, complete at 80,000 words, is about what happens when magic, money, and a royal kidnapping gone wrong change the rules in the old game of cat and cat.

When Eli breaks out of jail by literally charming a door off its hinges and kidnaps the king of Mellinor, a country that has forbidden magic since its founding, there’s nothing the nobles can do. Fortunately for them, Miranda is right on Eli’s trail. But things get complicated when the kidnapped king’s older brother, Renaud, himself a wizard banished by Mellinor’s law, takes advantage of the confusion to make his triumphant return. But Miranda is suspicious, would a banished prince really stick his neck out for the younger brother who took his throne?

She gets her answer when Renaud sabotages the king’s rescue, cheating Eli out of his ransom and framing Miranda for the real king’s death. To clear her name, Miranda must take on the traitorous prince, and for that she’ll need help. Unfortunately, “help” means swallowing her pride and teaming up with the thief who started this whole mess.

I’ve included the first four pages and a synopsis of the entire work below. Thank you for your time and I look forward to hearing from you soon!

Sincerely,
Rachel Aaron
(contact info)

Man, that doesn’t sound NEARLY as good as I used to think it did.  Just goes to show, the proof is in the pages!

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3 Responses to “The one that worked”


  1. June 19, 2009 at 6:48 am

    You know? I’m not an agent, but I really want to read that book from reading the synopsis.

    Can’t wait until it comes out.

  2. 2 Lindsay
    June 19, 2009 at 6:53 am

    Proof’s definitely in the pages. Those first few pages that you included had me DROOLING for more.

    Also, I don’t know that there’s anything WRONG with your letter, though you seem to be implying that there is! You don’t pontificate about the nature of good and evil and how it relates to fantasy (as many people do), you tell us right away what is INTERESTING about your characters, and you give plot details with a certain enthusiastic energy that I really don’t often see in queries. So yeah. Nothing wrong with this one. 😉

    Not that I’m biased.

  3. June 20, 2009 at 5:00 am

    Wow, whoever pulled that query out of the slush has excellent taste!

    Not that I’m biased. 😀

    (And I want to read it too!)


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