Novel Update – Query Letter

I haven’t discussed my novel in a while, so I thought I’d provide a quick update on where I am in the process. I’m currently sending out query letters to agents. I’ve sent a few queries, received mostly rejections, but one agent did ask to read the entire manuscript after reading my query. The manuscript was ultimately rejected, but I took it as a positive sign that an agent would even request to read the entire novel. I’ve written a few variations of my query letter, but the one below is the letter that solicited a response from the agent to review the entire novel.

Your feedback on my query is much appreciated, as it’s difficult to know if you’re on the right track sometimes.

***

Dear ____ ,

An ancient proverb speaks of destiny. The flames do not lie. Fate is unalterable.

The king of Aricin is dead, assassinated at the hands of an ambitious family. When a power struggle ensues over who will sit the throne next, Caelen, a minor noble, vows to destroy the usurper king. It is his destiny to fulfill the blood price, for the man who assassinated the king is also responsible for murdering Caelen’s father and brothers. For Caelen, justice and vengeance are the same. It is a man’s fate to restore his family’s honor. And sometimes the fate of one man is the same as another’s, for the usurper king also has a blood price to collect, one that can only be settled once he has destroyed the man who ruined his own family decades ago.

A New World Rising is a work of historical fantasy, complete at 108,000 words. Based upon hours of independent research in medieval history, the story derives much of its influence from the societies of England, France, and Scandinavia from the 11th through the 13th centuries. It is a blend of history and fantasy that will appeal to readers of Bernard Cornwell, George R.R. Martin, Guy Gavriel Kay, and Ken Follett’s The Pillars of the Earth. My novel can stand alone, but I also have plans to make it a series.

In conjunction with fiction writing, I host a Web site, steventill.com, where I openly share my passion for medieval history. Through a connection with my Web site, I reviewed a book for the Heroic Age, an academic medieval journal. I have also read and reviewed books at the requests of Wunderkind PR, Sourcebooks, and Plume, among others. My professional writing career includes articles written for Southern Living magazine and Health.com, and currently, I work full-time as a technical writer for the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

My Web site attracts up to 8,000 visitors per month in addition to a couple hundred regular subscribers. I am also on Twitter, where I have over 1,000 followers. In addition to using social media, I have spent hours researching search engine optimization. At the time of writing this letter, my Web site currently ranks on page two of Google for the phrase “middle ages history,” a competitive term that returns nearly thirty-one million results when searched. I hold a degree in Advertising/Communications and Marketing.

Thank you for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you.

Steven Till

8 thoughts on “Novel Update – Query Letter”

  1. Mentioning your website/blog and Twitter activity seems like a good idea. It pays to advertise and the agents should appreciate that you’re willing to make the effort. Too many authors think that their job ends when the book is written.

  2. That’s excellent that you’ve gotten an agent to read your work, as that is not easy to do!

    One recommendation would be to streamline your novel’s summary … there seems to be duplication that can be cleaned up. Here is my shortened version:

    “The king of Aricin is assassinated, and Caelen, a minor noble, vows to destroy the usurper. For Caelen, justice and vengeance are the same, for the man who assassinated the king is also responsible for murdering Caelen’s father and brothers. But the new king has his own blood price to collect against the man who ruined his own family decades ago.”

    Note that the first sentence can stand alone as a super-short summary. Also, I’m not sure “of Aricin” is needed here. Unless that name rings a bell with the agent, I’m not sure how important it is since there is no other kingdoms in the summary to contrast it with.

    It might still need something more, though… a hook about Caelan’s inner journey and the outer dangers he faces.

    Here is my own hook for Merlin’s Blade, given at the very end of the summary:

    “But when Merlin is surrounded by adversaries, with hope nearly lost, how will he save the girl he cherishes and rid Britain of this deadly evil … without losing his life?”

    Make sure that whatever you use for the summary, that you’re happy with it—it’s okay if you disagree with my suggestions!

    -Robert 🙂

  3. Thanks for the suggestions, Robert. Do you have a copy of your query you could send me via email or Facebook? It always helps me to read as many queries as I can to get an idea of what might work and what doesn’t. Thanks again!

  4. The story sounds very interesting but here’s the thing: even though you mention it first it’s almost a secondary character in your query. Your query is four paragraphs long and your story only garners one paragraph. I think that’s about the opposite ratio of what you want. An agent is going to be representing your story, not your blog or your websites or your book reviews. I suggest scaling down your bio to one solid paragraph and expanding on your story. At over 100k words, I’m sure you won’t have any difficulty going into greater detail. It sounds like a great story so tell us more about it!

    I also just posted my query letter and I would love your opinion. Here it is:

    http://adamsapple2day.blogspot.com/2012/04/revised-query-letter-please-help.html

  5. Thanks, Adam. Good thoughts. I will look at expanding the details of the story a bit and tightening up the biographical info. I posted comments on your query over on your site. Best of luck!

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