Querying agents, novel update

So I’ve recently gotten back on track with querying some agents again this year. I’ve queried just a few in the last several months. All have rejected the proposal, which I’m okay with. I just needed to make myself start the process again, which at times can be daunting. Over the course of the last two years, I’ve queried over a dozen agents. Two of them asked to see the full manuscript, which was exciting, but in the end they passed on my novel as well. Still, I was pleased to have two agents request the full manuscript. It at least gives me hope that I’m on the right track.

Most agents will require a query letter, a synopsis of your novel (usually 1-3 page novel summary, including spoilers), and possibly the first chapter or first ten pages of your novel or something like that. I’ve read varying opinions on this subject from authors as well as agents themselves, and while there is no absolute correct way to write a query — a lot of it is subjective — there are some commonalities in what agents seem to be looking for. Your query should include the title of your novel, the genre, the word count, along with a brief summary of the story. You should then add a brief bio about yourself. Stating your background and any writing credentials you may have can be beneficial as way of introduction to the agent.

The following is an example of my query letter and what has worked for me. I may actually drop the name George R.R. Martin from my query, since Game of Thrones has such wide mass market appeal now. I was using his writing as a comparison long before the series hit HBO, but now that it is so popular, I don’t want agents to perceive his name as arrogance on my part. While my writing may have flavors of Martin in style of how he approaches the fantasy genre, agents who have no idea who I am might think I am trying to oversell myself.

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Dear <agent name>,

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, and Guy Gavriel Kay. The story stands alone, but I also have plans for a series.

In conjunction with fiction writing, I host a Web site, http://steventill.com, and Twitter account, 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.

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

Steven Till

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