Yes, I'm the crazy writer who loves query letters! I always start by writing the elevator pitch, the query, and then a synopsis before I ever write a word of prose. I also run the story idea by trusted writers, my agent, and even the hive mind sometimes.
My queries are fairly formulaic and plot specific, unless it's a big complicated story with multiple points of view, like Archive of Fire. Generally the formula I start with looks like this:
- One sentence pitch.
- A line or two to introduce characters and setting. Then the "But when the antagonist" statement--inciting incident.
- I try to pull plot points to illustrate the story--he fights back in this way, these obstacles that illustrate the motivations and dangers of the antagonist get in his way. Protag becomes more driven, fights back, and then big cliffhanger happens! Oh nos!!
Here are a few query letters I sent to editors for books they bought:
Falsely accused of murdering his wife, Draken vae Kellian is banished to the arse-end of the world, Akrasia. Avoiding people seems to be Draken’s best bet for survival. But when a ghost-creature from a cradle tale attacks him, the necromancer who saves Draken’s life persuades him to warn the Queen’s court. Once there, politics and lies to protect his identity drag Draken into a looming civil war.
After he foils an assassination attempt on the queen, she asks him to find the assassin and resolve the issue discreetly. She also demands absolute loyalty. Draken can live with that. After all, here is a beautiful woman who desires the protection he could not give his wife. While unraveling the rebellion, he learns his wife’s killer is involved and the attempt on the queen was just a skirmish in a war against the gods. Draken's only chance at peace is to confront every horror from his past and betray the queen he swore to protect.
Aidan and Kaelin Trevet grew up in the Colorado Rockies with a mother who schooled them in the art of war. It all seemed normal until they realized their fellow university classmates hadn't learned five ways to kill a man by the age of fourteen. Still, since their estranged father descends from a demon named Asmodai and works as a mercenary soldier, it's probably worth knowing how to defend themselves. But as years pass and threat never materializes, the twins suppose their mom is just paranoid - until she disappears. Certain their father abducted her, the brothers approach him. But their father claims their demon ancestor has taken possession of their mother's soul in order to infiltrate Sentinel, a treacherous coalition of demidemon rebels determined to protect humankind from their evil forebear. The twins form a grudging alliance with Sentinel to rescue her, but the ancient demon’s ploy works. When it murders their father to incite war, Sentinel starts to implode and Aidan and Kaelin must battle an enemy who wears their mother’s face.
The only thing that’s kept Alaric, the so-called Lost Prince of Calixte, from giving into his grief over the destruction of his beloved homeworld is the thought of revenge against the man who betrayed his people. But he couldn’t be more wrong about Haydn, who actually saved two thousand Calixten soldiers from certain death and secreted them on an inhospitable planet. There, they’ve launched a fledgling rebellion against the Coalition. They only need their prince to lead them.
Alaric needs a pilot to get him to his soldiers, someone too desperate to betray him. Katriel, a hot-shot deserter pilot enslaved to Haydn by debt, is perfect for the job. But neither Katriel nor Alaric realize how the battle over Calixte binds them closer than blood. When they find out, their collision will send shockwaves through the universe.