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After months of self-editing and help from critique partners, I sat down and wrote the Query Letter for JUDGES. I’d jotted down notes throughout writing the book, ideas and scenes I thought would be relevant in a query. After compiling the most important facts about my book I decided I’d made the query as good as I could. But, since I’d been down this road before (with my first novel that unfortunately wasn’t ready to be seen by agents but it took me querying agents to discover that fact) I decided to get a little extra help to make sure my query was un-reject-able (hey a writer can dream right?)
I did hours worth of research, hunting for people offering query critique services. After narrowing down the field, I decided to go with Cassandra Marshall a freelance editor with a strong list of references. It was super cheap and the fact that she was a literary agent intern (hence reading hundreds of queries a day) I sent her my query for JUDGES.
I was surprised by how fast she was, getting back to me within two days! Her comments were insightful and she said I had a strong query, but I needed to get more specific. Like super-specific. I had some hints of what happened with my characters, but I hadn’t come out and told the agent what happened. After taking her advice and making my details concrete, to the point, and basically laying the entire story out, I had a solid query. Just for good measure I took a few days to come up with a good log-line--this is a one sentence explanation of your book--something you would say if you walked into an elevator and your dream agent happened to be riding with you. I used the log-line for my opening and felt my query was complete.
I’ve pasted it below.
A faithless Harley Locke is Called to be one of God’s Judges and finds herself facing a cult, demons, and a forbidden romance with her mentor.
On her 17th birthday, Harley wakes up feeling like her skin is on fire and her muscles have been run through the garbage disposal. The weirdness escalates when mysterious transfer student Draven somehow knows her name and what is happening to her physically. He attributes it all to a supernatural profession Harley doesn’t want to believe in.
Draven is a Judge. Not the black robe wearing, gavel smacking kind but the Old Testament type—a person chosen by God and endowed with a piece of the divine, giving him the ability to vanquish evil and balance the scales—and he is Harley’s assigned mentor.
Harley had given up on God years ago when her mother died from lung cancer. Now Harley must set aside her anger toward God and commit to training or else be left vulnerable to demons who’d love to get a taste of her new-Judge blood. Gaining control over the ability to manifest flames from her fingertips is easier than keeping her growing feelings for Draven in check and the struggle jeopardizes both their lives.
When the Barton Group—an extremist religious organization based in her home town that maliciously protests abortion, war, homosexuality, and basically anything they consider a sin—has a series of teen suicides, Harley suspects there is something unnatural behind their deaths. Despite her fear of meeting her first demon and all that could go wrong (like being captured and dragged to Hell) she conducts her own investigation.
Once Harley discovers a powerful demon within the Barton Group, she is thrust into a battle that threatens the life of the person she loves most, and she’d rather go to Hell than let anything happen to him.
The above query resulted in 6 partial requests and 3 full requests. Of course there were some rejections as well. I believe I sent out 30 queries in all, starting the first week of May 2012 and landing my dream agent by the beginning of August. With my first novel (which, again, was no where near ready) I got some full requests but I had way more rejections over a longer course of time.
This time around, after meticulous editing on the novel and the query, I was able to sign with my dream agent! I’m now working with her to make the novel even better, using her insight into the genre and industry to make the story stronger. I’m beyond lucky to have an agent who understands my concept, characters, and career goals so well, and I’m happy to say, it all started with a query.