Algonkian Author Salon recommends the following query model below adapted from Jeff Kleinman's original query letter model. Note that this does not include a long story pitch or short synopsis to start off with (which will sink you if you don't know how to artfully write a longer pitch), but rather a few lines designed to place the communication in context before attempting to hook the reader. Note that comparables (at least two) are vital to your novel. See CAITLIN'S GUIDE TO COMPARABLES before you go hunting for them.
- Michael Neff
[The Hook] You may remember that we met at the XYZ conference [or] I recently completed a novel that is similar to The Art of Racing in the Rain, which I know your agency represents, and I thought you might want to take a look [or - a good one because it shows you doing your homework] I read in Publishers Marketplace that you represented XYZ to ABC, and thought you might be interested in taking a look at a novel I just completed.
( NOTE: the credential paragraph below can be moved to second to last paragraph if writer believes it more sensible - and if no creds then skip it and rely on the story hook )
[Professional credentials, platform, or personal background of the author that makes it clear why the author is the best person to tell this tale] I have been writing for the past twenty-seven years. My short stories have appeared in Playboy, GQ, and Martha Stewart Living. [and/or] I am an avid dog-owner, and have owned the same dog for the past twelve years.
[Information about the novel] My Dog Eliot, a novel of 92,000 words, tells of these experiences. [comparisons to other novels] It is similar to Air Bud and Lassie Goes Solo because ... or my novel might be best thought of as Air Bud meets Lassie Goes Solo.
OR LOG LINE INSERTED HERE--MUST BE EXCELLENT. MORE THAN ONE LINE IS
PERMISSIBLE BUT KEEP IT VERY TIGHT. IF POSSIBLE, HAVE A PROFESSIONAL
EDITOR REVIEW IT BECAUSE THEY ARE HARD TO WRITE. READ THIS FIRST BEFORE
YOU ATTEMPT IT: SAMPLE LOG LINES, GOOD AND BAD.]
I am attaching/enclosing [note: only attach documents when the agent explicitly asks for attachments]: an outline; synopsis; sample chapter(s); press clippings about my other published works; endorsements by (1) bestselling authors, (2) celebrities, (3) experts, (4) other people who really would be useful for endorsements.
[submission information] This is on a multiple submission. If you are interested in reading the entire manuscript, however, I will be happy to give you exclusivity.