Strength In Your Queries 1

An official welcome to Strength In Your Queries (ALL ABOUT QUERYING)! Speckled between this month’s querying posts and interviews will be critiques where we point out the strengths in the query letters you amazing readers sent to us, as well as what could be made stronger.

The goal is that at the end of the month, even if your query wasn’t critiqued, as a reader you can create a successful query letter of your own.🙂


Dear [Agent],

Long ago in Persepolis, at the height of the Achaemenid empire, the powerful Persian queen gets a strange affliction and dies, the harbinger is a dark cloaked figure that none can resist.

Dr. Anil Banerjee, a respected and recluse medical oncologist, teaches medicine in Harvard Medical. He is obsessed with cancer research, which he leads with two of his younger colleagues. When a woman dies early in his care with an acute Leukemia, he is shaken. He visits her funeral. There he meets her younger sister, Carla Driscoll, and offers condolences. After months, still reeling from her grief, she comes looking for answers and closure in his lecture. He begins to develop feelings for her.

He visits Carla in her swim practice. He learns that she is an Olympian swimmer in the making. Anil tenaciously pursues a research idea that he has been studying for months. All while teaching, seeing patients, advocating for them in meetings. Due to a regrettable meddling incident during a delicate surgery, even though no harm was done, he confines himself in his apartment for two weeks. Carla comes back after another of her local swim competitions to check on him. She begins to doubt her choice and his personality. He is seen as meddlesome and mercurial by some, but also considered as daring and innovative by others.

He is hiding an ugly dark secret. He is haunted by an ancient and other-worldly “spirit” – tethered from his blighted past. With the help of his colleagues, they manage to get a promising early result to convince enough people to go on this unpredictable journey, propelled by his insights, of their discovery in science. His burgeoning, yet fractured, relationship with Carla progresses in parallel. He never suspects what she would become. This very search for the truth threatens to destroy their love before it annihilates him … Can they find adequate funding and conduct research that takes them in a bold new direction, to be able to create a potent, or even a partial, treatment for cancer? Or will his fissured existence be undone by that spirit before they could achieve anything?

It feels somewhere between literary and commercial fiction. It comes in at eighty thousand words. A page-turning blend of the darker past explorations like Sharp Objects and The Drowning Kind, the unraveling like The Upstairs House, the twists and Greek tragedy like The Silent Patient and the dramatic grip like A Beautiful Mind. But it avoids the stigma somehow while touching on a larger conversation about the big C, a view-from-the-trenches of cancer treatment, of its healers and researchers. Given your [some personalization]

About me, there isn’t much to mention. I read the Pulitzer Prize winning nonfiction book, The Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee, a decade ago. It was the initial inspiration for my novel. You can find me on google scholar.

Thank you for your time, patience, and consideration.


Contributors’ Comments

Hello, Alam. So this letter seems like it’s still at a super early stage of drafting. But don’t worry! So long as it’s written, it can be improved. Your query letter would benefit from more editing and research on how to write a query letter. At this moment, it’s a bit tough to understand the story’s plot and some motives, or to tie the first paragraph (which can be really intriguing if brushed up!) to the rest of the story. So to help you get a query-ready letter, here are some steps we’ve put together for you!

  • The query letter would benefit loads from following the framework of one. This post on creating a query package will be super helpful to begin with. Also, keep an eye out for Alex’s post which addresses some of the issues here.
  • Your first paragraph should ideally be an introduction of your book, which includes the genre, word count, comps, AND your reason for querying the agent. ‘It feels somewhere between literary and commercial fiction,’ really doesn’t serve. You need to convince the agent you KNOW what you’re doing/saying.
  • The second paragraph should include your story’s hook. What makes this particular story different from the others in the genre? What aspects of it will make readers sit up with interest?
  • The next two paragraphs should be a clearer, briefer synopsis of your story. Who are the major characters? What journey are you taking us on? What are the conflicts? What are the stakes? Make everything comprehensible and concise so it’s even more interesting.
  • The final paragraph should be a clearer bio of yourself. ‘About me, there isn’t much to mention’ won’t quite work in this context, even if you don’t have any writing credentials. What did you study? What inspired you to write this story? It’s good that you mentioned a book that inspired you, but that can be in the ideal first paragraph or written in a way that’s better accessible. ‘You can find me on google scholar.’ definitely has to go! Agents will only make research on you if they’re intrigued by your story or want to offer representation. Stating this comes off as a slight bit flippant.

From the other posts and query analysis going live this month, we hope you can also take more pointers on crafting an effective query letter. Good luck with your query!

Strength-o-meter: 3.5!

Published by Lucia’s Fiction

Novelist and Blogger

6 thoughts on “Strength In Your Queries 1

  1. GREAT critique that every reader can learn from. and the Strength-o-meter is an awesome touch. Thank you for supporting the writing community thus. You guys (ladies) are a gem 💎

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is GREAT. Your breakdown of the query letter is perfectly insightful. It’s also kind that you took the time to do this after the previous article on the query steps. (You could’ve just sent them the link and left it at that!).

    I agree that the query letter needs lots of work but with your breakdown this lucky sender should be able to improve it substantially. Well done, Path2pub 🎉

    Liked by 1 person

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