Next on Strength In Your Queries (ALL ABOUT QUERYING) is A GIRL IN THE WATER! 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.
Dear (Agent Name),
I am seeking representation for my novel, A GIRL IN THE WATER, a 86,384-word adult romantic suspense with a thrilling psychological twist.
Most towns have secrets. This town’s secret is hiding under the corpse of a dead teenage girl. Local Detective, Brad Morris, is tasked with gaining justice for the unidentified girl. But as he pulls on the threads of the case, he starts to think that everyone involved is lying and that he’s missing his prime suspect.
He’s right. Someone is lying. But worse, someone is covering up her murder.
One step ahead of the detective, manipulating the evidence, and ensuring that they protect the person they love most, someone is weaving an unbreakable blanket of lies. But rivers of lies run deep in this small, southern town and they have carved the path for more than one. Things turn deadly, when secrets collide and lives are traded.
A GIRL IN THE WATER explores the tethers that bind us, making clear that secrets are deadly when they unravel. A suspenseful mixture of A GOOD LIE and LOCAL WOMAN MISSING, coupled with the psychological twist of BEHIND CLOSED DOORS, this story gives the multiple perspectives of an ongoing investigation, convoluted by adult and teenage relationships, and secrets that end in deadly lies.
Thank you for your time and consideration for my novel, A GIRL IN THE WATER.
Writer’s Comment: I’d like to think I have a good hook in my query, that I’m pulling the reader/agent in by giving all the twisty parts to my novel. This query is difficult though because in the story there is a “secret” perspective of “the watcher”. The reader is aware this person is the murder but not sure who it is, so I don’t want to give to much away in the query, but then I think that also leads to not giving enough details. I think I have strong comps as well, but they might not be as relevant as others.
- Your writing has such awesome clarity!
- I like the first sentence of the second paragraph. It’s simple yet fascinating.
- You have a poignant voice and an appealing use of metaphors. It’s also obvious you know your story!
What could be stronger
- You don’t have to state the precise word count. An estimate is perfect (an 86,000 words).
- ‘…romantic suspense with a thrilling psychological twist…’ This is a bit of a mouthful. You can perhaps say it’s a romantic suspense or a psychological thriller? I’m not well-versed in these particular genres, so in summary shave it down to specifics so the agent knows right off the bat that you know what you’re talking about!
- I think the 5th paragraph has a potential to be better/clear. I still like that I can see your voice but the words are arranged in such a way that message is a bit tough to discern. “…Explores the tether that binds us…” what tether is that 👀
- Fascinating plot! It’s clearly a thriller based on how you’ve packaged the query, and the hook in the second paragraph (about the dead teenage girl and everyone in the town lying) is great 🙂
- Word count looks good for an adult thriller!
What could be stronger
- Typically the metadata is put into one paragraph, either at the start or end of the query, so you might want to merge Paras 1 and 5 since both contain your book’s metadata. Agree with Lucia that for the genre, there’s a little too much going on. Since there isn’t mention of the romantic elements in your query, would suggest for you to drop mention of it. I would suggest to just go for “adult thriller” for your genre, since there’ll be mention of “suspense” and “psychological twist” when you put in your comps.
- I think you could try to put in a little more detail about your plot in Para 4, so that it showcases the unique elements that will make your book stand out from other thrillers. There are several mentions of people lying throughout the query, so perhaps you might want to reduce the repetition or dive a little deeper to hint at WHY they might be doing so. Is it linked to some feud between townsfolk? Or some event from the past that they don’t want discovered?
- Personal stakes for the MC Brad could be added to the end of Para 4 too – i.e. what will happen if Brad fails? Is his life at stake? Or his career? Or is he hiding his own secrets that could be exposed?
- I think you did a great job with your first paragraph stating your intention of getting an agent, your genre, word count and title. I agree with Lucia and Amber that by reading your query I think your book seems more a thriller than the romance. But of course, you’re the one who knows best because you know the whole story.
- I loved this opening for the plot paragraph “Most towns have secrets. This town’s secret is hiding under the corpse of a dead teenage girl.” It really makes me want to know more. Great job!
- I think you did a good job using your comps in an appealing way, although I don’t know if they are relevant or not. I would recommend adding the author and year of release.
- In general I think you are good at writing the plot in a way that makes the reader interested, by peeking my curiosity without revealing too much. Your word choices are spot on like when you talk about rivers of lies or weaving an unbreakable blanket of lies. I think the use of such metaphors makes your query more exciting.
- I like that you finished your query being grateful.
What could be stronger
- In your first paragraph I would recommend that you mention why you are querying the specific agent you are addressing. Why among many other agents, you are thinking this person would be a good fit for you and your work. Show them you did some research in getting to know about them.
- When you talk about your comps, consider if there’s something that makes your book stand out from them. What makes it special or fresher? I think it’s important to share that.
- I think you need to add your bio to the query letter, especially regarding your writing experience. Have you taken courses? Are you in critique groups? What makes you someone to tell that specific story? How does it connect to you? That would make your query stronger.
- Finally, don’t forget to add all your contact info at the end.