Last post, I shared a nonfiction book query to use for agents and editors. What about when you have a novel to pitch?
First, make sure you have your novel finished--not "close to finished," or "almost finished," but done. If an editor or agent expresses interest, you should be ready to send your manuscript ASAP. You may also want to have a synopsis prepared as well, which is a brief storyline of your book; many agents/editors will request a synopsis along with the first couple of chapters to get a feel for your writing.
Here's the query that sold my first novel, Did you get the Vibe?, to Kensington. My comments are in violet:
August 16, 2002
Dear Mr. Scognamiglio:
Have you ever gotten the Vibe? You know, that feeling when you meet a woman, and you know that you’re attracted to each other? [Attention-getting opener.]
Kate, 28, has based her dating life on the Vibe. If there’s a Vibe there, the guy is worth pursuing—it not, forget it. The trouble is that the too-beautiful-for-her Andrew just dumped her, and now she can hardly fit into her favorite jeans. And she hates her job, but everyone keeps telling her how great it is to be a lawyer. Yeah, right.
At least she has Tracy, her best friend from law school. Both live in Chicago’s up-and-coming Lakeview neighborhood. Tracy’s gorgeous, smart, and has a great job, a great apartment, and a great live-in boyfriend, Tom, to go along with it all. She also has an eating disorder she’s managed to keep secret from even her closest friend. Tracy doesn’t believe in the Vibe—until she experiences it for the first time, and it turns her life upside down. [The preceding two paragraphs introduce the two main characters and their "issues."]
Will Kate find lasting love, meaningful work, and be able to squeeze back into her clothes? Will Tracy give up the man who loves her to experience sexual fulfillment—and come to grips with what she’s doing to her body and her spirit? Did you Get the Vibe? explores the lives of these two best friends as they love, work, diet, laugh, and bond over their boyfriends, jobs, diets, and sex lives. Readers of women’s contemporary fiction will enjoy their stories, and relate to their experiences, struggles, and insights. [More on the characters' issues along with a preview of the storyline. note that I've also described what kind of book this is--commonly referred to as "chick lit."]
Did you Get the Vibe? is 78,855 words is my first novel. As a fulltime freelance journalist for the past five years, my work has appeared in more than 40 magazines including Marie Claire, Woman’s Day, Family Circle, Self, and Redbook; I’m also a contributing editor at Oxygen, The Writer, and For the Bride. My first nonfiction book, Ready, Aim, Specialize! How to Create your Writing Specialty and Make More Money will be published by The Writer Books in the winter of 2003. I’m also a frequent speaker at writers’ conferences, and not surprisingly, a big believer in the Vibe. [Here is my ISG, but I could have done much better here in terms of playing up my ability to promote and market the book. You want the editor/agent to know that you've already identified your audience--i.e. book buyers--and that you'll work your butt off to sell it when it comes out.]
Please let me know if you’re interested in seeing a synopsis and three chapters or the complete manuscript of Vibe. I’m contacting a handful of editors and agents who I think might be interested in this book, and hope to find a home for it soon. [Letting him know I'm simultaneously submitting, or pitching more than one agent/editor at a time. This is standard practice for novel submissions--otherwise, you'd spend years just waiting for responses!]
Thank you very much for your time.
Here's the best part about this query--it sold! I mailed it on Tuesday (this was back in 2002), and John requested the full manuscript that Saturday. He bought the book three weeks later, and it was published the next year--and translated into five languages as well! Not bad for my first novel, which is still FREE on Smashwords for a limited time. Or check out my two other books, White Bikini Panties, and The Honesty Index.