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THE QUERY PROJECT - Smoking Pigeon Sighted in Rogers Park
Jennifer Stevenson's blog
my journal
July 2010

Date: 2008-09-11 23:35
Security: Public
Okay, this is the Query Project, assembled courtesy of Joshua Palmatier. Below you will find a query letter I sent to an actual editor, and the result. Look well, O wolves, and learn!


Ms. Editor June 16, 2002
Major New York Publisher
New York, NY

Dear Ms. Editor,

I want to send you a single title romantic comedy, My Superhero,
complete at 100,000 words.

Four people in two bodies.
One wicked uncle.
And the great debate over the decent thing to do.
MY SUPERHERO is a romantic comedy about two people in
disguise who find each other. A repressed corporate headhunter
meets a millionaire superhero on her windowledge, and becomes his
court-appointed shrink.
The hunk on Morgan Hardcastle's office windowledge is
wearing a cape! He's Decent Guy, the insidiously persuasive
alter-ego of Chad Younger, a happy-go-lucky, irresponsible
millionaire. He thinks Morgan is sexy, even if she does let her
mother pick on her too much. Morgan thinks he's a nut.
Caught between Chad's manipulations and her own tender
heart, Morgan becomes Chad's court-appointed counselor. If she
can't straighten him out in thirty days, his crabby uncle will
have Chad put away in a loony bin. Morgan is just a corporate
headhunter. She knows zip about psychology. But she has fallen
hard for Decent Guy. She wants to save him.
Decent Guy won't let Morgan help him until he discovers her
secret identity--supervillainess Morgan Le Fay, who avenges
hypocrisy. Now he's trying to fix her psyche by tackling her
libido! Her ethics forbid her to mess with a client. But Morgan
will have to strip herself naked in more ways than one before she
can find the key to Decent Guy.
These two masters of disguise peel away one another's masks
until nothing is left between them except decency--and love.

I am a member of RWA, Chicago-North Chapter, and of SFWA. My
short fiction has been published in science fiction mass market

I look forward to sending you a proposal or completed manuscript.

Enclosed please find also the first five pages.


Jennifer Stevenson

snail mail
SASE enclosed


What you should know about this query letter is that it, and my five pages, got me a request for the full manuscript by return mail. What you should also know is that the full MS wasn't nearly as good as the query or the first five pages! My story fell apart in the middle, as so many do. The editor was right to reject it.

Note, however, that the query letter reads like book jacket copy.

It begins with high concept.

The next paragraph is a one-paragraph expansion of the high concept--an elevator pitch.

The following paragraphs resemble a "selling synopsis"--they show the development of the story up until the "and then stuff happens" point and then finish with hand-waving and the promise of a happy ending.

I think it's significant to note, in retrospect, that I didn't have much more than hand-waving in the manuscript. If I had had a really solid story, then the mini-synopsis in the query would have shown more high points leading up to the climax, and the query might have been even stronger.

Credit is due to my RWA chapter, Chicago-North, for critiquing this query before it went out. They didn't have to read the whole book to fix the query. You can get and give this kind of help with your critique partners, too! It is ALWAYS easier for a friend to write your high concept stuff, and your back cover copy, if they have NOT read the whole manuscript. Their minds are not clouded with too many facts, as yours are.

Here are the permalinks for all the other writers participating in The Query Project. Check out what they have to offer on this important topic.

Paul Crilley

Chris Dolley

Diana Pharaoh Francis

Gregory Frost

Simon Haynes

Jackie Kessler

Glenda Larke

John Levitt

Joshua Palmatier

Janni Lee Simner

Maria V. Snyder

Jennifer Stevenson

Edward Willett

David J. Williams
Post A Comment | 2 Comments | | Link

User: ext_122166
Date: 2008-09-12 14:15 (UTC)
Subject: Query project

I was so excited to see your contribution to this project. Thanks for sharing and I agree, Chicago North is an awesome source for help and succor in these bleak writing times for us, the unpublished. See you at the next meeting?


P.S. Hi to Rick.
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User: smokingpigeon
Date: 2008-09-12 14:59 (UTC)
Subject: Re: Query project
Hey, Pamala! Missed you at the last meeting. Will you be there at the special meeting October 11? I don't know if I'll make the usual Arl Hts meeting--such a long drive--we'll see.


Rich says hi.
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