Query Letters

Before becoming a published novelist, I was rejected by 63 literary agents.  I followed the rules when composing my query letters. (I did not compare my main character to Harry Potter.  I did not compare my book to The Da Vinci Code.  I did not tell the agent how my BFF loved my manuscript.  I did not demand a six-figure advance.  And, I did not specifically state how many other literary agents had already rejected me.)  Yet, despite following the rules, I continued to be rejected.

When I was trying to figure out what I was doing wrong, I read tons of examples of successful query letters from published authors.  Since I am a “show me don’t tell me” kind of person, I’ve decided to show you my unsuccessful query letters as well as the successful one that landed me a publishing contract with 50/50 Press.  Hopefully, this will be helpful to aspiring authors reading this blog.

QUERY LETTER #1

Dear (insert correct spelling of agent’s name),

Rookie detective Harlee O’Conner is going to show the Detroit Homicide Division how a girl gets the job done. With a past that includes a brief stint in the adult entertainment industry, she is more than qualified to handle her first case. But can the department handle her?

Going undercover is the only way to prevent the homicide investigation of Gavin Rowland, a DJ at a local gentlemen’s club, from going cold. Since O’Conner has a reputation for bringing the heat, it shouldn’t be a problem. Despite a lack of evidence at the crime scene and little cooperation from club employees, she is willing to bare it all to bring the killer to justice. Taking an unconventional approach to getting the answers she needs, Detective O’Conner soon proves sometimes a girl must show some ass before she can kick some ass.

First Case Scenario is a completed, 80,000-word, mystery novel. It is written from the first-person point of view and creatively blends mystery and comedy into a fast-paced story.

Thank you for your time and consideration in the matter. I would be honored to have you consider my completed novel.

Warm regards,

Annemarie DeClark

 

QUERY LETTER #2

Dear (insert correct spelling of agent’s name),

Detroit Police Officer Harlee O’Conner thrives on being versatile, so when the head of the homicide division asks for her help with solving two murders, she agrees without hesitation.

Harlee joins detectives who are investigating the murder of a DJ from a local gentlemen’s club.  The case becomes more complicated when Ballistics confirms the same weapon used to kill the DJ was also used sixteen years earlier to kill the club owner’s son.  Now with two unsolved murders, the homicide division is racing for answers.  Unfortunately, both cases are at a standstill because the club owner and his employees are refusing to cooperate.  Drawing on her past experiences working undercover, Harlee is tasked with infiltrating the club to obtain information necessary for solving both homicides.

Using charm and finesse to her advantage, she’ll secure a job at the club.  Then, she’ll befriend her new co-workers all the while covertly interrogating them.  By process of elimination, she’ll eventually identify the cold-blooded killer.  The plan is elementary, until the killer complicates the investigation by identifying her first.

First Case Scenario is a completed, 80,000-word, mystery novel.  It is written from the first-person point of view and creatively blends mystery and comedy into a fast-paced story.  It is meant to be the first novel in a fun little mystery series. Thank you for your time and consideration in the matter.  I would be honored to have you consider my completed novel.

Warm regards,

Annemarie DeClark

 

QUERY LETTER #3

Dear (insert correct spelling of agent’s name),

Harlee O’Conner lives for adventure, so when her former flame (who also happens to be the senior ranking detective of the Detroit Homicide Division) asks her to go undercover to identify a homicidal maniac, of course she agrees.

Move aside Nancy Drew.  Harlee O’Conner is a twenty-first century female detective who’s bringing something new to town.  Using charm and finesse to her advantage, Harlee will infiltrate and secure a job at the club where one of the victims worked.  Then, she’ll befriend her new co-workers all the while covertly interrogating them.  Finally, by process of elimination, she’ll narrow the suspect list down to one.  The plan is foolproof.

Of course, as Rookie Detective O’Conner soon discovers, sometimes it’s better to identify a cold-blooded killer before the cold-blooded killer identifies you.

First Case Scenario is a completed, 80,000-word, mystery novel.  It is written from the first-person point of view and creatively blends mystery and comedy into a fast-paced story.  It is the first novel of my quirky mystery series.  The first ten pages are included below.  Thank you for your time and consideration.

Warm regards,

Annemarie DeClark

 

QUERY LETTER #4

Dear (insert correct spelling of agent’s name),

Covertly infiltrating a local gentlemen’s club to help identify a cold-blooded killer is just another day on the job for undercover homicide detective Harlee O’Conner.  With a little bit of charm and a whole lot of finesse, she’s befriending her new co-workers all the while slowly eliminating them as potential suspects in the death of the club’s DJ.

Although the case takes an unusual turn when she discovers the same weapon used to the kill the DJ was also used sixteen years earlier to kill the club owner’s son, Detective O’Conner sticks with her elementary approach to solving the investigation.

Everything goes according to plan…until the killer complicates matters by identifying her first.

First Case Scenario is a completed, 80,000-word, mystery novel.  It is written from the first-person point of view and creatively blends mystery and comedy into a fast-paced story.  It is meant to be the first novel of a mystery series.  The first ten pages are included below.  Thank you for your time and consideration.

Warm regards,

Annemarie DeClark

 

QUERY LETTER #5

Dear (insert correct spelling of agent’s name),

For Harlee O’Conner, former police officer turned homicide detective, working undercover seems like the ultimate career opportunity—until she discovers the suspect list of her latest investigation includes the names of her closest friends.  Mixing business and friendship soon becomes a conflict of interest as Harlee struggles to sort through the case notes.  Pursuing the investigation may mean having to out one of her friends as a killer.  Not pursuing the investigation may cost Harlee her career, her integrity, and maybe even her life.

First Case Scenario is a completed, 80,000-word, mystery novel.  It is written from the first-person point of view and creatively blends mystery and comedy into a fast-paced story.  It is meant to be the first novel of a quirky mystery series.  The first ten pages as well as a synopsis are included below.  Thank you for your time and consideration.

Warm regards,

Annemarie DeClark

 

QUERY LETTER #6: This is where I went off the deep end.  I was tired of being rejected by agents and I decided the key to getting an agent was to try something “different.”  Bad idea.  Again, I was rejected.  Worse yet, I made myself look like a fool.  A word to the wise: stick to the traditional formatting for your query letter.  “Different” gets you deleted.

Dear (insert correct spelling of agent’s name),

Thank you in advance for reading my query letter:

I stared at Liam wide-eyed and open-mouthed.  We were sitting across from each other at Rosita’s Mexican Grill enjoying our drinks.  Rather, he was enjoying his Corona while I sat in stunned silence, too shocked to continue sipping my raspberry margarita.

“Why are you looking at me like that?” he asked casually, after scooping salsa with a tortilla chip.

“I’m sorry,” I apologized.  “Could you please run that by me one more time?”

He finished his chip then licked salsa from his thumb.  “I’m at a complete standstill with my latest homicide investigation.  I need you to go undercover as a stripper to help me solve this case.”

“I’m a police officer, Liam.  I don’t strip… anymore.  Besides, there’s no such thing as an undercover homicide detective.  That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard.”

“Come on, O’Conner.  I know you can handle this.  Without your help, a cold-blooded killer may get away with murder.”

I heaved a heavy sigh and considered the oath I took eight years ago, when I was sworn into the Detroit Police Department.  Probably it didn’t include anything about having to work as an undercover stripper.  Then again, I did swear to protect and serve the community to the best of my ability.  Was this situation included in that promise?  Was I morally obligated to return to my Stripper Sabrina roots for the betterment of society?

“You’re my only hope for getting inside that club,” Liam pleaded.

“You know, Detective, if you wanted to see my tits and ass that badly, probably you could have found an easier way.”

He froze with a tortilla chip halfway to his mouth.  “This is not about me seeing your tits and ass.  This is about you investigating a homicide.”

“I don’t want to investigate a homicide.  I’d rather show you my tits and ass.”

“You’re a real handful, Harlee O’Conner.  A real handful indeed.”

“Say I’m a real handful with great tits and a smoking hot ass and I’ll agree to this undercover gig.”

Liam folded his arms across his chest and stared at me with his stone cold, pissed off cop face.

“Okay, okay,” I finally caved.  “I’ll do it.  When do I start?”

First Case Scenario is a completed, 80,000-word, mystery novel.  It is written from the first-person point of view and creatively blends mystery and comedy into a fast-paced story.  It is meant to be the first novel of a mystery series.  The first five pages of the manuscript are included below.  Thank you for your time and consideration.

Cheers,

Annemarie DeClark

 

QUERY LETTER # 7

Dear (insert correct spelling of agent’s name),

 First Case Scenario is a completed, 80,000-word, cozy mystery novel.

In this DONNIE BRASCO meets 21 JUMP STREET humorous mystery, Detroit Police Officer Harlee O’Conner agrees to work undercover to help the head of the homicide division solve his latest case.  However, when the suspect list starts to include the names of Harlee’s new friends, outing one of them as a cold-blooded killer becomes a conflict of interest.  She must now decide whether her loyalties lie with the Detroit Police Department or with the primary suspects.

First Case Scenario is written from the first-person point of view and creatively blends mystery and comedy into a fast-paced story.  The first ten pages of the manuscript are included below.  Thank you for your time and consideration.

Cheers,

Annemarie DeClark

 

QUERY LETTER # 8

Dear (insert correct spelling of agent’s name),

I’m currently seeking an agent who appreciates quirky, fun mysteries that appeal to women.  Since I thought this might be you, here’s my pitch:

When the head of the Detroit Homicide Division asks Police Officer Harlee O’Conner to go undercover and help him solve a double murder, she agrees without hesitation.  Now a secret agent (and loving how cool that sounds), Harlee secures a job where the victim worked and starts her undercover sleuthing.  Using charm and finesse, she quickly befriends her new boss and co-workers with the intention of covertly interrogating them.  Stopping at nothing to solve her first case, she begins hanging out with her new friends outside of work.  Soon, Harlee finds herself partying with them on the weekends, going on dinner dates and even empathizing with the potential murder suspects.  Harlee identifies with her new friends so well, outing one of them as a cold-blooded killer suddenly becomes a conflict of interest.  She must now decide whether her loyalties lie with the Detroit Police Department or with the primary suspects.

First Case Scenario — which has series potential — is a completed, 80,000-word, humorous mystery novel.  It will appeal to adult female readers who appreciate witty heroines in fast-paced stories.  The first 30 pages of the manuscript as well as a synopsis are included below.  Thank you for your time and consideration.

Cheers,

Annemarie DeClark

 

QUERY LETTER #9: Finally, this is the one that got me my publisher!

Dear 50/50 Press,

Bad girl gone good, Harlee O’Conner’s scandalous past proves pivotal to her first homicide investigation.  Undercover and using moves she didn’t learn at the Detroit Police Academy, Harlee races to identify the cold case murderer who has struck again.

In this Stephanie Plum meets Columbo humorous murder mystery, Police Officer Harlee O’Conner agrees to go undercover to help the Detroit Homicide Division solve a double murder. Now a secret agent (and loving how cool that sounds), Harlee secures a job where the victim worked.  Using charm and finesse, she begins her undercover sleuthing by quickly befriending her new boss and co-workers.  Assuming they’re all unaware she’s an undercover detective, Harlee begins socializing with the potential suspects outside of work.  This unorthodox approach to narrowing down the suspect list proves risky, especially when the killer learns of Harlee’s double identity.

First Case Scenario, which has series potential, is a completed, 80,000-word, humorous mystery novel.  It will appeal to adult female readers who appreciate feisty heroines in fast paced stories.

I am a former West Point cadet with a degree in Mathematics and Natural Science.  An avid fan of whodunit mysteries, I changed my career and became a novelist.  My twitter handle is @AuthorDeClark. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Cheers,

Annemarie DeClark

 

Best of luck to all aspiring authors.  Remember, writing is subjective.  What appeals to one literary agent or publisher may not appeal to another.  For me, this entire process has felt like a roller coaster ride.  There have been highs and lows, ups and downs, and all kinds of loop-the-loops.  The best advice I can give you is to hang on tight and enjoy the ride!

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