#IWSG – My Query Letter Blues


Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. IWSG posts thoughts on our own blog. Talk about our doubts and the fears we have conquered. Discuss our struggles and triumphs. We offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer – aim for a dozen new people each time.

The awesome co-hosts for the February 3 posting of the IWSG will be Allison Gammons, Tamara Narayan, Eva E. Solar, Rachel Pattison, and Ann V. Friend! Be sure to visit their blogs as well as many others. Thank you.

TIP:  A post regarding blogging I found very informative at The Hangar.

I’m On The Verge of Waving the White Flag

Over the past several years, I have written, massaged, edited, rewritten, and edited again. Forbidden is ready. Since last year, I have skulked the agent and publisher cyberspace hallways in the hopes of tempting them to consider my crime / suspense / thriller. No dice.

Writer begging for a contract with agent/publisher
Writer begging for a contract with agent/publisher

I’ve sent my query letter and sample chapters to nearly two hundred suspense publishers, and to websites listed on Query Tracker (https://querytracker.net/literary_agents.php) and Directory of Literary Agents (http://literaryagencies.com/). I have complied to each agent’s or publisher’s specific format. Short of grovelling on bended knees, I have been a most compliant and determined suitor. The few responses I receive are the typical form rejections.

I’m assuming their rejection of my Middle East thriller is based on having poor sales potential due to current terrorism; or my query letter turned them off. I’m on the verge of admitting defeat and self-publish, which is not my forte.

Below is my query letter template. I adjust it according to each agent’s or acquisition editor’s specifications. Give it a read and tell me honestly what is lacking – impact, flow, concise, clarity; or, hell bells, is it because I’m not American? Your advice will be truly appreciated.

Subject: Query – Forbidden

Fifteen American travelers have vanished. CIA agent Frank Hutchinson is given two days to find them. Republic of Islamic Provinces and Territories (RIPT) police captain, Hashim Sharif, cleverly diverts Hutchinson’s investigation to dead-ends. What the agent doesn’t know is that if the devout Muslim cop exposes the cover-up, Sharia Law will not protect his family. If hitmen succeed in executing the sole witness, Eliza MacKay, justice will never be served. Sharif risks his life and his family for a woman who is more unstable than his corrupt superiors.

Forbidden is a fast-paced crime, suspense/thriller, with a dash of romance, which thrusts the reader into a Middle Eastern shadowy world of espionage, murder, and kidnapping. A strong cast of characters will grab and hurl you into a plot full of treachery and passion. Better wear your flak jacket.

Readers from a wide range of genre preferences and cultures will be captivated by Forbidden’s international and cultural intrigue. Muslims will appreciate the accuracy of the references to moderate Islam. Having worked thirty years as a paramedic alongside police officers and detectives, I have firsthand knowledge of emergency medical response, and police procedures, which figure prominently in the storyline. Research and travel to Egypt, Israel, and Turkey have provided an overview of the vast Middle East region and its complex and mystical culture.

Forbidden is complete, although I continue to polish the 100,000 words. The manuscript has undergone the scrutiny of numerous beta readers, including police detectives and a Muslim physician.

Since Omnific Publishing published my first novel, The Guardian’s Wildchild, I’ve built a strong media platform with over three thousand blog followers. The Guardian’s Wildchild is listed with Simon & Schuster.  


When I’m not writing or walking my Shelties, marketing is a major component of my daily ritual. My website (http://www.featherstoneauthor.com) connects visitors with my blog, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest accounts. I’m a regular participant in both the “Insecure Writer’s Support Group” and “Write, Edit, Publish”. Memberships with Writer’s Guild of Alberta, and Crime Writers of Canada keep me informed and connected. I have attended the RomCon conference in Denver, Colorado and have twice attended the When Words Collide festival in Calgary, Alberta.

Recently, I participated in the beta program for Writers Helping Writers which launched new software, One Stop For Writers. I offer my services to critique manuscripts and assist authors navigate the process of getting published.

Thank you for this opportunity to introduce Forbidden to you. If you require more information, please let me know via return email.

Judy Weir

Alberta, Canada

15 thoughts on “#IWSG – My Query Letter Blues

  1. Hi Judy. Wow. I can’t believe all those queries went nowhere. So frustrating. But you may be right about the reasons…terrorism. Although I’d think that’d make it more up to the minute. The extract I’ve read is intriguing.
    Thank you for all you do on the blogs. Your support is priceless and much appreciated by bloggers.

    Denise 🙂


  2. Pingback: Partners in Crime Book Review & Giveaway – Dark Money by Larry D. Thompson – Romance Under Fire

  3. Your book does sound interesting, I think if anything it might be the query, although I know little about it. I have been reading here and there about query’s and I came across this link that breaks it down, I know they say 100-200 words at most, more than that can hurt. Writer’s Digest has an example series of query letters and why they work too. Wish I knew more about what I was talking about, but that is something I will have to put some work into when I get there. Great Post,
    Juneta Writer’s Gambit

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Feather:
    I’m sorry you’re dealing with rejections for this fascinating story. You should consider cutting it to one page. Concentrate on the story. They’ll get to know you once you’ve sold them on Forbidden.
    But FYI I’m going to be part of a pitch / query letter contest, called Son of a Pitch – which involves a number of agents and publishers. It’s coming up Feb 19th – check out the link below. I won such a contest and placed my books with Curiosity Quills Press in 2012. It’s worth a try, and your book, at least the excerpts I’ve read, is amazing!


    Liked by 2 people

  5. Ah, rejections are the worst. This business is rough, and querying is really testing. Thanks for sharing your query letter. I have some thoughts since you asked.

    First, I am of the strong opinion that there is no one right way to write a query letter, but there are lots of options for improving. Always feel free to tinker with your query. Some writers change theirs up if they receive 10 form rejections. You want to entice with your query, so if it’s not working, change it. The Query Shark blog has hundreds of posted queries with feedback on what works and what doesn’t. It’s a great resource.

    I am only one person, but as a background, I found my agent through a contest 3 years ago which judged my query and first page. I entered 4 online blog contests in 5 months and had something like 18 partial and full requests from literary agents. Something about my query worked! Since then, I’ve helped with Pitch Madness, mentored in Pitch Wars, and I am a permanent mentor on Adventures in YA Publishing’s monthly first pages workshop. My first book comes out this year. I say all this because I’ve gone through rejections, and I’m telling you what I would tell my writer friends and what I’d do myself.

    For your query, as another commentor mentioned, you want to aim to keep it 250 words or so. Ideally three MAYBE four paragraphs; 1-3 to introduce your story, 1 to introduce yourself and your writing credentials. I think your query can be cut by half.

    One thing to aim for in the story section of your query is Voice. Does the tone of your query match the tone of your story? Your query is very straightforward, which may exactly match the tone of a CIA thriller. Short sentences, direct. What about emotion? Frank Hutchinson is given two days to find the travelers–does this interrupt his life? Is he sitting around waiting for this assignment or does it create chaos? You aren’t writing prose in a query, but can you give a glimpse into his character at all? What does Frank risk? Why does he risk it? What is at stake for him? If you’ve told us, can you show a glimpse of his personal stakes?

    You say Forbidden has a dash of romance, but I’m not seeing that in the description. If it’s a strong subplot, use one of your vital 3-4 paragraphs to add that in. If it’s very minor, I would leave it out.

    Avoid telling the agent or editor how they will feel when reading and instead MAKE THEM FEEL IT WHILE READING. Use your show vs. tell writing logic in your very own query! Do not assume what readers will think either. You don’t need to explain to a publishing professional what you think readers will think of your book. The point of your query is to convince THE AGENT OR EDITOR, and they know their jobs and the market.

    Your mention of emergency medical response etc can go in your final paragraph about you. Keep that all contained to one succinct section.

    You only want to query finished works. Do not mention polishing or tinkering with words because it makes it seem as if the work is unfinished. As you receive responses to your queries, it is understood you may dip into revisions. You do not need to state this in a query.

    Mentioning Omnific and your blog can all go in the paragraph about you. However, list published titles only and do not add web hyperlinks into a query. Your critique experience is laudable, but likely not anything that helps your query.

    I further suggest you cut any extraneous details about yourself that do not relate to your book. Walking dogs goes in your website bio rather than a query. Keep it down to ONE paragraph about yourself, and the bulk of the query about your book. Queries where 1/4 of the content is book and 3/4 are other things throw up red flags.

    Lastly, you can end with a simple Sincerely, Name. Agents and editors know they can follow up with you for more. Make sure you are using your precious word count to focus on the story to entice the publishing pro with the content of your book. Agents don’t take on clients because they volunteer or post blogs. They take them on because the book’s premise hooks them, and the pages reel them in further.

    There are lots of online pitch and query workshops. Check out the query shark blog. An hour or two spent reading there can work wonders. GOOD LUCK. If your query doesn’t succeed, rewrite it and try again!


    1. Thank you for this very excellent advice. Perhaps if I switch off all my other distractions, I can glean out the right words for a better query. And a dash of your ‘good luck’ should do wonders. Thanks again.


  6. I think your query could use a little tightening. The story sounds interesting, but if your blurb isn’t grabbing an agent, then try re-writing it. The blurb should read like what you see on the book jacket. Visit the bookstore or library and read as many of these as you can. This helps me when I get stuck on my blurb. Also, I don’t think you need to say you’re still revising. That makes it sound like you’re querying a book that isn’t ready. Along with the sites others have suggested, Miss Snark had a blog that was great for seeing what works and doesn’t work in a query. She hasn’t posted anything new in years, but her old posts are there. Evil Editor is another good site for help with synopsis and queries.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. jenlanebooks

    You’ve shown a lot of perseverance, Judy!

    I like what Stephanie and Cherie said. I had a little trouble following the first paragraph, and if an agent or publisher struggles as well, he/she may just abandon the query letter. I didn’t understand where Eliza came into the story.

    I took a stab at the first two sentences, but like others have said, there’s no right way to write this.

    Fifteen American travelers have vanished. CIA agent Frank Hutchinson has only two days to find them, but he’s blocked at every turn by Islamic police captain Hashim Sharif.

    Liked by 1 person

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