Two Queries

I’ve said in various places that my first blog entry would be my query letter. Well, I’m going to exceed your expectation. Yes, I’m going to give you two query letters.

Query # 1

May 2005

Dear Ms. Agent,

Catherine Blade is a woman of uncommon beauty, great intelligence, and deadly martial arts skills. She is also the illegitimate child of an English adventurer and a Chinese courtesan, the disgraced mother of an illegitimate child of her own, and a servant in perpetual bondage. And now she has been given the one chance to serve her country, earn her freedom, and redeem herself.

She travels to England to recover stolen relics, clues to a legendary treasure. But standing in her way are three men: a new enemy bent on arresting her for espionage, an old foe out for blood, and the lover she thought she had killed long ago.

Heart of Blade is a quest, a book of thrilling martial arts action, and a perilous love story. But above all, it is the tale of an extraordinary woman, set in the waning days of the Qing Dynasty, the glitter and glamour of fin de siècle Victorian England, and the deserts and mountains of Eastern Turkestan, at the height of the Great Game. It is Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon meets The Forsyte Saga, a book unlike anything available in the marketplace at this moment.

The manuscript is complete. If this query piques your interest, I should be delighted to provide a partial. Thank you for your generous time. I look forward to hearing from you soon.


Sherry Thomas

Query #2

April 2006

Dear Ms. Nelson,

I’m a faithful reader of your blog. I admire your enthusiasm, your humor, and your candor. Since you represent all subgenres of romance, I’d like you to consider Schemes of Love, my historical romance set in late Victorian England. The manuscript is complete at 100,000 words.

Gigi’s marriage is doomed from the moment she decides that she must have Camden, by fair means or foul. Camden, who has come to adore Gigi, discovers her deceit on the eve of their wedding. Shattered, he responds in kind, gives her a tender, unforgettable wedding night, then coldly leaves her in the morning, devastating her.

As the story opens, it is ten years later. Gigi has petitioned for divorce in order to remarry. Camden returns to England and sets the condition for her freedom: an heir. Despite the years and the sea of bad blood, the physical attraction between them remains as ferocious as ever. Though they each vow to make the act of procreation a cold, clinical one, the overwhelming pleasure of their marriage bed soon makes it apparent that the enterprise is fraught with emotional peril, for both of them.

In an atmosphere thick with mistrust, desire, and incipient hope, they are torn between the need to safeguard their hearts and the yearning to reach out across the chasm of ancient mistakes. As they rediscover the easy rapport they’d once shared, they must decide whether to let the bygones rule the future, or to love despite their painful past and forge a new life together.

Schemes of Love recently placed first in its category at the Merritt Contest, organized by San Antonio Romance Authors. Chris Keeslar at Dorchester has requested the full. Another one of my manuscripts has won the Romantic Elements category of the 2005 On the Far Side contest, hosted by the Fantasy, Futuristic, and Paranormal Chapter of the RWA.

Thank you for your time. I hope very much to work with you and look forward to hearing from you.

Sherry Thomas

The query for SCHEMES OF LOVE is superior in its clarity, with the genre, the sub-genre, the setting, and the word count all up front in the first paragraph, where as Query #1 doesn’t mention the setting until the third paragraph. Discerning readers will also have noticed that there is no word count in Query #1. An deliberate omission in this particular instance–the book was quite long.

But if you are thinking, well, in spite of its shortcomings, Query #1 isn’t half so bad, then you, my insightful friend, share my opinion. Furthermore, Query #1 succeeded every bit as well as Query #2 in its chosen function, and generated several requests for more material.

Then how come I am not happily announcing my fabulous historical fiction with the half-English, half-Chinese kickass heroine coming soon to a bookstore near you the way I’m happily announcing my fabulous historical romance SCHEMES OF LOVE’s debut from Bantam (thank you, Ms. Nelson!), in fall 2007?

The answer next week, in The Tale of Two Queries.

33 thoughts on “Two Queries”

  1. Yay, thanks for posting these, Sherry, I love it! (Love reading successful query letters.) They’re both great. Interesting how in Q1, you not only don’t mention word count, you don’t mention anything about your own creds as a writer–nothing about contest wins, nothing about your own background that would enable you to write a book set partially in China, etc. Yet, that letter grabbed me from the first sentence, because of Catherine Blade’s “deadly martial arts skills.” I’d want to read more based on that sentence alone, and the rest of the description drew me in even more securely.

  2. Agent Kristin sent us this way. So welcome to the blogging world and thanks for posting the letters. The ironic thing for me, but maybe it’s because I don’t read too many straight-up romances, is that I want to read the book for query one really badly. It sounds terrific. Qing dynasty, Victorian Englang, Eastern Turkestan…. Any romance set with scenes in Kashgar does it for me.

  3. Just popping in from Agent Kristin’s site. Thanks for posting your query letters. I’m with the previous posters on Q1 — that story sounds dynamite! Congrats on your sale!

  4. Hey Sherry, congrats on your sale! I love that you’re helping aspiring and future writers: I’m doing the same on my blog, and really think that it’s a win-win for everyone…I’ve learned a lot as I’ve written responses to questions. Anyway, love your query letter and congrats again! Such an exciting time. 🙂

  5. Exactly, while there wasn’t anything particuarly wrong with your first query the second one really pops. I never understood the “complete at blahblah words”. Mostly because I consider it obvious that if I am querying then the mss is complete. I know it’s not obvious with some queries, but I know when to query and I don’t think I should have to point that out.

  6. Thanks for the great examples, Sherry.

    The chance to review successful queries certainly helps me “think like an agent.”

    Just priceless, thank you.

  7. I hope Heart of Blade is going to be published – based on the query letter, it is on my list of books I want to read.

  8. Well, drat. I was about to ask where I could lay my hands on Heart of Blade. You had me from the second sentence of that query. You’re right–I haven’t seen anything like that on the market. If the writing lives up to the premise, I’d snap it up in a minute. (Oh, and I found my way here from Agent Kristin’s blog. 🙂 )

  9. Thanks so much for posting, Sherry! I too LOVE to read query letters that were successful, and with such glowing praise from Agent Kristin, I had to see it!

    Both your books really sound unique and interesting. Glad to hear that you’re an upcoming addition to the historical fiction/historical romance genres!


  10. Congratulations, Sherry, on your SALE! Agent Kristen, while giving us the timeline from query receipt to book sale, failed to mention if that was a record of sorts. Whether or not it was, your head must still be in the clouds…ENJOY!

  11. Found this link via Kristin Nelson’s blog, of which I’m a faithful reader, and while I agree that Query #1 isn’t bad, Query #2 really rocks. I don’t read historicals much, but it makes me want to read it! Good job, and congratulations on your sale. We’ll write for the same big conglomerate together 🙂 (I’m with Ballantine.)

  12. Congratulations, Sherry, and may you have a wonderful journey into the world of publishing!

    I’d love to know how many queries you wrote in total, how many agents asked for the ms, if anyone rejected your query, – or if Agent Kristen was the first, the quickest and/or the sharpest!

    I look forward to reading more from you – nice to be here from the very beginning. Again, good luck.

  13. Congrats on the sale, Sherry. What an amazing ride for you. Great query letters, had me intrigued and I don’t read historicals!

  14. First of all, congratulations on your success. The story of how you got published (posted on Agent Kristin’s blog) is truly inspiring to me. I hope that when the time comes for me to query my work that I have the same level of success.

    Here’s a question, as I am curious: How many novels had you written before this one?

  15. SCHEMES OF LOVE sounds like a fabulous book. I can’t wait to read it! Historical romantic fiction is my favorite! I wish I had an imagination like yours. I will definitely keep reading your blog, I hope you continue to post. ~Jodi

  16. Sherry:

    Thanks for sharing this. This is very helpful. Both queries were very well written. Actually, I found #1, much more engaging…..but hey, what the hell do I know?!!?!?

  17. Thank you everyone for your kind words. I’m so glad I could be of some help.

    Forgive me for not answering questions directly in the comments–I’ve a final breathing down my neck. I will try to incorporate the answers into upcoming blog entries.

    Blog will be updated weekly.


  18. Congrats are in order. How exciting!
    I have two questions: How long did it take you to write either of your novels? What is your “regular” job, the one that pays the electric bill?
    Oh, and one more: How old are you?
    Just curious.
    Enjoy this wonderful time in your writing life. I’m excited to read more of your blogs.

  19. I read this about half a day too late, LOL. I just queried Kristin Nelson yesterday, and while my query is actually similar in style to query #2, I have a full request for the ms from Kensington, and I didn’t include that information. Your query gave me a good example of how to do that. Oh well, I will for the other queries I send out. Thanks!

  20. Sorry, Sherry. I forgot to say congratulations on your super speedy sale! I’ll look out for your book when it comes out. I love historicals 🙂

  21. Sherry, congrats on the sale. Found this blog from Agent Kristin’s. I have a terrible time with query letters and synopsis. This was just what I needed to see. Thanks.

  22. Congratulations on your first sale and a great blog! You’ve already garnered new fans. WTG

    Thanks for sharing your query letters – I look forward to our future entries.

  23. Congratulations on – well, everything, from getting an agent so quickly to getting a publishing deal so quickly.
    Tell us, was it a huge thrill to describe yourself as a ‘newly published author’ on this blog? I’m hoping it was, cos I like to live vicariously. 😉


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