The Quintessential Query


So, you want to apply to RogueMentor (or dive straight into the query trenches) but you're not sure if your submission package is strong enough.

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You've polished your pages until your eyes crossed and rewritten your query letter a thousand times, but you're still questioning yourself.


I've been where you are close to 200 times (no really, and I've collected almost that many rejections)


BUT


I had a 47% request rate for additional pages, and that's partially due to a killer query letter. Submitting to mentorship programs or querying agents is you shooting your shot, putting your foot in the door, and hoping someone invites you in. The problem is if your query isn't strong enough, isn't catchy enough, etc. an agent receiving 100s of queries a day might not read further. They might not even touch your pages. It's a hard truth, and there are many factors in and out of your control, but it doesn't mean there's no hope.


We need to practice, we need to be brave enough to ask for feedback, we need to be willing to make changes. There are a lot of other posts out there about this, and probably equally as many approaches to query writing. But here's my simple formula:


3 paragraphs for the manuscript + 1 paragraph for pertinent story details + 1 paragraph for my bio = 5 total paragraphs, no more than 1 page long. Even if I'm writing multiple Point-of-Views (POVs), I keep the same structure, but the makeup of each is slightly different. 1 POV: Highlight the main character

Paragraph 1: Intro of Main Character's present situation + a little about the world/current situation

Paragraph 2: The inciting incident + a little taste of what happens after

Paragraph 3: Hint at the black moment + provide the stakes


2 POVs: Spend a paragraph for each character, then bring them together

Paragraph 1: Intro of Main Character 1's present situation + transition to MC 2

Paragraph 2: MC 2 + The inciting incident

Paragraph 3: What happens after + Hint at the black moment + stakes

So, what does this look like? Let's take a look at the query letter for the MG Fantasy I currently have on submission. This is the letter that [maybe] caught my agent's attention :)


Eleven-year-old Anika Patel is in Gujarat, India because her parents have important magical things to do. Anika dreams of being thirteen when she’ll be able to control her own magic as she helps kids of the right age meet their magical talismans. She makes a wish that she didn’t have to wait for her magic—and it comes true! By getting her talisman two years early Anika’s made it possible for her ancestor to be freed from a magical prison realm. While cursed desserts collect people’s sins to strengthen a grandparent she’s never met, Anika travels around Gujarat learning how to use her magic. And then her parents become the victims. Ani, her brother, and a menagerie of magical outcasts must enter the prison realm to save her parent’s souls and prevent the world from falling into chaos. ANIKA PATEL AND THE BEASTLY BAKERY is a 59,000 word #OwnVoices Middle Grade Fantasy set in India. [Sentence about story specific influences redacted]. It is a stand-alone with series potential that should appeal to fans of Sayantani DasGupta’s The Serpent’s Secret and Roshani Chokshi’s Aru Shah. During DVpit’s fall event a dozen editors expressed interest in this story. I’m a first-generation Indian American raising second-generation Indian American kids for whom I wrote this story. It’s based on our real-life diasporic experiences, balancing not being Gujarati enough in India or American enough in the US. I’m showing my kids through mythology that they’re stronger than they think and can work through any obstacles.

I'm not saying mine is the only formula, but it's worked well for me. According to Query Tracker, I had a 71% request for more pages with this story. None of my other stories achieved that high of a percentage (the next highest was 53%). Maybe other factors played into the requests, but the query often makes the first impression.


When you submit to Rogue Mentor, your query doesn't have to be perfect--part of the work involved is preparing your package for agent inboxes. You and your mentor will work on making your letter as strong as possible--polish it until it gleams. So as you get ready for Rogue, don't stress, just do your best!



Hetal is a first generation Indian American (and the oldest of four girls), who had the privilege of being her immigrant parent’s experiment child. All rules first tested on her were subsequently thrown out for Sisters 2, 3, and 4. She's not mad, though, because those experiences make great story fodder! With BAs in English Literature and Communications from The Ohio State University, she works as an IT Analyst during the daylight hours. But after dark, when the kiddos are tucked into bed, she likes to spin stories where Desi kids are traveling to fantastic places, meeting creatures from Indian myth, and becoming their own champions.

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