I was submitting to agents for about a year, with about 1/3 of them requesting pages. I got two full requests. Below is the final query letter I wrote, which got me through three rounds of ‘Query Kombat’ before it eventually landed me an agent.
Looking back on it almost a year later, I’d say its pretty wordy, but the good news is a query doesn’t need to be perfect to land you an agent.
Lena Huertas grew up hearing only the dead were welcome in Big Town, but it’s the only place she believes could save her life.
After her father is murdered by the Forty-Niners who claimed California, she becomes desperate to trade streets consumed by violence, and starving folk, for security among the modern royalty of the most successful boomtown in 1879. It doesn’t matter that the city lies hidden in the Sierra Nevada, or that the borders are protected from outsiders by a marksman of legendary skill. Bodies from the poorest regions of the West are shipped to Big Town for an unknown purpose, and Lena aims to follow to ensure her pa gets a proper burial and to seize a brighter future for herself.
She boosts her chances with the charity of Rolando Tavares, Big Town’s one-eyed, possibly two-faced, sheriff – along with the power of a mysterious pair of golden dice capable of granting favor to those who need it most.
But what she doesn’t know is that Rolando’s false eye allows him to enter minds, and that within the home she’s always dreamed of awaits outlaws and lawmen who desire corpses and are willing to kill for the magic luck she possesses. Because to a populace who take their wealth for granted, control over the future is worth more than gold, and neither the living nor the dead are welcome to leave.
A story of a Lady, her Luck and the Town that tested their limits, BIG TOWN is a 78,000 word fantasy novel set in an alternate version of California circa 1879, where magic gold was mined and used to forge objects with unique characteristics and powers. It is a standalone story with possibilities for sequels.
I am a graduate of the University of Oregon’s History Department and currently work in the legal field.