That was your mistake #1, and mine too. Overthinking can ruin a great pitch, which is essentially what you have to do. Pitch your work.
To put yourself in an agent’s shoes, walk into your local bookstore. Upon opening the door, you’re bombarded with concepts of all kinds. You automatically gravitate towards your favorite genres and browse the back cover. What catches your eye? What about that description makes you buy the book? That’s the aspects you have to incorporate into your query letter. Now, a little research can go a long way and I’m gonna help you cheat.
Here are a few links for site’s I’ve found most valuable when constructing a query:
- This site provides hundreds of examples of real queries with critiques, so you'll know what works and what doesn't.
QueryFaerie - Much like QueryShark, only not as extensive.
FreeE-book - Noah Lukeman's, How to Write a Great Query Letter. A lot of info on what should and shouldn't be included in a query letter, and format hints. I downloaded a copy from the Google play store and heard it's available on iTunes as well.
For more personalized assistance with query letters, I've found the many Twitter writing events to be the greatest asset.
TheFabulousBrendaDrake - Author extraordinaire, Brenda Drake, hosts contests such as Pitch Wars, Pitch Madness, The Writer's Voice, and the #PitMad Twitter pitch parties. During Pitch Wars, even though I was not selected, I received feedback (from 4 different esteemed writers) on my query and first five pages. Major advantage!
MindyMcGinnis - Not only an intriguing writer, Ms. McGinnis, offers query critiques to a follower of her blog every Saturday in her Saturday Slash.
MichelleHauck - Along with a slew of other talented authors, Michelle Hauck, hosts many Twitter events (too many to mention, check her out) such as Pitch Slam, Query Kombat and #NoQs (Nightmare on Query Street). Win or lose participants always walk away with new writing tips and techniques, and quite possibly a new critique partner.
MissSnarksFirstVictim - Besides her entertaining blogs, The Authoress, hosts Secret Agent Contests, The Bakers Dozen Agent Auction, and a variety of in-house critique sessions throughout the year.
There are infinite sources of query wisdom out there so research, keep an open mind to criticism, and perfect that letter. As to the rest of the novel, next week I'll post a complete list of opening line clichés straight from the mouths of agents.