Query Letters That Worked
Before you get started on the first of fifty drafts of your cover letter, I urge you to look at publishers’ catalogues (which are issued about four months before a book is published and are used by sales reps to pitch their company’s titles to booksellers). Hachette makes those and all their various imprints available online.
I’ve seen a lot of query letters that worked by adopting this method. Generally, each book gets a page in the publisher’s catalogue, and all houses use the same general formula/template: The first sentence is the hook or the handle or the one-minute elevator pitch. The next paragraph highlights the story itself. The third paragraph describes the book’s competition, its comparable books. The fourth paragraph tells you about the author and her credentials. Off to the sides of the main text, you’ll generally see quotes or reviews.
Draft your query letter as if it’s catalogue copy. Of course the letter will sound clunky and artificial at first, but you’ll be able to smooth it out.
If you’re not getting agent responses to your current query letter, try this approach. I’ve seen a lot of query letters that worked this way.