Yesterday, Liz shared her old, not successful query. I got the easier (and less embarrassing) task of sharing one that DOES work. Now, this query isn't perfect--and it's landed me a good bit of form rejections. But it's also landed me more than my fair share of requests, and that means it's doing the job it's meant to. It makes the agent want to read more.
So lets look at what works:
EDGE OF THE FALLS, a young adult dystopian retelling of Beauty and the Beast, is complete at 79,000 words. This isn't the story, true, but it does start with my hook--which is the mashup of dystopian and fairy tale retelling.
Sabah has lived her entire life with the Mistress, exiled from the nearby Shielded city. She’s content there as the lover of Berg, and caretaker of the Mistress castoff children. She’s familiar with danger--acidstorms and genetically-altered animals and the Commission's soldiers. Even the Mistress poses a threat. Twice a year, she forces a child over the edge of the waterfall in search of starrbriars, a rare flower with healing properties. But Sabah has always believed the risk she lives with is better than the control of the Commission. This gives us both worldbuilding and the initial conflict, without bogging the reader down in the needless. One thing I've gotten a bit of flak for is Sabah's age. I don't include it because I never specify in the book what her age is. However, that's up to you and most queries do include a YA age.
When she learns that Berg is having an affair with the Mistress, Sabah is furious. As the Mistress pushes her to accept an offer of Citizenship, Sabah escapes into the wilds. There she is rescued by Arjun, a human genetically altered into a ban-wolf. While with his pack, Sabah learns secrets about the Mistress’s obsession with starrbriars. Arjun offers her a future—a precarious one if the Commission ever learns about the ban-wolves’ hidden city. Now Sabah is forced to make a choice: return to the safety of the Mistress and Berg, or live with the dangers of Outside with Arjun. And here we have the inciting event, the action she takes, and the stakes, without handing over the ENTIRE story. It's also briefly stated--even a busy agent is likely to finish a query that is only 228 words, and stated in three brief paragraphs.
So that's it, y'all. A query that works. Like I said, it's not perfect. There are rules I broke (not starting with the story, not including the age) but it WORKS because it makes you want to read on. And at the end of the day (or in our case, the end of query week) that's what the point is. Make your audience want to read on.