I am a devotee of the Church of the QueryShark. QS is an agent who has a compendium of information regarding the Art of the Query. I strongly suggest that you check out the enormously helpful catalog and examples of novel-length query letters. HERE. Many of the things I will paraphrase here is information I learned here.
A novel-length query letter is designed to succinctly explain and introduce a prospective agent or editor to your novel, the characters of your novel, as well as show the main conflict and risk in your novel. It is not a plot synopsis (which we will discuss elsewhere).
Several authors have shown the query letters they’ve used with their work. Check them out:
Anne Leckie – Science Fiction – Ancillary Justice
Martha Wells – Fantasy – The Cloud Roads
You will find some similarities here. One is brevity–these letters aren’t long. They are under one page. Additionaly, they present the main character, what they want, and what prevents them from getting what they want. Also, what happens when they dont get what they want. Closing up the Query is a succinct statement regarding similar work as the writer’s. All of these are to the good. Here’s another example, for a story that is from a trunk novel of mine:
Dear FIRSTNAME LASTNAME (I suggest using a full name rather than a salutation, just a personal preference)
Serai is the daughter of the Govenor of Jerath in the Allani Commonwealth. She is well educated, quiet, and her family is completely destitute. Serai has been promised to the first born son of the Governor of Oriad to cement a trade agreement that will bring wealth to both their families. Only, Serai is harboring a secret. Like her mother before her, she has the power of Calling and can bend people’s minds to her will. If she is discovered, she will be forced into government service, the trade agreement will fail, and her beloved Jerath will be sold to pay off the island’s debts.
When Serai arrives in Oriad, however, things are not what they appear. Her future husband, Callan, is not in residence and the Govenor of Oriad suggests that he never existed at all. Caught without allies, or family, or money, Serai must navigate the political currents in this new strange place while hiding her secret powers. Only, it appears that the people of Oriad are on the edge of revolt and if they revolt, the Callers will come to put down the resistance. Serai will get caught in the crossfire.
Serai must use all of her cunning, all of her daring, to keep the peace in Oriad and uncover the truth of what happened to Callan. To save her people, her family, herself.
Stormsong’s Triad is fantasy novel complete at 125,000 words. Readers of Michelle Sagara’s Cast in Flame will appreciate it’s engaging style, while fans of Robin Hobb’s Fool’s Assassin will enjoy the secondary fantasy setting. I greatly appreciate you time and consideration. I look forward to speaking with you.
Hope this helps! Happy querying!