What I did not do: show what is at stake, or what Singer's obsession might be, which are supposed good strategies. I'm not so sure that 'what is at stake' is applicable in all cases, and not in this one. I could be wrong. It's happened before. But, if you see anything of use for your own query letter, feel free to steal it! Comments/feedback welcome!
I also did not include a list of my published fiction after the letter, which I had been doing with previous letters (which you'll see in the weeks to come). Lit agents don't ask for this anymore, and so I mentioned some literary magazines I've been published in, the most well known that they may have heard of, and hope if they're really interested, that they'll go to my website to see more. I do not know if they would, though visits to my website do go up when I send out query letters.
Alas, I received no nibbles on this from lit agents. I also tried querying indie publishers, and did get a nibble or two, but they were so indie as to be not even survive beyond responding back to me. Alas alas alas....
Note: Apparently, using Mr or Ms is now considered too formal, and you should just use their first and last name. Or so I've read....
Also also, this is the last time I ever still used actual an print letter for some agents. At this point, it was still a mix of both email and snail mail. Now, it's almost always email. But if you were doing print, you would put your address and info first, then theirs. Thankfully, it's easier now, but that means it's easier for everybody, and lit agents now get more queries. Though it's easier for them to pass. With email queries, you may now never get a reply back if they're not interested. It's not personal, but don't ever bother them by following up, and don't ever every call their office!
Begin query letter:
Mr./Ms. Their Name,
After a divorce, his sister's descent into addiction, and the death of his mother, TONY SINGER, a teacher at Mesa Community College, in Arizona, gives up his job, and his life, and goes off into the Superstition Mountains, to a cave once used by Geronimo, to die. While there, he receives visitors, both real and imagined (and remembered). This modern mash-up of two myths, the Christian Temptation of St. Anthony and the Tibetan Life of Milarepa, re-tells the lesson found in many spiritual paths: giving up everything.
Audience for Geronimo's Cave: readers of Sherman Alexie, Roberto Bolaño, Jim Harrison, and Kim Addonizio.
Word count: 52,929
Born in Puerto Rico, John Yohe grew up in Michigan, and currently lives in Portland, Oregon. He has worked as a wildland firefighter, deckhand/oiler, runner/busboy, bike messenger, wilderness ranger, fire lookout, as well as a teacher of writing. MA in Written Communication from Eastern Michigan University and a MFA in Poetry Writing from The New School for Social Research. His short stories have appeared at connu.co, Rattapallax, ENTROPY, Best American Erotica of 2004.
A complete list of all his publications, including essays and reviews, with links and samples, can be found at his website: www.johnyohe.com
The first 20 pages or so of Geronimo's Cave can be found here.