This query is for my first novel and was sent to about twenty five agents, I received rejections from eighteen and eerie silence from most of the rest. Once again, though, shows the importance of revising! After a lot of rejections, I rewrote the query from scratch and ALSO rewrote the first chapter of the book. I had received some feedback from a couple agents who actually read the entire first chapter, and two of them said they found it hard to follow. So, I retooled, took some time to rewrite both and sent out about six more. One of the first places I sent it to, the agent sent me a full manuscript request within TWO minutes of my sending it. He took a week to read it and offered representation.
The novel is an adventure/thriller set during World War II. Here's the query that worked:
Dear XXXXX (Personalized),
The Keep in the Carpathian Mountains has stood for uncounted centuries, a legendary treasure dating back to the Roman Empire hidden somewhere deep in its eldritch bowels. US Army Captain John Hardin, exhausted by three grueling years of war against Hitler’s Army, has found the only existing map to the dread fortress, and the riches inside are just too tempting to pass up!
But legends also tell of unspeakable evil in the Keep. They warn of a vile, cancerous malevolence that poisons the air and rots the earth, and they whisper of horrid monstrosities that roam the forest primeval surrounding the ancient Teutonic stronghold. With a few trusted men, Hardin will dare to penetrate Russian-occupied Romania, racing ahead of Red Army fanatics led by a sadistic and craven commander, and drive to the darkest recesses of Transylvania in search of fortune and glory.
If they can make it, what they’ll find could be more horrifying—and enlightening—than anything Hardin could’ve ever imagined.
The Saxon, complete at 109,000 words, is an adventure novel with elements of horror. This story will appeal to adventure-loving readers of Clive Cussler and Steve Berry while also attracting fans of horror writers such as Robert R. McCammon. The Saxon is a page-turning adventure akin in tone to Raiders of the Lost Ark, sometimes thrilling, sometimes funny and sometimes terrifying!
I’m a past winner of the Writers of the Future award and a runner up for the Isaac Asimov Award for undergraduate science fiction writing. I’ve had short stories published in Digital Science Fiction and several SF anthologies.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
I did personalize paragraph #3 for many agents depending on who they represent. I feel fortunate, though, as this agent told me that mentioning that your novel is "horror" is a very tough sell in a query, just because that genre is very, very hard to do well in. I guess I'm really lucky he decided to give me a shot, anyway. So if you find yourself getting no replies or form replies to your query, REWRITE IT! Use the forums here, and don't be afraid to experiment!
Most of all, don't give up! I've been at this a long time, believe me. It doesn't come easy, but nothing worthwhile ever does.
Best of luck!