It’s easy to get hung up on what details to include in your query letter. It’s not easy pitching a complete manuscript—there are so many great things going on in your story that you’d be silly to not want to talk about them all. How are you supposed to interest an agent if they don’t know all the intricate plot lines and characters? The thing is, agents respond much more positively to simple query letters.
All we’re really looking to know about your story is one thing: what is at stake for the character?
1. to be won or lost; at risk.
2. at issue or in question.
Explaining what is at stake for the main character is the most important part of any query letter. Regardless of the category or genre you’re writing in, your book should revolve around a narrative arc that has conflict at its core. Explaining those stakes effectively is what will hook an agent.
Remember that your query letter is simply an introduction to your project. The purpose of a query letter is to make a literary agent want to read more. The easiest way to do this is to outline what is at stake for your protagonist: knowing what she could lose will make us want to learn more about her; knowing what he needs to figure out over the course of the novel will make us want to escape into the story.
So how do you introduce the stakes in your query letter? Think of them as the main problem for your protagonist. If you need to, write down a list of the biggest obstacles your protagonist overcomes through the course of your novel. Which is the most important? Why is that obstacle so big for your character? What was the motivation for your character to go through that obstacle? You want that motivation to be clear in your query letter. Tell the agent why they should care about your character, and why this character’s story is so worth reading.