Every instructor, mentor, and writing book tells you that the query needs just three paragraphs--the hook, the synopsis, and your biography. There are also hundreds of places on the internet who--for a fee--will write your query for you, or at least sell you a "sure-fire" template "guaranteed to make a publisher's mouth water" if your book is good, that is. So like most new writers, who are broke, I set out to craft my own.
It started easy enough. I dated it, made sure my name was at the top in perfect business style, and began with: Dear Mrs. So-and-So. Then I froze! What's a hook and what really needs to go into that first paragraph?
From everything I've read, the hook is the sentence or the question that captures and holds the editors attention. YIKES! Yes, I know I can hold a reader's attention in an article and I am pretty sure I accomplished this goal with the opening paragraphs of my Upper MG Adventure Novel. But . . . an editor? Someone who is so busy he or she can't allot more than 3 seconds to each query in the slush pile? Holy Moly!
James Giblin's book, The Giblin Guide to Writing Children's Books, says the first paragraph of a children's fiction book requires the title, the category, and the age group it is intended for. But, Margery Facklam's article "Focus on Nonfiction: Your Route to Publication" discusses using the copy or a blurb that you might create for the book jacket of your proposed book.
Now I've written queries for articles. Those are easy. The article's opening paragraph is my hook. But a book . . . and an adventure novel for upper MG readers, do I use a question, a blurb, or a statement of fact?
For my non-fiction book, The Great Camel Experiment of the Old West, published by Collca as part of their BiteSize History Series, I decided on the statement of fact. This is the first paragraph:
I have spent the last year researching the use of camels to forge a safe and reliable route from Texas to California in 1856. There was no stage coach, no pony express, and no railroad. Communication and roads between forts were limited, and settlers heading to the gold fields in California faced Indian attacks, bandits and the unforgiving territory known as the Great American Desert. “The Great Camel Experiment of the Old West” is a 25,000 word book that explores the extraordinary journey of 75 camels purchased for military purposes.
It could have been better, but the book sold, so I must have hit a cord with the editor. My dilemma now is to craft an eye-catching first paragraph for my upper MG Adventure Novel. Hhmmmm. Well, it's a work in progress. I'll let you know when I have perfected it.