Query Letter Etiquette

BEFORE: Please don’t send a query letter to an agent that looks like this…


A Parisian museum is broken into. A renowned archaeologist is missing. And a fabled city concealing a dangerous secret is under pursuit.

Mona Ashrawy, an Egyptian born archaeologist in her early twenties, is seeking a stolen heirloom. An ancient Arabian scroll upon which is inscribed an original tale from the Arabian Nights. It was stolen by the Parisian museum of art.

With her father dead and her mother away, teaching physics in America, she is cared for by a friend of her father, a famous historian by the name of Salim Shelby.  

He too is willing to commit to the same cause, seeing that her father’s will made it obligatory that she must find it. But she’s not alone.

Someone else is after it.

The scroll, thought to be mediocre, seems to hold a greater secret, possibly even a hidden map to the lost city of brass. An ancient paradise hidden away from the eyes of man, concealing in its womb an even greater secret.

How will Mona seek to find this treasure and protect it from those who are willing to use its powers for evil?

What is she willing to sacrifice in order to retrieve the scroll and find the legendary city of brass?

What if it was all a lie?

Follow Mona on an adventure into uncharted lands and sunken cities, from Paris to Egypt to Iraq, as she seeks the lost city of brass and the time bending secret it hides. Simultaneously, avoiding those who would stop at nothing to conquer it.

AFTER: This is what a query letter should look like.

Dear Agent (include their name),

            I saw that you were interested in representing archaeology adventure novels with strong female leads, and have represented a few of my favorites, such as (mention titles and authors). For this reason, I think you would be a perfect match for my manuscript, Arabesque.

Mona, a young Egyptian archaeologist, is seeking a stolen treasure that was once unearthed by her father: an ancient Arabian scroll upon which was written the original Arabian Nights tale of the city of brass. Seeing how the Parisian museum had hounded her father to turn it in, Mona has reason to suspect they are behind the theft, but there’s no way to know for sure.

With her father dead and her mother away, she is cared for by a family friend, a famous historian by the name of Salim. Salim is also determined to find the treasure for it seems to hold a greater secret, a hidden map to the lost city of brass which holds at its center an unhuman power. Maybe he’s tempted by its secrets too.

Little by little, they stumble upon crumbs left behind by her father, ought to guide them to the fabled city, but their apprehenders are at their tail, making sure to get to the city before Mona and Salim do. They want the power to themselves. And if they breach the city, if they unleash its powers, Mona and Salim might be too late to save humanity from a thousand and one curses.

Arabesque is a 70,000-word literary thriller written in the style of Clive Cussler’s Sahara meets Tomb Raider.

My name is Moe Shalabi and I am a writer of (genre). I am a member of (writer group) and my short stories have appeared in several literary magazines, including (list them). I completed a writing fellowship at (insert name of fellowship) in order to better my writing craft. I wrote this novel because I’m hoping to publish a book that includes a strong female woman of color as the main character. I hope you enjoy reading Arabesque as much as I enjoyed writing it.

The full manuscript is available upon your request. Thank you for your time and consideration.

(Include the samples below the query. Check the submission guidelines.)

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