My Query Letter for Ancillary Justice

I had a lovely time last night hanging out with Writers Under the Arch. We had delicious muffins and talked about writing, and it was just a great evening all around.

While we were chatting, the topic of query letters came up, and I said I thought they should be against the law, but really there’s no getting around them. And I was asked if I could share mine for Ancillary Justice. So I’m posting it here for anyone who’s interested.

You’ll notice the book changed its title between the time I queried agents and the time it was published.

Dear [Agent]:
Once Breq had hundreds of bodies, her artificial intelligence animating a ship and thousands of ancillary units in the service of the Radch, the colonialist empire that built her.
That’s all gone. Destroyed. Now she has only a single, limited human body. And she has only one goal–to revenge herself on Anaander Mianaai, many-bodied, near-immortal, ruler of the Radch.
A long time ago, Seivarden had been a lieutenant on Justice of Toren, the ship Breq used to be. Now Seivarden is lying in the street on an icy backwater planet, naked and unconscious, battered into insensibility from months of too many drugs and too little food. Breq knows she should leave Seivarden to rot where she found her. Breq isn’t responsible for Seivarden, not anymore. Besides, Seivarden was never one of Breq’s favorite people.
But Breq can’t walk away, can’t abandon a former officer. Even though she knows that it’s a possibly fatal distraction from her one, true aim. Even though she knows that in the complex politics of the Radch, Seivarden would side with the faction that Breq implacably opposes. The faction that has already destroyed her once.
JUSTICE OF TOREN is a Cherryh-flavored space opera complete at 101,000 words.
I am a graduate of Clarion West. My short fiction has appeared in Strange Horizons, Realms of Fantasy, Subterranean Magazine, and three volumes of Rich Horton’s best of the year anthologies. I am also the editor of the webzine GigaNotoSaurus.
I look forward to hearing from you. Thank you for your time, and your attention,
Ann Leckie
[contact information]

So there you go. You’ll notice I didn’t get the entire plot in there–it really doesn’t go much further than the first chapter.

For those of you about to embark on your own query letters–my sincere condolences. And I strongly recommend reading the entire Query Shark archive. It’ll help you get some kind of a handle on what sort of thing it is you’re trying to produce.

15 thoughts on “My Query Letter for Ancillary Justice

  1. Paul says:

    Thanks for sharing this, Ann.

    1. Ann says:

      Oh, huh, is this really your first comment here? Well, you should be automatically approved now. ūüėÄ

  2. Kari Ann says:

    Thank you for posting your query letter. It’s always fascinating to see what successful books’ queries looked like after we read the novels and come to love them. Combining the recommendation to read Query Shark with a glimpse at how you put this letter together makes a great lesson. Thank you again!

  3. Rachel says:

    I came here to read what a query letter should look like and ended up finding a book to add to my to-read list. I’m intrigued.

    1. Ann says:

      I hope you enjoy it! And good luck with your query letter!

  4. J
    Juliette Wade says:

    That is a great query letter! Thank you for sharing it.

  5. Thank you so much for sharing your query letter.

    Ancillary Justice was in my “to read” stack for a few months, until I tossed it in my carry-on to read while on holiday. I just finished reading, and I loved it.

  6. g
    geekhyena says:

    And I just used that to sell my friends on the book series! My little cousin is going to read it as soon as he can talk the library into getting it.

  7. Janet Reid says:

    Thank you for the shout out to QueryShark! I’m delighted it helped you. And that IS a good query.
    Congrats on your well-earned success!

    1. Ann says:

      Thank you! Seriously, the QS archives were incredibly helpful. You’re a hero!

  8. H
    Hank Petterson says:

    Thanks for posting your Query letter, I loved Ancillary Justice so much, that I am actually re-reading it. (Something I rarely do)

    I’m also a huge fan of QueryShark and her other blog. Congrats on all the well earned accolades for Ancillary.

    cheers Hank

  9. C
    Celia Reaves says:

    Thanks so much for sharing your successful query letter. I’m months (and several revisions) away from my first query, so I’ll be saving your example to study later. I have read Ancillary Justice and it’s useful to see that,as you say, the query hardly touches the complexity of the story. I also second your suggestion of studying all the advice on Queey Shark, and encourage anyone interested in writing or publishing to follow Janet Reid’s blog. It is indeed a thing of wonder.

  10. T
    Terry O'Carroll says:


    It’s strange, I don’t like cherry-flavour but I do love Cherryh-flavor.

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