ive just finished the first draft of my second novel and have been pitching like mad but cant seem to get anyone to get past the query letter!
whats the best way(s) to hook an agent and get noticed by your work?
For a start, you'll probably need more than one draft for a successful novel. Make sure your work is as good and polished as you can get it, and make sure the query letter reflects that as well. If you're looking for critique, you can post samples of your work in the Showcase once you have five or more posts here.
Writers Digest has a blog for how to write good (and bad) query letters. If the gal who writes the blog doesn't like a query letter, she will rip it to shreds, but in doing so you can see by example how a good one is crafted. She critiques some query letters that are submitted to the blog, if you're brave enough to handle what she does.
You don't want to revise and polish too much. The first draft is a beautiful sculpture with a few rough spots and lumps that need working out. You only want to work those out, you don't want to over do it so you wear the statue down to a tooth pick. You can't "ta-da" a toothpick.
Another point for queries is that the first paragraph is your story. It's the back cover or inside flap of the book that tells the agent what the story's about. It shouldn't be too long, a few lines that tell the agent the who, what, where and why they should care about your story. Everything else is just a long distance hand shake.
And really do your research on who you're sending it to. The publisher may be the best for fantasy novels but do they publish your particular type? If you're querying an agent are they looking for new work at the moment? Does your story fit their interests?
Getting the story to someone's attention is difficult, but well worth it.