My WIP is historical fiction. It covers a year-long period during the American Revolution featuring real players and rare biographical insights I have uncovered from my extensive research, as well as narrative non-fiction-like accounts of specific battles. The "fiction" part comes from the main POV character, whose fictional story (a composite of accounts) is interwoven among these real events, connecting everything together. I would say the balance is 50% accurate history/50% historical dramatization. My main goal is to introduce readers to some great unsung heroes from both sides and educate about this lesser-known saga.
I know query space is ideally limited to plot/stakes/first act, but since most agents will not be familiar with the events or people I am covering, I feel the need to explain the real history and why it's worthy of being written about. I am afraid if I just present it as a standard fiction query, the true history I am trying to bring to light will get lost.
For example, I would like to include something like this to introduce the agent to the real history behind the story:
Lt.-Col. The Honourable John Maitland, the son of the 6th Earl of Lauderdale, has been dubbed by military historians as the "Savior of Savannah" for his ingenuity in leading 800 troops from Beaufort under impossible odds, reaching Savannah ahead of the French blockade just in time to defend the town--despite having already lost one arm in battle and while suffering from malaria. Even the USMC museum on Parris Island has a display memorializing this feat, despite the fact that Maitland was an "opponent."
(1) Is it okay that I include a brief paragraph like this explaining the real history behind the story?
(2) If I do this, can I be forgiven for going over the standard query word count, or would I have to sacrifice precious plot/stakes space?
(3) Or is this unnecessary altogether and I am overthinking it?
(3) Sorta but not really
This is a textbook example of the value of an author website even if you've never published anything.
These kinds of explanations/elaborations/info dumps belong on your website, not in the query.
You need to engage the agent in your story first, not the history behind it.
If I'm interested in the story, I'll probably swim by your website BEFORE I request pages.
One reason I do that is to find out if you've self published this and "forgot" to tell me.
You can make sure I know to swim by if you include something like:
My main goal isI want to introduce readers to some great unsung heroes from both sides
Your main goal is to tell a good story.
Please don't hint that it's anything else.
educate about this lesser-known saga.There's more information about them on my website (listed below.)"
Under NO, ZERO, ZIPPO circumstances will you use the word educate in a query for a novel. People do not buy novels to learn about things. They buy novels for the story. That they learn stuff is a bonus.