A Successful Query Letter

Me with Mary Kole in Los Angeles :)

(I am cross-posting this with the BRAVE NEW WORDS blog since it might actually be helpful to post my query letter on my own blog)

Since I previously blogged rather ecstatically HERE about signing with Mary Kole, I thought I’d focus this Agent Story post on the query letter that set my publication journey in motion. I hadn’t looked at my query since late last year when I signed with Mary, and I had no idea re-reading it would fill me with all of the same dread and anxiety it did when I originally sent it! Query Letter Stomachache is apparently not a curable condition.

That said, before you read it, I feel the need to put out a few disclaimers (which may also serve as warnings for those still in the trenches):

1) I sound completely stuffed. I was trying to be business-like and professional, and I think I succeeded, but ZERO personality shines through in this letter. Yes, Mary offered representation anyway, and I realize there’s a delicate balance between personality and weirdo, but use your best judgment.

2) THROUGH TO YOU is really not a paranormal novel. At the time I was very much under the impression “science fiction” was still a dirty word in YA. A lot has changed in nine months. If I queried today I might call it “light sci-fi,” a term I heard more than once at SCBWI this summer.

3) THROUGH TO YOU is also not magical realism! I realized that after I read IMAGINARY GIRLS by Nova Ren Suma. If you want magical realism, read her book! My use of the term is further evidence of me being “sci-fi” phobic.

4) Note the previous rejection and lack of any publication credits (okay, to be fair, I did have an article published in a dog grooming magazine, but that was notrelevant). Everyone gets rejected and everyone has to get their first publication somewhere. Mary offered representation because she liked THIS book.

All right, with all of that aside, I feel slightly less embarrassed posting this for the entire internet to see:

 

Dear Ms. Kole,

I was in touch with you last year about a previous novel, [REDACTED], at which time you encouraged me to submit other work to you in the future. I thought you might be interested in my latest YA paranormal novel, THROUGH TO YOU. It is complete at 59,000 words.

The day eighteen-year-old Camden Pike sees a ghost is the day he assumes he’s finally lost it. For the last two months, he’s been torturing himself over why he walked away from the car accident that killed his girlfriend, Viv. She was the last good thing in his life: helping him rebuild his identity after an injury ended his football career, and picking up the pieces when his home life shattered. With Viv at his side, his pain was manageable–she was all that mattered. He’d give anything for one glimpse of her again. But now there’s a ghost…and it isn’t her.

Cam quickly realizes the apparition, Nina, is not a ghost at all. She’s a girl from another world–one where Cam was the one who died, and Viv is alive and well. Once he learns this, all he can focus on is getting his girlfriend back, no matter the cost. But the accident isn’t the only thing different about this other world–Viv and Cam both made very different choices here that changed things between them. Nina is keeping some dangerous secrets and the window between the worlds isshrinking every day. As Cam comes to terms with who this Viv has become, he’s forced to choose–stay with her, or let her go–before the window closes between them once and for all.

THROUGH TO YOU is a book that explores themes of unhealthy relationships and the power of choices within a magical realist atmosphere. Per your submissions guidelines, I have included the first ten pages below. A full manuscript is available upon request. I am currently querying other agents at this time. I appreciate you taking the time to consider my work.

 

Sincerely,

Emily Hainsworth

 

*headdesk*

Yesterday was my queryversary…one month since I sent my first queries. I’ve sent more since then, but I’ve had enough rejections already to fall off my initial I’m-subbing! high.

On her blog today Kristin Nelson gave a brief list of what children’s editors are looking for right now. This was the very first thing she listed:

“Looking for contemporary stories with a paranormal element. Contemporary main story with just a touch of paranormal.”

NOTICE ME!!! NO-TICE MEEEEEEEE!!!

~*sigh*~

14 Months

So today’s kind of a big day for me.

And that got me thinking about the past 14 months.

Actually, let me back up, because according to my Word files, MF has officially existed for almost two years. Two Thanksgivings ago, I was playing around with writing more than I had for a long time. I messed with some short stories and poetry, but this one idea kept needling through my mind & wouldn’t leave me alone. I wrote a short story, which became a first chapter. For the next nine months, I struggled through and finished writing a first draft. I showed it to my family. They *loved* it. I submitted the first draft to agents.

*blush* I got a lot of rejections. :) One of those rejections took the time to mention what the agent didn’t love about the work. It wasn’t the idea so much as the writing. I sat on that for a while. I bought some fabulous books. The most important one being: Self-Editing For Fiction Writers. I LEARNED A LOT.

I stopped subbing, and started rewriting (14 months ago). Overthis period of time, I read more books, and messageboards, and continued to learn. I started this journal, met some wonderful people (*waves*) and continued to learn. Several times, I stopped what I was doing and wondered if it was a waste of time. Several more times, I decided it wasn’t, and pressed on.

My entire plot changed. My characters changed. Some of them got new names, others new personalities. Their relationships changed. They stopped breathing and coughing their sentences. But the basic idea I started with, the one that wouldn’t leave me alone, stayed the same.

I’m generally a self-motivated person, but I continued to learn a lot about discipline. I wrote myself sticky notes, and I’ve left them up over my desk to remind me to keep going:

"5,000 Words BY MONDAY!"

"NO Messageboards this AM! _____ got an agent! REVISE!!!"

"You got NOTHING done tonight because you procrastinated! Your four lines SUCK and you’re going to be fat!"

Honestly, I can’t look at them now without laughing. S reads them and says I’m mean to myself. It’s a weird thing, self-motivation.

So today is a big day, because I’m sending MF out again. Today feels so much weightier than the last time I sent queries. I’m not exactly sure what’s going to happen now, but I know I’ll understand everything that DOES happen in a way I didn’t 14 months ago.

I guess we’ll see… :)

Pfftthht.

 Many things have kept me from LJ this past week…

I am waiting for readers to finish reading. Then I’ll be looking for more readers… 

I am pounding away at a query letter that sounds amazing and brilliant some moments, and robbed of soul and creativity the next… 

My kitty is in the hospital :-( She is 14 and stopped eating/drinking and got all dehydrated and she gets an ultrasound tomorrow. We’re pretty sure she has a mass on her kidney, but don’t know what it’s all about yet. I have had this cat half my life. I got her out of a cardboard box at an Upstate New York street fair. I carried her home inside my shirt because it was raining and she was too young to be away from her mother. She approved of my husband. She is the kind of cat who comes to you for love, but only takes what she wants, and then leaves. You don’t follow. She used to bite quite ferociously when she was younger. Every ounce of her love is earned.

I am reading ~*Breaking Dawn*~ incredibly slowly and don’t want to come across something that spoils it. All I have to say so far is: O_O Happy.