Wednesday, January 4, 2012

My Take On The Query Process Part Two

In Part Two I'll be discussing how to write a query and some winning examples. Once again, this was originally a post on inkpop in response to a lot of confusion I saw over query letters. Two of the queries were written by authors who gain representation with them and one is my own, which ended up getting four partials (and many rejections) before I trunked the project.

I see a lot of questions about queries on inkpop that make me want to smack my palm against my forehead. For those of you that don't realize that query formats are a google away, here are some basics:
THE LETTER:Dear Ms. Mr (Agent's Last Name),Hook Line: What is your story about? What is your MC like? WHAT IS THE CONFLICT?2ND/3RD PARAGRAPH: What happens in the book? It's like the longer pitch you would put on inkpopBiography (this is only neccessary if you have SIGNIFICANT publishing credentials(you already had a book published, you've been published in a real literary magazine, you have fancy bylines, you have an MFA, etc.) Conclusion: XYZ is a young adult novel complete at XX,XXX words. Thank you for your considerationSincerely, Author
More Detailed Query Resources:

TIPS:-NEVER MORE THAN ONE PAGE(250 words is generally the number to shoot for)-NEVER BCC MORE THAN ONE AGENT-ALWAYS SPELL THE AGENTS NAME RIGHT-ALWAYS PERSONALIZE TO THE AGENT-Don't be afraid to try a nontraditional query, but try getting it critiqued first.
EX 1:
My query which got four partials before I pulled the manuscript back in for revisions:
[I took out the personalization because it differed for each agent and left out the genre because it could fit in more than one]
Dear AGENT,Rose Jastone leads a meticulously planned life. She is the lively social chair of Delta Delta Gamma, a model student, and punk rock enthusiast who can throw on a pair of Chucks when occasioned. Trying to avoid the responsibility of planning her post-graduate future, however, she signs up for a care-free spring semester at the University of Paris, Panthénon-Sorbonne.
Paris turns out to be more than Rose's Philosophy major logic bargained for. Stuck dorming with Noemi Brousarre, a celebutante roommate with a few fifth-life crises of her own, Rose is thrown into a world of Parisian drama that makes sorority life seem like a stroll though le Jardin des Tuileries.
Rose soon finds herself responsible for planning the renowned Crillon Ball and reuniting Noemi with her estranged sister Sonia. She also has to juggle a crack-pot study group and mixed feelings for an enigmatic figure skater. Left mediating the problems of the city around her, Rose wonders if she'll ever bloom into the “Eiffel Flower” Noemi promised, or if she will be stuck following the life-plan her parents and friends have already constructed for her.
Eiffel Flower is complete at 88,000 words. Thank you for your consideration.Sincerely,ME
what I felt like after a year of querying a horrible manuscript

EX 2: Published YA author letters
Dear Ms. Schafer:In The Last Good Place of Lily Odilon, my 65,000-word YA suspense novel, seventeen-year-old Albert Morales has one goal: find his missing girlfriend, Lily. 
Albert and Lily have been dating for just a matter of weeks, but in that time they’ve formed a connection that, in the way of first-love intensity, feels like forever. From the day his family moved to town, shy, awkward Albert has been hung up on Lily, a complicated and confusing girl—and he is subsequently consumed with her after the night she leaves her bedroom after a tryst and doesn’t come back. 
Things are complicated by the fact that Lily’s stepfather and the local police are looking for her, too. Egged on by Lily’s stepfather, the authorities are convinced that Albert, the last known person to see Lily, may have had something to do with her disappearance. But Albert, with Lily’s sister, Olivia, makes two big discoveries. First, Lily wasn’t abducted; rather, spurred by emerging memories and a sudden, violent confrontation, she took the course she knows best: She vanished. Their other discovery: Lily’s secret record revealing her stepfather’s compelling reason to want her to stay gone. 
Soon after running away, Lily reaches out in a frustratingly cryptic manner to Albert for help, but at the same time, seems afraid he won’t be able to help her. She acts as if wants to be found by him, but makes him hunt for her. So, reconstructing events in Lily’s recent past, Albert and Olivia, pursued, set out to find Lily and help her understand and reveal the truth before her stepfather gets to her first and silences her for good. 
The Last Good Place of Lily Odilon is told from Albert’s perspective (third person limited POV) in thirty-one short chapters. Alternating between the past—the days after Lily’s disappearance—and the present—Albert and Olivia on Lily’s trail—these thirty-one mosaic pieces form a complete picture of what’s happened and suggest what’s to come for Lily and those whose fates are tangled with hers. 
A brief (but relevant) bit about myself: Though I was late getting there, I graduated from Albertson College of Idaho in 2003 summa cum laude with a double major in Philosophy and Creative Writing. Professionally, my publishing credits have been in the journalism arena with Boise Weekly, where over the past few years I’ve penned numerous articles ranging from feature to arts to news writing. Some months ago, I gave up journalism and my job as BW’s Arts Editor—the place was sucking up all my time and creativity—in order to devote my energies to my first love, fiction writing. 
If you’re interested in taking a look at The Last Good Place of Lily Odilon, I’d love to send the manuscript for your review. In any event, thank you for your time.
Sara Beitia
And a much more concise letter:
Dear Mr. Malawer,I would like you to represent my 65,000-word contemporary teen novel My Big Nose & Other Natural Disasters. 
Seventeen-year-old Jory Michaels wakes up on the first day of summer vacation with her same old big nose, no passion in her life (in the creative sense of the word), and all signs still pointing to her dying a virgin. Plus, her mother is busy roasting a chicken for Day #6 of the Dinner For Breakfast Diet. 
In spite of her driving record (it was an accident!), Jory gets a job delivering flowers and cakes to Reno’s casinos and wedding chapels. She also comes up with a new summer goal: saving for a life-altering nose job. She and her new nose will attract a fabulous boyfriend. Nothing like the shameless flirt Tyler Briggs, or Tom who’s always nice but never calls. Maybe she’ll find someone kind of like Gideon at the Jewel CafĂ©, except better looking and not quite so different. 
Jory survives various summer disasters like doing yoga after sampling Mom’s Cabbage Soup Diet, Enforced Mother Bonding With Crazy Nose Obsessed Daughter Night, and discovering Tyler’s big secret. But will she learn to accept herself and maybe even find her passion, in the creative (AND romantic!) sense of the word? 
I have written for APPLESEEDS, Children’s Playmate, Confetti, FACES, Hopscotch, Story Friends, Wee Ones Magazine, the Deseret News, and Blooming Tree Press’ Summer Shorts anthology. I won the Utah Arts Council prize for Not-A-Dr. Logan’s Divorce Book. My novels Jungle Crossing and Going Native! each won first prize in the League of Utah Writers contest. I am currently serving as a Regional Advisor for SCBWI. 
I submitted My Big Nose & Other Natural Disasters to Krista Marino at Delacorte because she requested it during our critique at the summer SCBWI conference (no response yet).Thank you for your time and attention. I look forward to hearing from you.Sincerely,Sydney Salter Husseman
Sites like absolutewrite and are valuable resources for query critiques. Good luck!

Do you have any query stories or advice of your own? Let me know!


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