In honor of Elana's upcoming Friday mega post (as in mega awesome, not mega long) I'm going to do something special today. *smiles and winks devilishly*
Today I'm going to share my first successful query ever. It is a strange one, as you will see. The query is still pretty bad, but I think it was the high level of personalization that made it work (at first).
This post is going to have to stretch into two parts, because, as you will discover, the correspondence with this agent is long. I will post part one today: the query and her initial request to read more. Tomorrow I will share part two: our continued correspondence, and you'll see how things really got weird.
Before I begin I must point out a couple of things about this agent. She is listed in Predators & Editors. She is not recommended but is not listed as "not recommended" either. She did have confirmed sales to a major publishing house but it is still not clear whether she is a member of the Association of Authors Representatives or AAR. Much of this should have been a warning sign had I known more about this kind of thing at the time. Now it's all just hindshight.
So on to the query:
May 29th, 2009
I am writing to you seeking representation for my young adult fantasy-adventure novel, which has the working title WARRIOR-MONKS and is complete. Warrior-Monks is intended for young adult readers ages 13-17, who are buying books in droves these days, but I am certain that once you read the manuscript you will find that it is mature enough and compelling enough to enthrall even the most discerning adult reader as well.
Okay obviously this part is still terrible. That much should be clear. No need to break it down any further than that.
My novel is about a school in Northern Idaho where troubled teens are sent but which turns out to be a unique place where the students learn things like calligraphy, Aikido, Kenjutsu and Meditation while discovering a bit of magic and mysticism on the way. The main character is a teenaged boy named Lee who is from a broken family and is sent to this school by his cruel aunt and uncle after his mother dies and his father is incarcerated. Incidentally there just so happens to be a Unicorn in the story too, but she isn't really discovered until almost the very end (I promise I didn't write this part just for you).
Gawd, this is really bad too. Hokey as hell. Her website does mention a love of Unicorns, and there is one in my novel (sort of); but I really didn't write that in just for her and I thought it was an interesting enough coincidence to point out to her. I suppose it worked but looking back at this now it's kind of pathetic. Oh well.
I have never been published but I am confident that many authors like Christopher Paolini and Brunonia Barry have proved that you do not have to be a highly experienced or best-selling author to write an incredibly entertaining book. I am 32 years old and live north of Atlanta with my girlfriend and our two daughters, Kylie age 13 and Madison age 7. I work for a technology company but my dream is to be a published author. I don't care about getting rich but I feel that I have written a novel that will touch people and I really just want an agent who will help me get it out there to the readers. Making some money along the way wouldn't be bad either and I certainly understand that your agency is a business and I am willing to do whatever it takes to help you help me sell this book.
Wow. This is more uncomfortable than a boil in the ass crack. That paragraph is tough to share with you guys. Embarrassing. I don't normally write drivel like this but her submission guidelines insisted that I share something about myself and why I wanted to get published. I hate it when they do that but in the future I hope I can put something better than this nonsense together.
Please feel free to reply to this email, or to call me on my mobile phone at any time at 206-555-1212, or even to write to me at home at:
That's not my real number BTW Giles, but thanks for your warning last week! Good lookin out.
I believe you can call 555-1212 from any area code and get directory assistance. That's why they use it in some movies.
Thank you for your consideration of this proposal. I look forward to hearing from you soon.
Matthew M. Rush
Her strange but somewhat wonderful (at the time) reply:
Unicorns? We're hooked! (Kidding of course) All of that aside...
What we'd like next is the first three chapters in addition to whatever pre-chapter material you may have, such as forewords, intros, prologues, etc. If you have a lexicon and difficult names in the body of the text, feel free to pass that along as well.
We typically prefer that our clients attach the aforementioned articles to an e-mail as one document, saved with a rich text format (.rtf) file extension. The name of the manuscript/your name should appear in the upper left corner of each page, and the page number should appear on the right upper hand corner of each page. We like one, to one-and-a-half inch margins with double spaced lines and paragraphs indented on the first line. Acceptable fonts are 12 point Times New Roman, Courier and Arial.
This is typical, except for the Arial font allowance, but I loved her for it.
At REDACTED Literary Services we are not interested so much in whether our authors have written the best thing since they invented the wheel, or even that they have the most lucrative writing career in the world. Our company in fact, is set up to help people who have not enjoyed a vast list of publishing accomplishments. What we want is a good solid, salable story and authors who don't mind rolling their sleeves up to work alongside us, and who don't cry when we have to send the work to editing.
This sounded great at the time, but looking back it sort of makes you go hmmm?
We realize that authors, editors and agents don't always agree on what looks best on paper when it comes to the writing aspect of the work, but the authors here who have an open mind, are always more prosperous. We too realize that we can be wrong.
This is cool but seems really unnecessary in this opening correspondence, not sure what her point was at that ... point.
Recently, we had a discussion with an author who had written an entire book in passive voice. When this was brought to his attention, his response was that he wanted the reader a little dislocated from the story because it turns out to be a dream of the "omen nature" at the end. Rather than argue, we re-read the manuscript, had meetings about it, hung this author's picture in the break room and threw darts at it for a few days, then called him back.
Okay, cool story, but TMI. What does this have to do with anything?
We struck up a compromise to add SOME detail, correct SOME of the voice, and we sold his manuscript last month. Was it an easy sale? No. Pulling healthy teeth would have been easier but the important thing is that it sold and he now takes a little constructive criticism well. We learned that sometimes we can be wrong. This guy is going to be offered a speaking platform at the comic con in New York next month! Who knew?
That pretty much hooked me since I am a total nerd. I'm not like obsessed with comics or anything, and haven't owned any since childhood, but man would I love to speak at Comic Con.
So... here we are. If for some reason, you cannot possibly attach the requested material to an e-mail you may feel free to use the United States Postal Service, so long as you follow the general guidelines for submission listed above. Please print on one side only and make sure to write the words "Requested Material" on the envelope somewhere. You may submit in this form to:
The REDACTED Literary Services Agency
ATTN: Senior Editor REDACTED
Senior Editor? I didn't even notice that at the time, but what does that mean? I thought she was an agent.
Thank you so much for your time and for considering REDACTED Literary Services for placement of your manuscript. We look forward to receiving your reply.
Of course I was ecstatic. She wanted to read my novel! Or at least part of it. We'll go into more about that tomorrow.
For now this is what I sent her right away:
Thank you so much for your interest in my project. I am at work and cannot attach the file from here but I will send it to you as soon as I get home. I look forward to working together in the future.
Thanks and have a great weekend,
Confused? Ticked? Rolling your eyes knowingly? I know, something was a little rotten in Denmark, but don't judge her (or me) too harshly. At least not until Part II, tomorrow.
And more importantly, don't forget to come back for Elana!