Today's guest blogger is Stephanie Boman. Please make sure to visit her blog and become a follower. She also has a nice website so stop by there as well if you find the time.
You guys know the drill. Stephanie's thoughts are in blue. Mine are in red. If you haven't figured that (or something like it) by now you may have to check your head.
Take it away Steph!
Thanks, Matt, for giving me a chance to share my query with your readers. I chose Alyssa Reuben of Paradigm to be my agent this past March. This was the second wave of email queries I had sent on this book after a major revision. My original query was not too different, but I did tweak it, and this time I got more requests early on. Whether I did something right or the bad-economy scare was easing up, I'm not sure. I originally sent my query to her colleague, Jason Yarn on December 18, 2009.
I'm sure that even with the economy recovering agents are not offering to rep projects they don't love.
Dear Mr. Yarn,
I am hoping you will be interested in my YA paranormal originally I had called it urban-fantasy, but since it had a ghost element, I decided this was more appropriate. Sometimes it's hard to nail down the exact genre of your novel titled FADING, complete at 56,000 words.
I have this problem big-time. I think many of us do.
What would you do if you had to choose between your best friend and your first love? What if your best friend was dead? I honestly don't know what other people think of this line, but it's my favorite part of my query. I personally think it works well as a hook: short, simple and sums up the major conflict of my book.
High stakes, unique premise. Clearly it worked.
Sixteen-year-old Lovey doesn't know why Celeste has come back as a spirit after being hit and killed by a car, she's just happy to have her BFF again, in whatever form. But a door has been left open to the spirit world, allowing evil wraiths to enter and torment the living. Adding to her turmoil, new guy Troy Armstrong seems to be interested in Lovey, but the closer she gets to him, the more Celeste begins to fade. All the main elements of the story are in this paragraph.
Ooh, that's unique (and troublesome). Looks like Stephanie has set up some great conflict here that certainly seems dramatic. The stakes might not be quite life and death, but they sound close.
Lovey, whose OCD has gotten worse since the accident see how slyly I slipped in another layer of the story? heh heh, has to make a choice, but it will take a strength she's never known before to overcome her guilt and insecurity. Can Lovey sacrifice the one thing that's ever given her a feeling of self-worth in order to set things right?
FADING has been well received on the HarperTeen website for teen literature, "inkpop". I know the opinion of random people doesn't mean a lot at this point, but you may want to check out the enthusiasm of my readers here (link to site where reviews were posted) This was the iffiest part of the whole query. In past queries I NEVER mentioned what Joe Blow thought; I know it's uber-unprofessional. BUT, in this case I thought it was worth the risk, because these were not opinions of people I knew. I put some chapters up on this site, which is run by a reputable publishing house, and the response from teen readers, my target audience, was overwhelming. My book soared in the ranks. I was never told if this did anything to help or hinder my query, however, so I guess I'll never know how foolish or smart it was. Recently, I was one of the top five finalists in a Querytracker.net agent submission contest again, not a big whoopti-do, but I guess I wanted to point out the fact that it was getting attention in the industry. It must have just happened and I guess I was still stoked about it. I probably wouldn't include this if I had it to do over again. Oddly enough, my choice came down to the agent who looked at it from the contest and Alyssa. I have had a short story and poems published in the American River Literary Review la, all the publishing credits I had to my name. Though small, I included it, hoping that the fact that someone thought my writing was publishable would carry some weight (besides vanity presses, of course, who think EVERYONE is publishable). I have included the first chapter in the body of this email. I feel super strongly about this. I think it's important to offer a sample of your writing right up front whenever you can. Unless the guidelines STRICTLY forbid it, and I mean, they explicitly say, "DO NOT include a sample chapter in the body of your query email unless you want to be publicly humiliated on twitter", or they request an initial sample in another form, I would include it. Many times there are no submission guidelines, or if there are, they don't say not to. My thought is that the agent can read it if she wants to, or not, and if it really annoys him/her then I probably wouldn't want to work with them anyway. Thanks for your time, I look forward to hearing from you!
Sorry for the huge block of text guys! But of course Stephanie's real paragraph (sans analysis) is short and her analysis is worth it.
On December 29th I received:
Dear Ms. Boman,
Thanks for getting in touch with your query. I found your opening interesting and would like to see more (see? that chapter I included in the BODY of the email (never as an attachment) worked!) – I’d appreciate it if you would email me the first 50 pages as an attachment. I look forward to reading.
- Jason Yarn
I sent it to him lickety split and heard from Alyssa on Feb 22:
Dear Ms. Boman:
My colleague, Jason Yarn, passed me your sample of FADING to review and I very much enjoyed it. Would you mind emailing me your complete manuscript?
Me, later that day (okay, within minutes):
I am very happy to send along the full manuscript of FADING. I have attached it and look forward to hearing your thoughts.
And on March 2, Alyssa wrote: (note the switch to a first name basis!)
I would love to have a chat with you about your material. Would you mind passing me your number or you can try me anytime at the number below.
And it just got better from there. Currently, my book is on submission to editors.
That's great Stephanie! It sounds like representation got worked out for you quickly and no major revisions were necessary. I know I'm looking forward to seeing your book on the shelves.
Well, we certainly wish her the best of luck with getting it sold, don't we guys? So what do you guys think? What was different about Stephanie's query? Why do you think it worked?
Stephanie is unfortunately out of town right now and probably won't respond to any comments today, but I'll leave this up all weekend and she may get a chance to look at it then. Thanks for stopping by!