Thursday, July 29, 2010
Today's guest blogger is Rose Cooper. You all know the rules by now right? Before reading on you must visit her blog and become a follower.
Back? Excellent. So, Rose is (obviously) the author of GOSSIP FROM THE GIRLS ROOM, A BLOGTASTIC! NOVEL. Her novel will be released on January 11, 2011 by Delacorte/Random House. You can Pre-Order it online now at: Amazon or Borders or Barnes & Noble.
I won't go on any longer but just make sure you check Rose out. She has some very cool and quirky artwork, and her blog is a damn fun read! Also, a quick shout out to Vicki Rocho, who introduced me to Rose and talked her into coming on to The QQQE to share her query with us. Yay MissV.
I know it's been a couple of weeks but you guys do remember how this works right? Rose's query will be in black. She has elected a lovely light blue to indicate her own analysis and I think I'll go with ... a sort of magenta for my thoughts, because the pink on Rose's blog IS awesome, but it would be too hard to read.
Take it away Rose:
Thank you so much for the chance to share, Matthew! I chose Rosemary Stimola, who was always at the top of my list. I had queried her in the past but still held out hope. When I came up with the idea for this new book, it happened so quickly (I wrote it in two weeks) and I immediately thought of her and queried her at once.
Dear Rosemary Stimola,
I am seeking representation for my middle grade novel, BATHROOM BLOG.
Very simple and upfront. She knows exactly what I’m querying her about. *Note-this was the title before my editor, and then marketing, made final changes to what is now the current title.
What is said in the Girls Room stays in the Girls Room. Until now. The unspoken law about bathroom gossip has been broken, by none other than 6th grader Sofia Becker. She can’t help but overhear (very carefully) the best kept secret in all of Middlebrook Middle School. And it’s so interesting that she can’t help but blog about it. The gossip gets better as Sofia begins staking out the girls room by spending embarrassing amounts of time in the stall.
I wanted to try to hook the agent with this paragraph, summing it all up without giving boring details, and even gaining some character insight right off the bat. You can already tell what some of the conflict will deal with. And because this is a humorous book, I didn’t want the query to be taken “too seriously.”
Are you surprised that I like Sofia right away? I'm not. Details are vague here, sure, but that's just fine in a query, in fact it's often better. The key here is that I'm sympathizing with her right away, I'm curious what she's discovering, and I'm enjoying how she's going about it. A 6th grader who blogs? How could that not be awesome.
Sofia first uses her pre-blogging notebook to jot down all the juiciness so she won’t forget any single important detail. Even if some of it gets mixed up or embellished a little before it hits the computer screen. After all, that just makes it more interesting, right? I’m incorporating some of the characters voice here, but not going overboard. I didn’t want the info to sound robotic or dull. I wanted it to be personable and try to show some of my character in here too. What Sophia doesn’t anticipate is what to do when she hears gossip about herself. Or her best friend. Or if her notebook falls into the wrong hands. And here’s the main conflict. I never give away how the resolution in a query. That’s left for the synopsis. It should be just enough to leave the agent wanting more, but at the same time knowing you have a strong character, great hook and concept.
Flawed character (willing to exaggerate is plenty of flaw for a middle schooler)? Check. Entertaining voice? Check. Conflict? Check. Tough decisions to be made re: said conflict. Um, yeah ... check.
In BATHROOM BLOG, Sophia’s pre-blogging notebook features all the gossipy details along with humorous sketches and drawings from her point of view. She includes notes to herself, since her brain goes numb when it comes to the super important things, her helpful lists and ranks of classmates, and not to mention the mixed up info she actually puts on her blog. Sofia may take things a bit far, but that doesn’t mean she’ll always learn her lesson. Hmmm, I wonder what’s being said in the Boys Room…
See how I slyly added in the possibility for a sequel without pitching to her that I wanted this to become a series (which was my main intention)? And guess what? My second book in the series will be out 2012—RUMORS FROM THE BOYS ROOM! Normally, I wouldn’t have added this last paragraph to a query, I like it short and simple, but in this case I felt like I need to because I did something I’ve never done before—I drew those sketches and illustrations and included them with the manuscript. I had no idea of knowing how she or any other agent would react to this, so I wanted to add additional info to set this idea up.
Okay, of course that's great news, congrats Rose! But what I like is how smoothly she delivered it in the original query. This kind of tact requires great skill and though it might seem at first as if it was something that might be missed remember that agents are very smart people, but they don't like to be TOLD things outright.
Also I'm sure we've all read not to ever include illustrations with your query. They say the writing must stand on its own, the publisher will choose their own illustrator if they elect to and so on ... but the bottom line is that rules, especially rules about writing, are MEANT to be broken, and I LOVE LOVE LOVE that Rose has given us an awesome example of that here.
I am a freelance writer and artist with children’s stories that have appeared in Dragonfly Spirit, Whittle Tykes, and Wee Ones. I am published online and in print papers and magazines including Foolish Times, OnTopic Magazine, Cynic Mag, and Sacramento Book Review. I’m an online humor columnist with The NetWits and a previous editor of BellaOnline.
I didn’t have any published books under my belt, and I’m not sure if this even worked, but I thought it might help to show I had some “humor” credentials since I was pitching for a humor kid’s book, even though some of my published articles were non-kid related.
Not being an agent myself it's hard to know exactly how much difference this stuff makes. My best guess is that in this situation it certainly didn't hurt!
BATHROOM BLOG is geared toward the audience of Diary of a Wimpy Kid series and Dear Dumb Diary series. The sketches are similar to those books in the way that they are very simple, neat and clean. And it portrays the fantastic artistic talent of Sofia Becker.
This last paragraph was very important for me. I felt I needed to make the comparison to give her the idea of what she would be looking at, if she requested more. I didn’t want her to expect great works of art, because it was, as the last sentence sums up, the sketches of the main character. And when you see the sketches, you know she’s anything but a fantastic talented artist. So right there, you would know the character is very sarcastic as well.
Love that little bit of snark!
May I send you sample chapters and/or accompanying artwork possibilities for consideration?
Thank you for your time. I look forward to hearing from you.
I got the first response back from Rosemary in about an hour. She requested the first 15 pages, read it, then later that day asked if she could share it with editors at the Bologna Book Fair. It was hard to wrap my head around. I didn’t even have the rest of the illustrations scanned in, since I wasn’t sure if she would want to see more. She told me when she got back into town (2 looong weeks later) to send her the full ms will all images. I did and she signed me the next day. BUT, if I had been better prepared, I could’ve had an agent with days of my query! So my tip—have confidence in your work and always be prepared no matter what!
Well that probably sounds lighting fast to all of us but of course if you're the one waiting ...
So what do you guys think? I find it really fun and interesting to see the process for a MG novel in which the author IS the illustrator, especially since Rose is just so darn cool.
Do you all have any questions for her? Thoughts or comments?
In the meantime don't forget to visit Rose's blog and become a follower, since if you read this post without doing so first you're fired anyway. Also, she's holding a contest. Well we're sort of holding it together, but as lazy as I am I'm having her do all the work. Yayz!
All you have to do is leave a comment mentioning that you are interested, on my blog or on Rose's (leaving one on both WILL grant you a double entry). She'll have more details on her blog, but since you've already visited you know that. The prize? Oh yeah, contests have prizes. The winner(s) will receive a query critique from Rose!
I'll see if I can talk her into letting me post the critique and add some of my own analysis (or just jokes) once it's done! Huzzah!