Friday, April 16, 2010


Today we have another awesome gust blogger. Rachele Alpine of Freckle Head. She is sharing the query that landed her an agent. She is represented by Lina Sion at Global Literary Management.

Please be sure to visit her blog today as she is holding a query contest based off her guest post! This is a great opportunity to get some feedback on your query so be sure to enter.

I’m sure you’re all used to the format by now, but if not Rachele’s thoughts are in blue, and my comments are in red.

Her query:

Ms. Sion:

I would like to introduce CANARY, my edgy YA novel complete at 73,000 words. The novel is told in a combination of narrative and blog entries.

This is a revised query based off of comments from Kate Schafer Testerman. I submitted my first draft to her on her blog and she posted it for comments. While it scared the heck out of me to put my query out to the public, every one had some really great ideas. One of the main comments was that my first paragraph (hook) sounded a lot like the second paragraph summary. I broke a big query letter tradition and deleted the hook, making my first paragraph short and sweet.

This paragraph is all business. It does lay out all the basics in a nice neat manner. I love that she called her genre edgy and that she pointed out the unique format of her novel. The combination of narrative and blog entries sounds really enticing to me.

Don't forget to check out Ask Dahpne! About My Query for feedback on your own letter.

Kate McCrea’s dad is good at coaching basketball; what he isn’t good at is communicating with Kate and her brother Brett. When her mother dies, he shuts down, throwing himself into basketball as a way to cope with his grief, leaving Kate alone in silence. When he lands a job at Beacon, Kate finds it easy to fit in when she starts dating a player on the team, while her brother, shy and weak, is rejected by the school. Kate quickly learns to overlook the perks given to the athletes who openly disgrace her brother for not being one of them. However, the players take their power too far one night at a party and Kate is raped. Kate doesn’t stay silent about the rape, but her accusations aren’t accepted by the Beacon community. The school rallies with the team and lashes out at her. Ugly rumors are created to destroy Kate and her credibility. She’s not praised for her decision to be truthful, but instead, it brings terrible consequences. The final blow comes when her dad tries to silence her in order to protect the team. The world that Kate believed was safe is now her worst enemy, and Kate must decide whether to stay silent or expose the corruption, destroying her father’s career and bringing down a town’s heroes.

Again, my earlier draft was a bit different. I didn’t mention a lot of specifics. I alluded to things and talked about a tragic event, but I didn’t say what that was. I didn’t want to ruin the plot for the agent, but I learned that you should. Tell them the problems, situations and major events. Don’t keep things a secret. You need to tell them everything major in your book.

She is certainly right about specifics – especially when it comes to plot. I can see why she would consider this edgy. The plot sounds incredibly compelling and the stakes of the conflict are certainly high.

I am a graduate of Boston University, where I earned a Masters in English Education, and I am currently working on a Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing (Fiction) at Cleveland State University. I may not be in high school anymore, but I am a high school English teacher and experience daily the struggles teenagers have trying to find their own voice among the heavy influence of their peers. I have seen first hand what hooks my students into a book or series.

I know an author’s background isn’t that important to an agent, so I only chose information that I felt related directly to my book.

This is perfect. Obviously this is Rachele’s first novel, but she doesn’t need to point that out. The things she does mention are 100% relevant to the structure of her book and she brings them up in a way that doesn’t undermine the most important part: what actually HAPPENS in it.

Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to sending you sample chapters or the completed manuscript of CANARY.

Thank you,
Rachele Alpine

Lina replied back asking for a full manuscript:

Dear Rachele,

Thank you for sending your query to our agency. I am interested in reading your manuscript. Feel free to email it to me by replying to this message or to mail it to the address below to my attention.


She read it in three days and requested representation. I contacted the other agents who had my full and waited until every one replied back to make my final decision to sign with Lina. The process of querying is like a rollercoaster. I loved the adrenaline of it, but it is scary as you wait for those replies back. Finding an agent is great, but now that I’m on the submission process to editors it feels like I’ve climbed onto a bigger and faster roller coaster. The adrenaline never stops! Wish me luck and I wish the best to all of you.

We surely do Rachele! Thanks so much for sharing your successful query with us and best of luck with the submission process.

So this example is a bit different from last week’s. The query is longer and more detailed but I think that’s appropriate for the context of the novel. This sounds like a story covering some pretty important issues and I think they call for the appropriate seriousness.

Don’t forget to visit Rachele’s blog this morning to enter her contest. She also is a regular blogger with lots of fun things to say so make sure to become a follower as well.

Otherwise what do you think? Please share your thoughts in the comments and make sure to thank Rachele and Lina as well.


Vicki Rocho said...

Congratulations, Rachele! (I'm hoping for a happy ending....give those butt heads what they deserve!)

Thanks for another enlightening post, Matt!

Tina Laurel Lee said...

Rachele, I really am curious about you protagonist. Sounds like an intense book. And very helpful to read your query. Thanks.

And thanks, Matthew.

Anonymous said...

Wow, talk about a whirlwind! Three days- lucky duck! Congrats to you and CANARY sounds like a powerful and captivating story! Good Stuff!

Unknown said...

Canary sounds intriguing!!!! Sounds very intense so I look forward to more!!

Thanks for an awesome post Matthew!

Marsha said...

Congrats to Rachele! Thanks, Matthew, for sharing. I'm really enjoying your blog posts on the subject.

Rachele Alpine said...

Awww, thanks for the comments, everyone. I'm excited that you find the book interesting...let's hope an editor does too!

Kristine Asselin said...

Awesome post, Matthew. And, thanks to Rachele for sharing her query. How exciting! It sounds like a great book.

JE said...

Once again you have done a wonderful post Matt. Thank you for sharing your story Rachele; Canary really sounds like a good book! Best of luck once it finds it's way to the shelves!


Slamdunk said...

I wondered how professional experience should be addressed. Thanks for the example.

Candyland said...

Great post! I love queries that work and why!

Kristan said...

Here via Rachele's blog and thanks to both of you for this! It's so great to see real queries that succeeded -- and not ones from 10 yrs ago, haha. I can definitely see the strengths in this query, and the commentary helps explain how they got in there. Appreciate it!

Laura Pauling said...

Congrats to Rachele. Thanks for sharing Matthew. I love reading successful queries. So helpful.

Zoe C. Courtman said...

Great job, Rachele! And thanks, Matthew, for highlighting it! This is a really helpful series :D I've also left you an award over on my blog :D Thanks for being so cool!

Jonathon Arntson said...

Matt, and Rachele, my problem with visiting TheQQQE is that I am nowhere near the querying process and when I read all these queries, I want to read the book! My TBR pile is full enough and that's just published books.

I will definitely be referencing this particular query when I do find myself in need because edgy can be used to describe my YA.

Thanks you two for being so thorough!!

Matthew MacNish said...

You're all welcome of course, but all the credit really goes to Rachele, and maybe a bit to Ms. Sion.

Unknown said...

Interesting query. Longer than I'd been taught to write, but your book totally needs it! Congrats on your rep, and good luck on the search!

Tracy said...

Great job, Rachele. I especially like how you laid it out about not wanting to spoil the plot for the agent. I know that's what I've struggled with while creating my query & it's a tough habit to break.

Christina Lee said...

Yeah Rachele- I was always curious about your query/story and now I know! Fingers crsooed for you!

Shelley Sly said...

Congratulations, Rachele, and bravo! Excellent query. And your book sounds awesome, I'd love to read it.

Jaydee Morgan said...

Congrats Rachel!

I love reading these queries. I learn so much from them.

Angie Paxton said...

Matthew, these query guest posts are great. When I get around to doing my blog post for today I'll do a link to this and please feel free to plug your blog in my comments section anytime.

Angie said...

Nice query. I needed that today. I'm working on writing a query of my own.

Elana Johnson said...

This is a well put-together query. I can see why it landed you requests and ultimately an offer. Congrats! And best of luck out there!

Lola Sharp said...

CONGRATS Rachele, and may the bidding wars begin!!

Another great query Friday post, Matt.

Happy Weekend,

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Thank you both! I've already popped over to Rachele's blog and back. Great stuff!! :-)

Courtney Barr - The Southern Princess said...

Wonderful post! I love the letter and can see how it would be appealing...goodness knows how terrified I am of querying when mine is ready...

Matt - great guest!

Visit My Kingdom Anytime

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing. And congratulations Rachele!

angelarene said...

Great post Matt and a great query Rachele...Can't wait to read Canary!

lisa and laura said...

Ooh! I love it! I think this is SO helpful--thanks Rachele and Matt!

Roland D. Yeomans said...

Life is seldom what you expect, and that is spotlighted by Rachele. Gripping query. Thanks, Matt, for such a great interview.

And thanks for visiting my blog and caring enough to comment. It helps me feel as if I am not playing to an empty house. Roland

Ann Marie Wraight said...

Hi Matthew from a new follower!

Yes - those query letters really give me the eebie geebies!

They need an awful lot of research before you send them individually to each agent.

THANK YOU BOTH for giving us


Okie said...

Thanks for sharing a great query. Sounds like an intriguing read and I'm glad to hear that the query experience went well.

Thanks for compiling this great advice for the rest of us. :)