Friday, July 2, 2010


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 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.

Stephanie Boman

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.

Best regards,

- 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?

All best,

Me, later that day (okay, within minutes):

Ms. Reuben,

I am very happy to send along the full manuscript of FADING. I have attached it and look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Stephanie Boman

And on March 2, Alyssa wrote: (note the switch to a first name basis!)

Hi Stephanie:

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.

All best,

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!


Will Burke said...

Great point about the sample chapter, so they respond to the writing AND the story.

Candyland said...

I've seen this query on Query Tracker. Nicely done. The same thing happened to me with Mr. Yarn (he passed it to Alyssa, who also loved it), but it only got weird for me with that situation so congrats to you!!!

Vicki Rocho said...

Great query! Thanks for sharing.

The hardest part about blogging is hearing about all these wonderful books that aren't published yet. I am not very patient!

Anyway, great job. Congrats on the agent and hopefully you'll sell that sucker soon!

JE said...

I for one loved this! You want to know why? A rhetorical question right in the beginning that worked!!! Kudos to you!


Christina Lee said...

AWESOME. I really like seeing the emails too. Good luck to you, Stephanie!

Hannah said...

Great query! It is always so helpful to see the ones that were successful at snagging agents.

Creepy Query Girl said...

Wow- Congrats Stephanie!! That's an awesome letter and I love hearing your success story! Thanks for sharing!
Matt- '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.' Is it me, or does this rhyme? Your a poet and you didn't knowit. Or maybe you did...:)

Sarah Ahiers said...

my favorite parts of these posts are reading the agent responses, because that's something you don't get on other blogs and stories.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Guess perhaps the average reader info worked after all.

Jessica Bell said...

I think she obviously has an awesome story and writing style, because, even though this was a good query, it seemed very to the point and without any vivid voice. I don't mean that as a criticism, I mean it just shows that if you've got a great ms, you've got everything going for you.

Thanks for sharing guys!

Giles Hash said...

I've heard half a dozen agents say that a writer should never uses rhetorical questions in their query... I'm definitely glad it worked for you :D

Zoe C. Courtman said...

God I love these stories. The hope-!!! Thanks as always, Matthew! And congrats, Stephanie!

Talli Roland said...

Great job, Stephanie! Thanks for sharing.

Thanks again for sharing another successful query, Matthew.

Unknown said...

This was definitely one of those time when the rhetorical question worked. I was sold on the book from the get-go. Great job, Stephanie. And good luck with it. :D

Ted Cross said...

This makes it seem so easy, when we all know that isn't true. It reinforces my feeling that YA is getting almost all the attention these days. Great Job!

Unknown said...

Wow this was a brilliant one Matthew! Thank you so much for sharing it with us!!! This book sounds really intriguing and I'd love to read it, no one wants their best friend to disappear, especially when someone knew comes in and you don't know where it's going to end up!

I'm heading to her blog now!

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Anonymous said...

This was cool to see. Thanks!

Stephanie said...

Hey Matt, not sure what Christian Louboutin shoes has to do with my query, but the rest of your readers were wonderful! :)

Thank you all for the well wishes. I loved reading your thoughts on my query.

The rhetorical question never crossed my mind as a no-no. In fact, I remember some agents who said they liked "what if" stories. I guess I took it literally and put it front and center! You never know what will work for one and not another, though.

And as Alliterative Allomorph said, it may not be your query that sells the story. My goal for query writing was to be succinct. I didn't worry about showing voice, though I know that definitely works for some.

And I didn't mention it, but Alyssa did send some revision suggestions she had talked about in our first phone interview. I agreed with her ideas and made some changes that I thought made the story stronger.

Thank you again!!

Stephanie said...

And best of luck to all your readers who are still querying. I firmly believe any writer who wants it bad enough can make it happen eventually.

Matthew MacNish said...

I love anonymous comments plugging questionable websites! Your comment stays.

Matthew MacNish said...

You're welcome Steph, and thank you too!