If you ask any writer about the process of connecting with their agent (or publisher), the majority will say the most difficult part was querying. Not only the actual process of sending out the letters/emails, but formulating the query itself. In fact, I’ve heard more than a few authors say writing their query took them almost as long as drafting their book!
Some people have the talent of being able to summarize their book in a few sentences. But for those who don’t, I wanted to provide a resource so writers could learn what works, and what doesn’t, in a query.
With that in mind, I’m pleased to share today’s successful query from Rachel Simon. This great query connected her with her agent, Carrie Howland.
You favorited my #Pitmad pitch (“18yrold Sadie’s sister is home from war. But PTSD isn’t the only thing she brings w/her #pitmad #YA”) and asked to see my query and the first fifty pages.
All it takes is three letters—M.I.A—to send eighteen-year-old Sadie’s whole world crashing to the ground.
Her mama believes God will bring her sister back alive from the war, but Sadie knows the truth: Skylar isn’t coming home. While everyone else prays for her sister’s survival, Sadie copes by wrapping herself in the life Skylar left behind — in her sister’s nightmares and her boyfriend’s arms.
Skylar’s past haunts the corners of Sadie’s mind as secrets come to light. Like the postcards she finds describing a baby she never knew her sister had. Secrets that crush the perfect image she’s had of Skylar.
Sadie was right about Skylar, but not in the ways she imagined. She’s coming home. Someone who looks and talks like Skylar, but not the same. But Sadie’s not the person she left behind either. And it might just tear them apart. Sadie’s already lost her sister once–can she stand to lose her again?
My YA contemporary novel, OF FRAGILE THINGS, is complete at 52,000 words. It will appeal to fans of THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE by Jandy Nelson, SOMETHING LIKE NORMAL by Trish Doller, and THE IMPOSSIBLE KNIFE OF MEMORY by Laurie Halse Anderson.
My fun tidbit is that I landed Carrie through a Twitter pitch contest (and possibly a wedding).
A few years ago, my cousin got married and one of his wife’s bridesmaids was a literary agent named Carrie Howland. I didn’t think much of it because, at the time, I was working on a different novel for a revise and resubmit opportunity.
Flash forward to two years later, I had a new novel and weirdly great query stats (I kept refreshing my e-mail when I had 10 queries and 6 full requests; I couldn’t believe it).
In March 2014 during #PitMad, I threw out a Twitter pitch to this agent, who said to @her because the feeds were going so, so fast and she wanted to make sure she saw YA contemporary pitches. She favorited mine and asked for the first 50 pages. I immediately realized who she was (Carrie Howland! literary agent from my cousin’s wedding!) and froze up. Could I send her my full? Would she immediately reject me because we’d danced the horah together?
In the end, I told myself the worst that Carrie could do was reject me. She didn’t, to my surprise, and requested the full. In the meantime, I sent more queries and a week after my birthday in May, Carrie offered representation. Best. Birthday. Present. Ever!
For those wondering – here are my query stats: 30 queries, 5 partial requests, 1 revise and resubmit offer, 18 full requests, 4 offers.
Since signing with Carrie, we did many rounds of revisions and while the same themes are in the query above, the manuscript itself changed quite a bit.
I’m always a contest pusher when people are unsure of whether to partake in them or not.
Do it. There is no harm! :-)
Rachel Simon is a YA contemporary writer represented by Carrie Howland of Donadio & Olson. She’s from New Jersey (where she learned to say “huge” without the H, much to her critique partner’s chagrin) and now lives in Boston (where she does not drop her Rs). She received her B.A. in Creative Writing in 2012 and will receive a certificate in Publishing in August 2014. She likes traveling, tea, and nice boys in YA. You can find out more about her at her blog or follow her on Twitter.