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 Annie Cardi. This great query connected her with her agent, Taylor Martindale.
Sixteen-year-old Alex Winchester’s mother starts calling herself Amelia Earhart—decades after the famous female pilot disappeared. This isn’t the first time Alex’s mother has struggled with mental health issues, so Alex and her father hope the delusion will work itself out. But a confrontation with one of Alex’s teachers makes Alex realize that this is going to be a long struggle for the whole family. Now Alex faces the responsibility of helping care for her young siblings and a mother who doesn’t recognize her.
Alex doesn’t feel like she can share her family situation with anyone, not even her friends. They assume Alex is ditching them to be with Jim Wiley, a cute junior famous for crashing a car into his house and who has suddenly taken an interest in Alex. Balancing her social life and the secret at home becomes harder than Alex ever imagined—and to top it all off, she’s the only person at her school failing drivers ed. Suddenly, the one person Alex can talk to is her mother, who spends her time mapping out historical flights. But when Alex realizes that Amelia Earhart’s final flight is approaching, she wonders if she can stop her mother from disappearing forever.
An accident involving Alex, her mom, and a late night car ride puts Alex’s mom in a residential care facility for extensive therapy. There, Alex tells her mother that she doesn’t want her to disappear like Amelia Earhart. She has to come home. Not long after being at the hospital, Alex begins to receive letters from her mother–not signed as Amelia Earhart. Although Alex knows that her mother working through deep emotional issues will be a long process, she’s hopeful that her mom will one day return.
I submitted to about 15-20 agents before signing with Taylor over the course of about six months. I had a big spreadsheet of agents I’d sent to, what their submissions policies were, the date I sent something out, and any info I heard back from them. I really appreciated when agents (particular those who requested fulls) would offer their feedback. I know agents are so busy working with their current clients and reading new submissions that even sending a few sentences of thoughtful comments can be a big boost in continuing to send work out.
When Taylor read my full manuscript, she said there was a lot about it that she did like but had some suggestions for revision and wanted to know if I would work with her on an exclusive revision. (The original ending was SO different, and Taylor is a big part of how that changed.) Getting to see Taylor’s suggestions and working with her a little before signing with her actually worked out really well for me. I got a sense of how she worked and what things she picked up in a manuscript, and showed me that we’d be a really good match.
I’ve loved working with Taylor, and I know at some points in the querying process I doubted myself and my story. But querying isn’t about finding someone who likes your manuscript–it’s about finding someone who really loved it and gets it and gets you as a writer. That can take a while, but don’t give up!