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Query Letter That Got Me An Agent

May 21, 2009
courtesy: freedigitalphotos.net

courtesy: freedigitalphotos.net

In my previous post, Targeting Submissions, I talked about how I research agents by keeping a detailed reading list and focusing on agents who repped novels that I could relate to my own work. Here’s my actual query letter with my commentary in bold…

(formal greeting)
Dear Ms. Knowlton:

(start off with a bang; agents know it’s a query so don’t waste time saying so)
Fourteen-year-old Bethany was strolling through life just fine till her Dad smashed his car into a bridge…or so the story goes. Now Bethany must form an unlikely bond with “the neighborhood kid of a mysterious gender” to uncover the truth behind her father’s debilitating wreck and save her disintegrating family.

(spell out why you’re querying; show them you’ve researched)
I was pleased to read in an interview with K.L. Going that you are open to considering new clients. Would you care to review The Second Bridge, a 44,000 word contemporary YA novel? Having read Blind Faith, I thought of you for my project as Bethany, like Liz, finds solace outside her family as she struggles to connect with a parent who becomes disengaged after a traumatic loss. A couple years ago, I began a detailed reading list of YA books as a means of market research. Your name surfaces more than any other agent as I track books that appeal to me, including those by K.L. Going, Cynthia Leitich Smith (whom I met and discovered was in the same elementary district as me at the same time!), Catherine Atkins, and of course, all things Wittlinger. My children’s credits include One Smart Fish from Children’s Press, Highlights For Children (publication TBD), and Skipping Stones Magazine. I am a member of the Missouri Writers Guild and a senior writer at a Kansas City TV station where I earned an Emmy For Individual Achievement In Writing, as well as other industry awards.

(stop short of begging and hiney kissing, but be polite)
I would be thrilled if you would consider looking at The Second Bridge. Two sample chapters and an SASE for your reply are enclosed. Thank you very much for your time, and I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Sincerely,

Laura Manivong

Happy Querying!!

See book trailer for my debut novel from HarperCollins, Escaping The Tiger

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27 Comments leave one →
  1. Michelle Malakar permalink
    May 21, 2009 10:35 am

    Love it great query letter. Excellent. I’ve always wanted to be that personal yet professional and I backed away from putting in how I found the agent. So thanks for sharing. I will follow my instincts next time.
    Thanks,
    Michelle

    • Laura Manivong permalink*
      May 21, 2009 1:35 pm

      I forgot to mention one thing. The query here had a very short synopsis because I knew it was okay to send sample chapters. For an agent who specifically says “query only,” then I’d include a bit longer synopsis in lieu of sample pages. If an agent does not specify whether or not they want a partial, then send your first five pages anyway. Many times readers go straight to the pages anyway, despite how we labor over that query.

  2. May 21, 2009 11:30 am

    thanks for sharing that letter!

    • Laura Manivong permalink*
      May 21, 2009 1:38 pm

      No problem, Angela. Thanks for stopping by.

  3. jennifer3212 permalink
    May 21, 2009 2:20 pm

    Thanks for sharing!

    • Laura Manivong permalink*
      June 14, 2009 6:30 pm

      Sorry, Jennifer, that I didn’t reply earlier. Your comment was in my spam filter, and I just discovered it (I’m new at this :) ) You’re very welcome!

  4. May 21, 2009 3:51 pm

    Thanks for sharing, Laura. Is she shopping this book? Clearly you sold Escaping the Tiger first. Was it already finished as well?

    • Laura Manivong permalink*
      May 21, 2009 4:05 pm

      The Second Bridge went out when I first signed with her in fall 2006. I pulled it after a handful of editors said no. I polished up Tiger and that one sold quickly so now I’m back to the Bridge revision. It’s slow going with me between the kids, the 9-5, the edits on Tiger, American Idol, and the sleep my body forces me to get every once in awhile! :)

      • May 23, 2009 3:51 pm

        Laura,

        So generous of you to share your query and provide commentary! Also, I had to laugh at the obstacles in your path–AI, haha! Adam Lambert has been causing me to perform relentless Internet searches and endless YouTube watching.

        Great post!

        • Laura Manivong permalink*
          May 23, 2009 4:12 pm

          Now that AI’s over, I have one less excuse to use! Thanks for reading, Danette!

  5. May 21, 2009 4:10 pm

    You’ve got a lot of balls to juggle, Laura. All best in keeping them all in the air … Breathe. Sleep. And Good Luck!

  6. May 22, 2009 12:49 am

    This is such a great query. If I were an agent, I’d be totally impressed.

    Thanks for sharing with us. That’s really sweet of you. I plan on querying agents this fall (crossing fingers that I can get my book in order by then) so this is really helpful!

    • Laura Manivong permalink*
      May 22, 2009 1:12 pm

      Thanks, Christina. Good luck on getting your book in shape.

  7. June 10, 2009 4:13 pm

    Love that query letter, Laura! Thanks so much for sharing! I hope to start querying by the end of the summer (after a thorough revision!).

    • Laura Manivong permalink*
      June 10, 2009 10:14 pm

      Good luck! Querying agents can seem like a full-time job sometimes.

  8. Guadalupe Garcia McCall permalink
    July 13, 2009 10:07 pm

    Laura,
    Love the query… but I have a question about the webpage (which I love btw)… How do I go about getting one from iWeb?
    Guadalupe (from Tenners)

    • Laura Manivong permalink*
      July 13, 2009 11:51 pm

      Thanks Guadalupe! I’m not sure I understand your question. I bought my first mac about a year ago and the iWeb application comes with it. Godaddy hosts the site, but I built it myself. Does that help?

  9. July 14, 2009 9:43 am

    This is a wonderful query (and the definition of well-targeted).

  10. August 5, 2009 12:17 am

    Your query letter has a very cute and light touch. It worked for you. But you use this as a sample letter for the new – and unpublished – writer and I see limitations to its value here: First, you are already a published author so you come in with that market advantage. 1/3 of your 2nd paragraph is about your published works and awards. Secondly, much of that 2nd same paragraph could be construed as flattery and name-dropping, which many agents do not like. Yours apparently did (or did not mind). But given this, and, third, your very short synopsis and your inclusion of sample chapters, which are very clearly not accepted unsolicited in most queries these days, I don’t see that, for the new writer, there is very much substance to the query letter you have provided as a sample.

    • Laura Manivong permalink*
      August 5, 2009 9:46 am

      Sounds like you’ve done tons of research, and yep, there’s no one-size fits all query letter. Thanks, Jane!

  11. August 5, 2009 5:26 am

    This is great information, thanks for sharing it. Congratulations on your success!

    • Laura Manivong permalink*
      August 5, 2009 9:48 am

      Cheryl, so glad it’s helpful. Thanks a lot for letting me know.

  12. August 5, 2009 10:07 am

    Right! What I positively got from your sample was its wonderful and light-hearted and enthusiastic tone. And what I got from your reply is that there IS no “one size fits all” query letter and that the writer within us still has to find and manufacture that letter! Let’s see…I think I’m on query letter version #26 right now….Is this one the one that hits the spot????

    • Laura Manivong permalink*
      August 5, 2009 11:29 am

      Good luck, Jane! Btw, at the time I queried my agent, her agency had no website, and agentquery.com stated she wasn’t accepting queries, but I found an interview in which she said she likes to see two chapters with queries, so I’d found a nugget of info through research. Unless the policy specifically states “query ONLY,” I’ve heard many agents say to go ahead and include 5 sample pages, even if they don’t specifically state that in their submission policy. Fun stuff, all the contradictory stuff out there, huh?

  13. August 5, 2009 12:04 pm

    Yes, there you go! Thanks for this important insight – gleaned from experience and research. And of course if we are going to include 5 sample pages, we must paste it into the body of the email and NOT include it as an attachment.

  14. January 13, 2010 7:09 am

    A query letter is different from a cover letter, isn’t it?

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  1. Laura Manivong’s Successful Query Letter « Writing and Illustrating

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