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 Caitlin Sinead. This great query connected her with her agent, Andrea Somberg at Harvey Klinger, Inc.
Even as a senior in college, Quinn is not so good at understanding the difference between bacteria and viruses or explaining to smitten men that she’d really just prefer a dash of random hookups.
Quinn is good at other things. Like drinking wine in the Virginia college town’s civil war graveyard and crafting plucky modern dance routines. But these skills aren’t exactly useful when she wakes up one morning with purple eyes.
They don’t hurt. In fact, the condition seems to spur speedy healing. After a religious group attacks her—the eyes are evil, obviously—her bloody coughs and broken arms become mere memories within hours. However, as more students’ eyes shift to purple, the violence increases. It becomes painfully clear that the healing disease can’t save you from a five-story fall. Or decapitation.
Thing is, the religious group isn’t responsible for the rash of killings. A small town plus an unknown serial killer is bad, but it gets worse when a quarantine is added to the equation. Once there is no escape, Quinn realizes she can’t rely on “smarter people” to save her and her friends.
Fortunately, she has a theory. She just needs proof, which demands that she study scientific terminology and hone her deductive reasoning skills. And she will also have to try to work with the local cops. Even if the young lead detective just so happens to be one of those aforementioned smitten men.
Caitlin’s Query Tidbit:
As for a fun tidbit, I broke a good rule with this query. The first few sentences are just setting things up. It takes a while to get to the hook. That is usually not good, but I took a chance and tried to show off my voice more than the plot. This was based on feedback I got on my first book in which agents said I had a strong voice.
In the end, I got more requests with this query (and obviously an agent!) than with my first query, which starts with a clear, one-line pitch covering the main character, her goal, the stakes, and the antagonist force.
I still think it’s a really good idea to know and generally follow query and writing rules–and if this hadn’t done well, I would have revised it and played it safe–but sometimes a little breaking of the rules still works.