Wednesday, February 18, 2009

More on Querying

So my lovely agent shot me an email yesterday about some work-related stuff, but then also commented that she'd read the blog entry re: queries and that I'd, and the folks in the comment section, got it exactly right. She even noted how she STILL, even to this day, remembers my query letter, along with those of a few of her shining star clients, several of whom posted comments yesterday. (Rock on, gals!) So it really is a matter of writing just the right query letter that gets your foot in the door. Keep at it.

On that note, the always-awesome Larramie emailed me last night to say she'd dug out the query letter for The Department of Lost and Found from the archives here and was kind enough to email it to me. She was actually doing this at the request of a fan over at The Divining Wand, where Larramie helps grant people's wishes, but nevertheless, she beat me to it. And thus, here is my query letter from The Department. I think, even now, four years later, it really hits a lot of the elements I was discussing yesterday: it gives a taste of the plot, it really demonstrates my own voice, there is no passivity in it - only action and forward motion from the very get-go.

As I said yesterday, I got a LOT of positive feedback from this query, so I hope it proves helpful for a few of you guys!

Dear XX,

Natalie Miller had a plan. She had a goddamn plan. Top of her class at Dartmouth. Even better at Yale Law. Youngest aide ever to the powerful Senator Claire Dupris. Higher, faster, stronger. This? Was all part of the plan. True, she was so busy ascending the political ladder that she rarely had time to sniff around her mediocre relationship with Ned, who fit the three Bs to the max: basic, blond and boring, and she definitely didn't have time to mourn her mangled relationship with Jake, her budding rock star ex-boyfriend.

The lump in her right breast that Ned discovers during brain-numbingly bland morning sex? That? Was most definitely not part of the plan. And Stage IIIA breast cancer? Never once had Natalie jotted this down on her to-do list for conquering the world. When her (tiny-penised) boyfriend has the audacity to dump her on the day after her diagnosis, Natalie's entire world dissolves into a tornado of upheaval, and she's left with nothing but her diary to her ex-boyfriends, her mornings lingering over the Price is Right, her burnt out stubs of pot which carry her past the chemo pain, and finally, the weight of her life choices - the ones in which she might drown if she doesn't find a buoy.

The Department of Lost and Found is a story of hope, of resolve, of digging deeper than you thought possible until you find the strength not to crumble, and ultimately, of making your own luck, even when you've been dealt an unsteady hand.

I'm a freelance writer and have contributed to, among others, American Baby, American Way, Arthritis Today, Bride's, Cooking Light, Fitness, Glamour, InStyle Weddings, Lifetime Television, Men's Edge, Men's Fitness, Men's Health, Parenting, Parents, Prevention, Redbook, Self, Shape, Sly, Stuff, USA Weekend, Weight Watchers, Woman's Day, Women's Health, and,, and I also ghostwrote The Knot Book of Wedding Flowers.

If you are interested, I'd love to send you the completed manuscript.

Thanks so much! Looking forward to speaking with you soon.


Debra Lynn Shelton said...

Allison, Great letter. And your credits don't hurt, either!

Anonymous said...

That's an awesome query! Thanks for sharing.

Just a question?

If you blog - on your own or with a network/group - should you mention it?

Amy Sue Nathan said...

The best lesson from this letter is the not only the kind of info you share in it, but its rhythm.


Anonymous said...

Wow! This helps so much-- now I have a MUCH better sense of how voice can be conveyed through a query letter! I'd always heard that, but I wouldn't have had the guts to go so far away from business format had I not seen this letter.

I haven't been commenting much lately because I'm not at the publication stage of my novel at all, but thanks again for the great advice.

Ok... actually I do have a question. I wrote a NaNoWriMo novel whose plot basically consisted of Experiences That I Know Well Enough to Write About. After getting deep into serious revisions, along came Big, High-Concept Idea-- one that intrigues me more, but I feel I would be BSing my way through because it isn't in any way based on my personal experience (except as a closeted celebrity stalker). How crucial do you think it is to channel personal experiences into your novels? I'm torn because I think I write more convincingly about things I've experienced, but I'm probably screwing myself by FORCING marathoning, teaching, and cat ownership into plots just BECAUSE I've experienced them. I know you emphasize that your novels aren't based on your life, but at the same time you write about women who are in broad strokes similar to you-- I'm thinking of writing about characters caught up in an utterly different world.

Thanks for any insight you can offer!


Unknown said...

Thank you so much for posting this query letter. It is so helpful to see a letter that caught an agents eye.

LarramieG said...

I actually remembered that query almost by heart, Allison, because of its power. Your words brimmed with such confidence and promise that I couldn't wait to read TDLF so how could an agent resist! *G*

*And thank you much for the "plug."

Anonymous said...

Allison, you provide lots of helpful information and tips on the business. Keep up the good work. I enjoy your blog and get quite a chuckle out of your mega self-esteem. You go girl! said...

Allison, Wow, this is a great query and makes me realize exactly what is missing in my own. I'd read your query months ago, (digging through your archives) but thank you for posting it here again, it really pops.

BTW, I've done an interview with Larramie today on my blog to promote her terrific new blog: The Divining Wand, where she's working hard to grant wishes galore.

I hope you'll stop by and read the interview and then go check out her blog...let's see if we can promote her terrific new blog through word of mouth!

Khaula Mazhar said...

This was incredibly helpful, I thought that writing was becoming impossible,I was getting lost in all this mess. It seems less overwhelming to get tips from someone who has been through it all.

Sun Flower said...

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