Monday, March 12, 2012

Announcing Our Query Letter Clinic!

Tip of the Day: Email your query letters to (at) gmail (dot) com!

This week and next week, we're running a query letter clinic. We'll be looking at two types of query letters: the kind you send to agents and editors to get them to want to read your manuscript, and the kind you send to reviewers to get them to read your novel. We'll pick 5 random query letters this coming weekend and post them on our site one letter per day next week for analysis based on our experiences with querying. Commenters can leave helpful thoughts on why they might or might not request these manuscripts.

Are you daring enough to show the world your query? Then email it to us!

We'll start the ball rolling this week with our own query letters. This is a letter I sent to agents for my last completed novel. It received several requests for fulls and partials, probably because I had the letter critiqued by Saundra Mitchell:

My 55,000 word tween novel SEVENTH GRADE HEX QUEEN is about ahot-tempered girl who wants to stop cursing her uber-annoying classmates.

On the first day of seventh grade, Holly inherits her older sister’s power to hurt people by speaking curses out loud. First she curses theobnoxious boy who sits behind her in homeroom: temporary mouth sealant for Joshand sweet, sweet satisfaction for Holly. But now Josh wants to be a witchhunter, and Holly accidentally creates new victims every time she loses hertemper. If only she could shake Josh loose, nobody would suspect her. If onlyher sister hadn’t cursed Josh’s older brother with a permanently brokenkneecap, Josh wouldn’t be so close to the truth. Can Holly undo the damage herfamily has done?

I am a member of SCBWI and my publishing credits include trade magazine andnewspaper feature articles. In 2007, I attended the Highlights Chautauquaconference and in 2008, I was a panelist for the Young Adult Fiction CybilsAward ( On Mondays, I blog as a regular contributor to thegroup blog Author2Author (

I can be reached at . Thank you for your time and consideration.

I received comments back on my manuscript varying from "your writing isn't good," (yes, seriously, one agent told me that flat out); "I love your writing but humorous paranormal isn't going to sell right now," (I got a few of those); and "I love how you keep the story moving but the ending was confusing." I decided that I could do a better job integrating the ending with the beginning, so I stopped querying to rewrite the beginning. Which I actually haven't done yet because, well, by that time I was busy with a new novel and humorous paranormal still doesn't look like a good sell. But it's high on my to-do list. As a teen, I struggled with my temper, so this novel will always mean a lot to me.

So have at it! What do you love and hate about this query? Why do you think it got me requests even though those same agents said that this genre is not hot on the market?

-- Kate, Miss Perfecting the Pages


Jennifer R. Hubbard said...

Humorous paranormal isn't hot? I had the impression Rachel Hawkins's HEX HALL series was doing well--it's a wonderful example of humorous paranormal.

I think this query did well because it reads like jacket flap copy: it hits the pertinent points, tells us just enough of what the book is about to let us know whether it's a book we'd like to read, gives us a flavor of the tone and the main conflict.

Christina Farley said...

I loved that book. They were crazy not to pick it up. Someday it will be published and you can say, 'remember when...'

Kate Fall said...

Jenn, I despair that other than a few stellar examples, humorous ANYTHING isn't getting much attention. But I know it's a crowded field. The BRAS AND BROOMSTICKS series is out there, too, not to mention the old standby of Sabrina and the new Wizards of Waverly Place. Lots of competition.

Bonnee Crawford said...

I think humourous paranormal would sell better to younger people rather than teens, but then I haven't read the manuscript and for all I know it could still be quite dark. I'm not much of a query critic so ya know :3

Emily Marshall said...

I think it sounds great and I love the name. I do think paranormal of any kind seems to be a hard sell (though you wouldn't know that by looking at the book shelves). But I agree that a tween one would be great!

Kristina Springer said...

I've too heard the rumors that funny isn't selling and I've seen agents say don't send anything paranormal so it makes you think it's not selling right now too. BUT, middle grade is totally different from YA, the tweens LOVE funny! I can see this selling there. It sounds cute! I would keep trying and find that agent who will fall in love with it.

DeenaML said...

Jennifer -- I agree! HEX HALL is hysterical and would appeal to a slightly older group than Kate is writing for here. query angle? For fans who will grow into RH's HH?

Christina -- I'm with you. I love this book and the hexing scene and the getting hit with the baseball bat -- hilarious.

Bonnee -- I agree. I could see Aladdin Mix doing this title for example....

Kate -- you know I laughed out loud at this book and wonder what would happen if you made it a little younger so it was solidly MG?

Kate Fall said...

That's a good idea, Deena. I think it becomes more MG with every revision anyway, and I think my new revision is going to focus more on Holly's family. I'd probably only have to change a scene or two to age this down.