Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Query that worked

Continuing to showcase queries that got agents and publishers interested in my work over the years, when there was a publishing industry willing to take on new writers (ha ha), here is the query that got the head of Random House Children’s Division (Jim Thomas) interested in AFTER. It was submitted by my agent at the time and was given a read in less than forty-eight hours. This is his exact reply.
“Thanks for the look at AFTER. There’s a lot I like about it. It’s quite inventive, with ideas I haven’t seen before. I was compelled to read through the entire manuscript. But I fear it may be too…gruesome? If not for the YA market then for my sensibilities. Still, I was glad to read it.”

That was October 9th 2008; a lifetime ago in the way books are sold today and what the industry has become. I don’t know if Mr. Thomas is still head of Random House but I do thank him for that feedback all those years ago and the encouragement (hey, I’ll take it in any form). I went on to rewrite the novel a little less “gruesome” than it was before. My former agent, Gary Heidt has gone on to open his own agency, Signature Lit. and is doing very well. We don’t keep in touch but we left on mutually good terms. He tried to sell my books for three and a half years (I have copies of the rejection slips to prove it), and I don’t blame him for moving on. Publishing and selling my work on my own is much more exciting and rewarding anyway, than sitting around waiting for numbers, and contracts, and dealing with executives. Here’s the query. Feel free to plagiarize any part. I won’t be using it.

Dear ?

On the day we’re born we’re all destined to die. But what lies after? For fifteen–year-old Nick Murray, death is only the beginning. His entire human life has been an illusion in preparation for the epic role his soul will play in the destiny of the universe.

Nick always believed he was an ordinary kid until an unusual cardiac arrest strikes him down. Leaving behind his mother and girlfriend, his soul enters the hereafter and finds it is nothing like the fire and brimstone he’d always imagined. Incoming entities are distributed to levels according to the good vs. evil they had done in their lives. There’s only one problem, Nick never had any real human experiences. Fostered to be a celestial super hero, he must prevent the devil from damning for eternity all who ever lived.

Because of your amazing track record at ? for selling books like ? which is similar to my style, I’m writing to query you about my completed 35,000 word middle grade paranormal novel, AFTER.

High-stakes action, outlandish settings, and featuring a cast of fearsome and angelic characters, mixed with a subtle love story, makes AFTER a novel that will appeal to tweens, teens and adults alike. Nick is a smart, captivating protagonist who must overcome insurmountable obstacles to succeed in the quest he’s been given. A quest that includes traveling through various realms of the ethereal, outwitting the sinister demons and gods who reside there, and becoming human again to end a war on Earth fought with futuristic weaponry.

My publishing history spans twenty years with credits in online and printed publications. Thanks for your time. I have enclosed a short sample of AFTER. I’d be delighted to send the entire manuscript.