Monday, July 12, 2010

The query that got me published

The first step to nabbing an agent is a query letter. You could have the best manuscript in the world, but if it's not presented right, it won't catch the interest of an agent and you're not any closer to your goal. There are so many sites out there that give you the Do's and Don'ts and How-To's of writing the perfect query letter. And if you read most of those sites, you're bound to get conflicting information and end up even more confused. Sure, there are some general guidelines you should follow such as:

1. A query should be one page or less
2. You should address the agent by name and make sure the name is spelled CORRECTLY
3. Include the title of your book in the beginning of your query
4. Don't go out of your way to try to make your query stand out (pink paper, glitter, small font, fancy font, perfumed paper, etc.).

That's pretty much just common sense, but i've heard of a lot of people making those first time mistakes. Actually, I made one of those mistakes. Kind of. I used to address the agent by Mr. Or Ms. (which I stopped doing because of this) and the agent had a gender nuetral name. At the time, even though I had done my research, it seemed that no one knew if this particular agent was male or female. So you would think that I would've used my brain and addressed the agent by first and last name. NOPE. Instead, I picked one (Mr. or Ms.) and hoped it was correct. And it wasn't. And it was an embarrassing mistake. But we all learn from our mistakes, right?

Anyways, everybody has a different style of writing, a different voice. So of course you can't expect everyone's query to be the same. The formats should be similar, but you have to adjust it according to your needs as well. Say you meet an editor at a conference and you're invited to query them. Obviously your opening line in your query will be just that--reminding them of their open invitation and how grateful you are for the opportunity.

For some reason, I LOVED queries. I could write them all day. And I had about a 90% success rate. So really, my problems were never with my queries! But my favorite query of all is the one that got me my terrific agent and later got me published. I didn't realize that my query is the description of my book that editors would be reading. So I thought it would be fun to share with you my query letter for Gossip from the Girls Room, which at that time was called Bathroom Blog.

Dear Rosemary Stimola,

I am seeking representation for my middle grade novel, BATHROOM BLOG.

What is said in the Girls Room stays in the Girls Room. Until now. The unspoken law about bathroom gossip has been broken, by none other than 6th grader Sofia Becker. She can’t help but overhear (very carefully) the best kept secret in all of Middlebrook Middle School. And it’s so interesting that she can’t help but blog about it. The gossip gets better as Sofia begins staking out the girls room by spending embarrassing amounts of time in the stall.

Sofia first uses her pre-blogging notebook to jot down all the juiciness so she won’t forget any single important detail. Even if some of it gets mixed up or embellished a little before it hits the computer screen. After all, that just makes it more interesting, right? What Sophia doesn’t anticipate is what to do when she hears gossip about herself. Or her best friend. Or if her notebook falls into the wrong hands.

In BATHROOM BLOG, Sophia’s pre-blogging notebook features all the gossipy details along with humorous sketches and drawings from her point of view. She includes notes to herself, since she her brain goes numb when it comes to the super important things, her helpful lists and ranks of classmates, and not to mention the mixed up info she actually puts on her blog. Sofia may take things a bit far, but that doesn’t mean she’ll always learn her lesson. Hmmm, I wonder what’s being said in the Boys Room…

I am a freelance writer and artist with children’s stories that have appeared in Dragonfly Spirit, Whittle Tykes, and Wee Ones. I am published online and in print papers and magazines including Foolish Times, OnTopic Magazine, Cynic Mag, and Sacramento Book Review. I’m an online humor columnist with The NetWits and a previous editor of BellaOnline.

BATHROOM BLOG is geared toward the audience of Diary of a Wimpy Kid series and Dear Dumb Diary series. The sketches are similar to those books in the way that they are very simple, neat and clean. And it portrays the fantastic artistic talent of Sofia Becker.

May I send you sample chapters and/or accompanying artwork possibilities for consideration?

Thank you for your time. I look forward to hearing from you.


Rose Cooper
(deleted my contact info)


Vicki Rocho said...

I love reading queries! I'm not surprised you had such a fantastic success rate with yours. This is wonderful! This sounds like a book my daughter would LOVE!

Thanks for sharing! (and feeding my query obsession)

Rose Cooper said...

Thanks so much, Vicki! I wish I could share more!

Candyland said...

Oh Vicki...this sounds like a book I would love:)

Faith E. Hough said...

This was a great query! Thank you so much for sharing your experience and advice.
BTW, love the new look!

Mohamed Mughal said...

Not only did you give us useful general thoughts on constructing queries, you took that extremely helpful extra step of providing an example. Thanks for the helpful post!

Jen said...

I love reading queries and yours made me think of every childs hands I'd like to put this book into. I have several nieces that would love a story such as this!

Thank you so much for sharing Rose!!! I love the blog look too, super cute... Hmmm is this what Sofia's blog would actually look like?