Hooked! Query letters that piqued an agent's interest - Part 1 of 5
Published: December 10, 2008
|Jeff Moores is a literary agent at Dunow, Carlson & Lerner Literary Agency in New York City. Last spring, his boss passed along a query letter he liked but could not pursue. Jeff also liked what he read. He requested the manuscript and now represents Michelle Von Euw's novel, Far From Home. |
At about 500 words, Michelle's query letter was an ideal length. Divided into four paragraphs, each one delivers necessary information needed to hook an agent. Following the letter, Jeff identifies portions that caused him to request the manuscript.
Michelle Von Euw
April 1, 2008
Dunow, Carlson & Lerner Literary Agency
New York, New York
Dear Mr. Dunow,
I'd like to thank you for representing one of the best collections of short stories I've read in the past several years: Marisa Silver's Babe in Paradise. I first encountered her excellent story "What I Saw From Where I Stood" in The New Yorker, and then eagerly awaited the release of the entire collection. It's a wonderful work, full of nuanced characters and storylines that feel real, and I teach Silver every semester to my introductory creative-writing students. I'm writing to introduce you to a novel about another Los Angles native, Far From Home, a literary novel with commercial appeal.
Upon discovering her husband Ben's indiscretion, magazine writer Lauren Winslet flees the comfort and security of her comfortable L.A. lifestyle, and drives east. Her first stop is Las Vegas, where on the very last day of her marriage she meets Ian, who has just been deserted by his new wife three hours into their marriage. After exchanging wedding rings but not much else with this stranger, Lauren keeps driving until she reaches the last place Ben—or anyone else who knows her well—would think to look for her: Northampton, Mass., where her estranged sister Sadie is spending her sabbatical. But she doesn't arrive entirely alone: Lauren discovers she is pregnant with the baby she and Ben had always wanted, but never had time to conceive. The novel focuses on Lauren and her summer of being lost, and utilizes third-person narration to trace the connections dropped and formed between Lauren and Ian, Lauren and Sadie, and Lauren and Ben, exploring the gaping physical and emotional distances carved and closed between the characters.
I am a published writer and English instructor: I currently teach creative writing at George Washington University, and professional writing at the University of Maryland, where I studied closely with Howard Norman and Maud Casey before receiving my MFA in 2005. I've taken several writers workshops nationally, including one at the University of Iowa and selective workshops at the Provincetown Fine Arts Center with Pam Houston and the Radcliffe Institute with Sue Miller. My fiction has appeared in the anthology Further Fenway Fiction (Rounder Books, 2007) and is forthcoming in Gravity Dancers (Peabody Press, forthcoming, 2009). My story "The Show" was the cover feature in Elysian Fields Quarterly in 2006 and has also appeared in Aethlon and the Charles River Review. In 2004, I was awarded a Katherine Anne Porter fiction prize, and in 2003, my fiction was named Best of Contest by The Improper Bostonian. In addition, I write a monthly column for a successful online writers website, Intrepid Media, through which I've accumulated a national audience for my writing.
If you are interested, I'm happy to send you sample chapters from Far From Home. You may contact me through this e-mail account, or via my cell phone [phone number deleted for privacy]. Thank you in advance for your time.
Michelle Von Euw
Michelle writes: I'd like to thank you for representing one of the best collections of short stories I've read in the past several years: Marisa Silver's Babe in Paradise.
Hook: By identifying the work of our client, Michelle proved that she is targeting our agency for a specific reason.
Michelle writes: I'm writing to introduce you to a novel about another Los Angles native, Far From Home, a literary novel with commercial appeal.
Hook: This indicates that she understands the relationship between literary fiction and marketability. Literary fiction that sells well has commercial appeal. In paragraph two, her summary of a story about a woman in her 30s at a crossroads has resonance. Her acknowledgement of its commercial value indicates she's an informed writer.
Michelle writes: Upon discovering her husband Ben's indiscretion, magazine writer Lauren Winslet flees the comfort and security of her comfortable L.A. lifestyle, and drives east. Her first stop is Las Vegas …
Hook: She summarized in 172 words with a confident voice that told me she could probably deliver this story.
Michelle writes: I am a published writer and English instructor: I currently teach creative writing at George Washington University, and professional writing at the University of Maryland, where I studied closely with Howard Norman and Maud Casey before receiving my MFA in 2005. …
Hook: This paragraph is simply a wonderful and concise introduction; especially the opening sections. … She states her experience in a broad sense first, then clarifies with detail.
--Posted Dec. 10, 2008
Marla Miller shepherds writers through the publishing process with her Marketing the Muse workshops, which she teaches at several writer conferences throughout the country, and her Web site, www.marketingthemuse.com. She is a published author and editor-in-chief of a quarterly lifestyle magazine for California's Orange County. A yenta of sorts, she's introduced many unpublished authors to their literary agents. To submit a query letter that resulted in agent representation, e-mail her at email@example.com.