Friday, June 4, 2010

So you want to get an agent.... Part 2

Query letters

As promised, I'm going to talk a little about query letters. When I first heard about them, I looked in books and on the internet trying to find out as much as I could. While I did learn a few things, I still felt under-qualified to write a compelling one.

What I really wanted to see was an honest-to-goodness real query letter that actually got the attention of agents. All the pretend ones didn't help me see how I should do it.

While I won't say I'm a professional at it, I do have my own query letter that I will share with you. With it, I made some notes in red.

Here is the e-mail version of mine ( if you want to snail mail your query, format accordingly)....

May 18, 2010 (putting the date on the top helped because it was easier for both me and the agent to keep track of when the letter was sent)

Agent's Name,

For your consideration, I give you Point Champions, an 82,770 word dystopian, speculative fiction young adult novel. (It is imperative to put the title, word- count and genre.)

Seventeen-year-old Cherry is determined to make it on the elite government Jr. Team. Not only would such a feat provide her family with a way out of poverty, but as a Point Champion she would get the chance to leave her small town. Though trying for a spot nearly takes her life, she makes it in and is sure a better life awaits her. But no one told her that serving her country meant pretending to be married and acting as a spy. When her teammate goes missing she is on her own to solve the mystery. It’s up to her to find the lost Champions and unravel the web of her government’s plan. (Short synopsis. I think the shorter the better. If they want more of an explanation than this, I promise, they'll ask.)

My other published work is a young adult fantasy novel, Älvor released May 2009. (Do mention your other published work, but don't bother to brag about it. Just the facts. They have more than enough resources to look you up more if they want.)

My marketing strategy currently includes book signings, school visits, presentations and panel discussions at writers conferences and Writer’s Leagues, blog tours, a blog, a website, twitter, an author page on and a Published Author List member of SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) and LDStorymakers (a group of published authors). (This is where I brag. I think authors don't give themselves enough credit for the work they do. I was surprised to see in writing how hard I worked to market my book. This is definitely a selling point to agents.)

I have a Bachelor degree in Biology from Boise State University and earned certification to teach all science subjects in secondary education in the state of Idaho. I currently direct and teach clogging for a studio group I’ve owned for seventeen years. (Short and sweet- who are you in real life? Don't go on and on.)

I look forward to hearing from you.


Laura Bingham

Your Address

Your phone #, e-mail address, and website if you have one (Do end all of your letters with plenty of ways to contact you, even if it is an e-mail. Just like the date, the more they have at their fingertips, the easier it is for them.)

Other than the query letter, pay attention to the submission requirements. Always follow their rules and give them exactly what they want. It gets time consuming, but thanks to the new standard of e-mail, it's now a lot less expensive. 90% of my queries were e-mailed. I did snail mail submit to agents if I really wanted them, but it doesn't improve your chances of getting them. Sometimes agents accept e-mail queries and then ask for snail mail manuscripts. Be prepared to print all 300-ish pages and mail them off. When mailing partials, get a large clasp envelope and send it with tape over the flap. When mailing whole manuscripts, be sure to use a small box, not one that drowns your book, and mail it MEDIA. This will save you tons of money.

More to come on the process later!

1 comment:

Cholisose said...

These posts on getting an agent are very insightful. Thanks for sharing, Laura Bingham! And thanks for coming to Conduit last week, by the way. The YA panel was very interesting.