Friday, May 20, 2011

Query Letter

Dear Mr. ???:

Max Spencer looked like your average 12-year-old middle schooler, although a bit more buoyant and a tad less athletic than most. He’d never scored the final point to win a game or crossed the finish line with people still in the bleachers. His only fight ended in a draw (he accidentally kicked a sixth grader after a bee flew up his pants), and while he was smart, he wasn’t Rubik’s Cube or honor roll smart. What Max did have was blood. Not in a weird vampire kind of way, but in a family tree that stretches back to the most powerful sorcerer who had ever lived—and that makes Max singularly unique.

His story begins with the discovery of a book: The Codex of Infinite Knowability. But Max soon learns it isn’t an ordinary book at all. First, the copyright warning reads that violators will be lashed to the Tree of Woe and licked by Fire Kittens. Second, it seems obsessed with the world-ending threat of squirrels. Third, it mentions a unicorn named Princess who becomes Princess the Destroyer. And fourth, it has a habit of allowing Max to read only what it wants, and not the other way around. When Max inadvertently casts one of the Codex’s prime spells, he and his friends are swept away into a fantastical world that includes a talking motivational dagger, a claustrophobic dwarf, and a host of evil characters who have a simple goal: find the lost Codex and retrieve the only person in the three realms who can read it: Max Spencer.

Unlock the secrets of the magical Codex, rewrite a dystopian future, stop Princess the Destroyer, all while our hero finds the inner courage to lead those who depend on him most—now we have an adventure on our hands!

I’d like to submit Max Spencer and the Codex of Infinite Knowability, the first in a series, for your consideration. Complete at 62,000 words, the book is aimed at the middle reader / young adult audience (with a few fart jokes and philosophical meanderings thrown in for good measure). Max Spencer is my first book, although I’m a member of the Writer’s Guild of America (WGA) West and have written two award-winning children’s shorts. I recently adapted The Best Christmas Pageant Ever for film, optioned by Walden Media.

The first 10 pages are below.

I can be contacted by phone at AAAA, by email: BBBB, or by mail: CCCC.

Best Regards,

*   *   *

Above is Platte's query letter.  This letter got seven responses from agents, and the actual manuscript got Platte represented.

You can see all the usual and appropriate stuff here.  The teaser paragraphs, the business paragraph describing the work and stating what Platte wants, the contact details.

I think two things make this query letter stand out, and they can be summarized as one thing, which is this: the teaser paragraphs don't just describe the book, they reflect it, in a way that makes the agent excited to read the book.  First, the teasers focus on the protagonist, starting with him and describing him in a very kid-reader-sympathetic way.  Second, they contain and therefore (truthfully) promise that the book will contain silly, offbeat, Hitchhiker's Guide-esque humor, all in the language and mindset of middle reader-aged kids.

Another way to summarize the goodness here would be to say that the query letter doesn't tell about the goodness of the book, it shows it.  Good job, Platte, and congratulations again!

P.S.  See Platte blog here.

Story Monkeys, ho!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Dave. Under full disclosure, I borrowed heavily (i.e. ripped off completely) from our fellow story monkey Mr. E.J. Patten, who also had tremendous success with this form of the letter. So hats off to Eric for doing the real hard work up front. Also, if you're the kind of person who takes their hat off when somebody writes "hat's off!", please go ahead and put it back on now.