1. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    My Successful Query

    Discussion in 'Query & Cover Letter Critique' started by Tenderiser, Jul 4, 2016.

    As promised, I'm posting my successful query with my agent's comments on why it worked for her. (Originally posted on my blog).

    Looking back, there's a lot I would change, especially that god-awful last paragraph... but that's what I want to prove with this post: queries don't have to be perfect. I stressed so much about mine--as many of you witnessed :D--and although it's worth putting in the hours to get it as good as you can be, it really doesn't have to be perfect.

    In the end, this decidedly unperfect query got me, I think, five partial requests and seven full requests out of around 60 queries. Believe it or not, 20% is a very good request rate--10% is considered good.

    That's right - 48 rejections is VERY GOOD. I hope that puts any rejections you have/will receive in perspective...

    Dear Michelle and Amanda

    I’m seeking representation for UNTOUCHABLE, a 97,000-word contemporary romance. I hope you will enjoy the humour and the smart exchanges between hero and heroine. As requested I have included a short description, bio, the first 10 pages and a one-page summary below.

    Rachel Shaw is destined to be a spinster cat lady, even though she’s only twenty-three and only has one cat – so far. She’s crippled by contact phobia, and intimacy is out of the question when a caress feels like a vigorous rub with sandpaper.

    Her one shot at love is Alex Graham, the only man she’s ever trusted enough to touch. He respects her boundaries without question, lets her get snot on his expensive shirts when she cries at sad movies, and gives her the courage to stand up to her bullying boss.

    Alex is as protective of his heart as she is of her body. He insists he can’t be close to anybody because of his dangerous secrets and a devastating choice he made in his youth. Rachel doesn’t care about his past, only his future, until she finds out that everything he’s ever told her was a lie – perhaps even when he claimed he wasn’t falling in love with her.

    I’m a professional bid writer and editor for a consultancy firm in London, where UNTOUCHABLE is set. I hope this setting will appeal to US as well as UK readers. This is my first novel, although I have a draft of a second (resting before being edited) and 37,000 words of my third. All are contemporary romances, and I’m looking for an agent to form a long-term relationship with for a long-term career writing romances that she feels passionate about selling.

    Thank you for your time and consideration,

    My Name​

    Amanda's commentary:

    I’m seeking representation for UNTOUCHABLE, a 97,000-word contemporary romance. I hope you will enjoy the humour and the smart exchanges between hero and heroine. As requested I have included a short description, bio, the first 10 pages and a one-page summary below.
    Amanda: First off, your opening paragraph is clear and concise and tells me SO MUCH that I want to know. By the end, I know the title, the word count, the genre, and what you’ve included in your submission package. So, right away, I know I should have everything in front of me that I will need to decide whether or not to request the full. But, there’s also that little something extra in that you’ve told me I can expect some humor and great dialogue. These are things that I, personally, love in contemporary romance, so now my interest is piqued.

    Rachel Shaw is destined to be a spinster cat lady, even though she’s only twenty-three and only has one cat – so far. She’s crippled by contact phobia, and intimacy is out of the question when a caress feels like a vigorous rub with sandpaper.

    Her one shot at love is Alex Graham, the only man she’s ever trusted enough to touch. He respects her boundaries without question, lets her get snot on his expensive shirts when she cries at sad movies, and gives her the courage to stand up to her bullying boss.

    Alex is as protective of his heart as she is of her body. He insists he can’t be close to anybody because of his dangerous secrets and a devastating choice he made in his youth. Rachel doesn’t care about his past, only his future, until she finds out that everything he’s ever told her was a lie – perhaps even when he claimed he wasn’t falling in love with her.
    Amanda: Then, in the next 3 paragraphs, I thought you did a great job of laying out your premise, introducing me to your main characters, and delineating the conflict and stakes. I get a sense that the main obstacle to their love story is this tension between the physical and emotional barriers to love. One has physical walls, one has put up emotional walls, so I was interested to see how this would play out and how the two would overcome those obstacles.

    Overall, I loved that you didn’t try to do too much in your query. It was concise but still managed to give me everything I was looking for. Most importantly, it made me go on to read the pages. I think, with the benefit of having read the book now, the only thing that might have been missing from your query was a greater sense of just how dangerous it is for Rachel to stay with Alex.

    As I said in my blog, I owe a big thank you to @BayView especially, but everyone who helped when I was writing this query.

    And really, they don't have to be perfect!
     
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  2. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    The query's only job is getting the agent to read your pages and summary. I think too often we get caught up in thinking we have to capture the essence of the novel, cover all the major plot points, mention every significant character... we don't. We just have to get the agent to read our pages and summary.
     
  3. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Exactly. To your best but they're really not worth the pressure we (some of us) put ourselves under.
     
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  4. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Oops - just read your blog post and saw the "a query's only job" line over there! I feel like a bit of a dolt, responding to your post here with a point you've already made over there...

    The internet is too big!
     
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  5. Wayjor Frippery
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    Wayjor Frippery Contributing Member

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    Thanks for posting this, Tender, fascinating – and filed away for future reference. :) (fuh, fuh, fuh, fuh – alliterates when happy)
     
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  6. SethLoki
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    SethLoki Unemployed Autodidact Contributor

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    Not to be confused with stammering when swearing @Wayjor Frippery .

    I've bookmarked the thread too so thanks to OP, just got to finish me some damn story, sweat over the refinement, put it out for weighing and measuring, sweat some more over refinement, then, and tentatively then, sweat some over the query letter.
     
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2016
  7. ArcadiaE
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    ArcadiaE New Member

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    Thank you so much for posting this, I found it incredibly helpful!
     
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  8. bonijean2
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    bonijean2 Senior Member Supporter

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    Seriously good information - thanks for sharing! I will also bookmark this thread.
     
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  9. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    I just went and read a few posts on your blog, @Tenderiser, and realized it's far too high-brow for me. I had to look up mendacious and crudités (I even had to go back and do a copy-n-paste to get the spelling right for this post!). I was much relieved to find out (as I read further) that you were simply lying about vegetable platters. :supersmile:
     
  10. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    @Sack-a-Doo! I recently had to sit at my desk at work listening to this conversation:

    Colleague #1: "What are crudites [to rhyme with websites]?"
    Colleague #2: "I think it's, like, broccoli in sauce?"
    Colleague #1: "Ew. I'll have the bread basket."

    I had to bite my tongue because how can you correct someone without looking like a knob?
     
  11. doggiedude
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    doggiedude Contributing Member

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    I don't think I've ever seen crudites written out & didn't recognize the word until I looked it up.
     
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  12. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Well, now I realise I *am* a knob. Not for the first time. :)
     
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  13. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Had to look crudites up in the OED and was informed it's raw veggies served as a "hors d’oeuvre"...

    What the heck is a hors d’oeuvre!? :geek:
     
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  14. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    An appetiser :)
     
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  15. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I must say, it's interesting just how simple your query looks. It's even got the "devastating choice" and "dangerous secrets" that, in most other query critiques I've seen, would have been flagged as a no-no. You'd get people picking up on it right away and saying, "What secrets? Give me specifics." And yet, clearly agents don't seem to mind, seeing as you got a good number of requests!
     
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  16. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    "The delight of the mouth" thingy? Not got a clue what the actual French term is - I just know they have something small before their actual starter...
     
  17. doggiedude
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    doggiedude Contributing Member

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    Delight of the mouth thingy? That brings an image I'm sure you hadn't counted on.
     
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  18. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    That's an amuse bouche. An amuse bouche is a very small hors d'oeuvre.
     
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  19. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    There's a balance to be had. You can't have an entire query of vagueness, but you can have SOME vague bits.

    Having said that, I probably would have explained the secret if it wasn't kept a secret from the reader for 2/3rds of the book.
     
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  20. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    In your place, I'd secretly Photoshop a notice with a photo of crudités and the word below. Then, also secretly, post it around the office (or in the lunch room). Finally, I'd sit back a giggle. :)

    Either that or I'd jump up and yell, "It's a vegetable platter, you twat!"

    Which explains why they forcibly retired me from the public service.
     
    Last edited: Jul 10, 2016
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  21. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    When I was growing up in a small town in Nova Scotia, it was an olive... or one of several types of sweet mixed pickle. Then I moved to the city and everything changed. (sigh)
     
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  22. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    Sort of a meal before the meal... which usually fills me up and I can't face the main course.
     
  23. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    Ah! The meal before the meal before the meal. Will it ever end? Or should I say, will it ever begin? :)
     
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  24. Laurin Kelly
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    Laurin Kelly Active Member

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    Agreed. For me, an amuse bouche has three distinct characteristics:
    1. You can eat it in one or two bites at the most
    2. It's brought to you at the beginning of your meal and has no al la carte price attached to it
    3. It's Chef's Choice - there's no selection from various options involved from the diner
     
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  25. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    And 4. It's amoosing :D
     
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