Okay…so enough of you have asked me about my patented (well, not really) 4-step plan to a Surefire Query Letter! You’ve also asked me to share my letter which went out to 12 agents. 22 responded within 3 weeks (many within days), each asking for exclusives. I ultimately went with an agent who never saw the letter.
It worked for me…good luck and tell me if it works for you – firstname.lastname@example.org
In any case, here are the 4 steps:
1. Make your first sentence STUNning. Remember that agents get 100’s of these letters each day. Grab them by the gullet from the very beginning.
2. Synopsize your book in a quick and compelling way. Find a way to describe your book succinctly. You’ll use that description gain and again at every juncture.
3. Offer up a reason why there is a market for your book (even for fiction). In other words, why will your manuscript be sellable. Do this in an uncoventional and tonally appropriate way.
4. Make a connection between the agent and you.
This could take networking and/or creativity. Research your choice agents to death – read their authors, find out where they went to highschool, find some way of making it feel like they’re THE ONLY agent for your book. Because why? Tell them.
Everything else is up for grabs. I wrote 2 pages with a LOT of white space (most people write one, crowded page) and didn’t send a writing sample. I put it in a big bright orange envelope and printed it out on heavy, expensive paper. I sent to 12 with 12 back-ups in the wings.
Here is my letter to Bill Clegg (now with William Morris). Despite the breezy tone, this was draft 36 and 3 months of revision. Bill responded with within 24 hours.
I’d like to profess that stealing a box of Golden Life Henna in the 7th grade was the end of my illustrious shoplifting career, but if we’re getting down to the short hairs here, I also stole a tube of organic toothpaste from Whole Foods less than a year ago.
$12.95! For toothpaste! I mean, c’mon. Gift with purchase, I like to say.
Actually, I wouldn’t mine stealing something right now.
Christ, it’d be easier than writing this letter. Three years of work down to a page, page and a half. The pressure to be charming here is enormous, you must know.
Maybe this afternoon. When I finish the letter.
So my book’s called The Booster and our heroine is not that different from me. Or possibly a more fabulous me. The Carrie Bradshaw I am in my imagination.
Here’s what I say when people inevitably ask me, “so, what’s your book about?”
Upper East Side Jewish American Princess kleptomaniac living the seemingly quintessential Manhattan life, loses job, loses boyfriend, loses housekeeper and winds up (long story short) joining a Peruvian Shoplifting Ring.
It is here our klepto learns what’s truly important in her life. Ahf tsores aside, it’s a happy ending kind of story.
For our 29-year old heroine, shoplifting* is better than orgasms:
“… Her breath pounds out in heaves. Her teeth chatter, droplets of sweat trickle down her side sending out a rank perfume, her nipples harden. She swallows a mouthful of saliva, the gulp of it echoing in her head. A quick slide off with a nimble hand and poof…it is gone.”
Pulizer Prize winning author, Alison Lurie singled out The Booster for praise as “an emerging work” at Sewanee Writer’s Conference, characterizing it as “lively writing, true to the female experience.”
Bill, Augusten Burrows, author and friend, simply insisted (as is his way) that, “Haven Kimmel loves Bill Clegg,” and that I should send you a query. That was good enough for me.
Please send the enclosed postcard if you’d like to see a sample of The Booster.
Thank you for your consideration and time,
*9 million American women shoplift. ‘Shoplifting’ is the new ‘Bulimia’. 9 million dirty little secrets sell a lot of books. And magazines. And t-shirts. And action figures.
TO READ AN EXCERPT OF THE MANUSCRIPT HE SAW CLICK HERE.