Please stick around!
Before I get to my query letter, let me answer two oft-asked questions: Yes, I needed an agent even though I was an agent at the time, and yes, I had to send out query letters the old-fashioned way.
I sent queries out to seven or eight agents, some of whom I knew personally, some of whom (like Catherine Drayton, my now-agent), I knew only by reputation. I chose to query Catherine because she represents one of my favorite books, The Book Thief, and I had heard great things about her.
So I sent out my query, got a few rejections, Catherine and a few other agents asked to see partials/fulls, and when Catherine called to offer representation a few weeks later I knew we were a match. She really got the book, I liked the changes she suggested for the manuscript, and I really got the sense that she has a ton of integrity, which was one of the most important qualities I was looking for in an agent.
And, yup. When I was writing my query I used the mad lib formula, personalized the query, and kept it under 300 words. I practice what I preach, people. (For a complete guide to writing a query letter, see this post)
Now for the query. Here goes...
Dear Ms. Drayton,
As a young literary agent with Curtis Brown Ltd. I have long admired Inkwell, as well as your strong track record. To paraphrase Douglas Adams, if you searched for a book that was almost, but not quite, entirely unlike THE BOOK THIEF (which I absolutely loved), you might just have JACOB WONDERBAR AND THE COSMIC SPACE KAPOW, a middle-grade-and-up science fiction novel that I just completed. Still fun! But no one dies - Mr. Death would be lonely.
Jacob Wonderbar has been the bane of every substitute teacher at Magellan Middle School ever since his dad moved away from home. He never would have survived without his best friend Dexter, even if he is a little timid, and his cute-but-tough friend Sarah Daisy, who is chronically overscheduled. But when the trio meets a mysterious man in silver one night they trade a corn dog for his sassy spaceship and blast off into the great unknown. That is, until they break the universe in a giant space kapow and a nefarious space buccaneer named Mick Cracken maroons Jacob and Dexter on a tiny planet that smells like burp breath. The friends have to work together to make it back to their little street where the houses look the same, even as Earth seems farther and farther away.
JACOB WONDERBAR AND THE COSMIC SPACE KAPOW is 50,000 words and stands alone, but I have ideas for a series, including titles such as JACOB WONDERBAR FOR PRESIDENT OF THE UNIVERSE and JACOB WONDERBAR AND THE VACATIONING ALIENS FROM ANOTHER PLANET. I'm the author of an eponymous agenting and writing blog.
I'd be thrilled if you would consider WONDERBAR for representation, and a few other agents are considering simultaneously. Thanks very much, and hope to talk to you soon.
And it worked! Tomorrow: more about the path to publication and why I chose to go with a traditional publisher.
JACOB WONDERBAR is available for sale at:
Barnes & Noble!