RSS Feed Print
Midnight Query
Posted: Saturday, March 5, 2011 12:08 AM

I've been wallowing around with this thing for a year and still think it could be improved. Thoughts? Flame-throwers?

Dear Agent Name-spelled-right,

In my search for representation on my 90,000 word paranormal novel, Midnight, I noted your submission guidelines indicating your interest in this genre.

Samantha Clark is raised by her maternal grandparents and who has never had the close, loving family she desires. Having led a life of instability and self-loathing, culminating in a self-destructive relationship with an abusive boyfriend, she flees him for the relative safety of a close friend in Harlan County, Kentucky, feeling at once at home with her friend’s enigmatic, much older companion Michael Devon. This small reclusive, rural group rouses Sami's suspicions, with good reason: they are all vampires, and she feels at home with them because she is an unawakened genetic vampire as well. As she comes to accept this, she learns she must be turned or risk a lifetime of physiological and psychological difficulties which could eventually destroy her. With the love and help of her friends and her mentor Michael—the father she hadn't known—Sami battles emotional and physical transformation which enables her to find the inner-strength to embrace who she is and the will to awaken the vampire within.

My short fiction has appeared in the anthologies Stories from the Red Light District, Aegri Somnia, Vampire Bytes, and Help, as well as in the Toasted Cheese literary journal and Apex Magazine. Following my publication in Apex, I became a submissions editor with them, where I continue to conduct interviews as well as write book reviews. I am the editor of the Harlan County Horrors anthology, released October 2009 by Apex Publications. In addition, I am a freelance editor and book reviewer.

I can be contacted at [phone number] or at [mailing address].


Michael R Underwood
Posted: Sunday, March 6, 2011 5:25 PM
Joined: 3/3/2011
Posts: 74

From what I can tell, there is some disagreement on this, but I feel like it's a better hook to start with the content (your second paragraph) and put the nuts-and-bolts part second, with your bio third. I was also a bit put off by the phrasing in the first line -- (I'd say was raised rather than 'is raised' unless the novel covers a good swath of her youth in scene), and I think that 'and who has never had the close...' is awkwardly phrased. You might also consider breaking the hook paragraph
Posted: Sunday, March 6, 2011 9:50 PM
Thanks Michael
Posted: Saturday, March 12, 2011 7:03 PM
Joined: 3/12/2011
Posts: 11

I wish there was a way for me to redline this, as I'm afraid my suggestions may be confusing, but I'll try to be as clear as possible. Please ask me to clarify if my comments don't make sense or you're not sure what I mean.

This query is in decent shape. It gets all the major points across, is the ideal length (between 250-350 words---its 284 as written), and includes the proper components: why you're querying that agent, a story blurb, title and word count, and pertinent bio info.

The order in which you place this info is fine, though some agents do prefer to jump straight into the story and find out why you chose to query them at the end rather than the beginning. (Some agents specify their preference, so snoop on websites and see if you can find out before you query a particular agent.)

On to the letter...

Regardless of where you put the title/wordcount/reason for choosing that agent, make sure the first time you mention your book title you put it in all caps - MIDNIGHT. (Just the first mention, not needed if you mention it again.) Don't forget to specify/identify your genre in this sentence (right now you just say it fits a genre the agent is seeking). Also, if possible, try to make the personalization more specific than just saying you fit the submission guidelines. Does the agent rep an author who you enjoy or whose style is similar to yours? Did you read an interview with the agent and think their agenting philosophy would mesh well with your personality? Did you attend the same university/conference/rock concert? Do you find their blog or their tweets helpful or hilarious? Anything you can say that shows that you researched that particular agent and have a reason why you think he/she might be a good match for your book is worth a mention, just keep it brief and too the point. And not too personal or stalkerish.

The first sentence about your character needs to be fixed. "Samantha is raised" does not match up with "...who has never..." There are several ways you can change this. One possibility: "Samantha has been (or "is being") raised by her maternal grandparents but has never had the close, loving family she desires."

The second sentence is way too long and complex as written. You can end the sentence after Kentucky. I know it's important to cram a lot of info into a small amount of space in a query, but if sentences get too complicated the meaning gets lost. Agents also tend to assume that if the writing in your query is run-on, the writing in your book may be too.

The remaining portion of the Kentucky sentence is confusing. It seems a little odd that you don't name the "close friend" she runs to, but you do name the older companion. It's good not to get too many names jumbled into the query, but it made me wonder if the "close friend" does or doesn't play a significant role in the story. You then go on to say that the group "rouses her suspicion" but she feels "at home" (also, you say "at home" twice, so condense that or change your word choice to avoid repetition). I realize this is a complicated part of the story, but try to simplify so it's clear.

The mention of Michael being her father is surprising and made me read back to make sure Michael was the name of her friend's mentor.

Given the amount of information you present, I think it might be stronger and easier to follow if you were to make this into two shorter paragraphs rather than one long one. (It's perfectly acceptable to have two succinct paragraphs about the storyline, and as I said, your query word count is in great shape.)

Your bio paragraph lists great info. Keep in mind email formatting/reading doesn't always support italics, and you have a lot of italics in this paragraph---this can look wonky depending on how the agent reads the letter. Try sending test emails to various email accounts of yours and your friends and make sure it is coming out legible before you send it to an agent, and keep formatting to a minimum, if possible. You can probably condense the info by deleting "Following my publication in Apex, I became a submissions editor with them, where..." and just saying "I currently conduct..."

There's no need to tell them they can contact you at a certain number or address, just put your mailing address, email address and phone number underneath your full name at the end. It's understood that those are the ways they can contact you. And don't forget to thank the agent for his/her time.

Overall this query is well structured and gives a decent summary of the story. With some tweaks I think it will be ready to go. Best of luck to you!

Posted: Tuesday, March 15, 2011 7:27 PM
Thanks a bunch.

I've gone through and made some changes and hope I've gotten it up to snuff.
Posted: Sunday, June 24, 2012 4:53 PM
Apparently I finally got this query as spit shined as the manuscript - and vice versa. It's coming out from Apex Publications in Winter 2013. :squee:

Colleen Lindsay
Posted: Monday, June 25, 2012 10:32 AM
Joined: 2/27/2011
Posts: 356

Congratulations, Mari!

(And nice to see you back in the community!)

Posted: Monday, June 25, 2012 8:48 PM
Thanks and thanks!