Pub Rants

Queries—An Inside Scoop (Becky Motew’s Query)

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STATUS: It’s Friday. I actually plan to work all weekend but I do have some fun things planned as well.

What song is playing on the iPod right now? FIRE AND RAIN by James Taylor

I think what will be clear from this example is that I tend to like quirky books! And for all you wondering, I do have male clients but their books haven’t sold yet and I’m only highlighting queries for which there is already a book on the shelf or an impending release.

Also, two of my best known authors, Ally Carter and Linnea Sinclair, don’t have queries to share. Why? Because Ally queried me for a work that has yet to be submitted (but we hope to some day) and Linnea was a referral so she didn’t actually formally query me.

But next up is Becky Motew. I love this book COUPON GIRL. It’s so different from anything else that is out in the world of Chick Lit. In fact, it was probably a mistake to market it as so. It’s more humorous women’s fiction and male readers have told me it has a very Carl Hiaasen feel. So, it’s okay for boys to read it too!

Dear Kristin Nelson:

Jeanie Callahan, coupon girl extraordinaire, just wants to win the LotsaCoups sales contest. She needs the money, and, frankly, the career boost. We’ve got conflict! Jeanie needs some cash. So when the buzz-cut speaker at the sales meeting urges the team to “get close to the business,” Jeanie doesn’t hesitate: she auditions for the Heywood Community Theatre production of Sound of Music. Why, think of all the business-owning prospects she’ll surely meet.
Okay, I’m already chuckling. Who decides to try out for the SOUND OF MUSIC so as to get sales leads? Hilarious right from the start and the query only gets better.

Except Captain von Trapp and Maria turn out to be 6 feet tall giants. Lisl is 11. Most of the nuns are high-schoolers. I can’t stop laughing and guess what, her novel is just as funny. And the director…ah, the director…turns out to be the perfect date. Sort of, except for his libidinous tendencies. From Yummy’s Septic Systems to the jailbird-owned pizza group, Jeannie digs for sales. I love the mention of some of her clients. Yummy’s septic systems? It’s probably true because you can’t make that kind of stuff up! She’s getting close to the business…or is she? Maybe she’s only getting closer to insanity as she shows up at every rehearsal dressed in her nun’s habit and trying to help keep peace on the hell-bent set. Sound of Music and chaos on the set shouldn’t go hand-in-hand so I’m really digging this quirky premise. And meanwhile tramp-like Stephanie and witchy Henrietta sprint forward in the contest. And the conflict heats up over sales as well. So basically Becky has done a wonderful job balancing an original idea with a fun conflict.

As the Captain abandons ship, one of the nuns refuses to sing without carrying a three-foot cross, and the music director appears intent on conducting naked on opening night; the show seems slated for disaster No Kidding! and Jeannie seems far from winning the contest. But a last-minute twist saves Gramps from a lawsuit Huh? This was kind of thrown in there but hey, I’m already smitten so I let it go, propels Jeannie into the limelight, and presents a stunning opportunity for the coupon girl to win far more than the sales contest. Great wrap up line.

COUPON GIRL, standing proudly Standing proudly? Strange description but that’s okay, a query doesn’t have to perfect in the commercial women’s fiction category, is just over 80,000 words and ready for your inspection. I sold coupons myself for more than ten years in the Worcester, MA, area. I was also active in community theatre for at least ten years, though it may have seemed longer to the audience. I’m sorry to say my best role was Miss Hannigan in ANNIE, where I scared my own daughter.
This bio paragraph rocks. She did coupons and community theater so she knows the world intimately and the last line just shows me she has the same sense of humor as the novel. Nicely done.

Thank you for your time and attention.
Becky Motew

As you can tell, this quirky novel was hard to sum up for the back cover copy. We tried several versions that all ended up sounded bland. We ended up lifting out some of the text from one of the chapters to capture the essence of this novel’s quirky nature and we used that as the back cover copy.

Here it is and run out to buy this book. Trust me, when I read the manuscript, I shook Chutney off my lap I was laughing so hard in places—especially when the performance of the Sound of Music actually happens in the book. Very few books make me cry from laughter. This one tops my list.

Hi, you’ve reached the voice mail of Jeanie Callahan. I’m auditioning right now for the lead role in the The Sound of Music. Hopefully, I am not throwing up or fainting. Oh yes, if you’re a business owner and would like to offer your customers coupons, leave me a message. BEEP

“Hey, Jeanie. I can’t give 25% off my donuts, so just forget it.” BEEP

“Hi, it’s Meg—your soon-to-be-pregnant best friend. Call me!” BEEP

“Just wanted to let you know that the fire department was over to get your grandfather down from the roof. Don’t worry, he’s okay.” BEEP

“My name Mike. You call.” BEEP

Did you ever wish you could redeem your current life for a completely new one? Believe me, I’m right there with you. And if I’ve learned anything from selling coupons, it’s this: 10% off won’t cut it. You have to go big. Large. Whole hog. I say it to my customers every day. I just never knew taking my own advice would prove so difficult. …

18 Responses

  1. 2readornot said:

    This does sound hysterical — I’ll have to find it. Make me wish I was humorous…sigh.

  2. Shanna Swendson said:

    It really is a fun book. I got to read the manuscript last summer for a blurb. I was deathly ill at the time, so I kept laughing so hard I went into coughing fits. I kept calling my mom to read lines out loud to her. I’ll never be able to see The Sound of Music in the same way again.

  3. Anonymous said:

    I WILL buy this book and some for friends, too. Thanks, Kristen, for all the great queries.

    We could all use a little quirky humor in our lives, especially this week.

  4. Nic Hayes said:

    I’m another fan of Coupon Girl. It made me laugh out loud at particularly embarrassing moments – on the train, at the doctor’s surgery, pretty much everywhere I went for the day it took me to read it because I COULD NOT PUT IT DOWN.

  5. Becky said:

    I woke up this morning and felt red in the face. Then I started feeling even more flushed and blushed. What could it be, I thought, as my fingers clicked me to Pub Rants. Ah.

    Such kind comments. Thank you all. I’ll be around to wash your cars later in the day.

  6. Gabriele C. said:

    Ok, can someone please, enlighten an igonrant German who knows more about the old Romans than modern American society, what a coupan girl is? 🙂

  7. Elektra said:

    Coupon Girl isn’t really slang–it’s not exactly an oft-used phrase. But it just means a gorl who clips coupons a lot.

  8. gina said:

    actually in this instance, a Coupon Girl is somone who sells business coupons (the ones that come in the envelopes like 5% off drycleaning or Carpet Clean one room get another free etc)…

    This book was fab… I bought it as soon as it came out and devoured it within a day or two…

    Can’t wait to see what Becky has for us next.


  9. Gabriele C. said:

    Thanks. That’s something we don’t have here. Though the payback schemes on membership basis some stores offer seem to be along the same line.

  10. Amy said:

    That’s a wonderful query… sassy but informative. I just sent mine along, and only today noticed I’d opened my query with Mrs. instead of Ms. Nelson.

    Just goes to show it’s always worth that last look-over before it’s packaged up.

  11. Lexie Ward said:

    Love that song you mention playing!I was listening to his CD just the other day.

    I also love the cover on COUPON GIRL. Can’t wait to get a copy.

  12. Brenda Oig said:

    This book sounds fantastic. I’m going to have to pick up a copy.

    I love the series you’re doing on query letters. It’s helpful to know what an agent is specifically looking for. Love your blog!

  13. The Rejected Writer said:

    Kristen wrote:

    “Sound of Music and chaos on the set shouldn’t go hand-in-hand so I’m really digging this quirky premise.”

    Kristen dear, you’ve obviously NEVER done theatre! SoM is typically a disaster.

    V. funny book concept. will go find it soon.

  14. Allison Winn Scotch said:

    Thanks for the reminder: this was on my “to buy” list, and I never got around to it. After reading the query and the back cover, I just ordered it from Amazon. Can’t wait to read it!