Pub Rants

A Very Nice Literary Agent Indulges in Polite Rants About Queries, Writers, and the Publishing Industry

Queries—An Inside Scoop (Sherry Thomas’s Query)

STATUS: Sara and I were work machines today. I still have a long way before catching up (mostly reading client materials at the moment). But there is a flicker of light in the tunnel.

What song is playing on the iPod right now? YOU’RE SO VAIN by Carly Simon (That’s a classic and what a great song!)

Since it really was Sherry’s blog that started this whole query rant, it’s time for her query to go up to bat.

A little info that I’ve already posted previously but hey, I’ll repeat myself here. From the arrival of the first query to reading sample pages to reading the full to offering representation to selling Sherry’s novel: 25 days.

It sold in a pre-empt to Bantam in a good deal (Pub lunch terms) and will be released in fall 2007.

Without further ado, here is what I was thinking when I read Sherry’s query.

Dear Ms. Nelson,

I’m a faithful reader of your blog. I admire your enthusiasm, your humor, and your candor. She reads my blog! Okay, I really shouldn’t be swayed by such flattery but hey, I’m human. Since you represent all subgenres of romance, I’d like you to consider Schemes of Love, my historical romance set in late Victorian England. The manuscript is complete at 100,000 words. Nice orientation to her novel.

Gigi’s marriage is doomed from the moment she decides that she must have Camden, by fair means or foul. How can I resist? Right off we know the fall our main heroine is going to take. Talk about flawed and therefore, immediately interesting. Camden, who has come to adore Gigi, discovers her deceit on the eve of their wedding. Shattered, he responds in kind, gives her a tender, unforgettable wedding night, then coldly leaves her in the morning, devastating her. Ah yes, two souls who have now done two wrongs. It’s a romance; I must know how they will make this right. Seriously though, this is such an intriguing set up and combined with the paragraph below, it’s something I’ve never seen before and folks, I read a lot of romance queries and sample pages. It’s hard to find something wholly original and fresh.

As the story opens, it is ten years later. Gigi has petitioned for divorce in order to remarry. Camden returns to England and sets the condition for her freedom: an heir. I’m sold. Didn’t even need to read more. She wants a divorce. He wants a child. Hum… sounds like an intense conflict to me. Despite the years and the sea of bad blood, the physical attraction between them remains as ferocious as ever. Big hint this work is going to be sensual and boy, is it—in very different ways. There’s a sex scene in the novel (and I can’t give it away) unlike anything I’ve ever read anywhere. That’s saying something. Though they each vow to make the act of procreation a cold, clinical one, the overwhelming pleasure of their marriage bed soon makes it apparent that the enterprise is fraught with emotional peril, for both of them. Oops. Two characters who think they don’t like each other but have great sex. What more could I want? Seriously, notice the wonderful cadence of Sherry’s language here: “Though they each vow to make the act of procreation a cold, clinical one, the overwhelming pleasure of their marriage bed soon makes it apparent that the enterprise is fraught with emotional peril, for both of them.” That’s some gorgeous writing and it’s only her query letter I’m reading. If you notice, the whole query is like that, and the novel doesn’t disappoint either.

In an atmosphere thick with mistrust, desire, and incipient hope, they are torn between the need to safeguard their hearts and the yearning to reach out across the chasm of ancient mistakes. May favorite kind of construct. As they rediscover the easy rapport they’d once shared, they must decide whether to let the bygones rule the future, or to love despite their painful past and forge a new life together. I don’t know about you but I’m totally rooting for them to let bygones be bygones.

Schemes of Love recently placed first in its category at the Merritt Contest, organized by San Antonio Romance Authors. Excellent. It has received recognition. Chris Keeslar at Dorchester has requested the full. And editor interest! This actually isn’t a big deal for me because it seems like editors request everything but hey, it doesn’t hurt. Another one of my manuscripts has won the Romantic Elements category of the 2005 On the Far Side contest, hosted by the Fantasy, Futuristic, and Paranormal Chapter of the RWA. Some other credentials and shows a little diversity from just the Historical stuff.

Thank you for your time. I hope very much to work with you and look forward to hearing from you. And she did, quite quickly. Big smile here.

Sherry Thomas


22 Responses

  1. barista brat said:

    i’ve never read any romance novels – they just don’t interest me – but this is something i will definately run out and buy.

    i agree with agent kristen. the language in the query letter is beautiful. the plot is unique and i can’t wait to see how it unfolds.

    thank you for posting sherry’s query for us!

  2. Megan DiMaria said:

    Hi Kristin,

    I’ve been enjoying your blog for some time now. It was a pleasure to hear you speak on Sunday. After the workshop you were inundated with people but I had nice little chat with Sara. Oh, you waved to me in the parking lot. Remember? LOL.

    Thanks for sharing your knowledge and your good humor.

  3. Anonymous said:

    All of your query letter reviews are very helpful and help me realize how horrible my first attempts at query letteres were. That said, in reading the query letters you’ve posted, I can’t imagine that they come close to fitting on one page. Most of the submission requirements I’ve seen refer to sending a “one page” query letter.

    So, my question is, how strict is that requirement? It’s virtually impossible to introduce the book, describe the story, introduce the author, include publishing credits, etc. all in one page.

    Thanks.

    Mark

  4. Sherry Thomas said:

    To answer Mark’s question, I can’t speak for the other queries, but my query was composed in MS Word and with single-spaced paragraphs, Times New Roman 12 font, and double space between paragraphs, it fits fine on one sheet.

    Of course, had it been a snail mail query, with the agent’s postal address in the header and all, I might have had to trim a couple of lines.

    For that reason I don’t include personal information. Saves space and I figure no one is gonna remember anyway.

    Hope it helps,

    Sherry

  5. Jenny said:

    I was reading over the query submission guidelines on the NLA website, and I was wondering…what is an appropriate “Subject” for an e-mail query? Should it be the title of the MS? The author’s name? Both? I’m a ways off actually querying, but I like to have my information ahead of time. 🙂 Thanks!

    Oh, and I love historical romance. I’m gonna have to get Sherry’s book as soon as it comes out!

  6. Ryan Field said:

    This is also a perfect example of how important it is to research the agency to see if your work is the right fit. This hit a nerve with Kristen; it’s clearly her thing. And that’s so important when querying.

  7. Ryan Field said:

    For Jenny: Most agency web sites tell you to put QUERY or SUBMISSION with the title of the project in the subject line. And for those web sites that don’t, I’d assume you could do the same thing. Unless you’re Anne Tyler or John Irving, I doubt your name will matter.

  8. Ryan Field said:

    For Jenny: Most agency web sites tell you to put QUERY or SUBMISSION with the title of the project in the subject line. And for those web sites that don’t, I’d assume you could do the same thing. Unless you’re Anne Tyler or John Irving, I doubt your name will matter.

  9. Anonymous said:

    Dear Kristin,

    I really enjoy your blog, but I have to say that these sort of stories really dishearten me.

    You took on a new client and sold her book in 25 days. 25 DAYS. It takes years for most people to get published. If ever.

    Perhaps you could share a story about a client who took years to publish? Who struggled and preserved despite all the odds? To buck up the rest of us who aren’t going to sell in 25 days. Who might not ever sell. Just a suggestion.

  10. Julie Leto said:

    I’m not one of Kristin’s clients, though I’m a regular reader of her blog. It took me nine years to sell my first book, and that was after many, many rejections on two completed historical manuscripts. Rejections from both editors and agents.

    In retrospect, THANK GOD. Those books were crap. They were wonderful learning tools, but they stunk up to high heaven.

    My third completed manuscript (I was working as a teacher full time, so my output wasn’t like it is now) got some interest from an editor. I was very close to selling, having completed extensive revisions. Then the line folded.

    Back to square one. I met an editor and pitched her an idea at a conference. She liked it, I worked on it, submitted, revised, submitted, revised and finally, got the sale. After ten books with that publisher, I got an agent (sent out three queries, got a fabulous rejection from one, acceptance from another and told the third I was represented) and went on to sell another fifteen or so books with this agent to three different publishers.

    I’ve been very fortunate, very stubborn and very open minded to improving my craft. Not everyone has it happen for them overnight.

    And for the writer who sold in 25 days–brava! To Kristin and the author! In one way, I’m glad that wasn’t my story (I’m telling you, those first books were ::shudder::) but in a bigger way, I’m thrilled for the triumph of both agent and author! I love it when timing and talent and hard work merge into a beautiful, successful package.

  11. lorraine said:

    Count me as one of the ones eagerly awaiting this book!

    However, that raises a question in my mind. The author now has a good little bit of buzz going on about her novel because of the deal and being featured here. How can she keep that momentum going or capitalize on that between now and publication?

    I mean, as much as I’m dying to read this book, there’s a good chance I’ll forget the title and author come Fall 07. Which is a shame, so I just wondered if there was any way for the author to take advantage of all this? Sign up for publication alert emails or something?

  12. Sherry Thomas said:

    Dear Anonymous,

    I’ve been writing for eight years. Had an agent before. Was dropped from her list. Did another round of querying last year for a different manuscript. It failed to interest any agents altogether. Schemes of Love is my sixth full-lengt manuscript.

    So, to reassure you, no overnight success here. And I hate those too. 🙂

    To Lorraine and anyone else interested, if you’d like a notice when SCHEMES OF LOVE finally hits the stores, email me:
    sherry at writersherrythomas dot com and I’ll send you a reminder when the time comes.

    Sherry

  13. Anonymous said:

    Kristin–

    I surfed over here from Miss Snark’s blog–there’s now a new bookmark for my regular lunchtime reading. This query series is great! Thanks!

  14. Gabriele C. said:

    Lol Julie, I’m glad I sensed something was wrong with my first book before I sent the stinker to some poor, unsuspecting agents, scaring them out of business.

  15. kate d. said:

    well, i wouldn’t say that i’ve never seen that basic premise for a romance before, as it reminds me a bit of eloisa james’ “his wicked ways.”

    but it’s certainly original enough for me to want to read it- and i read a LOT of romance.

  16. Anonymous said:

    Sherry,

    Thanks for your reply to my question about the length of the query letter.

    Mark

  17. Anonymous said:

    Dear Sherry and Julie,

    Thanks for giving us more of your publishing background and letting us know that you two have struggled in the trenches with the rest of us.

    Thanks,

    Anonymous

  18. Sammi Wyatt said:

    All these query examples are so helpful for me, seeing that I am working on my on query at the moment. I keep trying to better it because I want to make my book sound interesting right of the bat, so I’m looking at as many examples as I can. Thanks for these:)

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