Pub Rants

Demon’s Lexicon: Letter To the Editor

 30 Comments |  Share This:    

STATUS: I lied yesterday. Today I’m finishing that contract if it’s the last thing I do…

What’s playing on the iPod right now? (I JUST) DIED IN YOUR ARMS by Cutting Crew

Now that we’ve had a chance to look at the query letter that Sarah sent to me, I thought it might be interesting to see the submission letter I emailed to editors for THE DEMON’S LEXICON. [Note: this is the main bones of the letter since I often tailor it to a specific editors etc.] Since Karen Wojtyla won the auction at S&S, I’ll use her name in the salutation.

Before I share the letter, here are some interesting tidbits about this manuscript and its submission.

1. This novel sold to an editor I had never worked with before. In fact, Karen didn’t know me as an agent at all. I had to ring her up and introduce myself so she wouldn’t think I was some lunatic who wanted to send her something. Now Karen is delighted I made that phone call. We are having lunch next time I’m in New York and that will be the first time we will meet in person.

My point? Agents don’t know every editor on the planet. Now we know a good majority but not all.

2. Here’s another fun tidbit. I knew the minute an editor had finished reading the manuscript because they just had to talk to me immediately about the ending. I received some late night emails and phone calls because of that. Editors couldn’t believe that they hadn’t seen it coming (even though I had warned them in the submission letter). It’s also the only submission I’ve done where I think every editor who loved it, read it twice before the auction unfolded. They had to see for themselves that all the clues were there and they could have figured it out.

And so without further ado, the letter:

Hello Karen,

Let me tell you why I love this novel. First, it’s a story of two brothers—Alan and Nick. Think for a minute. When’s the last time you read a YA urban fantasy that was about two brothers? I certainly haven’t seen one in a long time. But it’s also the story of a brother and sister—Jamie and Mae who get caught in the events unfolding around the Ryves brothers. In fact, their interconnecting lives become absolutely essential to the outcome. Here’s the other reason I love this novel, right at the minute I think I’m brilliant and I have the novel figured out, the author turns the whole story on its head. To say there is a twist would be an understatement. But if you go back and reread, you’ll see that all the subtle clues are there.

So what is THE DEMON’S LEXICON? It’s a story set in modern-day London. It’s about two brothers who are on the run with their mother because she was once the lover of a powerful magician and when she left him, she took an important charm amulet with her. When the eldest son gets marked by the magician’s demon, the family must stand and fight and only the strong yet mysterious bond between the brothers can save them.

The author, Sarah Rees Brennan, is Irish and currently lives in London. For a short stint, she lived in New York and became involved with a wide circle of writers and publishers who encouraged and supported her, including New York Times bestselling authors [Name removed] and [Name removed] (both have already agreed to read the advanced copy for a blurb) and Anna Genoese, a former editor at Tor. She has developed a wide audience through her popular blog,, where she writes movie parodies, book reviews and some stories, and has around four thousand registered readers (she was also recently interviewed about her blog in The Washington Post). She participates in –an adult and YA urban fantasy writers’ community started by Melissa Marr (Wicked Lovely). Currently, Sarah is completing a Creative Writing M.A. with her dissertation tutor Liz Jensen (shortlisted for the Guardian Fiction Prize for her book Ark Baby).

I’m super excited to share this novel with you, and I can’t wait to talk about the ending. So call or email me when you are finished and then I can gush all I want.

All Best,

30 Responses

  1. bran fan said:

    Oh, so that’s what the story is about. Kristin’s one-paragraph “hook,” the second paragraph of her letter, is what I’d hoped (and expected) to see in the original query.

    Sigh. It is always easier to write a hook for someone else’s book. As authors, we are often too close to it. My critique group takes turns writing hooks for each other’s books. The author is always amazed at how clear and direct they are, and how accurately the reader can sum up 400 pages in just two sentences.

  2. Anonymous said:

    Thanks for posting your pitch letter. It was a great insight into the agent-editor relationship.

    I can see now why the project appealed: it was a whole package type deal. Yes, the story intrigued, but the author had paid her dues by doing some serious networking and developing relationships in the industry. Seems like those factors will play significant roles in helping launch and market the book.

    It’s all about the writing…but it isn’t *all* about the writing.

  3. Anonymous said:

    No, it IS all about the writing. The writing is what sells the book. Kristin throws in the other stuff, author support, blog, editor contacts, etc….so they know she will be able to help market the book. This book would sell without that…just on the writing. The other stuff is just icing on the cake, good to mention, but not mandatory.

    Write a good book, a compelling story and you’re all set. Really.

  4. Allison Brennan said:

    I agree with anon 4:11. While it’s nice to have other credentials, it IS all about the writing.

    I sold without ANYTHING–not a blog, not an endorsement, not an editor interested (well, I should say I got an agent without an editor interested because I only subbed to agents).

    The other things may catch the eye of someone, but only the book itself can make the sale.

    I can totally see why this book received lots of attention. I don’t read a lot of fantasy anymore, but already I know both my teen-age daughters would pick it up on the premise alone.

  5. Charli said:

    Urban fantasy about two brothers–Nightlife by Rob Thurman, featuring two brothers on the run after their mother has an affair with a demon. 😉

    This sounds like a really good book, though. Your letter to the editor convinced me, at least, to read the first one when it comes out.

  6. Vicki said:

    I agree it’s all about the writing. Yes, having a blog or a website may help a ‘few’ people know who you are but in the big picture none of that matters unless you can write the book.

    I do believe that adding it does exactly what anonymous said. It tells them that she is willing to help promote the sale of the book.

    I’m not yet published and yes, I have a blog. I enjoy it and the people I’ve virtually met on the blog. However, that doesn’t mean my book will sale. Only if the writing is strong and appealing will the book sale.

    Just my thoughts.

  7. Anonymous said:

    Thanks for posting that letter. I do wonder if it helps to have a blog which is visited by a lot of people. One of Sarah’s posts has over 1700 comments on it. That’s incredible, and many of those people say that they’ll buy the book when it comes out.


  8. JDuncan said:

    Kristen, if you ever tire of agenting, I’m guessing you could get paid fairly well to write query letters. I’m curious, if Sarah had known to include something about the twist ending, would that have sparked more interest for you? That certainly piqued my interest.


  9. Anonymous said:

    There’s actually a book out called Night Life by Rob Thurman (came out last year) that’s about two half brothers on the run from the youngest evil demonic dad. They too have a strong bond. The oldest watches out for the youngest.

    It’s an urban fantasy as well but its not in the Young Adult section. Althought the youngest is about 18 I think.

  10. Anonymous said:

    Kristin – what a great submission pitch! I’m dying to find out the ending! Great job again on this one – congrats to you and Sarah!

  11. Josephine Damian said:

    Question for Kristin: Did Sarah provide you with a synopsis, or did you summarized the book yourself?

    Question for everyone: If it’s all about the writing, then why would Kristin take the time to mention all that self promotion Sarah’s done? If it didn’t matter to an editor, why mention it? My guess is, because it’s not just all about the writing.

    There’s thousands of writers of considerable talent writing similar ideas, but not are willing to self promote.

  12. Kris Eton said:

    Actually, I am kind of sad I read this letter. I hate it when I read there is a ‘twist’ in a film or a book, because then throughout the whole book, I am anticipating the twist and trying to guess what it is.

    Sounds like this one is very well done…but now I KNOW about it.

    Oh, well.

  13. Anonymous said:

    Whoa, whoa, whoa, Maya wrote a book?! I love her movie parodies. Between that and your posts about it, I’ll be picking this up as soon as it’s published!

  14. Linnea said:

    Thanks for sharing. Most of us can only imagine what goes on inside the world of publishing. Thank you for letting us in on the process.

  15. 150 said:

    I heard about this sale via Mistful’s LJ. She wrote the funniest Harry Potter fanfic I have ever read–I wouldn’t hesitate for a minute to pick up something else she wrote.

  16. Kim Stagliano said:

    Very cool to see the process and your enthusiasm for your author rings so true. Congrats to all three of you, writer, agent, editor. And doesn’t that editor share the same last name as Pope John Paul II?? Heaven sent! LOL…. KS

  17. bonita said:

    The agent letter to the editor somehow feels more casual that the original query to the agent from the author. Is that because you just have more experience? The casual and confident tone does not seem to stem from the tone of the book, itself.

  18. Diana Peterfreund said:

    Question for everyone: If it’s all about the writing, then why would Kristin take the time to mention all that self promotion Sarah’s done? If it didn’t matter to an editor, why mention it? My guess is, because it’s not just all about the writing.

    I really don’t understand the disconnect here. It’s just a bonus. It means NOTHING if the book’s not up to par, but if it is, it’s a nice bonus. Think of it this way: you can have a lovely scoop of gourmet ice cream with a cherry on top, or you can have a pile of day old mashed potatoes. Do you care that much about the cherry if it’s on top of day old mashed potatoes? No. But would you still be excited about the ice cream, even sans cherry? Yes.

    The gourmet ice cream is the point, and it’s not out there in abundance, cherries or not.

  19. Loberto said:

    Thank you for these posts. Incredibly insightful.

    Drawing from my own perspective, it seems that most of the comments on this series of posts come from aspiring unpublished authors who are new to the game, even though many have probably been researching publishing and practicing queries for years. Up until about a year ago, when I was closing in on finishing the draft of my first novel, I didn’t know anything about the query process. Now I’m scavenging, trying to horde all of these subjective bits of wisdom and protocol so that I can do it right the first time. I think most of the commenters share that general context. But your comments have indeed clarified how the process works, and what our responsibilities are as writers. Thanks again!

  20. Chumplet said:

    I can’t believe there’s an editor out there who never heard of Kristin.

    The extra author stuff in the letter is just that — extra stuff. The agent isn’t as limited as the author regarding the size of a pitch letter. It can only help!

  21. Anonymous said:

    So, if you had two excellent writers, both of which had original ideas and one had contacts and the other didn’t, which would you choose? The answer is only obvious. You would chose the one who had the contacts, who had the connections.
    It’s exactly that. It’s a plus, a bonus. One that could completely influence someone. Whether they want to take the easier route or they simply want the connections for their own benefit, it helps. And if it really is ONLY a bonus, why include it in the letter? What’s the point, if it doesn’t hold some kind of power behind it?

    Connections influence everything. It works that way in every single business. Why try and lie about it? We know it happens, just be honest about it and own up to when it’s pointed out.

  22. somekindofberry said:

    eh – it’s good to see someone in a position to DO something about it loving and pimping Sarah’s work …

    Frankly, I think half the people who have her lj friended would read her shopping list if she posted it. The girl is a verbal genius with a gift for humour and storytelling.

    I am so glad she’s got someone so firmly on her side …

    Having read some of these comments, am of the opinion that there are a lot of sour grapes amongst the audience … yah boo sucks to them for their negativity ;p

    If you have two excellent writers – you’d publish BOTH! Whoever said that only one could go forward for publishing? Crazy readers.

  23. Melissa Marr said:

    I just wanted to clarify that FFF membership is only open to published authors. (We use SFWA guidelines as our general guidelines.) My inbox is getting a surge of requests that I’m having to reject because they are not published, so I thought I’d better clarify.

    Every reader is welcome to reply to threads & join in on our public conversations (just as on this blog). Replies are posted instantly (& do not require our approval to appear).

    After her sale, Sarah joined FFF. We are glad to meet her & have her with us, but we have not–and will not–made any exceptions to the membership rules. 🙂


    Melissa Marr