Query Example: Quiver

For the first time ever, last fall, I didn't have to query or pitch on Twitter to get published. I now have a publisher to submit directly to. It is a huge milestone of an author's career and I am proud, but I miss creating pitches and queries. You'll call me sick, a masochist even, but I enjoyed writing queries and pitches--the waiting and rejection, I could definitely do without. The actual process of querying sucks, but mastering how to write just the letter has been a skill I learned to love.

As a pantser (non plotting writer), drafting that query during revisions of the manuscript was essential. Summing up the plot of my novel for the query letter forces me to examine my plot. If I struggle too hard to sum it up, then I might have a plot hole or things are unclear. For this novel, this is the query I had used in 2012. It received multiple 50-page requests, 5 full manuscript requests, 2 R&R's (revise and resubmit) that I rejected due to the drastic changes being asked, 1 agent interested in taking it on to sell as a novel and movie rights. This sounds like a dream come true, but the deal fell through.

I digress. The query worked, but I didn't end up using it again, shelved the book, and then submitted it to my publisher last winter. Here is my letter with notes (in red). I have updated certain areas of the letter noted below.

Dear Agent, (This should be specific, but I stripped his details out)

You think your family is large, complicated, and dysfunctional? Archer Ambrose, previously known as Eros, would beg to differ. After over 3000 years of a mostly uneventful existence as the god of love, Archer will finally learn how much harm one’s family can do. (This is your hook, usually near the beginning of a query that sucks the reader in; I asked a question forcing the reader to align with one of my MCs and then explained whom he was.)

Let me introduce you to Quiver, a YA high-concept paranormal romance that is 93,000 words. Told in first-person by four narrators, they spin tales of mythological proportions where a profound love threatens to undermine the immortal way of life. (This is also early on in query letters; the agent/publisher needs to know word count, genre, and I added POV because that was something they felt strongly about in their feedback--they loved it or hated it. Originally, I was querying this as 106,000 words which didn't seem to affect the amount of positive responses.) When Callie Syches moves to Manhattan her senior year, Archer feels passionately drawn to her. His dysfunctional family doesn't like this new attachment including his Grandpa Zeus who wants Callie silenced forever, his overbearing mother who poses as his sister, and his uncle, the truth-seeker, who is puzzled over a prophecy concerning her. Inadvertently, Callie, who “sees” too much, threatens to destroy Archer’s mortal fa├žade. From evidence such as Archer’s eyes that shine when feeling intense emotions to his instant healing abilities, Callie begins to unravel the secrets to a world she can hardly fathom. As the couple’s love blossoms and Callie discovers the truth, Zeus makes a devastating move. Unable to contemplate life without her, Archer must decide what is more important, family or love. (This is the synopsis blurb. I gave them everything but the ending; I avoided all the subplots and other conflicts focusing on the central love story. I have included the themes of family and love, which are essential in the book.)

Blending Greek mythology into a modern love story of epic proportions seems an arduous task, but having BA’s in English, Dramatic Arts, and an MA in English, gives me a vast background of knowledge of character and world building. (Since this had been the first book I queried, my former roster was only the above and one short story--that I now leave out of queries because it's not as impressive as other titles. Not having anything here did seem to make a difference which is why I stopped querying early on and focused on publishing shorter works first. As soon as that one story was on there, I got responses. I think experience helps. I also included my degrees but only because they directly factor into writing.) I’ve published the novella “Dare” in the Kissed anthology (Evernight Teen), a stand alone novel Apidae (Evernight Teen), and book 1 of the Celestial Spheres trilogy titled Fyr (Authors 4 Authors Publishing). I’m also a college Lecturer and strongly believe in the effectiveness of publicity through social media, and use a blog and other digital venues. (This is my updated roster. I mentioned my job only because I teach writing to students who are the age group as my readers. A social media presence is good too. You don't have to mention this if you include all your links like I did below, but this was popular request in 2012 for authors to have a presence , so I added it.)  

I am looking for official representation in the publishing world to champion my full-length manuscripts. It would be a pleasure to work with an agent with extensive experience in editing and publishing, dealing with such companies as Penguin and Harper Collins, and who is eager to explore the YA market. At your request, I would love to send the full-length manuscript of Quiver for your review. I look forward to hearing from you soon, and I humbly thank you for your time. (To wrap it up, you get to the point. We write these to have the agent/publisher read the entire MS and hopefully offer us representation. So ask. Also, it is extremely important to do your research about the company or agent and to show you have. Above, I mention details about the impressive powerhouses this man works with and how he was starting to add YA authors to his client list. Like dating, you want to butter them up a little so they'll ask you out-- but don't flirt! That was just an analogy.)


Lisa Borne Graves

This may be my last query for a while as I'm lined up to release--if all goes well--eight books with my publisher without having to write another. But you never know, since I don't mind doing them.

Interested in the book? Here is where you can purchase the novel: Quiver