Imagine working for years on a book, revising, getting feedback, revising again and then finally sending out to agents only to get rejections, all because of one page. That’s what can happen when you don’t work on your query and I’ve found that seeing examples of queries that work can help, so today I’m sharing mine! I wrote a few versions of my query letter over the course of a few months, and ended up splicing them together and making a Frankenstein version that finally landed me my agent.
Although my book has changed considerably after this letter went out (even the title is different!), and some of the plot points won’t apply now, the bones of this letter are solid and a good way to model a query if you’re completely lost. The portion that deals with the inspiration for the book doesn’t need to be included but was something this specific agent asked me about. Make sure to look at guidelines for the specific agent you’re querying as some of them ask for things like themes while some just want the summary and bio.
If you’re coming here after DVpit, or any other pitching contest, you can see how I worded the portion mentioning their interest in my pitch and please note I also included a link to the pitch/tweet in the body of the email. I hope seeing a successful query letters helps with yours, and best of luck in the query trenches! I’m rooting for you.
Reeking of cigarettes and sneaking into her window after last night’s Smiths concert, Emerald Kipp watches as the sun dips backwards into the sky. The sixteen-year-old witch can’t decide if she’s still hung-over or if she really did reverse time. Coming from a lineage of Caribbean witches, Emerald has always known she was magical, but after rewinding time like a VHS tape on her last day of high school, she discovers she’s also a Timeteller – a class of time-bending witches so powerful, they were hunted to near-extinction long ago.
When Emerald’s only relative Aunt Nora vanishes, Emerald must venture into the dangerous Magick World, tucked within the NYC alleyways and subway tunnels to save her. Her only clue into her aunt’s disappearance comes from a message from the past—find The Timekeeper, solve the riddle.
Despite the watercolor sky and talking neon signs, the NYC Magick world is a treacherous one, and Skinstitchers, a class of witches who kill and absorb the power of other witches, soon make Emerald their target. With power-hungry Skinstitchers hunting her, Emerald must rely on an underground network of Magicks to help her on her journey. Solving the riddle requires not only trusting her new friends, but overcoming her crippling anxiety enough to trust herself.
As the mystery of the riddle begins to unravel, Emerald learns that more than Aunt Nora’s life is at stake if she can’t beat it. Armed with a book of magic, her still-broken Walkman, and her trusty lock pick set, Emerald sets out to solve the riddle before time runs out–and she, along with everyone she knows, is erased from history. This might be a little harder than Saturday detention.
I am seeking representation for RIDDLE OF THE TIMEKEEPER, a 99,000-word YA Urban Fantasy set in 1980’s New York City. RIDDLE OF THE TIMEKEEPER is THE CRAFT meets SHADOWSHAPER. It is a standalone novel with strong series potential. I’m submitting my query and pages to you both because of your DVpit request and because you’ve expressed a love for strong characters and voice-driven stories that break out of the typical tropes. The inspiration for this book came from John Votta, the real-life timekeeper made famous on the NYU campus and Henrietta Snowden, nicknamed The Witch of East Broadway in a New York Times article from 1879. I have weaved little known New York City residents with a magical twist into the narrative, and it is a running theme throughout the series. Please find my first fifteen pages pasted below as per your DVpit instructions.
I work as a marketing director and social media manager at [REDACTED] which displays books at library and trade shows such as The Frankfurt Book Fair, worldwide. I am also a graduate of the SUNY Purchase Journalism program and a former reporter in Westchester County, NY.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
– Claribel Ortega