My agent, Katie Shea, did an interview a few months ago with Writer Unboxed, a website dealing not only with writing fiction, but also with the business aspects of it. Katie read my manuscript based on a cold query I sent. You always hear it can never happen that way, but I believe anything is possible--if you do it to the best of your ability and persist past the rejections that come. Anyway, she singled my query letter out in the article. I'm sharing it here for anyone who has ever queried/pitched, or plan to query a manuscript, screenplay or pilot.
TW: What do you look for in a compelling project?
KS: I want to know the main character. Really, know him/her. A successful writer isn’t afraid to be honest. Put emotion into your story and put details you think should be secret. Conflict is a major part of a story, so use it. Use conflict as a base to your protagonist’s emotions. Another aspect that is important in a “compelling” project is the development of the characters. I love character-driven novels, and I love seeing when characters change their ways and realize certain values in life through a particular situation. Show personal struggle and personal strength to make the full circle in a character’s novel life.
TW: Can you provide a few examples of clients who’ve hooked you with either voice, plot, characterizations, a great query or synopsis? What did it?
KS: I love one-sentence pitches. Give me what the story is about in one sentence. This proves to me that the writer knows his/her project.
One of my first clients, Carolita Blythe, sent me a query letter that I could not refuse. Her first sentence went like this:
I am seeking representation for my 90,000 word completed novel, Revenge of a Not So Pretty Girl, the story of the unlikely friendship that develops between an 80-year-old reclusive former actress and the 13-year-old girl who tries to mug her.
Tell me more! Lets break this down to why this is a great first sentence. First, she included the word count. Title is next, which is always important. Now to her one sentence pitch:
The highlighted word here is “the.” There is only one story like this.
Carolita did her research; I love character-driven novels.
80-year-old reclusive former actress
A fantastic brief description of one of the main characters.
There is a huge age difference here between the two protagonists, and it is obvious this story is of an “unlikely relationship.”
who tries to mug her
Conflict! Carolita proves to me that she has a well-developed story line with two interesting characters while presenting conflict.
*Carolita Blythe’s Revenge of a Not So Pretty Girl will be published Spring 2013 by the Random House imprint, Delacorte Books.