Friday, January 23, 2009

A Query Letter by Angie Fox

By now you should all know that because of a number of requests you are reading the short series I’m doing on query letters that helped my clients get my attention and eventually representation. Next in line is Angie Fox. One of my newer clients and a great success story. Angie submitted this via e-mail in August 2007, and simply because of the great title in the subject line, The Accidental Demon Slayer, I immediately opened the e-mail and requested more material. Coincidentally, at about the same time an editor from Dorchester was making Angie an offer (a request from a contest Angie had entered). Needless to say things moved very quickly, and after some tough decisions Angie and I formed an official partnership.

Angie e-mailed me the full manuscript and I read it quickly and offered representation. Well, we were more than delighted when Angie’s debut novel, The Accidental Demon Slayer, was published this year and spent two weeks on The New York Times extended list. And we are equally excited for the upcoming The Dangerous Book for Demon Slayers. So here’s the letter that launched Angie’s career.

Dear Ms. Faust,

Straight-laced preschool teacher, Lizzie Brown, never lies, never cusses, and doesn’t really care much for surprises. When her long lost Grandma Gertie shows up on her doorstep riding a neon pink Harley Davidson wearing a “kiss my asphalt” t-shirt and hauling a carpet bag full of Smuckers jars filled with road kill magic, Lizzie doesn’t think her life could get any stranger. That is, until her hyper-active terrier starts talking and an ancient demon decides to kill her from his perch on the back of her toilet.

Lizzie learns she’s a demon slayer, fated to square off with the devil’s top minion in, oh about two weeks. Sadly, she’s untrained, unfit and under attack. Grandma’s gang of fifty-something biker witches promises to whip Lizzie into shape, as long as she joins them out on the road. But Lizzie wants nothing to do with all this craziness. She simply wants her normal life back. When she accidentally botches the spell meant to protect her, she only has one choice – trust the utterly delicious but secretive man who claims to be her protector.

Dimitri Kallinikos has had enough. Cursed by a demon centuries ago, his formerly prominent clan has dwindled down to himself and his younger twin sisters, both of whom are now in the coma that precedes certain death. To break the curse, he must kill the demon behind it. Dimitri needs a slayer. At long last, he’s found Lizzie. But how do you talk a girl you’ve never met into going straight to Hell? Lie (and hope she forgives you). Dimitri decides to pass himself off as Lizzie’s fated protector in order to gain her trust and guide her towards this crucial mission. But will his choice to deceive her cost them their lives, or simply their hearts?

The Accidental Demon Slayer is an 85,000 word humorous paranormal. I’m a member of RWA and the partial manuscript placed first in the Windy City RWA’s Four Seasons contest. The judge for that contest, Leah Hultenschmidt of Dorchester Publishing, has just requested the full. As an advertising writer, I’ve won multiple awards for my work in radio dialogue.

I would be happy to send you the complete manuscript. Thank you for your consideration and time.


Angie Fox Gwinner
(email address)

I think this is probably one of the more perfect query letters I’ve seen. Yes, the pitch paragraphs could probably be shortened to two at the most, but it works as is, possibly because Angie’s voice shines through in each paragraph. You might also notice that Angie used a different technique than most writers. She launched right into her pitch and kept the title, genre, and word count to the end. This worked for her. Instantly readers knew that this was humorous and got a great sense of her voice.

You might notice that Angie only included her email address. This is fine, but I would suggest also including your phone number. You just never know when an agent would prefer to call and you always want to make it as easy on those agents as possible.

I think by reading this letter and knowing what the subject line said you can see why I immediately jumped in and read this with enthusiasm, and why readers have fallen in love with Angie’s books as well.



Anonymous said...

Did Angie include any pages with her e-query?

Do you like to see a couple of pages in the body of e-mail queries?

Should pages be single or double spaced in e-mails?

Sorry for the dumb questions, but e-queries are totally new to me and I want to get them right. I'm too used to the old-fashion ways...

BookEnds, A Literary Agency said...

I think I've addressed this before, but it never hurts to be repeated.

In this case Angie did not include any pages in her query. I think it never hurts to add a page or two, but keep in mind it doesn't mean the agent will read it (unless it's requested).

No questions are dumb.


s.w. vaughn said...

Well, gee. Your blog seems to have suddenly gone all green . . .

Oh, wait. That's just me. LOL

What a fantastic query letter! This is the third time I've heard this novel mentioned (the title definitely stands out) so now, me and my limited budget must strike out and obtain this book immediately. Third time's the charm, after all.

And after reading this, I'm practically drooling over the book.

Thanks for sharing these letters! It's really fascinating to see what grabs and what doesn't.

Anita said...

This is another example in which the author's voice and the general tone of the book is truly captured in the query. And the title and the cover of this book ROCK---I bought it solely on those two items, which I have NEVER done before.

I covered Ms. Fox in my book recommendation column for the Colorado Springs Gazette last Sunday. I've posted the column to my blog, as well as the full interview with Ms. Fox. If you're interested, you can get there through my profile.

Anonymous said...

This has got to be one of the best letters I've read across the interwebs, honestly.

Anna Claire said...

I love how clear this letter is. I didn't have any head-scratching "huh?" moments when reading it. This usually isn't my favorite genre, but I've head of this book and it sound fabulous.

Would you recommend the "dive right in" approach to query letters?

Anonymous said...

Now this one is a no-brainer. I can certainly see why it would elicit an immediate request for the full. It is a classic example of what a query letter should be.

Anonymous said...

It's certainly the best query letter I've read online. Though the subject matter doesn't interest me, she conveyed her story very clearly. The title alone makes one want to see what the book is about.

Kate Douglas said...

What's really cool about this query letter is how well it captures Angie's voice. I loved The Accidental Demon Slayer, and there's no doubt that the author of the letter is the one who wrote the book--she's gotten the feel of the entire story in her letter.

About Me said...

Another home run! This letter is excellent. I agree that it could have probably been a little shorter, but who cares when it grabs you from the beginning and never lets up.

Anonymous said...

I've read Angie's book & it's just as good as the query promises. Straight fun! :)

Anonymous said...

Five paragraphs, another one of those things I heard was an absolute no-no from one of the blogs. Now we know why I have bald spots on my scalp. I have decided not to follow anyones advice and go by instinct. Although, Jessica, I prefer your advice, you are way down to earth. Oh, and isn't this a YA? Jessica, do you take those? If so I had better add you to my list, because I never realized you did those, and I really think I would enjoy having you as an agent. When I start querying I may look you up.

Casey Something said...

Another fabulous query. Thanks so much for posting these! I learn well by example.

Robena Grant said...

This is a great query, Angie. Thanks for sharing. It's the perfect example of the jump right in style, and your voice shines through. Also, I like your suggestion, Jessica, to add a telephone number beneath the signature line in an email query. Thanks so much, this has been a really helpful week.

DeadlyAccurate said...

The book is fantastic, by the way. I heard about it from this blog and practically devoured it in a short time.

Dave Fragments said...

I love the way the query starts out so normal and then quickly descends into totally silly fun and complete quirkiness.

Angie Fox said...

Yay - thanks. How cool that so many people have read the book.

Anon 10:48 commented on length. Five paragraphs is kind of long. I tried to shorten it, but found I didn't want to fiddle too much with the rythm I had going. For me, it was about hooking an agent and if that meant tossing in an extra paragraph, I figured if they were interested, they'd go along for the ride.

It was more of a question of relating. If I had a chance to sit down and have a quick chat with an agent, what would I say about my book?

I think if you write from the heart, it helps. This letter only went to my top, top agent picks and it did generate a fantastic response.

Angie Fox said...

Thanks, Dave. It was important to establish right away that the main character is a more serious person. So by knowing that, then you know without any added explanation that the events described afterward are going to rock her world. I wanted to show that conflict, instead of just telling the agent about it.

Anonymous said...

Sure, this query is longer than the average, but I can't imagine this being any shorter. (And I'm someone who prefers short and sweet.) The author does a wonderful job showing her quirky characters in action, the plot is clear, the stakes for both characters are laid out beautifully, and the author's voice comes shining through.

Anonymous said...


This is Anon 10:48. My frustration wasn't with your letter. I have been overloading myself with rules from several different places. From the heart is exactly where I am headed from now on. All of those rules may stay in the back of my mind, but I am not necessarily applying them.

PS I have read your book, it's great.

Anonymous said...

Yay Angie, you and your query rock! I loved this book. Your humor and voice convinced a dark and serious science-fiction romance author to hook up as your crit partner, so there you go. LOL Anyone would love this book.


Diana said...

So I guess the main rule is that if you're pitching something really good, you can fudge on the rules so long as you get your voice and concept across?

Thanks so much for sharing these query letters. It is nice to see what successful letters look like.

By the way, I, too, loved Accidental Demon Slayer. We were out of money at our library to buy it by the time I read it, so I donated my copy just to get it out there. It is constantly in circulation.

Lynn Raye Harris said...

I picked up the booklet Angie put together of the first chapter and cover at conference in SF. A couple of months ago, I was going through some things and spotted it. So I started to read. It was evening, my hubby was playing a computer game, and I was preparing to read a (different) book.

But when I finished the chapter, I told my husband, "I have to go buy this book right NOW."

And I did. It was awesome. :)

Spanish Magnate, Red-Hot Revenge
Harlequin Presents, Aug 09

Sharon Page said...

What I love about Angie's query is how she shows the stakes for both her heroine and hero--she's got to face the big demon, he has sisters to rescue. And she gives a solid idea of the "narrative drive" of the story, and show what is going to be a big source of conflict--the hero's lie. There's a lot packed in, but it flows so smoothly, and the voice is so strong!

Debra Lynn Shelton said...

This query is - as Sarah Silverman would say - beyond. Talk about a captivating voice and story. (Not my "normal" genre, but I'm adding it to my "must buy" list.)

Jessica, I bet you were happy the day Angie's query hit your in box. Thanks SO much for sharing it.

And Angie, Way to write, girlfriend! ;-)

T. M. Hunter said...

I've heard that query letters should be written business-like, yet you comment that it's good that a person's voice be present. Is there a way to know which is more preferred by the vast number of agents out there, or is it going to always be a case-by-case basis?

Natalie Hatch said...

Anon 10;48 - Not YA, especially later on in the novel.
Angie is such a clever girl. Great query letter, fantastic storyline, now I have to wait for the next book. *crosses fingers patiently*

Anonymous said...

You guys are in for a treat. The second book is just as wild and funny as the first. Mix Pirate the talking terrier with a magical hotel on the Vegas Strip, and an imminent succubi invasion poised to destroy the entire world, and you've got a fun ride.


Anonymous said...

I've heard that query letters should be written business-like, yet you comment that it's good that a person's voice be present. Is there a way to know which is more preferred by the vast number of agents out there, or is it going to always be a case-by-case basis?

If you look back at the queries presented, you'll see that they all take a business-like approach. (There's no, "Hey, Jess, how's it going?" introductions. And they all contain the same elements: title, word count, description, and bio.) "Voice" refers more to the tone of the story. Whether you have a humorous novel or something dark and gritty, the pitch should reflect that. That's something all agents want to see.

(By the way, Kristin Nelson has a list of "winning queries" on her blog. She tends to like longer queries, but I think you'll get a good sense of how "voice" can differ among queries, just like the ones presented here.)

Hope this helps!

Anonymous said...

I'm so glad she got published. I was one of the judges in the contest that netted her the editor request and got to read her first chapter. I loved it and gave her a very high score.

I'm happy to know others loved it as much as I did.


Anonymous said...

Apparently, you can't trust agents to all have the same taste. I guess they differ about as much as writers. Go figure.
Nice pitch, but it's longer than I would have dared. Of course, in this case it works well.
I may have to pick this book up at the library. I'm not a paranormal fan.

Anonymous said...

The rule is there are no rules. Just guidelines. Your job is to sell your book to the agent. Whatever works is the true rule.

Anonymous said...

I was so impressed with this query, I bought the book. And I'm glad I did. I picked it up and read it straight through. Wow. The story never lets up for a second. The action could have been spread over a couple of books and still been a page-turner. I can't imagine any agent turning this m/s away. It's got 'runaway hit' written all over it. Can you tell, I loved it?!

Becke Davis said...

I love the book blurbs for Angie's books on her website,too. If I hadn't already bought her books, those would have sold me.

As to the query -- the bar has just been raised pretty high for the rest of us. (Thanks, Angie!)

Les Brierfield said...

Thank you for all this information. As a recently published author, I found that the submission process was very hard and still feel like a babe in the woods. I’m ready to submit another book, and I’m trying to absorb as much information as I can about this process. The many articles in this site as well as the comments are all very helpful. I wish I would have known about this site earlier.

Talking about query letters—I find some query letters to be a brief synopsis, with minimal details about the author’s background and I like this type. Others are more focused on the intended market and author’s background.

I find it difficult to differentiate between a pitch, a query letter, and brief synopsis, so is it okay to use a query letter as a combination of the three?

Anonymous said...

Dear Jessica, you describe this as a perfect query letter. I would be interested in your thoughts on the suggestion that writers should initially personalize a query i.e. flatter the agent in some way or indicate why they are querying you in particular. Angie cuts to the chase immediately here, no pre-amble. This is what I'm doing -- unless I see that an agent insists on personalizing the query -- but I do wonder if the cutting-to-the-chase approach could cause a query to be ignored by agents who particularly want to be addressed personally or flattered in some way.