Deb Linda Sets a Bad Example (and then tries to make up for it)

Queries, queries, queries. Every new writer gets all worked up over them. You think if you can just compose the elusive Magic Query, all your writing troubles will be solved. Agents will come knocking at your door, clamoring to represent you. Your only dilemma will be choosing the right one, the one who will get you that seven-figure advance (and the yacht, and the cabana boy, the maid, the butler, yadda-yadda-yadda).


Are you perhaps struggling with this dilemma yourself? Would it help if I posted a model query here?

Okay, if I must, I must. Mind you, this only a representative sample. (Explanatory comments included parenthetically. Like, er, this.) Do with it what you will:


To My Lucky Future Agent (A positive attitude is a must.),

You don’t realize it yet, but your world is about to be rocked!!! (Exclamation points build excitement — use lots.) The client of your dreams — aka, moi! — is here, just waiting to be be snapped up by you. That’s right, YOU! (All caps for proper emphasis.) IF you’re smart enough to act fast, before every other agent jumps in and snatches opportunity from your clutches, that is.

But that would make me sad, because I put so much time and effort into researching YOU to make sure we’re a good match. By the way, love what you’ve done to your condo! And your dog is adorable. Hot hubs you have there, too! Might want to nudge him to get rid of his overly friendly secretary, though, if you get my drift. Just saying. (The personal touch shows you’re willing to go the extra mile. And, really, private detectives aren’t that expensive. This is your career you’re investing in, after all.)

I’d tell you what my book is about, but I don’t want to spoil the surprise. Suffice it to say, if Stephen King, Dan Brown, Stephenie Myer, and J.K. Rowling combined their superhero writing powers, they might be able to come up with something as awesome. (You have to show confidence in your work. This is no time for false modesty.)

Call when you get this and we’ll set up a lunch meeting to sign contracts.

Ciao, baby! (A touch of Continental Cool never hurts.)

Your Future Favorite Client,

“The Wiz”


Okay, not really. Puh-leeze. I did not use anything close to the above to get my agent. Honest. (I mean, I don’t think she even has a dog.) Though, knowing Michelle, she may have thought it was funny. Still, even if she laughed, I somehow doubt she would have signed me.

What’s that? You want to see the query that caught Michelle’s eye?

Well, all right. But I have to warn you – it’s nothing special. I just tried to give the necessary information, keeping it short and simple. I figure agents are ravenous query-carnivores busy people who want to get right to the meat pertinent content in, if at all possible, under three nanoseconds. Here you go:


Dear Ms. Wolfson,

IN A FIX is a lighthearted crime romp with a paranormal twist (I had no idea I was writing light urban fantasy until after we sold it.), complete at 87,000 words and aimed at readers who enjoy a dash of bawdy humor with their romantic adventure.

Ciel Halligan has a talent most women would kill for: she can change her appearance in the blink of an eye (I know. ClichΓ© city. My bad.). From a family of shady but goodhearted “aura adaptors” — with the ability to alter their energy to project someone else’s physical form — she’s determined to help others. When her clients get in a situation they can’t handle, Ciel steps in and fixes it. For a hefty fee, of course. A girl has to make a living. But when a client’s almost-fiance is kidnapped by modern-day Vikings in the middle of a job, Ciel is sucked into a mess she doesn’t know how to fix. Her hunky step cousin Billy, and Mark, the CIA agent she’s crushed on for years — both skilled adaptors themselves — are tangled up in the intrigue. Now Ciel has to extract her client’s intended from the Vikings, foil their ridiculous-but-deadly plot to… [Sorry. Spoilers. But it was in the letter.], and decide which of her two helpers she really likes best.

In Ciel’s world, it’s not unusual to be the Queen of England one minute and Boner Benjamin, awkward teen, the next. The most difficult thing to be is herself. (One of my fabulous CPs came up with that last bit for me. Thanks again, Suze! Hey, get your query help wherever you can.)

I’m an ex-actress and former English teacher, channeling my two loves — drama and words — into writing escapist fiction. IN A FIX is the first novel I’m letting out of the desk drawer.

Thank you for your consideration.

Best regards,

Linda Grimes


Michelle requested pages, and then a full. Guess she liked it well enough, because here I am, and I couldn’t be happier. Well, unless she somehow comes up with seven figures and a cabana boy. (Hmm. Would she get 15% of the cabana boy? The logistics could get complicated…never mind. I’m sure we’ll work it out.)

The thing is, the only job a query has to perform is to pique an agent’s interest enough to get her/him to request pages. (Um, for fiction, anyway. For nonfiction, please see yesterday’s post from Deb Rachel.) Then the baton gets passed to your book, and it has to do the heavy lifting. But that’s fodder for another post.

Tell me, if you’re a writer, have you begun the query process yet? Do you find it daunting, or is it just one more step on the path to publication?

Or, if you’re not a writer, do posts like this bore the bejeesus out of you? *grin*


P.S. If any of you have the nutsβ€”er, the guts to use something similar to my first example, please let me know how it works out for you.

35 Replies to “Deb Linda Sets a Bad Example (and then tries to make up for it)”

  1. why yes, I write. er…no, I’ve never used a query like example one to catch me an agent. *ponders* no. sorry. i don’t have the cojones to do that. sorry πŸ™‚ (in which I’m really not)

  2. You are such a brilliant writer! Love the first one! I’m sure Michelle would have taken you on that one too! Good talent is hard to miss.

    Thanks for the laughs!

    P.S. you should have seen what Norm cooked for me last night!

    1. Thanks so much! You’re really good for my ego. πŸ™‚

      Re what Norm cooked you for dinner: it wasn’t apple pie, was it? *grin*

  3. You got me. For a moment I thought your first letter was real and I just about got a case of the vapors.
    “Boner Benjamin” – I’m pretty sure I dated him!
    Thanks for the laugh, Linda.

  4. Knowing Michelle she’s going to want her 15% of the cabana boy. Yeesh.

    You make a great point, my query was also not FAB! EXCITING! BRILLIANT! It merely covered the basics, but it worked. In the end they’re after the story.

  5. Oh I already knew I couldn’t wait to be IN A FIX, but now…yeowsa! And Boner Benjamin, oh I’m going to be chuckling all day over that one. Brilliant!

    (Oh, and Linda dear, we’ve been over this: As my husband always reminds me, there’s no such thing as an ex-actress. Once an actress, always an actress. Or perhaps, a writer πŸ˜‰ )

  6. Sadly, it’s true that I have actually received letters like the first. More than one.

    As for Linda’s, I distinctly recall thinking, hmm, *I’m* a reader who enjoys a dash of bawdy humor with my romantic adventure! I’m already intrigued.

    And as many have suspected, that Boner Benjamin line is a total winner. I believe we used it all the way through in pitches to editors, verbally and in writing. I love the way it captures the essence of Ciel and the book, all the more once you know what the book is about.

    But Linda hit the nail on the head when she said the query’s job is to catch an agent’s attention and get her to request pages. After that, your book does the heavy lifting. So don’t obsess on one over the other–obsess equally! Just kidding. I just mean a perfect query means nothing without a great manuscript; likewise, a great manuscript could easily get overlooked by a humdrum query.

    That probably didn’t help, but hey, that’s the kind of mood I’m in today. Sorry. πŸ™‚

    1. Hi, Michelle! Yeah, you told me in your response you liked bawdy humor. That’s when I first knew you were the agent for me. πŸ™‚

      LOL at “obsess equally.” Actually, I think that’s very helpful. At least it helps make for a balanced writer. πŸ˜‰

  7. Thank you so much for your post. I am an aspiring writer with my first novel completed and I’m in the querying stage and feeling the pang of nerves at sending one. You have made me feel a little less dread now.
    Thanks again

    1. Hi Krissy! I’m glad if I helped a little with the query nerves. As long as you don’t send something like the first example, I expect you’ll do just fine. Best of luck to you! πŸ™‚

    1. Yeah, exactly. I suppose it takes on an out-of-proportion importance because it’s “first contact” with publishing professionals. And it IS important, of course. You hate to trip on the first step out the door. But, really, who wants to trip anywhere along the way?

  8. Linda, that is a great query. I particularly love the last paragraph, the one about you. πŸ™‚

    I sweated over my query, wrote a dozen different versions, and in the end, the agent I signed with never even saw it. What a reprieve. [g]

      1. Well, truly, effort like that is never wasted. [g] When I had to write a four-sentence pitch in ten minutes and read it out loud in a Don Maass workshop (OK, I used five sentences, but nobody was actually counting), it did wonders to crystallize the main conflicts I needed to emphasize in a query. And while ultimately I didn’t end up needing that query to hook my agent (though I did send it to, or pitch it in person to, other agents, to universally good response), that process helped me see the shape of the story arc, and what I needed to emphasize in order to finish the book. Before that Maass workshop, I had been floundering, too distracted by the trees to see the shape of the forest.

        1. You make a very good point about the query pitch being a great way to distill the story elements down to what is most important in the overall arc of the book. I’ve actually heard of some writers coming up with a pitch before they even start writing a book. Kind of a mini-outline, I guess. Don’t know if I could do that, but I do see the value in the distillation process.

          BTW, I’m still waiting… *grin*

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