I’m very excited to share the query letter that connected me to my agent, Katelyn Detweiler of Jill Grinberg Literary Management. Although things moved quickly for me (this time), just remember that the success others see is simply the iceberg tip and there’s a huge mountain of work, sweat, tears, determination, and progress below the surface that isn’t always known. Querying can be difficult, but keep moving forward. You’re not alone. Below is my successful query:
Dear Ms. Agent,
If you’re going to humiliate and alienate yourself from the entire Indian community, you might as well do it gloriously. At least that’s what seventeen-year-old Kareena Thakkar is telling herself now that she’s come clean about being a Muay Thai fighter—and landing an invitation to the US Open, which could lead to a spot on the first ever Muay Thai Olympics team. Besides, she’s never felt Indian enough, despite pleasing her parents, studying hard, earning college credits, and making plans to get her family out of financial debt under her father’s illness.
Which is inconvenient, since she’s starting to fall for the likes of Amit Patel. Amit could possibly be the world’s most perfect Indian: a model son, student, and temple-goer. He’s also a genius-level programmer whose abstract mind may have just unlocked the next biggest tech development since the smart phone. As far as Indians go, he’s a gift to their community, practically wrapped with a (very handsome) bow.
Catching feelings for Amit will cost Kareena more than just her pride—she’ll have to face his disapproving parents, manipulative girls trying to keep them apart, battle her own insecurities, and endanger her focus before the big fight. Still, with his unfailing support and the encouragement of an ever-growing circle of female athletes, Kareena’s bid for the Olympics could very well make history—if she has the courage to conquer her inhibitions and own who she really is.
THE KNOCK-OUT is an #ownvoices, feel good 77,000 word YA contemporary with a southern flair and a side of humor taken from my days in MMA and computer-science. This novel will appeal to fans of Sandhya Menon, Jenny Han, and Nicola Yoon. I attended UW for my BA in creative writing with a minors in computer science, was an editorial assistant for a small publisher, currently an editor in aeronautics research, a PitchWars and DVPit mentor, and a freelance sensitivity reader. Thank you for your time, Ms. Agent, and please let me know if I may send additional material.
Queries sent: 66
Full requests: 33
Amount of time querying before an offer: exactly 3 weeks
Amount of time from query to first offer: 3 days (she read the full in 1 day!)
Huh, just noticed…3 seems to be a theme here.
Amount of agents who bowed out due to time: 6
I asked my agent (still squeal when I say that!) what she liked about my query and she said: “I loved so many things about your query! It was *very* well written for one, and I think summarizing your own book well, teasing the key threads without telling too much, is one of the hardest things an author has to do. I was so intrigued by the girl power Muay Thai fighter vibes, especially balanced with the idea of not being “Indian enough” (Kareena) vs. being “the world’s most perfect Indian” (Amit). So we have a fierce girl athlete, unlikely romance, and some really interesting cultural perspective and commentary on what it means to be Indian American in today’s world. It just hit so many fabulous points in a few short paragraphs!”
~Queries can be dry, so add some of the book’s tone in there.
~Don’t get weighed down with too many details or terms the agent won’t know about (world-building words, for example).
~Keep it brief but exciting. Make the agent want to read more! Request more!
~Personalization. Address to the right agent, correctly spell their name, and mention any bits of info that you’d like to include such as having met them at a conference, being recommended by their colleague or client, having been requested from a contest (like PW), or maybe an interview or wishlist where they said they wanted something in particular that your book offers.
~Don’t forget genre, word count, target audience/recent comp titles.
~Include writing credits or anything about yourself that gives you a platform such as publishing credits, an MFA, work/experience that helped you build your ms (for example my background in MMA and computer science for this book), and publishing organizations. If applicable. Don’t include a super long list, just the ones that might give you a platform. If you don’t have anything, that’s fine! Don’t include anything.
~Sign-off! Thank the agent for their time, let them know you’d be happy to send additional material, and end with your name and contact info.
~Query agents whom you’ve thoroughly researched. Ones who rep your genre and those you’d like to pursue in the future.
~Query agents whom you really want to work with. None of this, I’ll just throw my query at anyone and hope it sticks. You have to find the right agent for you.
~Don’t get disheartened. You will receive rejections and no responses, things that don’t make sense, things that were so close…Agents have a lot on their hands and many times you might not get more than a “This isn’t right for me” without any real insight. It’s okay. Shake it off. You’ve got this. You’ll write the right book and get the best advocate for you and your career.
~Get others to read and critique your query. It’s essential. This is your first impression to an agent. Make it professional and enticing. Imagine it’s like going to a bookstore and the agent has hundreds of books to choose from but can only buy a few. Those back cover blurbs can make or break a deal.
I hope my little corner of success helps you build an amazing query! Write on, guys!