Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Query Letter Example and Tips

So a couple of people have asked about the query letter for The Nightmare Affair, which helped me in my quest to sign with my agent of awesome, Suzie Townsend. (Note: I refuse to use the phrase “land an agent,” because Suzie totally isn’t a fish. Seriously, she’s more of a rockstar. Maybe I should use the phrase “become a professional groupie”…but I digress).

Here it is folks, a copy of the email I sent to Suzie:

Dear Ms. Townsend:

16-year-old Dusty Everhart might make a regular habit of breaking into houses late at night, but she’s no criminal. She is a Nightmare, a magical being who must feed on the dreams of others, and in doing so experience those dreams, too. But when her latest dreamer, Eli Booker, the hot guy from her old high school, turns out to be dreaming about a murder which shortly comes true, she goes from non-criminal to reluctant crime fighter.

Dusty learns that together she and Eli posses the rare ability to predict the future through dreams. They are soon enlisted by the magickind government to help identify the person killing students at Dusty’s high school, Arkwell Academy, a secret school for magickind. Now Dusty and Eli must follow the clues both within Eli’s dreams and out of them to stop the killer before more people turn up dead. And before the killer learns what they’re up to and marks them as the next target.

Complete at 76,400 words, The Nightmare Affair is a YA contemporary fantasy, which I like to think of as Veronica Mars meets Hex Hall. Per your submission guidelines, I have included the first 10 pages below.

My short stories have appeared in various semi-pro magazines, including Happy, and I have received an honorable mention in The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror 2008. I have a Master of Arts in English Literature with an emphasis in Creative Writing. On a personal note, I follow both your blog and twitter account and thoroughly enjoy both. I think your First Page Shooter endeavor is invaluable.

I look forward to hearing from you soon. Thank you for your time and consideration.


Mindee Arnett

I hope this letter is self-explanatory, but as always, feel free to ask me questions. Also, here’s a list of some things I think considered important in my agent submission process which you might find useful too:

  • Know and understand the individual guidelines for EVERY agent you query.
  • Unless those guidelines say otherwise, put the pitch paragraphs first in the query. Agents are short on time. Don’t make them wade through the BS unless they specifically want to.
  • Send yourself test emails to make sure the formatting comes through properly. Be sure to view them on your iPhone or other device as this is how a lot of agents view them.
  • Add a personal note so long as it’s honest and relevant.
  • Follow the agents (twitter, blog, etc) you want to work with, and be sure to mention it. (Not long after Suzie had full manuscript of TNA, she started following me on Twitter, and WOW, was that a GREAT feeling.)
  • Keep the pitch short and precise. Trust me, there’s a whole lot more to The Nightmare Affair than what’s suggested in this pitch. But I resisted the temptation to try and tell the whole story in two paragraphs. Just razzle-dazzle with as little as possible (i.e. the heart of the conflict and who it’s happening to).
  • Query in small increments. I sent out only 5 queries at 1 time. If everyone gets rejected, take another look at the query.
(BONUS: Wanna see what happens after you sign with an agent and the book goes on submission? You can read the pitch here.)

Good luck and don’t give up!


  1. Also, your sample pages were FANTASTIC. Just thought I'd mention that those, too, were eye-catching.

  2. I will have to second Sarah Goldberg and agree :D

  3. Your book sound amazing :) What a fun premise.

  4. Great query and advice, especially since I'm in the process of revamping mine. Thanks.

  5. Congrats to you Mindee!

    Thanks for sharing your agent story and query with us...I never tire of hearing happy writer/blogger news!

    Just added The Nightmare Affair to my Goodreads list...

  6. Congrats, Mindee! Suzie is a FANTASTIC agent. I got her attention with a query, too, but unfortunately my manuscript wasn't quite what she was looking for. I'm giving it the rewrite treatment now... hoping for the best in the future.

    Keep up the wonderful work!

  7. Thank you so much for posting this - it helps us so much when authors do that!

  8. This query letter is beautifully written. I was hooked from the first paragraph. The book sounds full of imagination. Can't wait to read it the moment it comes out!


  9. That really is an excellent query. And I'm following your blog now, so:

    Nice to meet you, Mindee!

  10. It's a little late, but congratulations, Mindee! :)

  11. Mindee, I was wondering if Suzie was still taking queries. I can't seem to find her email address on the finelit web site. I really think she's a perfect fit for the novels that I like to write and the one I've written. Do you still have her contact info?


  12. What a fabulous query letter. I also love the tips that you included at the end. Very helpful and appreciated.

    I am a new follower.

  13. Thank you for the tips Mindee. I just sent out my queries :)

  14. Wow! I love the query and I want to read the book!

  15. Thanks for sharing! It's always great to see examples of queries that worked! :)

  16. Just followed the link from Suzy's blog. Wow, great query! And very nice to meet you, too. :)

  17. Thanks so much for posting this! As someone working on a query letter of my own, your letter makes it look so easy.

  18. Thank you so very much for sharing. I had some help from very special person and found my way over here, and this has really helped me see the light.

    Thanks again

  19. I wanted to thank you for this good read!! I certainly enjoyed every bit of it.
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