This series is called “Successful Queries” and I’m posting actual query letter examples that succeeded in getting writers signed with agents. In addition to posting these query letter samples, we will also get to hear thoughts from the writer’s literary agent as to why the letter worked.
The 68th installment in this series is with agent Allison Hunter (Inkwell Management) for Megan Mulry’s romance, A ROYAL PAIN (2012, Sourcebooks Landmark, part of the Unruly Royals series), which, in a starred review, Publishers Weekly called “a delightful love story… worth reading again and again.”
Dear Ms. Witherspoon,
When I learned you represent both Lionel Shriver and Eloisa James, I was overjoyed! I have yet to meet anyone who has actually read both, much less anyone who adores them (as you must; as I do). The book club crowd assumes James is fluff, and the romantics suppose Shriver thorny. If you were in any way responsible for the sale of We Need to Talk About Kevin, I salute you. I have lost friends over that book: married women who were unable to speak honestly about the cruelty, desperation, fear, and power struggles that define contemporary marriage and motherhood. I recently joined RWA and heard Eloisa James speak in Orlando. Citing her eloquence and intellectual vigor has been terrifically effective in my frequent attempts to refute the absurd stereotype that genre fiction is trash. Her books are pure pleasure.
I have just completed my second manuscript and I would be honored if you would consider representing me. A ROYAL PAIN is an 87,000-word contemporary Regency* romance. Bronte Talbott is a confident New York advertising executive who abandons her perfectly good life to be with her boyfriend in Chicago. Once there, she quickly realizes that it is her desire, far more than his interest, that holds the relationship together. After several months of heart-hardening, post-breakup depression, she vows to embrace brutal honesty in all future skirmishes with men. No forays into emotional minefields. No grand gestures. Soon after swearing off messy entanglements, she meets Max Howard, an irresistible British doctoral student with whom she enjoys a fabulous, no-strings-attached, ten-week affair prior to his scheduled return to England. Her efforts at emotional compartmentalization are foiled when Max confesses a much deeper affection: when he asks her to return to the UK with him, she is paralyzed with fear and refuses. Shortly after he departs, she discovers he is, in fact, the 19th Duke of Norfolk.
She makes a feeble attempt to contact him, at first ashamed of herself for not reciprocating his declaration when she had the chance, then angry at his deception. They meet again a year later in New York and London and this time they try to rebuild their relationship with both emotional and intellectual honesty. Against a glamorous, intimate, trans-Atlantic backdrop, they are finally able to overcome the obstacles of familial duty, false starts, and unexpected tragedy. This is a stand-alone novel, but part of a series that will feature other members of the Howard family, both contemporary and historical.
I earned my BA in English Literature from Northwestern University in 1988 and worked at The New Yorker and Boston Magazine before moving to London and switching to a career in corporate finance. Since returning to the US in 2001, I have been a full-time mother. I am a member of RWA and Florida Romance Writers.
Thank you in advance for your kind consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.
* I am enamored with Regency literary devices—balls, doyennes, meddling friends, intricate meals, and high fashion—and have tried to weave them seamlessly into a contemporary world. Hence, the genre mash-up.
COMMENTARY FROM AGENT ALLISON HUNTER
Background from Allison: Megan originally queried Inkwell Management co-agent Kim Witherspoon. At the time the letter was sent [fall 2010], I was Kim’s assistant. I volunteered to be the first agency read on the manuscript, because once I read the query, I was completely hooked! I read the manuscript and fell in love. I let Kim know I thought we should pursue it as an agency, and she encouraged me to take the lead, given my obvious enthusiasm.
Regarding the query: I read Megan Mulry’s query soon after a break-up. I was deep in self-pity mode when I opened Megan’s email and met her heroine Bronte Talbott, who rebounded from her break-up with a sexy British grad student…who happened to be a royal. I was instantly hooked. I wanted—needed—to learn more about how Bronte found her happy ending.
At the time, I didn’t have a lot of experience with the true “category” romance genre, but I had long been a fan of commercial women’s fiction (what we used to call “chick lit,” until the term became passé). Megan’s novel appealed to me because it reminded me of the women’s fiction I loved, but with a strong, confident heroine and a sexy edge. Plus I couldn’t resist the royal connection—when I read Megan’s query, Prince William and Kate Middleton were newly engaged, and I couldn’t get enough of royal romance. Of course, it didn’t hurt that Megan was clearly a strong writer (and had worked for The New Yorker, catnip for any agent!). I knew I wanted to read more.
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Other writing/publishing articles & links for you:
- Agent Anna Olswanger puts out a call for new queries and submissions.
- 5 Easy Steps to Conquer the Heartache of Rejection.
- Why a Writer Can’t Listen to All the Feedback They Receive.
- Writing steampunk? Hear the story of how author Richard Preston got his agent.
- How to Write a Novel in 22 Easy Steps.
- Writing sports nonfiction? Agent Brian Wood specializes in this area.
- Follow Chuck Sambuchino on Twitter or find him on Facebook. Learn all about his writing guides on how to get published, how to find a literary agent, and writing a query letter.
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