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Successful Queries: Agent Jennifer Schober and “Letters From Home”

Categories: Chuck Sambuchino's Guide to Literary Agents Blog, Successful Queries, Women's Fiction.

Just a quick note: As of summer 2013, Jennifer is no longer agenting
Enjoy the query (and the others post on this site), but do not
research Jennifer or query her.

——————–

This series is called “Successful Queries” and I’m posting actual query letters that succeeded in getting writers signed with agents. In addition to posting the actual query letter, we will also get to hear thoughts from the agent as to why the letter worked. 

The 51st installment in this series is with agent Jennifer Schober (Spencerhill Associates, Ltd.) for her author, Kristina McMorris, for the novel, Letters From Home (Feb. 2011)a book Publishers Weekly called “Ambitious and compelling…[a] sweeping debut novel;” while RT Book Reviews said “Letters From Home is a beautifully told story.”

 

Dear Ms. Schober,

Jane Porter referred me to you and your agency. As a 2007 and 2008 RWA Golden Heart finalist, I am seeking representation for my novel. (Please see attached sample chapters.)

LETTERS FROM HOME is a 90,000-word WWII love story with a twist, aptly summarized as The Notebook meets Saving Private Ryan. Original Film (producer of Made of Honor, Vantage Point) has expressed interest in optioning the film rights, an avenue I look forward to exploring upon securing new representation. I understand you are a fan of both historical and women’s fiction, and therefore believe your agency would be a great fit.

Set against the emotionally charged backdrop of World War II, poetic university student Liz Stephens falls deeply in love through a yearlong letter exchange with infantryman Morgan McClain. Equally enamored, the Midwest soldier stationed in Europe relies solely on their correspondence to survive the gruesome realities of war. Yet between the scrawled lines of familial hardships and heartrending tragedies lies the one secret Liz must keep, or risk losing everyone she holds dear. As the nation nears victory, each will learn the price of freedom while uncovering the deceptions of love and war.

LETTERS FROM HOME is a story inspired by my grandparents’ epistolary courtship. I have already garnered blurbs for the manuscript from such notables as New York Times bestselling author James Pratt, screenwriter Mike Rich (Finding Forrester, The Rookie), and the Honorable Lynn “Buck” Compton (author and famed WWII veteran from Band of Brothers).

From 2001-2008, I was the host and a writer for the WB’s weekly television program “Weddings Portland Style.” I have been a PR/Marketing Director for ten years and a freelance contributor to Portland Bride & Groom Magazine. In addition, I actively work with multi-published critique partners and am a member of several writers’ organizations. More information is available at kristinamcmorris.com.

Upon your request, I would be happy to provide the complete manuscript. I appreciate your consideration and look forward to hearing from you soon.

Kind regards,
Kristina Y. McMorris

Commentary from Jennifer

Kristina got my attention right off the bat. She used a referral by a much-loved client of ours, Jane Porter. I always give special attention to referrals by our own clients; I trust their judgment. If a client of the agency has referred you, or another author with some clout, don’t be shy—with permission use their name in a referral! Sing it from the rooftops, people!  It’s worth it, as it could mean an automatic request for the material.

Other specifics agents really like to know upfront are contest wins. Kristina mentioned that she was a two-time finalist in the RWA Golden Heart contest. Excellent move—even though she was not a winner, this is one of the contests I hold in high esteem—it’s an honor to be nominated. Lesser-known contests aren’t as important to me, but if you have won, tout it!

Next, Kristina pitched her work. She summarized her book, LETTERS FROM HOME, as THE NOTEBOOK meets SAVING PRIVATE RYAN. The combination was daring and intriguing. This creative tag line engaged my mind and got my imagination going. Next, she mentioned film interest … Already? Wow.

Kristina’s pitch was all about selling me the story, and it worked. She kept it short, dynamic, and focused on the emotional conflict that was central to the book. She closed with a bit of biographical information that tied her own life and ancestry to the work. Kristina hit it out of the park for me in relating her own life experience to the inspiration for the story.  It told me her heart was in this book and that she held a very personal stake in its success. Plus, it’s just so cool!

Letters From Home by Kristina McMorris released Feb 22, 2011 in trade paperback/ebook. Go to kristinamcmorris.com to find out more about this debut and Kristina.

Writing your query? Check out The Writer’s
Digest Guide to Query Letters. It’s a great,
up-to-date resource for query letter writing.

 

 

 

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5 Responses to Successful Queries: Agent Jennifer Schober and “Letters From Home”

  1. Sampa says:

    Kristina’s example is just about the worst one you could have posted here. Most people reading this site are nowhere near as connected and as accomplished, accept for maybe an MFA, to even come close to having those contacts. No wonder she secured an agent so easily; she already had someone willing to pay the book owner and its partners (the agents) for movie rights. Kristina’s query is not about her book. Kristina’s query is about The Notebook, Saving Private Ryan, the names she’s logged for selling it, and the money on the line for option rights. An unfair, delusional example of a good query. Way way way out of the ballpark for the vast majority of the writers reading this website.

  2. I don’t remember a lot of talk about how agents hate the "meets" thing. I just remember the one speaker saying it. Some agents dislike the "meets" and plenty don’t.

  3. Shawn Sproatt says:

    I find it very interesting that she said her book is "The Notebook meets Saving Private Ryan." At the Writers’ Digest Conference there was a lot of discussion about how agents hate it when writers use "meets." Clearly if you have a high-end referal and are optioning movie rights you can get away with anything. Truthfully, I did not find this post helpful at all in aqcuiring an agent as I don’t know anybody who can refer me, or movie producers.

  4. Kristan says:

    She obviously had a lot going for her, and it’s interesting to me to see how those things took up space in the query, and how she boiled down the story to its essentials in order to make that room. It’s a difficult skill.

    Anyway, the more I hear about this book the more I really want to read it. And maybe see it on the big screen… ;) Thanks for sharing!

  5. Yahong Chi says:

    Intriguing to see a query which combined a lot of good things (referral, contests, movie rights). Clearly, these all help!

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