Successful Queries: Agent Jessica Faust and “Murder on the Rocks”

This new 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 29th installment in this series is with agent Jessica Faust (Bookends, Inc.) and her author, Karen MacInerney, for the book Murder on the Rocks, the first of Karen’s Gray Whale Inn mystery series.




Dear Ms. Faust,

I enjoyed meeting you at the conference in Austin this past weekend. As I mentioned, I have had my eye on BookEnds for quite some time; when I discovered you would be at the conference, I knew I had to attend. We met during the final pitch session and discussed how the series I am working on might fit in with your current line of mystery series. Per your request, I have enclosed a synopsis and first three chapters of Murder on the Rocks, and 80,000-word cozy mystery that was a finalist in this year’s Writers’ League of Texas manuscript contest and includes several bed-and-breakfast recipes.

Thirty-eight-year-old Natalie Barnes has quit her job, sold her house and gambled everything she has on the Gray Whale Inn on Cranberry Island, Maine. But she’s barely fired up the stove when portly developer Bernard Katz rolls into town and starts mowing through her morning glory muffins. Natalie needs the booking, but Katz is hard to stomach—especially when he unveils his plan to build an oversized golf resort on top of the endangered tern colony next door. When the town board approves the new development not only do the terns face extinction, but Natalie’s Inn might just follow along. Just when Natalie thinks she can’t face more trouble, she discovers Katz’s body at the base of the cliff and becomes the number one suspect in the police’s search for a murderer. If Natalie doesn’t find the killer fast she stands to lose everything—maybe even her life.

I am a former public relations writer, a graduate of Rice University, a member of the Writers’ League of Texas, and founder of the Austin Mystery Writers critique group. I have spent many summers in fishing communities in Maine and Newfoundland, and escape to Maine as often as possible. The second Gray Whale Inn mystery, Dead and Berried, is currently in the computer.

If you would like to see the manuscript, I can be reached at (phone number). Thank you for your time and attention; I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Karen Swartz MacInerney

Commentary from Jessica

Let’s start by looking at the first paragraph. Flattery can get you everywhere and Karen used it well here. She wasn’t over the top, but stated what I can only hope are facts. We had met at the conference and she had been watching BookEnds grow. She was smart to remind me immediately how we had met and that we had a personal connection.

I like that Karen put the title in italics. Bold, italics, whatever, but something to make your title jump out a little helps. I’m not sure why, but it does. The word count is right there with the standards for cozy mysteries, and since that’s what she’s targeting she’s headed in the right direction. I also want to point out that her description actually fits her genre. All too often I’ve received submissions in which the author named a genre for the book, but the description didn’t seem to match the genre.

Typically I would say that Karen’s blurb is a little long and I suspect she could probably have tightened it to one paragraph, but it does work. What really works about it for me is that it gives a sense of Karen’s voice and the feeling for the book. I like the sentence, “But she’s barely fired up the stone when portly developer Bernard Katz rolls into town and starts mowing through her morning glory muffins.” There is so much that’s said in that one line and so much we learn. I get the sense that Karen’s voice is light with a touch of humor and I get a real feel for the hominess of the bed-and-breakfast as well as the arrogance of Bernard Katz.

Karen’s credentials are impressive. She’s obviously been writing for a while and I really like the addition of her summers in Maine. I think it’s a personal touch, but one that’s perfectly related to the book. Book note: We did in fact sell Murder on the Rocks. It was the first title to launch her Gray Whale Inn series. So this query letter truly did launch an exciting career for Karen.


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3 thoughts on “Successful Queries: Agent Jessica Faust and “Murder on the Rocks”

  1. EJC

    Ummm, please edit this! This is not the first nor the last time I will see the same mistake. "Public" has an l in it, without that letter… well… ahem…


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