Successful Queries: Agent Jim McCarthy and “Freefall”

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 45th installment in this series is with agent Jim McCarthy (Dystel & Goderich) and his author, Mindi Scott, for her YA novel, Freefall, which was released in Oct. 2010 from Simon Pulse. The New York Journal of Books said this of the YA novel: “With characters that ring true and a journey that proves honest, Freefall is no doubt sure to be one of the best contemporary young adult books of the year.”


Mr. McCarthy:

If Seth McCoy had asked his Magic 8-Ball whether he’d ever get his life on track, the answer would have been: Very doubtful. Or maybe: Don’t count on it. For too long, Seth’s focus was on getting wasted with his band—a pastime that contributed to his reputation as a slacker, a jerk, and an all-out loser. But there’s
one thing the Magic 8-ball didn’t predict: Seth’s close friend dying after a night of partying. 

Scared & sober, Seth finally notices a girl who’s been there all along: sweet, beautiful, broken Rosetta. She’s a brainiac from Rich Bitch Hill, but she doesn’t judge Seth for who he’s been. Instead, she challenges him to become the person he wants to be—the person no one else sees. It’s Rosetta who is there when Seth falls back on his old habits, and Rosetta who helps Seth confront his role in his friend’s death. And yet, he can’t seem to help her get over her tragic past. With all the difficulties in their relationship, Seth can’t help thinking: Outlook not so good.

Straddling the line between literary and commercial, FREEFALL is a YA novel about defying expectations and breaking free of the words that define you. At 74,000 words, it will appeal to readers of Barry Lyga, Sara Zarr, or Lara M. Zeises.

Recently, I completed an intensive twelve-week course with Liesa Abrams of Aladdin whose guidance was
invaluable in revising this work. I also earned a fiction-writing certificate from the University of Washington in 2005, and attended the Western Washington annual SCBWI conference in 2008.

Best and thanks,

Mindi Scott


Commentary from Jim:

Mindi wrote a damn good query letter. She understood her market enough to cite three comparable authors (one of whom, Sara Zarr, is represented by my colleague at D&G, Michael Bourret). She demonstrated a commitment to craft by informing me she had attended conferences and taken intensive writing courses.

She also wrote a compelling pitch that was both concise and specific. She also happened to be querying with something I was really looking for at the time: serious teen fiction for a male audience.

Frankly, there were several things on their own that might have made me request the manuscript. Taken all together, there was just no question. At that point, Mindi had the same challenge as every other writer whose work I request: convincing me that not only was her book good enough for publication but that I wanted to work with her on it and future projects for years to come. Happily, she’s a fabulous, incisive author who writes with wit, compassion, and authenticity. (Buy the book here.)


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2 thoughts on “Successful Queries: Agent Jim McCarthy and “Freefall”

  1. Kristan

    Wow. Incredible cover, incredible query. Sometimes I read example queries and think, Yeah, mine’s as good as that. This one definitely blew me away, and makes me want to take my query to the next level. Well done, and thank you all for sharing!


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