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Successful Queries: Agent Meredith Kaffel and “Shadow Hills”

Categories: Breaking In (Writer's Digest), Chuck Sambuchino's Guide to Literary Agents Blog, Successful Queries.

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 40th installment in this series is with agent Meredith Kaffel (Charlotte Sheedy Literary) and her author, Anastasia Hopcus, for her young adult paranormal novel, Shadow Hills, which came out July 13 from Egmont. School Library journal said this about the book: “Even characters with minimal roles are fleshed out via Hopcus’s rich use of language … It will be especially popular with those who prefer their supernatural romances with more sweetness and fewer sexual themes.”

 

Dear Ms. Kaffel,

I am submitting to you because I was impressed by your sale of Swoon by Nina Malkin. My name is Anastasia Hopcus, and I’ve written a 100,000-word young adult novel named Shadow Hills. It is the first in a series of books about the danger that lurks behind the perfect façade of Devenish Preparatory, an upper crust Massachusetts boarding school.

Hoping to make sense of her sister’s death and the cryptic dreams that followed it, Persephone “Phe” Archer resolves to attend Devenish, the boarding school her sister mentioned in her sister’s last diary entry. As soon as she arrives, Phe is affected by the eerie aura surrounding the town of Shadow Hills, and she is quickly drawn to the imposing hospital that looms near Devenish. Hidden away behind the hospital is a centuries-old graveyard, where Phe is disturbed to find that an unexplained epidemic decimated hundreds of the citizens of Shadow Hills in 1736. As she explores the cemetery, she meets Zach, a striking young man who, though a stranger, has appeared in her dreams. The longer Phe is at Devenish, the more she suspects that she is somehow linked with the bizarre history of the area. And though she realizes she is falling for Zach, she can’t ignore the fact that he—along with many of the other students—seems to possess odd powers.

Even stranger, a mysterious mark is forming on Phe’s hip, and her dreams are becoming increasingly prophetic. The deeper she digs, the more the danger around Phe escalates, putting her on a path that will lead her to her deepest, and possibly darkest, self.

Thank you for taking the time to review my project. If you want to see a full synopsis and/or sample chapters, please let me know.  I am enclosing an SASE for your convenience.

Sincerely,

Anastasia Hopcus

Commentary from Meredith:

Stacy’s query grabbed me from the first line because it immediately stroked my ego! By mentioning my then-recent sale of Swoon in the first line, she showed me she had done her research on my specific list, which an agent always appreciates. The mention also piqued my interest; it made me wonder and hope that her project might prove to be along similar lines to that beloved book—and delightfully, she delivered! So that was the first thing she did right.

On a more general level, it’s just a very well-written letter. Straightforward, confident, certain of the story it aims to tell, and full of compelling characters and a setting to die for—literally! So many paranormal plots in particular come across as convoluted or overwrought in the query letter, but Stacy’s description is clearly articulated and so simply sounds original and intelligently complex. And the last line of her pitch is a terrific little sound-bite, to boot.

This post is an online exclusive complement
to a spotlight on Anastasia in the Oct. 2010
issue of WD. If you don’t have a sub to
Writer’s Digest, what are you waiting for?
Get one now!

 

 

 

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3 Responses to Successful Queries: Agent Meredith Kaffel and “Shadow Hills”

  1. Thank you for posting this letter. I love the ego stroking. A great reminder that we must do our research.

    I always learn something when I visit.

    Christine

  2. What an excellent query! I don’t even read paranormal, but this letter draws you right in.

  3. Lauren says:

    I really need to start investing in books on writing query letters. The one you provided for example blew me away in its professionalism – very crisp, very structured. I was impressed, and hopefully I learned something from Anastasia just now.

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