Successful Queries: Agent Michelle Brower and ‘Breathers’

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 sixth installment in this series is with agent Michelle Brower (Folio Literary Management, formerly of Wendy Sherman Associates) and her author Scott Browne, for his novel, Breathers.

Dear Michelle Brower:

“I spent two days in a cage at the SPCA until my parents finally came to pick me up.  The stigma of bringing your undead son home to live with you can wreak havoc on your social status, so I can’t exactly blame my parents for not rushing out to claim me.  But one more day and I would have been donated to a research facility.”

Andy Warner is a zombie.

After reanimating from a car accident that killed his wife, Andy is resented by his parents, abandoned by his friends, and vilified by society.  Seeking comfort and camaraderie in Undead Anonymous, a support group for zombies, Andy finds kindred souls in Rita, a recent suicide who has a taste for consuming formaldehyde in cosmetic products, and Jerry, a twenty-one-year-old car crash victim with an artistic flair for Renaissance pornography.

With the help of his new friends and a rogue zombie named Ray, Andy embarks on a journey of personal freedom and self-discovery that will take him from his own casket to the SPCA to a media-driven, class-action lawsuit for the civil rights of all zombies.  And along the way, he’ll even devour a few Breathers.

Breathers is a contemporary dark comedy about life, or undeath, through the eyes of an ordinary zombie.  In addition to Breathers, I’ve written three other novels and more than four dozen short stories – a dozen of which have appeared in small press publications.  Currently, I’m working on my fifth novel, also a dark comedy, about Fate.

Enclosed is a two-page synopsis and the first chapter of Breathers, with additional sample chapters or the entire manuscript available upon request.  I appreciate your time and interest in considering my query and I look forward to your response.

Scott G. Browne

Commentary from Michelle:

What really drew me to this query was the fact that it had exactly what I’m looking for in my commercial fiction – story and style.  Scott included a brief quote from the book that managed to capture his sense of humor as an author and his uniquely relatable main character (hard to do with someone who’s recently reanimated). 

The letter quickly conveyed that this was an unusual book about zombies, and being a fan of zombie literature, I was aware that it seemed like it was taking things in a new direction.  I also appreciated how Scott conveyed the main conflict of his plot and his supporting cast of characters – we know there is an issue for Andy beyond coming back to life as a zombie, and that provides momentum for the story.

I think this is a great example of how query letters can break the rules and still stand out in the slush pile. I normally don’t like quotes as the first line, because I don’t have a context for them, but this quote both sets up the main conceit of the book AND gives me a sense of the character’s voice.  This method won’t necessarily work for most fiction, but it absolutely was successful here.


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5 thoughts on “Successful Queries: Agent Michelle Brower and ‘Breathers’

  1. Peggy Pendleton

    This was very helpful to me. I have a novel, a collection of short stories and poetry, but I have never been able to write a query letter. I did enter the Amazon Breakthrough Novel contest last early this year. I must have done something right in the pitch or the biographical information, because two people read my first three chapters. One said there was too much action too early. The other said, I’m hooked, I’d read more. I’m wondering if they flipped a coin to decide the matter. Anyway, I didn’t get any further than that.

    I probably ought to try publishing some poetry and a story or two before I try the novel again. But I do appreciate the information. Marketing myself is not my strong suit.


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