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Successful Queries: Agent Miriam Kriss and “The Iron Witch”

Categories: Chuck Sambuchino's Guide to Literary Agents Blog, Science Fiction and Fantasy, 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 52nd installment in this series is with agent Miriam Kriss (Irene Goodman Literary) for her author, Karen Mahoney, for the YA urban fantasy novel, The Iron Witch (Feb. 2011, Flux).

 

Dear Ms. Kriss:

As you represent strong authors in the adult urban fantasy genre such as Vicki Pettersson and Lilith Saintcrow, and your agency’s website also states an interest in Young Adult fiction, I thought you might be interested in seeing my contemporary fantasy novel for older YA readers, THE IRON WITCH.

Freak. That’s what they called seventeen-year-old Dona Underwood in high school after a horrific fey attack that killed her father when she was just a child. Her injuries and subsequent rehabilitation resulted in magically enhanced strength, thanks to the iron tattoos branding her hands and arms.

Now, after ten years of wishing for a normal life, she finally has to accept her role in the centuries-old war against the darkest outcasts of Faerie. Aided by a gorgeous half-fey dropout and a depressed biker-chick vampire, Dona must race to save her best friend’s life – even if it means betraying one of the world’s greatest secrets and confronting the very thing that destroyed her family.

Although I am from London in the United Kingdom, I think my writing will find a more natural market in the United States. THE IRON WITCH is set in the imaginary city of Ironbridge in Western Massachusetts, and I hope it will appeal to readers of Melissa Marr and Holly Black. The novel is complete at 65,500 words and I have just begun work on another book set in the same world.

As per the current submission guidelines, I have pasted the first ten pages and a detailed synopsis below, and would be delighted to send the full manuscript at your request. Thank you very much for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

Karen Mahoney
Commentary from Miriam

For me this is a textbook example of an ideal cover letter. It’s very clear she knows who I represent and
understands how it relates to her own project. She’s not making grandiose claims and she’s not making me feel this is generic letter she sends to everyone. Feeling people have done their homework is always a good thing.

The third paragraph gives a good sense of both the story’s hook and its voice. That’s a hard thing to capture in a couple of paragraphs, but if your synopsis doesn’t do both, you’re wasting an opportunity.

She shows that she knows the market and her place in it. She’s explaining why a UK author would be looking for a US agent as her primary agent, which clarifies something that might be a point of confusion (i.e. she exhausted all UK leads). She’s also showing she knows what an appropriate length for this genre is. The mention of a second book shows that she’s in it for the long haul and that she plans a series, which is again is appropriate for this genre.

This is key, again showing her preparation. Since we as an agency prefer to see the writing before making a decision I’m very glad she included those pages, because it let me see how talented she was and how much I wanted to read the whole book. (The Iron Witch came out in Feb. 2011.)


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4 Responses to Successful Queries: Agent Miriam Kriss and “The Iron Witch”

  1. hotwriter says:

    I have read this novel twice. It is a great read. The query is excellent. The book is great too. She told the story in a lively, straightforward but magical and entertaining way. However, I have one thing to point out, and I don’t want it taken the wrong way. But I read the query and I have read the novel twice. I don’t remember reading about a depressed biker chick vampire. That character must have been edited out in the final draft.

    Otherwise, excellent query and story!!!!!

  2. Kristan says:

    Wham bam kazaam! This is my favorite query letter so far. If I were an agent, I would have been all over it, too, for all the reasons Miriam said. It toes all the lines just right (between personalization and sucking up, between summary and voice, etc.). Thanks for sharing!

  3. I started laughing when I got to the half-fae character and the biker-chick vampire. It’s not the genre I read, but I can see the appeal for the YA audience.

  4. Julie Nilson says:

    I can see why Miriam asked to see the manuscript on Iron Witch. After reading that query, I want to read it too!

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