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Successful Queries: Agent Sara Megibow and “The Siren”

Categories: Chuck Sambuchino's Guide to Literary Agents Blog, Romance, Romance Agents, Successful Queries, What's New.

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 58th installment in this series is with agent Sara Megibow (Nelson Literary) for Tiffany Reisz’s contemporary erotic romance, THE SIREN (Harequin Mira, out in paperback July 2012). Purchase the book here. You can find Tiffany Reisz online at her website, and on Twitter.

(In the middle of querying? Here are some helpful tips.)

 

 

Dear Ms. Megibow,

THE SIREN is a modern-day retelling of “My Fair Lady” with uptight English literary fiction editor Zachary Easton as an unwilling Professor Higgins and well-known wild child Nora Sutherlin as his erotica-writing Eliza Doolittle.  Zach only has six weeks left at Royal House New York before he heads to Los Angeles to take over as Chief Managing Editor at Royal West. When his boss orders him to help Nora Sutherlin rewrite her latest novel, Zach agrees to work with her only if he is given complete control over the fate of her book. If Nora doesn’t rewrite it to his satisfaction in six weeks, Royal won’t publish it.

Zach calls Nora a “guttersnipe writer,” but she’s not your typical guttersnipe.  Her personal life is as torrid as her prose and unbeknownst to Zach, her books aren’t her only source of income.  Nora is determined to prove Zach wrong, to prove she’s a real writer worthy of his respect. But her good intentions are complicated by her volatile relationship with her virginal nineteen-year-old roommate Wesley and her inability to completely leave her dangerous former lover Søren in the past.  Desperate to win Zach’s good opinion of her, Nora keeps her “other job” a secret from him fearing that if he finds out she’s the Underground’s most famous dominatrix he won’t be able to see her as anything other than a sex worker.

The clock is ticking. Nora has six weeks and five hundred pages to rewrite.  Will she be able to keep her focus and prove she’s a professional writer? Or will she pick the business of pleasure over the business of writing?  As the work on her book progresses, Zach and Nora forge a tenuous truce that turns into friendship and intense attraction. Still grieving his broken marriage, Zach is slow to trust Nora.  When he discovers the secrets she’s been keeping from him, will Zach be able to forgive her and sign her contract? Or will he send her back to the gutter where he found her?

Thank you for your time and consideration, Ms. Megibow.

Sincerely,
Tiffany Reisz

(Should you mention your age in a query letter?)

 

COMMENTARY FROM SARA

THE SIREN is one of the sales that I am most proud of in my agenting career. Here’s why: If someone had walked up to me in January 2010 and said, “Sara, do you think this can sell a book about an author, an editor, a Catholic priest, an almost-underage boy AND an underage boy and a Dominatrix?” I would have said “ARG, Ummmmm, No.” But, I requested THE SIREN from Tiffany because this query letter is just so compelling – it’s clean, concise, interesting and very very very well-written. I know it sounds trite to writers who are knocking down the slush pile door, but superior writing really does trump all. You’ll notice that there is not one extraneous word in the query letter below – it’s spot on in terms of characterization, voice, plot, world, etc. Perfect!

THE SIREN went on submission in June and we had an offer from the fabulous Susan Swinwood of Harlequin by September. It ended up not being a tough sell because Susan “got” the book just like I did. Tiffany writes super-sexy, slightly (well let’s be honest, MOSTLY) controversial, contemporary books that will absolutely blow readers away with outstanding writing, delicious dialogue and incredibly sexy scenes.

 

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Other writing/publishing articles & links for you:

 

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3 Responses to Successful Queries: Agent Sara Megibow and “The Siren”

  1. GSQRD says:

    Ms. Wilke is spot on with her comments. It would have served all of us much better if Ms. Megibow would have told us why this query letter trumped the standard drivel we are all given via WD articles, writing courses, etc. The description “it’s clean, concise, interesting and very very very well-written” is also clean and concise but it’s not interesting nor very well-written regarding why this query by Ms. Reisz makes the “finals” when it doesn’t follow the normally accepted rules.

  2. Lorraine Devon Wilke says:

    It IS a good query letter…and yet SO different from the format pounded and promoted by every class, seminar, article and blog I’ve ever read or in which I’ve participated! Which is why the whole concept of query letters remains a maddening and, clearly, highly subjective matter.

    Here’s what I’ve been taught by most informational sources: 3 paragraphs; one to introduce, one to expound a bit, one to include the writer’s short bio (which either should or shouldn’t include comparisons to other writers depending on who you talk to!). As one can see, this letter is simply 3 paragraphs about the book, wonderfully freeing to the author writing it; able to expound more on the book and leave out the bio/comparisons part.

    How DOES an emerging author actually accomplish what’s considered a “compelling” query letter considering all the contradictory and confusing instruction about them?? I have to say, I feel a tad stupid right now, considering how closely I hewed to the instructions given. Given the letter above, I think I, too, will simply provide 3 well-written paragraphs about my actual book and leave out the rest.

    Sigh.

  3. jincomt says:

    Thanks for sharing. It’s always helpful to see an example of a successful and well-written query.

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