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 28th installment in this series is with agent Sharlene Martin (Martin Literary Management) and her author, Suzanne Hansen, for the book, You’ll Never Nanny in This Town Again: The True Adventures of a Hollywood Nanny.
This query is from Sharlene’s awesome new work, Publish Your Nonfiction Book (Nov. 2009). If you’re looking to sell a book proposal, this book is a must-buy.
Dear Ms. Martin:
When I was 18 years old, I moved from my hometown in Oregon (population: 7,500) to live with the most powerful man in Hollywood and be a nanny to his three children.
In my memoir: You’ll Never Nanny in this Town Again: The True Adventures of a Hollywood Nanny, I describe my unusual experiences with the rich and famous, and provide a peek into their private lives. I also share humorous stories about my girlfriends who were working for celebrity families. The book describes my short education at the Northwest Nannies Institute in Portland, Ore. It also describes my journey as a 24-hour-a-day modern servant, juggling medical emergencies, as well as toddler and adult tantrums.
This book is a cross between People magazine and “Seinfeld.” One example of the bizarre priorities of the wealthy: The family had a small painting in their family room that cost five times as much as my parents’ home, but I was told not to take anything from the hotel honor bar on vacation, because it was too expensive.
I self-published the book last year and was selected for a distribution contract through the IPG small publishers program. I’ve consistently ranked in the top five percent of Amazon.com sales. I’ve already sold more than 4,000 copies in 12 months and have garnered great reviews. I also have a popular website: hollywoodnanny.com. Some of the media attention I have received includes an E! Channel “Will Work for Stars” red carpet interview for the Screen Actors Guild awards. I’m featured on an upcoming A&E special “Fathers and Sons in Hollywood.” I’ve been interviewed on many radio programs, and I speak nationally.
So now I’m ready to go mainstream with a major publisher. Apart from writing this book, I’m a mother of two, and have worked as a high-risk labor and delivery nurse, lactation specialist and childbirth educator. I can send you a copy of the book by e-mail or regular mail, and hope to hear from you to discuss this further.
Commentary from Sharlene:
The instant appeal of a nanny who worked for a major Hollywood player is obvious. And paragraphs two and three make a clear description of the work, so that when the “spoiler” comes in paragraph four—telling of the book’s self-publishing past (a usual deal killer)—she builds upon momentum she has already established, pointing out that her self-published book enjoyed real success in online sales and through word of mouth.
After Suzanne sent me this letter, the supposedly “impossible” happened: Her previously self-published book sold to Crown Books/Random House for a six-figure advance in auction, and quickly went into multiple printings. It became a New York Times and Los Angeles Times bestseller.