Successful Queries: Agent Christine Witthohn and Rochelle Staab’s “Hollywood Hoodoo”

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 38th installment in this series is with agent Christine Witthohn (Book Cents Literary) and her author, Rochelle Staab, for the murder mystery novel, Hollywood Hoodoo.

In lieu of a cover (not available yet), this is a
nice picture of author Rochelle Staab.


Dear Ms. Witthohn,

I am pleased to submit for your consideration, Hollywood Hoodoo, a witty murder mystery with a voodoo curse, set in contemporary Los Angeles. It’s complete at 71,000 words.

In Hollywood Hoodoo, mysterious tarot cards, a cursed voodoo spell book, and the falsely accused team of L.A. Clinical Psychologist Liz Cooper and Religious Philosophy Professor Nick Garfield come together in the hunt for the real killer of a voodoo initiate.

Hollywood Hoodoo is the first of a series of supernatural themed murder mysteries, featuring Liz—the pragmatic shrink, and Nick—the broad-minded occult expert.

My professional background includes Top 40 radio station programming and 28 years of executive marketing positions at Warner Bros. Records where I remain a consultant. Writing one-line headlines is fun. Writing novels is bliss. [Some personal info here was removed.]

I’m a member of MWA, RWA, SinC, and KOD. Hollywood Hoodoo has been submitted in the 2010 RWA Golden Heart contest. I understand the value of marketing and am motivated and ready to focus my efforts.

This is a multiple submission. The first chapter of Hollywood Hoodoo is copied below. Thank you for considering my work. I look forward to your response.


Rochelle Staab

Commentary from Christine:

I like queries that are short and sweet. A query should give the agent/editor the “bones” of the story. If the writer does a good job, the agent/editor will ask to see the “meat.” What I particularly liked about this query was this: the writer gave me the genre, word count, and the hook in the first two sentences. Notice how short these two sentences are?

Paragraph 1: gives the vitals; Paragraph 2: gives the bones; Paragraph 3: shows extended life—part of a series; Paragraph 4: author background/platform; Paragraph 5: organization affiliations; Paragraph 6: thanks me. The entire query is less than a page in length. Short and sweet.

Within 60 days, I signed the author and sold the series (three books) to Berkley Prime Crime. The first book comes out in 2011. Oh—and Hollywood Hoodoo was chosen as a finalist in the Golden Heart contest. We’ll know if she won in July 🙂


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5 thoughts on “Successful Queries: Agent Christine Witthohn and Rochelle Staab’s “Hollywood Hoodoo”

  1. Erin Kelly

    This query is a wonderful example of having a hook and reeling the reader in. It is smart, interesting, and to the point – just like the author! Thanks for sharing, Rochelle, and wishing you the best of luck with both the book and the GH at nationals.

    Christine, thanks for letting us see the agent’s perspective on why this is a successful query. Every bit of insight we authors can get is valuable.

    Erin Kelly


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