Query Clinic: Example of a Great Query Letter

Looking to switch agents? Here’s one author who succeeded with a gracefully written letter.  Plus: her new agent’s insights on what made it work. by Lori Perkins
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In the September issue of WD, we published several real-life examples of query letters that landed first-time authors representation from a literary agent. But what if you already have an agent, but the relationship isn’t working out?

Granted, we don’t recommend hopping from agent to agent without good reason. But if your relationship with your current agent has faltered despite both of your best efforts, it may be time to start thinking about graceful ways to exit the situation and approach another agent you’d like to represent you.

Here’s an example of a real query from an author who did just that—followed by commentary from the new agent she succeeded in landing with her hook.

AUTHOR’S QUERY

Dear Ms. Perkins:

I am a published (early career) author and I am currently seeking new representation. I recently decided to sever ties with my current representation (having been with that agency four years) due to that agent not advancing my career in a way we found mutually agreeable. I am therefore seeking new representation with an agency that focuses on long-term career development for successful and highly productive authors.

About Me: I am a writer of popular fiction (romance and erotica), creative nonfiction (memoir) and stage plays. I currently have a strong standing relationship with the chief erotica/romance editor Adam Nevill at Virgin Books, having already sold my contemporary erotica novel (published pseudonymously) MARKET FOR LOVE to his Virgin Cheek line (for release this October); that contract included an option on my next contemporary novel-length erotica title, as well, which I have already completed and which my former agent has already delivered to him. Mr. Nevill has expressed strong interest in having me continue to write high-quality erotica for his house for the long term (likely multiple titles per year, a requirement I do have the capacity to fulfill). I think my already-established positive relationship with this editor makes me an attractive potential client for a genre-fiction-focused agency such as yours.

In addition to erotica, I also write straight romance and contemporary women's fiction, as well as memoir. Indeed, my former agent sold my memoir WACKO: A Memoir of Family Mental Illness to Hazelden Publishing last year, but subsequent changes in that publisher's editorial staff resulted in that book being "killed" shortly after I was paid my advance. WACKO since has been retooled and re-shopped and is currently still out on submission with a few editors, per the terms of my terminating representation with my former agent (i.e., he will try to wrap things up on the marketing he has already done, but if it doesn't sell within a specific timeframe, this project could then be transferred to my new representation.)

In addition to the standing relationship I have with Virgin Books for my future erotica titles, I do also have the submission records for all the titles that my former agent has relinquished, and can provide that to my new representation should my new agent be interested in trying to sell any of those titles.

Lastly, I am a playwright of some merit, having had professional productions in Chicago, New York City, Los Angeles, Seattle, Boston, Atlanta, Canada and the United Kingdom. My plays have been published and anthologized by such dramatic publishers as Brooklyn Play Publishers (an educational drama publisher), Smith & Kraus and Applause Books. (One of my short plays was recently included in a BEST AMERICAN PLAYS anthology alongside Pulitzer and Tony winners.) I have also contributed to the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Reader, New Art Examiner, CAT FANCY magazine, and numerous short story anthologies and online magazines.

My apologies for the length of this query, but I wanted to be as thorough as possible. Thank you kindly for taking the time out of your busy schedule to consider my request. I look forward to hearing more from you.

Sincerely,
Jill Elaine Hughes

AGENT’S COMMENTS

Jill's letter showed that she looked at her work as a career—and was aware that a good agent could, and should, help guide and shape that career. She was looking for a partnership, and seemed to understand her place in the publishing marketplace.

Her letter also showed me that she had researched the field and knew what kind of books I specialized in. I’ve been developing a list of erotica writers, as well as women' fiction and some memoir, and I thought I would be able to broaden her career. I also knew and respected the editor she was currently working with.

After reading this letter, I wrote to Jill and requested that we speak over the phone. I read her works in progress, and felt we could work well together. I am currently representing her memoir, Laid, about her experiences as a female sex addict, as well as some how-to nonfiction. —Lori Perkins, L. Perkins Agency (lperkinsagency.com)

Check out the September issue of Writer's Digest for the Query Clinic, featuring real query letters that helped first-time authors land agent representation.

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