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 23rd installment in this series is with agent Caryn Wiseman (Andrea Brown Literary Agency) and her author, Dee Garretson, for her book, Escape From Camp David, a kids adventure. The book is set for release in August 2010 (Harper Collins Canada) and was recently retitled Wildfire at Camp David.
Dear Ms. Wiseman:
Everyone assumes Camp David must be one of the safest places on earth, but what would happen if a natural disaster caused the security systems to turn the retreat into a prison? Escape From Camp David is a young adult manuscript approximately 40,000 words in length. I read on your bio you were interested in stories that would appeal to boys, so I thought you might be interested in this.
Just once Luke Brockett would like to do something slightly dangerous, but when your father is the President of the United States, that is not an option. Always surrounded by Secret Service agents and kept in a bubble of safety, Luke sees Camp David, the presidential retreat in the woods of Maryland, as the only place where he can almost normal. For one week in August, Luke's mother has arranged for Luke to have a 'summer camp' experience, if summer camp had only three kids and the counselors carried automatic weapons. The experience comes to a quick end when a forest fire surrounds Camp David. Luke and his friends are trapped inside, left on their own, the Secret Service agents incapacitated, forcing the three to outwit security systems designed to be unbeatable before the fire gets to them.
While it isn’t possible for the average person to know exactly how Camp David is protected, some educated guesses can be made to make this story plausible. I have a degree in International Relations from Tufts University, and have been careful to research both the lives of presidential children and the details of any government references in the story. This is the first of a planned series; a president's son as a main character can have many adventures other children could not.
Commentary from Caryn
This query interested me for several reasons. It's a great high-concept premise, and the author gives me the hook right in the first line. She also shows in the first paragraph that she really has looked at our website and identified me as the right agent for her, due to my interest in "boy" books. Too often, this is not the case. Although our website clearly states that I don't handle adult work, you'd be amazed at how many adult queries I receive! Although the query letter is on the short side, the author definitely did her job in piquing my interest with it. She gives me the word count right up front, so I know that her manuscript is not way too short or way too long for the genre.
In the second and third paragraphs, the author gives a succinct synopsis of the plot, that demonstrates, even in this brief paragraph, that she is a talented writer with a humorous side. I was also pleased to note that, although this is fiction, she had done her research, making for a more believable story. She also mentions that this is the first of a planned series, although I might have liked a more convincing reason. Series really need a raison d'etre, not just "I like the characters". Still, I think she is right in saying that a president's son can have adventures that other children can not.
The author could have done a better job in closing her query letter, although I was already hooked. She also could have let me know whether or not the submission was exclusive; I assume that it is not, but it helps to have confirmation. HarperCollins has decided to make this a series, called Danger's Edge. The second book in the series, Blizzard on Wolf Mountain, be released in Winter 12. The first book has been retitled, Danger's Edge: Wildfire at Camp David.
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