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Successful Queries: Agent Elizabeth Winick Rubinstein and "The Weird Sisters"

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 49th installment in this series is with agent Elizabeth Winick Rubinstein (McIntosh & Otis) and her author, Eleanor Brown, for the novel, The Weird Sisters (Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam; Jan. 20, 2011). The Weird Sisters was given a starred review by Publishers Weekly and named one of Amazon "Best Books of January 2011."

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 49th installment in this series is with agent Elizabeth Winick Rubinstein (McIntosh & Otis) and her author, Eleanor Brown, for the novel, The Weird Sisters (Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam; Jan. 20, 2011). The Weird Sisters was given a starred review by Publishers Weekly and named one of Amazon "Best Books of January 2011."

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Dear Ms. Winick:

Because you represent upmarket and women’s fiction, I hope you will be interested in my novel, The Weird Sisters.

The Andreas sisters are failures: in love, in career, in life. And so they have come home to the small college town where they grew up: to their professor father, whose devotion to Shakespeare freezes their communication in the words of a man who has been dead for 400 years; and to their quiet mother, who is fighting breast cancer.

The prototypical oldest sibling, Rose (Rosalind) was sure that if she followed all the rules, she would have everything. Instead, she has nothing. She has lost her job, her fiancé has abandoned her, and she is trapped by the safety she has spent her life seeking.

Always afraid that she would be lost in the middle, Bean (Bianca), escaped to the glamour of New York. Her return is anything but glamorous; she was fired for embezzling funds from her employer. Praying that the love of a holy man will wipe her sins clean, she seeks forgiveness by pursuing the town’s handsome new reverend.

For seven years, Cordy (Cordelia), the baby of the family, has been a ghost. She dropped out of college to take to the road, skipping from place to place like a stone on water, trading passing love for shelter. But that life has lost its luster, and she has come home with only one thing to show for her time on the road: a pregnancy of uncertain paternity.

My writing has been published in anthologies, magazines and journals, including the Philadelphia City Paper and Crab Orchard Review. In 2005, I won the RWA-sponsored “Get Your Stiletto in the Door” contest. I hold an M.A. in Literature, and teach English in South Florida.

The Weird Sisters
is complete at approximately 90,000 words, and I would be delighted to send the full manuscript for your review.

Thank you for your time and attention,

Eleanor Brown

Commentary from Elizabeth:

From the very start, Eleanor's letter had all the sure signs of a great read. It was properly formatted, she spelled my name right (always a good sign!), and she did her research matching her project to my interests. Once introductions were out of the way, the letter pulled me in immediately. The first line has so much going for it! It’s direct, declarative, and presents a relatable situation. The feeling of being a failure, and the subjects of love, career, and life have a universal appeal allowing the reader to identify with at least one of these elements.

After that, the characters absolutely hooked me. It takes an incredibly talented writer to not only introduce so many characters in such a short letter, but reveal so many layers of each character’s personality and story. Eleanor used a tagline for each character that was both memorable and compelling. These sisters weren't one-dimensional, they had inner turmoil, conflict, and complexity. She made me want to know these women, be friends with them, and in a way made me feel like I already knew them. We all have friends or sisters like these characters and that kind of immediate familiarity is exactly what I look for when considering women's fiction.

Throw some Shakespearean flavor into the mix and this is starting to sound like the perfect pitch! It also suggested that this book would have a wide appeal. With so much going on, I couldn't wait to start reading. Once I did I was hooked! (The book comes out tomorrow - Jan. 20, 2011. Find it here.)

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This post is an online complement

to a spotlight on Eleanor in an issue
of WD. If you don't have a sub to
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Ready to send out your query? Get a critique!

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Are you done writing and revising your manuscript or nonfiction book proposal? Then you’re ready to write a query letter. In order to ensure you make the best impression on literary agents and acquisitions editors, we recommend getting a 2nd Draft Query Letter Critique.

Whether you are an experienced writer looking to improve the elements within your query letter or a new writer looking for pointers on how to write a query letter, our 2nd Draft Query Letter Critique Service provides the advice and feedback you need to improve your query.

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