Skip to main content

Successful Queries: Agent Meredith Kaffel and "Shadow Hills"

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 40th installment in this series is with agent Meredith Kaffel (Charlotte Sheedy Literary) and her author, Anastasia Hopcus, for her young adult paranormal novel, Shadow Hills, which came out July 13 from Egmont. School Library journal said this about the book: "Even characters with minimal roles are fleshed out via Hopcus's rich use of language ... It will be especially popular with those who prefer their supernatural romances with more sweetness and fewer sexual themes."

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 40th installment in this series is with agent Meredith Kaffel (Charlotte Sheedy Literary) and her author, Anastasia Hopcus, for her young adult paranormal novel, Shadow Hills, which came out July 13 from Egmont. School Library journal said this about the book: "Even characters with minimal roles are fleshed out via Hopcus's rich use of language ... It will be especially popular with those who prefer their supernatural romances with more sweetness and fewer sexual themes."

Image placeholder title

Dear Ms. Kaffel,

I am submitting to you because I was impressed by your sale of Swoon by Nina Malkin. My name is Anastasia Hopcus, and I’ve written a 100,000-word young adult novel named Shadow Hills. It is the first in a series of books about the danger that lurks behind the perfect façade of Devenish Preparatory, an upper crust Massachusetts boarding school.

Hoping to make sense of her sister’s death and the cryptic dreams that followed it, Persephone “Phe” Archer resolves to attend Devenish, the boarding school her sister mentioned in her sister's last diary entry. As soon as she arrives, Phe is affected by the eerie aura surrounding the town of Shadow Hills, and she is quickly drawn to the imposing hospital that looms near Devenish. Hidden away behind the hospital is a centuries-old graveyard, where Phe is disturbed to find that an unexplained epidemic decimated hundreds of the citizens of Shadow Hills in 1736. As she explores the cemetery, she meets Zach, a striking young man who, though a stranger, has appeared in her dreams. The longer Phe is at Devenish, the more she suspects that she is somehow linked with the bizarre history of the area. And though she realizes she is falling for Zach, she can’t ignore the fact that he—along with many of the other students—seems to possess odd powers.

Even stranger, a mysterious mark is forming on Phe’s hip, and her dreams are becoming increasingly prophetic. The deeper she digs, the more the danger around Phe escalates, putting her on a path that will lead her to her deepest, and possibly darkest, self.

Thank you for taking the time to review my project. If you want to see a full synopsis and/or sample chapters, please let me know. I am enclosing an SASE for your convenience.

Sincerely,

Anastasia Hopcus

Commentary from Meredith:

Stacy’s query grabbed me from the first line because it immediately stroked my ego! By mentioning my then-recent sale of Swoon in the first line, she showed me she had done her research on my specific list, which an agent always appreciates. The mention also piqued my interest; it made me wonder and hope that her project might prove to be along similar lines to that beloved book—and delightfully, she delivered! So that was the first thing she did right.

On a more general level, it’s just a very well-written letter. Straightforward, confident, certain of the story it aims to tell, and full of compelling characters and a setting to die for—literally! So many paranormal plots in particular come across as convoluted or overwrought in the query letter, but Stacy’s description is clearly articulated and so simply sounds original and intelligently complex. And the last line of her pitch is a terrific little sound-bite, to boot.

Check Out These Great Upcoming Writers Conferences:

Writing a Debut Novel as a Woman of a Certain Age

Writing a Debut Novel as a Woman of a Certain Age

Debut novelist Barbara Graham discusses the experience of publishing her debut novel in her 70s and how life experience made her story more powerful.

In a Dream

In a Dream

Every writer needs a little inspiration once in a while. For today's prompt, set your story inside a dream.

Writer's Digest Best General Resources Websites for Writers 2022

Writer's Digest Best General Resources Websites for Writers 2022

Here are the top general resource websites as identified in the 24th Annual 101 Best Websites from the May/June 2022 issue of Writer's Digest.

From Our Readers

What Book Ended in a Way That You Didn’t Expect but Was Perfect Anyway?: From Our Readers (Comment for a Chance at Publication)

This post announces our latest From Our Readers question: What book ended in a way that you didn’t expect but was perfect anyway? Comment for a chance at publication in a future issue of Writer's Digest.

From Script

A Deep Emotional Drive To Tell Stories (From Script)

In this week’s round up brought to us by Script magazine, read interviews with filmmakers Wendey Stanzler and Maria Judice. Plus a one-on-one interview with Austin Film Festival’s executive director Barbara Morgan.

Paul Tremblay: On Starting With the Summary

Paul Tremblay: On Starting With the Summary

Award-winning author Paul Tremblay discusses how a school-wide assembly inspired his new horror novel, The Pallbearers Club.

writer's digest wd presents

WD Presents: An Interview with Steven Rowley and Jessica Strawser, 5 WDU Courses, and More!

This week, we're excited to announce our interview with Steven Rowley and Jessica Strawser, 5 WDU courses, and more!

Writer's Digest Best Everything Agent Websites for Writers 2022

Writer's Digest Best Everything Agent Websites for Writers 2022

Here are the top websites by and about agents as identified in the 24th Annual 101 Best Websites from the May/June 2022 issue of Writer's Digest.

Ashley Poston: On Love, Death, and Books

Ashley Poston: On Love, Death, and Books

Author Ashley Poston discusses how she combined her love of ghost stories, romance, and books into her new romance novel, The Dead Romantics.