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Successful Queries: Agent Ted Malawer and 'My Big Nose and Other Natural Disasters'

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 24th installment in this series is with agent Ted Malawer (Upstart Crow Literary) and his author, Sydney Salter, for her book, My Big Nose and Other Natural Disasters, a young adult novel. Besides Big Nose, Sydney also has written a nonfiction kids book, Jungle Crossing, and has a second YA novel coming out in 2010 called Swoon At Your Own Risk (Harcourt/Graphia).

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 24th installment in this series is with agent Ted Malawer (Upstart Crow Literary) and his author, Sydney Salter, for her book, My Big Nose and Other Natural Disasters, a young adult novel. Besides Big Nose, Sydney also has written a nonfiction kids book, Jungle Crossing, and has a second YA novel coming out in 2010 called Swoon At Your Own Risk (Harcourt/Graphia).

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Buy "My Big Nose and
Other Natural Disasters"



Dear Mr. Malawer,

I would like you to represent my 65,000-word contemporary teen novel My Big Nose & Other Natural Disasters.

Seventeen-year-old Jory Michaels wakes up on the first day of summer vacation with her same old big nose, no passion in her life (in the creative sense of the word), and all signs still pointing to her dying a virgin. Plus, her mother is busy roasting a chicken for Day #6 of the Dinner For Breakfast Diet.

In spite of her driving record (it was an accident!), Jory gets a job delivering flowers and cakes to Reno’s casinos and wedding chapels. She also comes up with a new summer goal: saving for a life-altering nose job. She and her new nose will attract a fabulous boyfriend. Nothing like the shameless flirt Tyler Briggs, or Tom who’s always nice but never calls. Maybe she’ll find someone kind of like Gideon at the Jewel Café, except better looking and not quite so different. Jory survives various summer disasters like doing yoga after sampling Mom’s Cabbage Soup Diet, Enforced Mother Bonding With Crazy Nose Obsessed Daughter Night, and discovering Tyler’s big secret. But will she learn to accept herself and maybe even find her passion, in the creative (AND romantic!) sense of the word?

I have written for APPLESEEDS, Children’s Playmate, Confetti, FACES, Hopscotch, Story Friends, Wee Ones Magazine, the Deseret News, and Blooming Tree Press’ Summer Shorts anthology. I won the Utah Arts Council prize for Not-A-Dr. Logan’s Divorce Book. My novels Jungle Crossing and Going Native! each won first prize in the League of Utah Writers contest. I am currently serving as a Regional Advisor for SCBWI.

I submitted My Big Nose & Other Natural Disasters to Krista Marino at Delacorte because she requested it during our critique at the summer SCBWI conference (no response yet).

Thank you for your time and attention. I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,

Sydney Salter Husseman
Enclosures: Sample Chapters of My Big Nose & Other Natural Disasters, synopsis, biography & SASE


Commentary from Ted:

When I first started agenting, I was working as an assistant at Firebrand Literary, going through the slush—which, in our case, was electronic. With hundreds and hundreds of queries, it’s tough to stand out. Sydney, however, did just that. First, she had a great title that totally made me laugh. Second, she sets up her main character’s dilemma in a succinct and interesting way. In one simple paragraph, I had a great idea of who Jory was and what her life was about—the interesting tidbit about her mother help show the novel’s sense of humor, too.

Sydney’s largest paragraph sets up the plot, the conflict, and introduces some exciting potential love interests and misadventures that I was excited to read about. Again, Sydney really showed off her fantastic sense of humor, and she left me hanging with a question that I needed an answer to. I already knew I would request this manuscript and hope that her writing lived up to the potential of her query. (Luckily, Sydney not only met my expectations—she exceeded them!)

Her fourth paragraph demonstrated she has writing and experience and has completed other manuscripts that were prize-worthy. Her SCBWI membership—while not a necessity—showed me that she had an understanding of and an interest in the children’s publishing world. Lastly, the fact that an editor requested the manuscript is always a good sign. Because I knew Krista personally and highly valued her opinion was, as Sydney’s main character Jory would say, “The icing on the cake.” The book came out in April 2009.

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Writer Sydney Salter is based in Utah
and writes kids fiction and nonfiction.
See her fun website here.

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