This post is part of a series called Successful Queries. It features actual query letter examples to literary agents that were successful for authors. In addition to the query letter, you’ll also see the thoughts from the writer’s literary agent as to why the letter worked. Today’s features debut author Margaret Rogerson and her agent Sara Megibow (KT Literary).
Margaret Rogerson (left) writes fantasy for young adult readers. Her books draw inspiration from old fairy tales, because she loves stories in which the beautiful and the unsettling are sometimes indistinguishable. Her debut novel, AN ENCHANTMENT OF RAVENS, will be published in September 2017.
Sara Megibow (right) is a literary agent with nine years of experience in publishing. Sara specializes in working with authors in middle grade, young adult, romance, erotica, science fiction, and fantasy, and represents New York Times bestselling authors Roni Loren and Jason Hough and international bestselling authors Stefan Bachmann and Tiffany Reisz.
Dear Sara Megibow,
I am currently seeking representation for my YA fantasy AN ENCHANTMENT OF RAVENS, which is complete at 81,000 words.
Isobel is a prodigy portrait artist with a dangerous set of clients: the sinister fair folk, immortal creatures who cannot bake bread, weave cloth, or put a pen to paper without crumbling to dust. They crave human Craft with a terrible thirst, and barter their most glamorous and treacherous enchantments for Isobel's work. She prides herself on resisting every temptation. But when she receives her first royal patron—Rook, the autumn prince—she paints mortal sorrow in his eyes. Devastated by the humanity she has inflicted upon him, he spirits her away to the autumnlands to stand trial for her crime.
Waylaid by the Wild Hunt’s ghostly hounds, the tainted influence of the Alder King, and hideous monsters risen from barrow mounds, Isobel and Rook depend on one another for survival. Their alliance blossoms into trust, then love, violating the fair folks’ ruthless Good Law. To save both their lives, Isobel must drink from the Green Well, whose water will transform her into a fair one—at the cost of her Craft, for immortality is as stagnant as it is timeless.
As the Alder King rouses from his slumber to hunt them down, Isobel faces a choice. She can sacrifice her talent for a guaranteed future, or arm herself with paint and canvas against the ancient power of the fairy courts. Because secretly, her Craft represents a threat the fair folk have never faced in all the millennia of their stale, unchanging lives: for the first time, her portraits have the power to make them feel.
The full or partial manuscript is available upon request. Thank you for your consideration!
Commentary from Literary Agent Sara Megibow:
This query letter caught my attention right away because of its beautiful, sensual, lyrical language. And what a conflict! The query tells us that our heroine must choose between keeping her art or giving it up to live an immortal life with her beloved. To me, this reads as a story about a young woman learning to love while staying true to herself. That theme really calls to me as a feminist, a woman, a mother, and a lover of young adult literature. In short, this query presents the perfect combination of an intriguing story and superior craft.
Here are some elements of the pitch that stand out to me: First, we have a heroine who is a portrait artist. I love this! I see a lot of fantasy heroines who are assassins or princesses, but a painter? That’s really unique! Also, the inciting incident is beautiful and engaging—the heroine is taken to stand trial for the crime of painting mortal sorrow in the eyes of the autumn prince. Wonderful! Then, look at this amazing world building—the details are lush and gorgeous (just like the final cover of the book)—especially when we hear about the “terrible thirst” of the “sinister fair folk.” All in all the details here are stunning and the pitch captures the gothic feel of the story itself.
AN ENCHANTMENT OF RAVENS is a debut book by Margaret Rogerson—releasing September 26, 2017 from Margaret K. McElderry Books/Simon & Schuster. It’s not a series—this is a stand-alone work that will leave readers breathless with wonder. As with most of my clients, Margaret came to me via query slush pile, and from this query I asked to read the full manuscript. The rest is history—we signed together and sold the book shortly thereafter. Follow Margaret’s debut journey on her website: www.margaretrogerson.com.
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