Publish date:

Successful Queries: Agent Jim McCarthy and "Midnight Thief"

The 67th installment in this series is with agent Jim McCarthy (Dystel & Goderich Literary) for Livia Blackburne's young adult fantasy, "Midnight Thief" (July 2014, Disney-Hyperion).

This series is called “Successful Queries” and I’m posting actual query letter examples that succeeded in getting writers signed with agents. In addition to posting these query letter samples, we will also get to hear thoughts from the writer's literary agent as to why the letter worked.

The 67th installment in this series is with agent Jim McCarthy (Dystel & Goderich Literary) for Livia Blackburne's young adult fantasy, Midnight Thief (July 2014, Disney-Hyperion).

livia-blackburne-author-writer

Livia Blackburne

midnight-thief-blackburne

Midnight Thief by Livia Blackburne

IndieBound | Bookshop | Amazon
[WD uses affiliate links.]

The Query

Dear Mr. McCarthy

I noticed on your Publishers Marketplace page that you represent quite a few young adult books with magical elements. Because of this, I am submitting for your consideration Midnight Thief, a 74,000-word YA fantasy that will appeal to fans of Kristin Cashore's Graceling and Tamora Pierce's Tortall series.

To Kyra, high walls and locked doors are not obstacles, but invitations. She specializes in nighttime raids, using her sharp senses and extraordinary agility to break into Forge's most well-guarded homes. Then she meets James, the deadly but intriguing Head of the Assassin's Guild. He has a job for Kyra: infiltrate the supposedly impenetrable Palace compound. The pay is good, and the challenge appealing. It's the perfect job for someone of her talents.

But as Kyra establishes herself in the Guild, her "perfect job" starts to unravel. Her assignments become increasingly violent, demanding more than Kyra is willing to give. Then Forge is attacked by Demon Ridersbarbarians riding bloodthirsty wildcatsand Kyra suspects the Guild is to blame. When a failed mission lands Kyra in the Palace dungeons, she faces an impossible decision. If she cooperates with the authorities against the Guild, James will kill her family, but if Kyra does nothing, she'll see Forge overrun by Demon Riders. As the city falls into chaos, Kyra uncovers a secret from her pasta forgotten link to the barbarian invaders that will test Kyra's loyalties and ultimately challenge the limits of her humanity.

I am a doctoral candidate at MIT doing my dissertation research on the neural basis of reading in children. I also write a blog on the brain science of creative writing, which has been featured by several industry websites, including Science Magazine, Nathan Bransford's blog, and The Book Deal. My essay "From Words to Brain" was published by 40k books in English and Italian.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,
Livia Blackburne

Commentary from Jim McCarthy

One of my favorite things about Livia is how incredibly thorough and thoughtful her approach is to every aspect of her writing and the business. So it’s no surprise to look back at her original query and see that it’s pretty much flawless.

She starts by doing two things that I love: indicating that she chose to query me specifically for a reason that makes sense (I do represent a lot of YA books with magical elements, and that is what she has written) and then giving comp titles that make sense and are presented in a way that doesn’t feel braggy. So in paragraph one I already know she’s serious and this is a query I will take very seriously.

Then she launches into a description that is concise, clear, and…exciting. That “To Kyra…” line tells us so much about Kyra—that she’s an adventurer, she may have a criminal side, and she’s probably pretty feisty. I was probably already ready to request this. Then the rest of the description deepens that feeling and does something even more impressive: it captures an epic fantasy novel’s story and world in 193 words without being vague OR confusing. MIDNIGHT THIEF is a great novel, and it plays out in an incredibly well-realized alternate world. Here, though, Livia isn’t precious about trying to relay everything her novel does. She strips it down to its core and presents us with a bare-bones synopsis that still manages to capture the feeling of the book and the attitude of the main character. I’m all in.

But she still has a couple tricks up her sleeve. This bio fascinated me. A doctoral candidate at MIT? A blog on the brain science of creative writing? Let’s see what this smarty can pull off! I continue to be dazzled and surprised not only by Livia’s creativity and writing but her dedication, analytical mind, and commitment to learning about the business of publishing in addition to sharpening her craft. Her query was just the tip of the iceberg, but it’s a gleaming point that gives great hints to what lies beneath.

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.

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.

Click to continue.

Tags
terms:
From Script

Writing Empowered Superhero’s in CWs Supergirl and Understanding Animation From the Trenches (From Script)

In this week’s round-up In this week’s round up brought to us by Script Magazine, story editor Katiedid “Did” Langrock speaks with Reckless Creatives podcast. Plus, one-on-one interview with CWs Supergirl actress turned scribe Azie Tesfai about her groundbreaking episode and more!

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: The Characterless Character

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: The Characterless Character

The Writer's Digest team has witnessed many writing mistakes over the years, so this series helps identify them for other writers (along with correction strategies). This week's writing mistake is writing a characterless character.

When Is My Novel Ready to Read: 7 Self-Editing Processes for Writers

When Is My Novel Ready to Read: 7 Self-Editing Processes for Writers

Fiction editor and author Kris Spisak ties together her seven processes for self-editing novels, including editorial road-mapping, character differentiation analysis, reverse editing, and more.

Poetic Forms

Englyn Unold Crwca: Poetic Forms

Poetic Form Fridays are made to share various poetic forms. This week, we look at the englyn unold crwca, a Welsh quatrain form.

5 Things for Writers to Keep in Mind When Writing About Spies

5 Things for Writers to Keep in Mind When Writing About Spies

A spy thriller requires more than a compelling story and clever plot twists—the characters need to feel real. Author Stephanie Marie Thornton offers 5 tips for constructing believable spy characters.

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Unexpected Team Up

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Unexpected Team Up

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, it's time for a little unexpected team work.

Taylor Anderson: On Creating Realism in the Weird

Taylor Anderson: On Creating Realism in the Weird

New York Times bestselling author Taylor Anderson discusses the process of writing his new science fiction novel, Purgatory's Shore.

6 Books Perfect for Fall Reading

6 Books Perfect for Fall Reading

Whether you're looking for something cozy or a little spooky, these books are perfect for the fall season.

NaNoWriMo: To Prep or Not to Prep?

NaNoWriMo: To Prep or Not to Prep?

When it comes to a 30 day writing challenge like NaNoWriMo, do you need to prep beforehand to achieve success? Well, that might depend on what kind of writer you are.