Successful Queries: Agent Adriann Ranta and "Not a Drop to Drink"

In this series, we look at query letters that succeeded in getting writers signed with agents. The 65th installment in this series is with agent Adriann Ranta (Wolf Literary) for Mindy McGinnis's young adult novel, NOT A DROP TO DRINK (Sept. 2013, Katharine Tegen Books).
Publish date:

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.

Today features agent Adriann Ranta (formerly of Wolf Literary; now with Foundry Literary + Media) for Mindy McGinnis's young adult novel, Not a Drop to Drink (Sept. 2013, Katharine Tegen Books), a post-apocalyptic survival tale set in a world where freshwater is almost non-existent. Mindy McGinnis is a YA author and librarian. She blogs at Writer, Writer Pants on Fire and contributes to the group blogs Book Pregnant, Friday the Thirteeners, From the Write Angle, The Class of 2k13, The Lucky 13s & The League of Extraordinary Writers. You can find her on Twitter, Tumblr & Facebook.

Mindy McGinnis

Mindy McGinnis


Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis

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

Dear Ms. Ranta:

Lynn was nine the first time she killed to defend the pond. Seven years later, violence is her native tongue in a time when an ounce of fresh water is worth more than gold and firewood equals life during bitter rural winters. Death wanders the countryside in many forms: thirst, cholera, coyotes, and the guns of strangers.

Mother and Lynn survive in a lawless land, where their once comfortable home serves as stronghold and lookout. Their basement is a lonely fortress; Father disappeared fighting the Canadians for possession of Lake Erie, the last clean body of water in an overpopulated land. The roof offers a sniper’s view of their precious water source – the pond. Ever vigilant, they defend against those who stream from the sprawling cities once they can no longer pay the steep prices for water. Mother’s strenuous code of self-sufficiency and survival leaves no room for trust or friendships; those wishing for water from the pond are delivered from their thirst not by a drink, but a bullet. Even their closest neighbor is a stranger who Lynn has only seen through her crosshairs.

Smoke rises from the east, where a starving group of city refugees are encamped by the stream. A matching spire of smoke can be seen in the south, where a band of outlaws are building a dam to manipulate what little water is left.

When Mother dies in a horrific accident, Lynn faces a choice - defend her pond alone or band together with her crippled neighbor, a pregnant woman, a filthy orphan, and Finn - the teenage boy who awakens feelings she can't figure out.

NOT A DROP TO DRINK (69,000 words) is a post-apoc survival YA. I have been a YA librarian in the public school system for seven years, allowing me to spend forty hours a week with my target audience. The first three chapters are in the body of this email, per your submission guidelines. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Agent Adriann Ranta's comments

I still think this is a really solid query—I’d request it all over again! I love the punchy first line, the spare prose, and gradual introduction to all the book’s main players. I remember loving the specificity in this query—I know who the main character is, where she is, what world she lives in, what’s at stake—without getting so microscopic that the query feels bloated and slow.

The letter conveys all the right information, but also has a flair for language that promises good writing in the sample to come. I also appreciated the mention of her job working with her target audience, which showed some industry savvy.

Query Letter in 14 Days

Take your writing one step further and tackle the publishing process. When you enroll in this online course, you'll learn the details of the query letter format and how to write a query letter that catches the attention of agents and publishers.

Click to continue.

query letters
Nawaaz Ahmed: On Personal Identity in Literary Fiction

Nawaaz Ahmed: On Personal Identity in Literary Fiction

Nawaaz Ahmed discusses how his personal experiences acted as the impetus for his new book, Radiant Fugitives, and how it went from novella to novel.

Comedy vs. Comity (Grammar Rules)

Comedy vs. Comity (Grammar Rules)

There's nothing funny about learning when to use comedy and comity (OK, maybe a little humor) with Grammar Rules from the Writer's Digest editors, including a few examples of correct usages.

Shugri Said Salh: On Writing the Coming-Of-Age Story

Shugri Said Salh: On Writing the Coming-Of-Age Story

Debut author Shugri Said Salh discusses how wanting to know her mother lead her to writing her coming-of-age novel, The Last Nomad.

100 Ways to Buff Your Book

100 Ways to Buff Your Book

Does your manuscript need a little more definition, but you’re not sure where to begin? Try these 100 tips to give your words more power.

Kaia Alderson: On Internal Roadblocks and Not Giving Up

Kaia Alderson: On Internal Roadblocks and Not Giving Up

Kaia Alderson discusses how she never gave up on her story, how she worked through internal doubts, and how research lead her out of romance and into historical fiction.

writer's digest wd presents

WD Presents: Seven New Courses, Writing Prompts, and More!

This week, we’re excited to announce seven new courses, our Editorial Calendar, and more!

Crystal Wilkinson: On The Vulnerability of Memoir Writing

Crystal Wilkinson: On The Vulnerability of Memoir Writing

Kentucky’s Poet Laureate Crystal Wilkinson discusses how each project has its own process and the difference between writing fiction and her new memoir, Perfect Black.

From Script

Approaching Comedy from a Personal Perspective and Tapping into Your Unique Writer’s Voice (From Script)

In this week’s round up brought to us by, interviews with masters of comedy, screenwriter Tim Long ('The Simpsons') and writer-director Dan Mazer (Borat Subsequent Movie) about their collaboration on their film 'The Exchange', and filmmaker Trent O’Donnell on his new film 'Ride the Eagle' co-written with actor Jake Johnson ('New Girl'). Plus, tips on how to tap into your unique voice and more!

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Not Accepting Feedback on Your Writing

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Not Accepting Feedback on Your Writing

The Writer's Digest team has witnessed many writing mistakes over the years, so we started this series to help identify them for other writers (along with correction strategies). This week's writing mistake is not accepting feedback on your writing.