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 61st installment in this series is with agent Sara Megibow (KT Literary Agency) for author Mike Martinez's Fantasy/Steampunk novel The Daedalus Incident (May 7, 2013; Nightshade Books).
Dear Ms. Megibow,
Allow me to pull you away from your BookExpo duties, your reading and agenting and all that stuff. Allow me to put you on the quarterdeck of an 18th century Royal Navy frigate. The wind’s at your back, the crew’s bustling about you and the currents are in your favor.
Incredulous? That’s how Lt. Shaila Jain felt when, in 2132, her explorations of Mars uncovered the personal journal of Royal Navy Lt. Thomas Weatherby, late of HMSDaedalus. In that 1779 diary, she found a tale of intrigue, murder, occult science and swashbuckling adventure – a story that echoed the real-life mysteries that had come to surround the red planet
THE DAEDELUS INCIDENT is a completed 80,000-word novel combining 22nd century science-fiction with 18th century historical fantasy*, in which both Jain and Weatherby are drawn into the mad schemes of a quantum physicist and a renegade alchemist, schemes that could unleash an ancient evil upon not one, but two universes.
I’ve been a journalist and writer for 17 years, with four non-fiction books to my credit; this is my first novel. I have two others mapped out in the same setting, as well as a possible prequel set in the Elizabethan area. I’ve queried you because your blog has been a great resource in my quest to see my work published, and I think you might enjoy the genre-bending setting I’m trying to pull off here.
Thanks for taking the time to review my query. I look forward to hearing from you.
*Despite calling this book “historical fantasy,” neither Jane Austen nor her works were harmed in the writing of this novel, contrary to the current literary zeitgeist. However, your maritime agency namesake, Horatio Nelson, does make a cameo...!
Feedback from Agent Sara Megibow:
This query letter made me laugh with its quirky personality and I love the image of a navy frigate sailing through space engaging in epic adventures. So, this one got elevated to must-read-asap for me. Please note, if Mike had said "the crew had epic adventures," I would have passed outright as it's is a weak (and unfortunately commonly-used) phrase for a query letter. But, in addition to its fun hook, this query is packed with style and flair.
To be fair, the query has more narrative voice than actual plot points. But, I'm looking for great storytelling and the quality of writing here shows me this author knows how to spin a yarn (and boy was I right on that one!) The line, "Jain and Weatherby are drawn into the mad schemes of a quantum physicist and a renegade alchemist" isn't as strong as I'd like to see. But, the query was still strong enough for me to ask to see the manuscript. (For reference, this is what we ended up using as back cover copy: "With the aid of his fierce captain, a drug-addled alchemist, and a servant girl with a remarkable past, Weatherby must track a great and powerful mystic, who has embarked upon a sinister quest to upset the balance of the planets.")
Mike and I went on to sell this book to Night Shade Books, and the final manuscript is much like this original query—fun, energetic, full of adventure, and set in a unique world of flying naval ships. Well done, Mike! So glad we're off on this adventure of publishing together!
Ready to send out your query? Get a critique!
Are you done writing and revising your manuscript or nonfiction book proposal? Then you’re ready to write a query letter. In order to ensure you make the best impression on literary agents and acquisitions editors, we recommend getting a 2nd Draft Query Letter Critique.
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.