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 73rd installment in this series is with Stacey Glick (Dystel & Goderich Literary Management) for Kristi Belcamino's mystery, Blessed Are Those Who Mourn (e-book releases September 29, 2015, Witness Impulse). The novel is hailed as "tense, disturbing and smart" by Edgar award-winning author Alex Marwood, and critics declare that Belcamino is an author to watch for.
Kristi Belcamino is a writer, crime reporter, and Italian-American mama who makes a tasty biscotti. As a reporter, she flew in an FA-18 jet with the Blue Angels, raced a Dodge Viper at Laguna Seca, and attended barbecues at the morgue. Her first book, Blessed Are the Dead, based on her dealings with a serial killer, is nominated for the 2015 Anthony and Macavity awards. Find her on Twitter.
Dear Ms. Glick,
I am seeking representation for my crime fiction novel, BLESSED ARE THE DEAD. This novel was inspired by a story I covered as a crime reporter and my own efforts to get a serial killer to confess to taking and killing a little girl. When the man died in prison two years ago, I was called for a comment, so I guess I’m considered an “expert” on him now.
Gabriella Giovanni has never met a man more exciting than a murder.
Her big Italian-American family can’t understand why Gabriella chooses her adrenaline-pumping career as a San Francisco Bay Area newspaper reporter over being married with little bambinos running around. Instead, Gabriella spends her days flitting in and out of other people’s nightmares and then walking away unscathed, like a teenager exiting the haunted house at the fair. That’s partly because for twenty years Gabriella’s managed to avoid confronting her own dark childhood memories: her sister’s kidnapping and murder.
That changes when a little girl disappears on the way to the school bus stop.
Gabriella’s quest for justice and a front-page story leads her to a convicted kidnapper who reels her in with tales of his exploits as a longtime serial killer and his promises to reveal his secrets to her alone. Editors warn Gabriella she is in danger of losing her job when the biggest newspaper in town keeps scooping her on the story. Believing that the fate of her beloved job and solving the mystery of her sister’s disappearance both lie in the hands of a serial killer, Gabriella risks her life to meet him when he is sprung from jail on a technicality.
The novel is complete at 88,000 words and took first place in the mystery category of The 2011 Sandy Writing Contest. The final judge, an editor at Simon and Schuster, said this about it:
“I liked Gabriella and wanted to spend time with her. I also thought the author did a good job establishing character, plot, AND building suspense within a short period of time. This reminded me of Sue Grafton or Jan Burke.”
I am a member of Sisters in Crime, polished my manuscript in a master class on the novel at The Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis, and am involved in three writing critique groups. I am a freelance writer and maintain two blogs.
Thank you very much for your time and consideration. I have included the first chapter so you can get a feel for my voice.
Commentary From Agent Stacey Glick
The opening where Kristi shares information on her background is so intriguing. Not many female crime reporters out there. Immediately made me want to read more. I’m also a sucker for fiction based on true events, so that made it even more enticing.
Then there’s the great first line about the book and her protagonist. Draws the reader right in. “Gabriella Giovanni has never met a man more exciting than a murder.” How could you not be intrigued by that sentence? It says so much with so little. She goes on to clearly and concisely (I can’t tell you how often I suggest to others that their pitches be clear and concise) describe in just a few words Gabriella’s job, personal life, and family.
By the end of that very brief paragraph which is chock full of good information, we learn that her sister was kidnapped and murdered as a child and now we’re set up for a very intense psychological drama, which I’m a big fan of. The rest of the plot description describes a high-stakes story with a series of suspenseful twists.
Following the solid pitch, Kristi then goes on to give brief but compelling feedback from an editor at a major house who compares her work to two bestselling authors, which is impressive. In addition, it’s clear from the way she talks about the book and its development that she is professional, actively involved in the writing community and that the book has been carefully written and edited, all big selling points. Overall, I’d say this query letter gets an A+!
I’m so pleased that Kristi thought of me with this book, and even more pleased that we are four books in to this fantastic series. She has created a wonderful world with memorable characters and suspenseful storylines that follow through on her promise in her very solid pitch letter.