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 76th installment in this series is with agent Adriann Ranta (Foundry Literary) for Stephanie Elliot's young adult novel Sad Perfect (Feb. 2017, Margaret Ferguson). Kathleen Glasgow, New York Times bestselling author of Girl in Pieces, writes, "Girls, and boys, will be reading this elegant and sad book for years to come."
About Stephanie Elliot: Stephanie has written for a variety of websites and magazines and has been a passionate advocate of other authors by promoting their books on the Internet for years. She has been, or still is, all of the following: a book reviewer, an anonymous parenting columnist, a mommy blogger, an editor, a professional napper, a reformed Diet Coke drinker, a gecko breeder, and the author of three self-published novels. A Florida native, Stephanie has lived near Chicago and Philadelphia and currently calls Scottsdale, Arizona, home. She graduated from Northern Illinois University, where she received her Bachelor of Arts in Journalism. Stephanie and her husband Scott have three children: AJ, McKaelen, and Luke. They are all her favorites.
Successful Query for Sad Perfect, by Stephanie Elliot
I enjoyed reading about you in Meet the Agent in Writer’s Digest and when I did more research, your mission statement about ‘passionate representation’ really clicked for me. That’s what I’m searching for—a passionate agent for my young adult novel titled Sad Perfect, which is complete at 54k.
There is an interesting POV in Sad Perfect in that “you” are the 16-year-old main character, falling in crazy-mad love for the first time and struggling with a unique eating disorder called ARFID, which is an actual new diagnostic category of restrictive eating. You’re fighting your way through depression, group therapy, and recovery. An ex-boyfriend accuses you of attempting suicide and you wind up in the Crazy House where a bunch of misfits become your friends, despite an unfortunate tragedy. And when you finally get out, you wonder if the real Crazy House isn’t actually the place you’ve called home?
In Sad Perfect, you learn that families aren’t perfect, love is not to be taken for granted, internal monsters are just as frightening as the imaginary ones, and that believing in yourself may be the conqueror of all evil. Not just for teenagers, adult readers will also relate to the universal themes in this novel.
I’ve written several novels that are available on Amazon (all ranked 4.5 stars), and just last week one of those novels, A Little Bit of Everything Lost, was Emily Giffin’s #EGIFriday pick of the week. Your Perfect Life authors Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke said this about Everything Lost: "Sultry and soulful, Stephanie Elliot makes us remember the beautiful recklessness of your first love, and what could have been." Tracey Garvis Graves, NYT bestselling author of On the Island also gave it a front-cover blurb. I also run the SE Reviews & Reads Facebook page and have hosted dozens of authors throughout the years. I have written articles for magazines and a variety of websites such as sheknows.com, bettyconfidential.com, and babyzone.com.
For your convenience, I’ve pasted pages of Sad Perfect below. I would love to send you the complete manuscript if you’re interested. This book hits extremely close to home—and to my heart—as my own daughter is in recovery for ARFID.
Thank you so much for taking the time, and I look forward to hearing from you.
COMMENTS FROM AGENT ADRIANN RANTA:
This manuscript is written in second person—a very tricky tense to pull off over an entire book—and I loved how the author found a way to incorporate this stylistic element into the query letter. The tone is very immediate and personal, which I loved.
I was immediately interested that the hook of the book, a rare, very specific kind of eating disorder, is real, and I enjoyed that the author took a moment to point that out to me. She knew it’d be something most readers would be unfamiliar with, and I loved that the book was inspired by her daughter’s own struggles. It was clear to me that this book is something deeply personal to the author, which piqued my interest.
The author has a couple of self-published books, which usually doesn’t interest me, but the attention and praise that she garnered did. It shows that this is a writer of real talent who’s committed to hustling for her books.
I’m happy to report that since I found this query in the slush pile, it sold to Margaret Ferguson’s imprint at FSG Children’s and will be published in February 2017.
Writing strong first pages requires a great hook, a strong voice, and a clear premise. The first sentence should immediately catch the reader’s attention, while the subsequent text should leave the reader wanting to dive further into the pages of the manuscript. But making the first pages of your story absolutely un-putdownable takes practice, patience, revision, and an eye for detail. Which is why we’re here: to discuss what to do (and not to do) to make your opening pages stand-out.