Tuesday, January 05, 2010


Recently, the Guide to Literary Agents posted a query letter crafted by Sydney Salter that successfully landed her an agent. Inspired by the post, I offered to share a few successful query letters with members of the Midsouth SCBWI listserv. The response was so exciting that I decided to post the letters here!

First is a letter that I used to query Autumn Winifred Oliver Does Things Different. In the interest of full disclosure, this query letter was ultimately *not* the path that led to Autumn's publication. (I was lucky/blessed to meet Autumn's SuperEditor at an SCBWI conference.) But this letter did result in a few requests for the full manuscript, so I feel like it might have worked on some level:

Dear Ms. Editor,

Autumn Winifred Oliver has defied death twelve times – “One for each year of my life,” she’d say. But when Gramps has a little brush with death? Mama up and cancels the family’s plans to move to Knoxville to be with Pop. Now they’re stuck in crummy Cade’s Cove - in Gramps’ house! Autumn discovers Gramps is working with some official-type folks up in Washington to bring a national park to the area. His plans will put Pop out of a job. Old Gramps is a real schemer, alright, but he’s no match for a bunch of slick politicians. He and all his neighbors lose their land in the formation of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. After Gramps’ death, Autumn sees why this speck of a town has created such a hubbub. The ring of mountains surrounding the Cove doesn’t just keep the “new” out, it keeps the “old” in. It’s a town as perfectly preserved as a pickle. Maybe a national park is the only way to keep it crisp and spicy. “It’s true there’s just one road in and out of Cades Cove,” she writes her pen pal. “But a clever enough person ought know: saying there’s just one road ain’t the same as saying there’s just one way to get here.”

Autumn Winifred Oliver Does Things Different is set in Cades Cove, Tennessee, in 1934 at the birth of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park – the only national park formed from privately owned land. This story tied for fourth place in the middle-grade category in the 2005 SmartWriters.com W.I.N. Competition. Judge Alexandria LaFaye said, “Great title. Great Southern voice. Hilarious…”

My publication credits include Cricket, Spider, Guideposts for Kids, Wee Ones eMagazine, and Highlights for Children (from whom I recently received a Pewter Plate Award for Outstanding Arts Feature of 2005). I have written a number of children’s activity books for licensed characters such as Holly Hobbie, The Powerpuff Girls, Scooby-Doo, Strawberry Shortcake, and the Care Bears. My anthology, Freedom from Cruel and Unusual Punishment, was released by Greenhaven Press last year. I am a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. In 2003, I was selected as one of “Nashville’s Emerging Authors” by the Williamson County Council for the Written Word. For samples of my work, please visit www.creativefreelancewriting.com.

Would you like to see the entire manuscript for Autumn Winifred Oliver Does Things Different? If so, please contact me at (phone number) or (email address). I’ll keep my fingers crossed that Autumn meets your needs!

My best,

Kristin O’Donnell Tubb

I tried to incorporate the voice of the book into this query letter, and I think that helped increase the number of requests I received for Autumn.

Next, here's the e-query I sent to Adams Literary for Selling Hope:

Ms. Tracey Adams
Adams Literary
Dear Ms. Adams,
I attended the SCBWI National Conference in New York in February, and was delighted to hear of your interest in historical fiction. Please find the first three chapters of Selling Hope, a young adult historical fiction novel, attached.
Fifteen-year-old Hope McDaniels wants to break free from the vaudeville circuit, and she sees opportunity blazing toward her in the nighttime sky: Halley’s Comet. On May 19, 1910, Earth will pass through the tail of Halley’s Comet. Many believe this to be the end of days. Hope believes this to be her jackpot. [She and pal Buster Keaton begin to peddle anti-comet pills.]
The passing of Earth through the tail of Halley’s Comet has been described as the world’s first case of mass hysteria. The “abundant” media, combined with the clashing of hold-over Victorian sensibilities with Industrial-age objectivity, created a spark that made May, 1910, one very interesting month. (And yes, there truly was an enterprising young soul who profited from the sale of comet pills!)
My middle grade historical fiction novel, Autumn Winifred Oliver Does Things Different, will be released this October by Delacorte Press. I’ve also penned over a dozen activity books for children, many for licensed characters like Scooby-Doo, Lisa Frank, PowerPuff Girls and Holly Hobbie. I won the Highlights Magazine Pewter Plate award for Outstanding Arts Feature for “They’ll Be Back,” a story that appeared in the June 2005 issue of Highlights. My work has also appeared in Guideposts for Kids and Spider Magazine.
After reviewing your website, I was excited to see that your goal is to represent authors, not books. In that regard, I feel our goals are similar, and hope that we’ll have the opportunity to work together.
If Selling Hope interests you, please contact me at (phone number) or (email address). I will keep my fingers crossed that Selling Hope makes you smile!
All best,
Kristin O'Donnell Tubb
Autumn Winifred Oliver Does Things Different, October 14, 2008 from Delacorte Press
Please visit my website: www.kristintubb.com
Please visit my blog: www.kristintubb.blogspot.com

It's a little embarrassing to see these two queries side-by-side, as they are so similar! But I suppose it worked: I am now represented by Josh Adams of Adams Literary, or as I often refer to him, SuperAgent. And a few things to note: Selling Hope is now a middle-grade novel, with a 13-year-old protagonist. Thank you, Hopeful SuperEditor! Also, the bracketed portion above was edited from the original query letter - it was a bit of a plot spoiler! :-)

Also note: the sale of both Autumn Winifred Oliver Does Things Different and Selling Hope went to editors I met at SCBWI conferences. Too, I queried Adams Literary after seeing Ms. Adams speak at a conference. A definite pattern! :-)

Query letters are an art much more akin to journalism than creative writing: put the most important information first (the lead, or "lede" if you're old-school), which is of course the plot of your book. (In the Selling Hope example above, I felt introducing myself first was appropriate.) Also like journalism: keep it brief, add the "who/what/when/where/why/how" of you and your book, then wrap it up. All in one page. Whew! :-)

If you're interested in getting feedback on your query letter, post it in the comments section and I'll be more than happy to give you my thoughts! Hope this post was helpful!


Crystal said...

Happy New Year, Kristin!

Thanks SO MUCH for sharing your query letters! I plan on querying (one of my resolutions for 2010) agents/editors in the next few months and these examples are very helpful. :)

Kristin Tubb said...

Glad you found them helpful, Crystal! Good luck with the querying, and happy new year! :-) Thanks for stopping by!

Evelyn said...

Thank you, Kristin, for sharing your experiences and letters with us! It always helps to see successful examples. Best wishes for a wonderful 2010 for you!

Shelli said...

thanks for sharing these :)

Kristin Tubb said...

Thanks, Evelyn and Shelli, for stopping by! Happy new year - and happy querying! ;-)

Kristin Tubb said...

Hi, all! It's been brought to my attention that some folks are having trouble posting comments. If you've tried to post something, especially a query, and was denied, please let me know: shoot me an email at ktubb (at) comcast (dot) net. I'll try to get my kludgy commenting straightened out! :). Thanks!

Rae Ann Parker said...

Your voice really shines through on both query letters and I like the dialogue in the first. I don't think I've accomplished infusing my voice into a query letter. A goal for 2010!

Anonymous said...

I would like too take time too thank the active members for doing what you do and make this community great im a long time reader and first time poster so i just wanted to say thanks.

Kate C said...

HI Kristin!

I love your blog - very cool info. I was wondering if you are still willing to critique a query?

Many Thanks!

Kristin Tubb said...

Hi, Kate C! I'd be happy to take a look at your query! Please contact me via email: ktubb (at) comcast (dot) net. Happy querying!

writeknight said...

Thanks for sharing successful query letters. I'm hoping to send my query letter to Ms. Adams soon, would you be willing to take a look at it?

Kristin Tubb said...

HI, Write Knight! I'm happy to take a look at your query. Please email me: ktubb (at) comcast (dot) net. Thanks for stopping by the blog!