Thursday, April 3, 2008

A Query Success Story

On November 5th Jaye Wells queried me via my agency submission form about her urban fantasy novel, RED-HEADED STEPCHILD. Here's her query:

Sabina Kane's mixed blood labels her the red-headed stepchild of the vampire race. Despite this, she is loyal to the Dominae, the vampire rulers who raised her to be an assassin. When an undercover mission reveals the Dominae's secret plans to wage war against the mage race, she must choose between the only family she's ever known and the one that disowned her at birth.

The 92,500-word novel presents a few twists on the standard vampire mythos. For example, vampires love garlic, but apples are a poison. All red heads have some trace of vampire blood in their gene pool. Also, Lilith was Adam's starter wife in the Garden of Eden before a series of affairs with demons and others spawned the dark races.

On November 6th I requested the first fifty pages, which Jaye sent to me a few hours later.

On December 12th I requested the rest of the novel, which Jaye sent to me that afternoon. I read the rest of the manuscript later that evening, and made an offer of representation on the 13th. On December 14th Jaye accepted my offer of representation and we discussed revisions.

On December 24th Jaye sent me the revised manuscript, and on December 30th I responded with a few additional edit requests. Jaye made the changes immediately and returned the manuscript.

On January 8th I pitched the project to six editors, and by the next morning all of them had received the manuscript. By January 16th we had received multiple offers and conducted an auction for the book. The auction closed late Friday afternoon on January 18th, with Orbit/Hachette winning.

This is definitely not the norm; most sales take far longer and auctions are infrequent events. That being said, I hope this gives all of you aspiring writers out there some hope about the querying process.

17 comments:

Julie Weathers said...

That's an interesting account.

What really strikes me is Ms. Wells had all her ducks in a row. She sent out a sparkling query. She was prepared to follow up immediately when asked for more. She complied with revisions promptly.

It seems to me this was a perfect match of a professional writer and a skilled agent taking care of business. I am a little shocked at your speed reading abilities.

Congratulations to both of you.

Thanks for posting this. It does give me hope.

Claudia said...

I've been a fan of Jaye's for some time now and am so thrilled for her...thrilled, but not surprised. She's brilliant, isn't she?

jjdebenedictis said...

Yay, Jaye! I've only read her blog, not her fiction, but I always got the impression there that she was a smart and lively writer. It doesn't surprise me to hear her book generated serious interest.

JohnO said...

Is it common for you to read a complete manuscript that quickly? I've had two completes out for a while, as well as other queries, and for some reason, once we hit 2008, the pace of response has slowed to a crawl.

Kate said...

Thank you!

Ryan Field said...

Great query. I see how you couldn't resist asking for more.

Jonathan Lyons said...

It takes me a while to read partials, but once I request the rest I usually respond within a few days.

Chumplet said...

Hoooray for my buddy Jaye!

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful success story, for both agent and writer.

Lorelei said...

Thank you for sharing this story. I've been over on AbsoluteWriter reading the PublishAmerica threads with something between lurid fascination and horror. Over and over PA writers insist that new writers have no chance of finding agents and being published. Stories like this one keep healthy hope alive.

Anonymous said...

Did the letter start right off with the hook like that or was there an introductory paragraph indicating why she was querying you? I've seen examples of queries that start both ways and I'm curious which applies here. Thanks so much for sharing this and congrats to Jaye!

Aimless Writer said...

Inspiring story. Congrats to Jane Wells.
When I hear about this I always wonder what kind of edits/revisions would be asked for? You evidently saw this book needed some work but you wanted it anyway- why? Where's the line between what you think can be fixed and what can't?
Just curious.

Conda V. Douglas said...

Interesting to see what works in a query letter--so many times we are bombarded with what NOT to do. And a great hook, very intriguing, I'm looking forward to reading it when it comes out.

susiej said...

I'm wondering the same thing as Anonymous- was there an intro? There are so many different opinions of what is the right way.
And Congratulations Jaye!

Jonathan Lyons said...

I would have included the introduction if one was used.

Jaye used my website submission form, and I included her whole query, excepting her contact information.

Southern Writer said...

I'm not familiar with Jaye's work, but I do know she's a kind and considerate person, and I'd be remiss not to congratulate her, and wish her best selling status. Yay, Jaye! Here's popping open some bubbly for you, lady.

Kristan said...

Yes, definitely inspires hope! And it's great to see an example of a (recent) successful query. Thank you.