Monday, January 05, 2009

Kicking Off The New Year--Courtney Milan's Query

STATUS: And what a way to begin. I read some sample pages over the weekend and today I requested a full manuscript. Just like that. Let the yearly tally begin!

What’s playing on the iPod right now? ANGEL by Simply Red

And what better way to start the New Year then by helping y’all with that strange and frustrating (but sometimes wonderful) thing called the query letter.

In the past, I’ve done numerous blog entries on the original query letters sent to me by authors who became my clients. [See the side bar: Agent Kristin’s Queries—An Inside Scoop.]

I haven’t done that in quite a while and voila, what better way to kick off the year. So first up is Courtney Milan. Let me give you a little history since this query letter came through via a recommendation from my current client Sherry Thomas.

Basically Sherry had read the opening chapters, loved them, and then sent me an email that I needed to check out Courtney’s work asap. Funny enough, I had gotten the email from Sherry right before a conference where Courtney had already scheduled to meet me in person to give her pitch.

This is pretty rare but based on Sherry’s recommendations and Courtney's wonderful in-person pitch, I requested the full manuscript right then and there. When she sent us her novel, here is the letter she sent along with it.

I’m sharing because had she simply sent me a query letter with this same info, I would have asked for sample pages and now I’m going to share the ‘why’ of it with you.

My comments in blue.

Dear Ms. Megibow:
I met Ms. Nelson this last weekend at a pitch appointment at the Chicago Spring Fling conference. She had spoken with Sherry Thomas earlier about my historical romance, PROOF BY SEDUCTION. Ms. Nelson asked me to send you the full, which is now attached.

As one of London's premier fortune tellers, Jenny Keeble knows all about lies. After all, the fastest way to make money is to tell people what they want to hear. [Okay, at first I thought the whole fortune teller angle was a little contrived but she puts a different spin on it with her insight of how well it works in terms of telling people what they want to hear. It struck me right away that this author might be using this plot set up for a different purpose. I was right.] It works--until Gareth Carhart, the Marquess of Blakely, vows to prove what he and Jenny both know: that Jenny is a fraud. [Loved this!]

Gareth only wants to extricate his na├»ve young cousin and heir from an unhealthy influence. The last thing the rigidly scientific marquis expects is his visceral reaction to the intelligent, tenacious, and--as revealed by a wardrobe malfunction--very desirable fortune teller. [I’m completely won over here. Courtney does a great job of outlining the opening plot catalyst that launches the story (removing the heir from her clutches), of giving character insight (rigidly scientific marquis), and adding an amusing touch with the wardrobe malfunction line. I sense this work is going to be witty and it doesn’t disappoint.] But she enrages him. She tempts him. She causes him to lose his head entirely and offer a prediction of his own: He'll have her in bed before the month is out. The battle lines are drawn. Jenny can't lose her livelihood, Gareth won't abandon logic, and neither is prepared to accept love. [The crux of the conflict neatly explained. Also, her use of the words “enrages,” and “tempts” leads me to think it will be sexy and I kind of like that in historicals.]

I am a finalist in Romance Writers of America's Golden Heart competition for unpublished romance. I currently work as a lawyer …[bio info deleted by Courtney’s request] My romance writing interests may seem rather different from my daily writing, where I focus on law issues. But all good lawyers are, at heart, just story tellers, and I find the two writing practices balance each other.Please feel free to contact me if you have any additional questions, and thank you for taking the time to consider my manuscript.

Sincerely,
Courtney Milan

This novel plus a second book sold for six figures to Harlequin at auction. Tomorrow I’ll share the submission letter I sent to editors so you’ll see my pitch for this novel. I find that can also lend some insight into the query process.