Query 101 with Agent Jennie Goloboy

Posted by April 17th, 2013

[Update: Jamie Wyman’s book WILD CARD (previously TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES) is out now by Entangled.]

Agent Jennie Goloboy dissects the query letter that started her partnership with Book Country member Jamie Wyman.

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Most of my clients first gained my attention due to effective query letters. So how do you write a strong query letter, one that makes an agent curious enough to read the book? Jamie Wyman, author of Technical Difficulties (forthcoming from Entangled) has kindly permitted me to share the query that led to our author/agent team.

 

Dear Ms. Goloboy,

[Hey! She spelled my last name correctly! Always a plus.]

My name is Jamie Wyman and I’m seeking agent representation for my debut novel TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES. I see that not only are you a writer as well as an agent, but you’re a fellow zombie fan. I’ve got a few zombie tales in my folder, too. While the shamblers don’t appear in this book, the novel I have to share with you does step outside of the mundane.

[It’s clear from the start that Jamie knows the proper format for a query letter, which immediately demonstrates that she will be professional. In an opening paragraph, if it’s there, I look for one of three things. Was the author recommended to me by a mutual friend? Did we meet at a conference, where I requested a manuscript?  Do we know each other from a writing group? If none of these three things are true, I go straight to the next paragraph.]

TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES is a 77,500 word urban fantasy blending magic, myth and the modern world. In the Las Vegas of Catherine Sharp, gods gamble with souls of unassuming humans. Eight years ago, Catherine’s soul fell into the possession of Eris, the Greek goddess of Discord. Since then she has been working a dead end technical support job while performing random tasks for the goddess. When Coyote, the Native American trickster himself, claims to have won her soul in Mayhem’s weekly poker game, Catherine must get in on the action if she wants to be free. This won’t be easy with five trickster gods upping the ante. Along for the ride is Marius, an insatiable satyr with his own debt to Eris. If they play their cards right, Cat and Marius may get their lives back. Assuming they don’t kill each other first.

[Urban fantasy/paranormal romance is a very overpopulated genre, so a pitch has to be really good to attract my attention. I was intrigued by the unique setting of Jamie’s manuscript—a Las Vegas in which all the gods are real.  Jamie was also successful in suggesting her heroine’s world-weary but tough persona, even in this short paragraph. I liked the fact that Cat had a real job in tech support, which suggested that this would be a book grounded in reality, despite the presence of the fantastic. The romance is critical, and I liked that Marius wasn’t your typical vampire/werewolf/wizard, but his description as “insatiable” was one of the things we revised when pitching this to editors. We called him a “sarcastic, self-centered satyr,” which gave a clearer impression of the source of romantic conflict. (Every word counts!)]

Catherine offers genre fans a strong, smart yet flawed heroine. She can’t blast through problems like Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden, nor can she rely on an infusion of supernatural blood to get out of her predicaments. My approach to this story draws inspiration from Christopher Moore’s COYOTE BLUE and Neil Gaiman’s ANANSI BOYS. While this story stands on its own it is meant to spark Catherine’s greater journey. With trickster gods running the show, though, her adventures take on a Rube Goldberg-esque dynamic that leaves mystery until the very end of the series. Sequels and companion short stories are in varying stages of production.

[Jamie was very astute in choosing the authors with comparable titles, because she gives the accurate impression that her book would appeal to readers who don’t generally read urban fantasy or paranormal romance.Technical Difficulties occasionally pauses to recount a trickster myth in a witty style that totally won me over. (Besides, Christopher Moore is one of my favorite authors.) Jamie also made it clear that this is a novel that could either stand alone or be part of a series.]

While this would mark my publishing debut, I was fortunate enough to be included in eBookNewser’s “Best Online Fiction Authors” list in May of this year for my flash fiction piece “Eat. Prey. Love.”

[It’s true: you don’t need a huge track record to find an agent. It helped that Jamie already had a popular blog and was well-known on Twitter.]

If you’d like to know more about Catherine and her world, the full manuscript is available on a non-exclusive basis.
Thank you very much for your time, Jennie. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Best Regards,

Jamie Wyman

[I requested the first three chapters, read them within the hour, and requested the full the same day. That doesn’t happen often, but Jamie presented a story where I HAD to know what happened to Cat and Marius! After Jamie made some revisions to the ending, I offered her representation.]

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