Thursday, September 30, 2010

4 Query Letter #1

Query Letter #1
Name: Jessica
Title: Dead Ringer
Genre: YA Thriller

Dear Ms. LaPolla:

I enjoyed reading your August interview with the Guide to Literary Agents website. Based on your interest in young adult fiction, please consider DEAD RINGER, a 65,000-word YA thriller. A kidnapped teenager trains in espionage and struggles to discover secrets of her background before taking a stand against an obsessed assassin.

Sixteen-year-old Kae Ringer has finally found a match in her seventeenth foster family, but stability disappears after she sees a murder victim’s photo in a newspaper; the dead girl looks exactly like her. Ten hours later Kae is kidnapped and unconscious on a plane to Switzerland. Her long-lost, newly-dead twin was an international operative at a school/agency called Liberta and the Headmaster thinks Kae will make a convenient replacement.

Despite serious trust issues, Kae cooperates, planning to use her lockpicking skills to break into the Headmaster’s office to discover what he’s hiding about her birth. Between classes like Elements of Stalking and Offensive/Defensive Maneuvers, she battles feelings for two boys, one of whom was her sister’s boyfriend. When a letter surfaces with information about her family history, Kae is ready to ditch school via climbing gear and reunite with a grandfather she never knew existed. Two small problems: one, she’s formed attachments at Liberta and two, the rival agency who murdered her twin believes they missed their target. Now a killer is waiting for the right moment to finish the job. If he strikes, Kae better hope she paid attention in class.

I am a member of Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, and have written for the online magazines Stories For Children and The Motherhood Muse. Thank you for your time; I look forward to hearing from you.


Jessica L.


  1. OOOHHH- a spy!! Very cool : ) It seems almost thrown in with the love interest, though I am sure it's def a part of the story and part of her attachments at Liberta. It also seems that a lot of the story is given to us in this query, as far as events go. I'm not sure what the major stakes are here, if it is being chased by the murder, going back to the adopted family, being a spy, discovering the grandpa.

  2. Jessica - this is so much tighter and more clear than the earlier version, and while I'm personally not usually a fan of loglines to start a query, this one works IMO. I have just a couple thoughts for you to consider.

    First, and this is my primary comment for possible improvement, the line "she battles feelings for two boys, one of whom was her sister’s boyfriend" felt forced and unnecessary in the query. You nenver mention the love interests again, and it frankly made me think her a bit flighty (though that may be subjective) because you have these other cool elements and objectives, and you throw in a reference to two random boys - especially because the pacing in the query makes me think she hasn't been there that long - I think weakens her character as expressed in the query. I'm sure the romance subplots work in the book, but I don't think they are necessary in the query - and if they are necessary, then the query needs to show why they are necessary for the query - ie, tie them into the stakes/plot beyond the the hinted "she's made attachments..." ;)

    Second, "Based on your interest in young adult fiction," felt like pretty weak personalization- if you have a specific and less vague comment to make to the agent - ie something in the mentioned interview more specifically made you choose to query her over other agents - then include it. Otherwise, don't bother with a phrase as general as "Based on your interest in young adult fiction," - of course she has an interest in YA fiction. You wouldn't be querying her if she didn't ;)

    Lastly, I'd consider replacing "birth" with "past" or some more encompassing word.

    Otherwise, I think it's a fairly solid query :)

    Good luck!

  3. Jessica, I really liked your query. It sounds like a unique story--I loved the espionage, lock picking skills, and ditching school via climbing.

    My only suggestions would be to work on the log line. I struggled with mine. Perhaps: After sixteen-year-old Kae Ringer is kidnapped, she trains in espionage and struggles to discover secrets of her background before taking a stand against an obsessed assassin.

    Then maybe break up the next sentence so, The dead girl looks exactly like her, is separate. I think it's more powerful.

    Good luck. I think you should definitely query this.

  4. Hi Jessica,

    I really enjoyed this query letter, but there were a couple things that felt off to me. I definitely agree with EM that the romances felt thrown in. If you can show how they are tied in to the rest of the plot (one of them gives her that letter, helps her escape, etc), it might work better.

    Also, this may too much for a query, but I couldn't help wondering about the dynamic between her foster family and her real family. If the new family is so great, I'd expect them to figure in again somewhere and if her real family abandoned her, I'd expect her to pretty darn angry about it, not rushing to reunite with them. But that could just be me, so take it with a boulder of salt. :)

    All in all, great work! Best of luck!


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