Welcome to Perfect Pitch! When my authors’ books get closer to publication, I like to share their query letters, in hopes you’ll learn something from them.
When Erica Boyce’s debut novel hit my inbox, I read it in a single day. Family drama? Crop circles? Secret societies? Romance?! It was so good, so moving, so unique, that I couldn’t wait to send an email to schedule a phone call… so I just cold called, a total surprise, to ask if I could represent her work.
The novel will be published with Sourcebooks on April 2nd, and if you’re a book blogger, librarian, bookseller… you can still request a copy on NetGalley!
Now! Let’s check out that query (the novel was originally called Circles), and why it was so good.
Dear Mr. Smith:
I’m seeking representation for my 82,000-word novel, Circles. It is an upmarket novel similar in tone and subject to Mira Jacob’s The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing. It’s very much based in reality, but with a speculative twist.
Daniel makes crop circles. As a member of a secret organization of circle makers, he travels across the country responding to requests from farmers and making strange works of art that leave communities awestruck and mystified. It is quiet, solitary work that he has enjoyed for several years, but after the death of his girlfriend and fellow circle-maker, his dedication is faltering. He’s hoping to get one last good project under his belt—his fifteenth circle, which will grant him special status in the group—before retiring to a more ordinary life.
But when Sam, a Vermont farmer who’s dying of cancer, hires Daniel in a last-ditch effort to bring publicity and new farmers to the town he loves, Daniel finds himself drawn into a family struggling to stitch itself back together before it’s too late. There’s Molly, Sam’s wife, who’s haunted by a mistake she made early in their marriage and the secrets she still keeps, including the dreams she’s shelved while caring for Sam. There’s Charlie, Sam’s son, who is estranged from his parents and the farming life and lives with his husband in California. And finally, there’s Nessa, Sam’s magnetic daughter, who wants nothing more than to bring Charlie home, but who has to grapple with her own mental illness in the meantime.
When Nessa convinces Daniel to join her in trying to get Charlie back, Daniel slowly begins to realize that life on his own may not be what he wants, after all. Written from three alternating perspectives, Circles is a story of loss, family, and community.
I began this novel as a Creative Writing and Environmental Studies student at Dartmouth College and recently completed it after a few years’ hiatus during which I earned a law degree and worked for a fishermen’s nonprofit. The lifestyles and struggles faced by farmers and fishermen are very similar, and I believe my time working closely with fishermen, as well as living with the same mental illness Nessa faces, makes me the right person to tell these characters’ stories.
Thank you very much for your consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.
Erica Boyce Murphy
Goodness, there’s a lot to love in this query.
In the opening hook, Erica introduces the title of the novel, the word count, the genre and category, and an absolutely perfect comp title that worked especially well for me (Mira Jacob’s debut novel is one of my absolute favorites, and I talk about it all the time).
In the body of the query, she sums up the novel in three paragraphs. This is a complicated, shifting-POV literary novel with multiple characters and a really layered plot, yet here it is, dished out in three quick blips. Bringing up that it’s a shifting POV plot here is important, because I get a lot of questions about that from writers. Should you bring up every single POV? How deep into detail should you get?
Erica nailed it. There’s just enough from every person’s story here.
And in her bio section, she touches on how her personal experience helped craft this novel. Now, you don’t have to reveal personal things about yourself when pitching your book. I don’t want you to think there’s that level of pressure there. But hearing how she was the right person to tell this powerful story, was a really powerful note.
And there you have it. Erica Boyce’s perfect pitch. And again, if you find this helpful, please pre-order her book on the retailer of your choice, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or your local indie bookseller.