When Mike Chen's query hit my inbox, I was all kinds of excited. From his comp titles to the exciting plotline to his love of corgis, this was one awesome pitch letter.
But, it took me a while to get to it.
I think there's a bonus lesson in this pitch, as Mike followed up a handful of times about the manuscript, sending polite nudges that eventually got me on board to read the book faster. Remember, when you're pitching agents, that following up is an entirely normal thing to do.
I often hear from writers who are nervous about doing this, but agents have to follow up with editors ALL THE TIME. It's a big part of our job, really. So don't be afraid to do it yourself. Nudges are important, and sometimes, they end like this.
Mike's debut novel, HERE & NOW & THEN, hits bookstores everywhere this month via Mira, has netted two starred reviews, and some fantastic blurbs from some of the best writers in SFF.
Let's dig into his query, and remember, you can read more queries from authors I've worked with here on my Perfect Pitch page. And if you find this helpful, consider ordering the novel from a retailer of your choice. Let's see that query!
Dear Mr. Smith (or can I call you Agent Smith and pretend you’re Hugo Weaving?),
Kin Stewart thought parenting a teen couldn’t get any harder, but then he got separated from his daughter -- by a century.
Before that, he was a normal family man, working and parenting teenage Miranda -- a far cry from his old job as a time-traveling secret agent from 2142. Stranded in suburbia since the 1990s because of a botched mission, he’d spent the last 17 years thinking about soccer practices and family vacations instead of temporal fugitives.
But when his rescue team suddenly arrives, Kin is forced to abandon his family and return to 2142, where everyone -- including his fiancee, who’s unaware of time travel -- thinks he’s only been gone weeks, not years. Ordered to cut all contact with the past, Kin defies his superiors and attempts to raise his daughter from the future. Until one day he discovers that Miranda’s being erased from history...and it might be his fault.
With time running out, Miranda’s very existence depends upon Kin taking a final trip across time, no matter the cost. Break time-travel rules, tell his fiancee about Miranda and his secret family, even put his own life on the line; those are risks Kin will take because there’s only one thing more important than the past and the future: doing right by his daughter.
HERE AND NOW AND THEN (90,000 words) is science fiction for people who hate science fiction. An intimate character-driven look at how far people will go for the ones they love, I believe the blend of sci-fi elements and traditional themes can go beyond genre readers and into the mainstream. Think The Time Traveler’s Wife as written by Nick Hornby with a dash of Torchwood.
A lifelong writer, my published credits include contributions to Thirsty? San Francisco, Fox Sports, SB Nation, Yahoo Sports, NYTimes.com, Maple Street Press, and various local arts magazines. I also run a freelance writing business.
May I send you the complete manuscript? Or can my corgi (who is snoring at my feet right now) deliver the completed manuscript to your corgi?
Thanks very much for your time and consideration!
Alright, so let's talk about this query.
Mike jumps right in with some personal hooks, making a playful joke about my name, which I loved and have frequently tweeted about. He also offers up pictures of his corgi, which he included in his followup nudge emails. He knew exactly how to catch my eye, and those little flourishes were nice.
Comp wise, he has FLAWLESS comparative titles. We ended up using these in the pitch to publisher.
And when it comes to the whole "book" section, summing up his novel, he manages to dig into a complicated plot in just three paragraphs. Queries should be able to do this, sum up something complex really succinctly.
Lastly, we have his bio, where he talks about previous writing credits. Remember, debut novelists. If you don't have writing credits, it's okay. You can still tell the agent a little something about yourself. I was already sold on story alone, but the fact that he had buy in regarding his writing was a nice bonus. But even if he didn't, and just mentioned being a geek with a corgi, I'd have read this.
And there you have it!