Latest News

Query Series: Kody Keplinger & Joanna Stampfel-Volpe

In this new Saturday series, YA Highway writers share the query letters that landed their agents -- and why the queries worked, from the agents themselves. Next up...

Author Kody Keplinger
Agent Joanna Stampfel-Volpe of Nancy Coffey Literary & Media Representation

from Kody:

I went through about a million rounds on this query, changing things and then changing them back and cutting and adding. In the end, I went with my instinct and kept a few of the lines that others suggested I take out. For example, the "enemies-with-benefits" line is my favorite in the query, and a few critiquers thought it didn't work. but I stuck to my guns and kept it - and that line made it into my flap copy! Other lines people suggested cut went on the floor and will never be seen again. The first draft of this query was HORRIBLE and it never would have improved without the fresh eyes that helped me polish it.

the query:

Seventeen-year-old Bianca knows she’s the Duff (the designated ugly, fat friend). So when Wesley, a notorious womanizer, approaches her at a party she knows he wants to score with one—or both—of her hot friends. God, the man-whore’s arrogance really pisses her off! But Bianca needs to escape from some personal drama, like her mom’s abandonment and her dad’s denial, and a steamy fling with Wesley seems like the perfect distraction. Bianca makes it clear she’s only using Wesley, as if he cares. He’ll sleep with anything that moves after all. Unfortunately, the enemies-with-benefits plan totally backfires.

When her mom files for divorce and her father stumbles into a downward spiral of drinking and depression, Wesley proves to be a surprisingly good listener, and Bianca finds out that his family is pretty screwed up, too. As sickening as it sounds, she has to admit that she and Wesley are a lot alike. Soon she becomes jealous of the pretty girls he flirts with and his cocky grin begins to grow on her. Suddenly Bianca realizes—with absolute horror—that she’s falling for the guy she thought she hated.

THE DUFF, my contemporary YA novel, is complete at 53,000 words. The manuscript is available upon request. Thank you for your time and consideration.

from Joanna:

The query for THE DUFF was fantastic. It was concise, energetic, and conveyed the voice of Bianca so, so well. Plus, the title freaking rocks. But what really made me stop and pay attention was how Kody stated the conflict by the end of paragraph one, and she stated it with voice! This is the line at the end of paragraph one:

"Unfortunately, the enemies-with-benefit plan totally backfires."

She got me right there. I wanted to know how, I wanted to know more, I wanted to know Bianca. In the next paragraph she expanded on the story, showing me that this isn't just about Bianca and her hook up. There are family issues in this book. And the characters had layers. This was a manuscript I wanted to read.

This query was just perfect: professional, concise, and attention-grabbing. And you could tell she knew her audience (what I could NOT tell was that she was a seventeen-year-old author--jaw DROP).

Want to query Joanna Stampfel-Volpe? Guidelines can be found at the agency's Publishers Marketplace listing.
Other installments in our query series:

Kirsten Hubbard

Kirsten is the author of Like Mandarin, Wanderlove, and the middle grade novel Watch the Sky.

Posts by Kirsten

website twitter instagram goodreads tumblr

  • Blogger Comments
  • Facebook Comments


  1. Awesome-est query - makes anyone want to read the book :)

  2. Good call on leaving the "enemies with benefits" thing!

  3. I love your query, Kody :)
    It just sounds so Bianca.

  4. Yay Kody for writing a genius query, and yay Joanna for seeing the genius! :D

  5. Great query! And way to trust your instincts, Kody -- "the enemies-with-benefits plan totally backfires" line is awesome. Can't imagine it NOT hooking an agent! :)

  6. Hooray! Awesome query. Thanks, Kody and Jo!


Comments are moderated on posts two weeks old or more -- please send us a tweet if yours needs approval!

Item Reviewed: Query Series: Kody Keplinger & Joanna Stampfel-Volpe Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Kirsten Hubbard