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Query Series: Kristin Otts & Michelle Andelman

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 Kristin Otts
Agent Michelle Andelman of Lynn C. Franklin Associates

from Kristin:

I spent about five months querying my first novel and doing a very poor job of it. When I started CITY OF SHADOWS, it wasn't about publication so much as it was a love affair with the story. I perfected the query letter and daydreamed about getting an agent, but mostly I just wrote and wrote and wrote. Which is why I was so surprised when a friend emailed me to say that she had shown my query letter to her agent, that said agent was very interested, and she wanted to read my book. About a week later, I accepted an offer of representation from Michelle Andelman. (I still SQUEE when I say that. :D)

the query:

(client referral information)

In a society that breeds perfect people, seventeen-year-old Dax is defective. In other words, he's illegal, and his life depends on his ability to be invisible. But Dax has heard rumors of a place where "defects" aren't killed for their freckles, mismatched eyes, or mental disabilities.

They call it the Promised Land.

Serenity Faire's family calls it dangerous - a threat to national security. That's why they allow Dax to live when he is caught stealing, forcing him instead to help them find this city that has eluded the government for centuries. Their search leads them through the tunnels of Washington D.C.'s abandoned subways, into the heart of an America that was lost years ago. But in this forgotten world, Dax and Serenity uncover their own secret - a romance even more illegal than Dax's freckles. Their relationship has consequences that echo through the White House, drawing the attention of the oppressive ruling family and threatening both their friends and family in the city and the Promised Land.

Because the only thing worse than a defect who is allowed to live is a defect who is allowed to love.

CITY OF SHADOWS is a dystopian YA with the gritty urban feel of Neal Shusterman's UNWIND and the forbidden romance of a futuristic ROMEO & JULIET. It is complete at 82,000 words, and I would love to send you the full manuscript if you are interested.

I currently write a monthly column for the Mountain Valley News, a local paper in Cedaredge, CO, and I am also an English major at Colorado State University.

from Michelle:

Since Kristin's query was coming to me via client referral, she did just the right thing by starting off her letter with the familiar name of our mutual acquaintance and note of how they knew one another. To be sure, queries that are coming in via referral immediately catch an agent's eye, it's important they begin with this info.

Kristin's query already had my attention, and then went on to quicken my agent pulse with a stellar, succinct first line that clearly introduced not only her rich, chilling storyworld -- key for the dystopian genre she's writing in -- but also the risky, imperiled status of her protagonist within that world. She indicates in her description that there are high stakes (life & death!) in her story for both the boy and girl forbidden to, yet about to fall in love, from where they stand on opposite sides of this society that I learned just enough about in the letter to know I wanted (needed!) to know more. And, by query's end, I was just as excited about its author as I was by the story, on account of Kristin's powerful tag line ("Because the only thing worse than a defect who is allowed to live is a defect who is allowed to love") and her clever positioning of the feel/tone and genre twist of CITY OF SHADOWS in light of familiar titles (she indicates her book feels like Schusterman's, and puts a dystopian spin on R + J).

These last lines of the query made me feel, right from the start (especially when combined with mention of her YA Highway blogging and connections with other rising authors in her market), great confidence in Kristin's market savvy as an author. The query's last lines spoke to a certain preparedness and polish I could expect to find not only the novel but in the author herself, before I even read her pages. It was a big plus going in!

Want to query Michelle Andelman? Guidelines can be found at the agency's Publishers Marketplace listing. (don't forget a short synopsis & your first 10 pages!)
Other installments in our query series:

Kirsten Hubbard

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

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  1. The process of getting representation and getting published is so interesting. Thanks for showing a little bit of it. I love learning about the publishing world from insiders!

    And, I'd totally buy/ read your book. I love a good dystopian tale.

  2. This is a great query letter. Thank you so much for sharing. These are really helpful to me (someone who is close to that stage).

  3. I can't tell you how many times I looked at this query's blurb (and QoG's by S.J. Maas) when I was attempting to get a feel for how a query should be written. It helped enormously.

    Not to mention it sounds like an awesome book! Can't wait to get a copy. :)

  4. Awesome query. Can't wait to read your book! Sounds unbelievably epic :)

  5. When this book is famous, it has to be remembered that I was amongst the very first Dax fangirls, haha.

    Great query, Kristin!

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  8. Wonderful query, Kristin! But since Michelle is no longer with Lynn C. Franklin Associates, can you update us on where to query her?


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Item Reviewed: Query Series: Kristin Otts & Michelle Andelman Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Kirsten Hubbard