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Query Series: Emilia Plater & Suzie Townsend

In this 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 Emilia Plater
Agent Suzie Townsend of Fine Print Literary Management

from Emilia:

I seriously love sculpting queries for books that haven't exactly been, uh, written yet. Start with a crazy movie-announcer blurb, then throw in a random twist! Anything's possible. But when it comes to actual query writing, you've got one page on which to describe a big, honkin', written-in-Word book accurately and awesomely. That's tough. But despite the trauma, it's a cool challenge.

For my query, I wanted to highlight my protagonist's voice and channel her character through the whole thing. I solicited critiquing help from friends who I knew could deal with the neurosis of does it work better like this? and how about this? I also got lots of great tips from the fabulous, if slightly intimidating, "Query Letter Hell" forum members over on Absolute Write. I went through a ton of different versions before finally finding one that pretty much made sense, conveyed the plot, and hit the right note voice-wise.

For Suzie's letter, I also personalized it with a little of my own craziness - hey, she'd have to find out eventually, right? The night I sent out those first queries, I remember considering the idea that something would happen and thinking, No way, man! But a little under two weeks later, I had to opportunity to pick from a trio of incredibly humbling offers. I chose Suzie, and ever since then it's been awesome. Yay!

the query:
You may remember me as that crazy blonde girl in pigtails who sang Boom De Ya Da (I Love Publishing) back in April. You requested then that I send you a query for my YA novel, AUTOCHROMATIC, when the time came. Now, the time has come - and it is ready to sing. (...Or something.)

Ask seventeen-year-old Riley Tanner how she's dealing with the death of her boyfriend, Adrian, and she'll respond with an eye-roll and a "fantastically." Truth is, the car crash wrecked her world, and Riley has pretty much accepted her fate as a screwed-up therapy case. But when she starts getting texts from Adrian's phone number, each containing a different address, her plan to spend the summer not thinking about him falls apart.

Desperate to track down the sender - mostly so she can punch that creep in the face - Riley sets off on a follow-the-texts road trip with her best friend. From New York City to the Wild West, she meets people from Adrian's past who she didn't know existed. Their stories of betrayal, alcoholism, and messed-up family dramas paint a not-so-pretty picture of the guy she thought she loved. Great.

With her beliefs caught in a crapstorm, Riley recognizes the real source of her frustration: Adrian's mistakes. But there's nothing in the Angsty Teen manual about conflict resolution with dead people, and things only get worse when her best friend heads home after a fight. Stranded on the wrong side of the country, Riley has to choose: give up healing for good, or ask for help from the one person who refuses to show their face…

AUTOCHROMATIC is a contemporary YA novel complete at 47,000 words. I've included sample pages below; the whole manuscript is available upon request. Thank you so much for considering my work!
from Suzie:

I had seen that fabulous Boom De Ya Da video on Emilia’s blog a few months earlier, and when I was on her blog, I saw a brief description of the novel she was working on and thought “oooh! that sounds interesting” - so of course I remembered her right away.

One of the things I love about AUTOCHROMATIC and this query is that unique “is this paranormal” premise - it’s about a girl who’s getting texts from her dead boyfriend’s phone. Right away I’m intrigued.

Then in the next paragraph when I hear Riley is “desperate to track down the sender - mostly so she can punch that creep in the face,” I’m totally hooked. I love strong characters dealing with emotional baggage the best they can, and Riley wanting to deal with this by punching whoever’s responsible makes me cheer. But more than that, this little line tells me so much about Riley’s voice and what to expect out of Emilia’s writing.

A “follow-the-texts roadtrip,” secrets, and a “crapstorm” of drama, how could I resist? I immediately scrolled down, read the pages she’d included, and wrote back requesting the full manuscript.

Emilia's video:

Want to query Suzie Townsend? Guidelines can be found at her agency's website.
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. Man, no wonder you got multiple offers, this is fantastic -- such an interesting idea, and you definitely achieved your intention when it comes to channelling Riley's voice. Can't wait to see you guys announce the sale.

  2. I am so happy the video is included in this post.
    How could anyone not adore you??
    (Plus, it helps when you also write a kick-ass book, which you did :P)

  3. This is a really good query - I can see why Suzie liked it so much! Right away I can hear your character's voice, and it's so vivid. Can't wait to see this on the shelves someday!

  4. This is such a fantastic query, full of voice and very intriguing. I'm crossing fingers that it'll come out soon so I can buy a copy of it!

    (And Boom De Ya Da is still awesomesauce.)

  5. Aaaaaaaaah Emilia you are just fabulous. That video is an oldie but a goodie. And holy crap your query was amazing.

  6. Aw, guys, thanks so much for your comments! <33 It so crazy to see this up here and think back... it really doesn't seem that long, hee. Love y'all!!

  7. Wow! Amazing query, and the video is just too cute!

  8. I love that vid!

    Would have been a bit scared to swing a hammer at my computer though. lol.

  9. Who wouldn't sign you up?
    And that personalization on top? WIN.


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Item Reviewed: Query Series: Emilia Plater & Suzie Townsend Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Kirsten Hubbard