In our Query Series, writers share with us the letter that helped land them an agent--and why the letter worked, from the agent's point of view. Today we are pleased to welcome debut author Ryan Graudin and her agent, Alyssa Henkin of Trident Media Group, LLC. Ryan's paranormal romance, LUMINANCE HOUR, will be published by HarperTeen in 2013. You can keep up with Ryan on her blog and she's also on twitter: @ryangraudin.
LUMINANCE HOUR (or Godmother, as it was called then) had its beginnings in a humble 11 page short story that I wrote as a submission to an anthology. While it never got accepted to the collection, one of my coworkers read the story, looked me in the eye and told me this needed to be a novel. So I spent the next four months pounding out a rough draft. It was about another four months after that (which I spent revising!) that I began the query process.
In many ways writing the query was almost more difficult than writing the novel! Every sentence, every word in your query letter counts, for good or ill! I’d actually queried a different manuscript before this one, so I had a bit of query construction already under my belt. One of the most invaluable resources for me was querytracker.net and the forums there. The users were so gracious and constructive when it came to helping me write my query. I relied a lot on their criticism, and it ultimately paid off.
I sent my queries off in small batches: 5 to 10 at a time. This allowed me to see if the query in its current form was working. As soon as the requests started coming in I started sending more. The process was long and grueling. So many periods of silence and waiting! And the highs and lows of requests and rejections. The whole thing really was heartwrenching.
I found Alyssa through Casey McCormick and Natalie Aguirre’s blog Literary Rambles. It’s an excellent resource for anyone who is researching agents. Casey and Natalie have practically done all of the research gruntwork for you. They spotlight agents and post all of the information they can find on the internet for you to peruse.
When Alyssa first asked for the full I was excited, but not expectant. I’d had a good number of full requests beforehand, and all of them ended up in rejections. In fact, when Alyssa sent her followup email, I thought at first it was a rejection! (Until I read further). In fact, she wrote to ask if we could speak on the phone! I was so happy that I ran around in the front yard and screamed hysterically.
I love how Alyssa says that I was smart and well-spoken during that first phone call, because inside I really felt like a mess. I was doodling crazy faces and writing AAAAAAAAH on the paper in front of me when she voiced her offer of representation.
Dear Ms. Henkin,
For hundreds of years Emrys has been a Faery godmother to the British royal family, guarding them with a fierce, invisible loyalty. It’s all routine until she’s assigned to watch Richard, a partying prince with a compassionate streak. Through him she encounters something she’s never felt before: love. After the prince saves her not once, but twice, Emrys decides to break the strongest of Faery taboos. She reveals herself for what she is.
When an ancient Fae with a mysterious grudge murders the king and starts preying on the rest of the monarchy, the Guard of Faery godmothers struggles to protect them. Emrys must hunt through London’s dark magical side to uncover and confront the one who threatens her love’s life.
But Emrys also faces a choice. The magic of the Fae and the frailty of humans cannot mix. If she wants to be with Richard, she must give up her magic. She must choose mortality and with it, death.
GODMOTHER is a YA paranormal romance, complete at 72,000 words. It will appeal to fans of Maggie Stiefvater’s SHIVER and Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl’s BEAUTIFUL CREATURES.
My work has been published in issue 2.3 of Relief: A Quarterly Christian Expression and the Elements of Horror Anthology. I also served as an editorial intern for issue 76 of Crazyhorse Literary Journal.
I am prepared to send the complete manuscript upon request. Thank you for your time and I look forward to hearing from you.
Ryan said three magic words in her query “British Royal Family”. She coincidentally happened to query me in the months leading up to William and Kate’s wedding, which I was following quite closely online and in the TODAY SHOW’s endless segments leading up to the big day, so immediately I was intrigued! In addition, the query was so well-written. I loved the way there was a sense of tradition and history in the post in that the fae had been guarding the royal family for hundreds of years, but also that it felt modern and had teen appeal in the way the prince and the Fae were bonded together. The comp titles she included also clued me into the fact that she was very well-read in YA, which often accompanies great writing. So I requested the full.
I knew Ryan had really done something special when I read the second chapter in which this ancient Fae in her more modern form is entering a sleek London nightclub. The juxtaposition of old and new was done particularly well. And then when I got to the romance, well the sparks were flying off the page! I knew this was the sort of things teen would adore. And yet all these historical references to the Fae lineage dating back to the Camelot era made the history buff in me swoon. And the depictions of Hyde Park, the Princess Annabelle, and the gardens also really drew me in.
We spoke on the phone and learned a bit about one another. I was impressed by how smart and well-spoken Ryan is, considering how young she is, and I also was captivated by her depictions of living in S.C., going for oysters at Pat Conroy haunts, and also her telling me about her time in Asia. I’m a big setting reader, and in talking to Ryan, she sets a stage about the places she’s lived as well over the phone as she does on the page!
Thank you, Ryan and Alyssa, for taking the time to chat with us!