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Query Series and Giveaway: THE MADMAN'S DAUGHTER

 In our Query Series, authors discuss the queries that landed their agents, and the agents explain why the query worked. Today, we are so pleased to welcome debut author Megan Shepherd and her agent Josh Adams of Adams Literary. Megan's YA thriller, THE MADMAN'S DAUGHTER, releases on January 29, and she's here to share her unique experience of landing an agent. Plus, Megan is giving away a signed ARC to one lucky reader! See the Rafflecopter widget below to enter.

Let's get started!

From Megan:

THE MADMAN'S DAUGHTER was the fourth manuscript I had written. I
queried the first three manuscripts half-heartedly to only a few agents,
because I already knew they weren't good enough to be published--and I was right! So when I finished THE MADMAN'S DAUGHTER and felt it had real promise, I took querying very seriously. I'm nothing if not well organized, so I came up with a system. First, I researched agents using, by finding out who represented authors I loved, and from agents I had heard at conferences or whose blogs I followed. I decided to send queries in small batches so that if I got all rejections, I could reconsider my query letter before burning my
bridges with everyone. Luckily, it only took one batch!

I sent ten queries and resigned myself to wait. As writers, we all know the drill...wait, wait, wait. So I was shocked when the next day I got a full request from Adams Literary, and the day after that, a call from Josh Adams himself offering representation. I was working at my day job at the time, so I had to keep the screaming to a minimum until that evening. I ended up having other interested agents, but Josh was very persistent. Luckily he lived only two hours away, so he drove to my town so we could talk face-to-face over delicious Indian food about a possible working relationship. I was absolutely stunned by how much he loved my manuscript and how he "got" everything I had been trying to achieve. I knew several of his other clients who all raved about him, so a few days later, I signed. One of the things I loved about Adams Literary is that it's a husband and wife team, with a fabulous co-agent, Quinlan Lee, who was the first one to pull my manuscript out of the slush pile, and who helped make the deal. So even though I'd be signing with Josh, I'd be working with Tracey and Quinlan as well, pooling all of their expertise and knowledge.

As far as the query, I stuck to the tried-and-true formula: include the genre, word count, why I'm querying each particular agent, a brief book description that is just enough to entice, and my relevant biographical information.

The query:

Dear Mr. Adams,

I am seeking representation for my YA historical thriller, THE MADMAN’S DAUGHTER. It is a retelling of H. G. Wells’ sci-fi classic THE ISLAND OF DOCTOR MOREAU from the perspective of the doctor’s sixteen-year-old
daughter. I heard you speak at the SCBWI-Carolinas conference last year in
Charlotte and liked your agency’s model and philosophy.

London, 1893. Juliet Moreau has built a life for herself—working as a maid, attending church on Sundays, and trying not to think about the scandal that ruined her life. After all, no one ever proved the rumors about her father’s gruesome experiments. But when she learns her father is alive and continuing his work on a remote tropical island, she is determined to find out if the accusations were true.

Juliet is accompanied by the doctor’s handsome young assistant
and an enigmatic castaway, who both attract Juliet for very different reasons.
They travel to the island only to discover the depths of her father’s madness:
he has created animals that have been vivisected to resemble, speak, and behave as humans. Worse, one of the creatures has turned violent and is killing the island’s inhabitants. Juliet knows she must end her father’s dangerous
experiments and escape the island, even though her horror is mixed with her own
scientific curiosity. As the island falls into chaos, she discovers the extent
of her father’s genius—and madness—in her own blood.

Complete at 90,000 words, THE MADMAN’S DAUGHTER is something
like “THE MONSTRUMOLOGIST for girls” meets “LOST,” combining Victorian-era sci-fi with a survivalist spin. My work has been published in several
children’s magazines including Calliope, Appleseeds, and Faces. I was also a
full scholarship recipient of the 2009 Highlights Chautauqua Writing for
Children and Young Adults workshop, and previously managed the children’s
section of an independent bookstore.

Thank you for your consideration. 

Best regards,

Megan Shepherd

From Josh:

When we received Megan’s submission of THE MADMAN’S DAUGHTER, we knew from the moment it came in that it was something special—and we’d have to act fast. (What we didn’t know yet was just how special Megan herself is—she’s the “real deal.”)

We get more than 10,000 submissions each year at Adams Literary, and we consider each and every one, but Megan’s really stood out. We’d been hoping to find a dark and intriguing historical YA, and we were fascinated from the first line of her query.

First of all, we loved the title: THE MADMAN’S DAUGHTER. It had a sinister and intriguing ring to it, and we knew from the start that the heroine, Juliet, would be the star. We liked that it was a retelling of an H.G. Wells classic—one that’s a personal, if lesser known, favorite. And we liked the fact that Megan had heard us speak and was inspired to submit after hearing us.

Her pitch was essentially pitch perfect. We could envision the world she’d re-imagined, and could sense the mystery, chilling suspense and romance that would await us in the pages of her novel. We loved her description of “THE MONSTRUMOLOGIST for girls” meets “LOST” but our favorite description was the term “Victorian-era sci-fi.” That was such a cool idea—and one we’d never heard before—and we couldn’t stop thinking about how Megan might create an entirely new YA genre with her work.

The final thing that drew us in was the fact that Megan managed the children’s section of an independent bookstore, so we could tell that writing this novel was not just a lark, but was something she had been passionate about for years.

We work as a team at Adams Literary, and my colleague Quinlan Lee had already requested and set about to reading the full novel when I began to take a look. It’s a rare thing, but it does happen: We knew from the first lines of THE MADMAN’S DAUGHTER that we HAD to represent this book. It was just that amazing. All else faded away, and we began what my daughter’s first-grade teacher calls a “DEAR”—Drop Everything and Read—moment. I stayed up until the middle of the night reading Megan’s mesmerizing (and quite frightening) novel, but I simply couldn’t put it down.

The following day, I called Megan to chat about the novel, discuss her career goals and, after gauging whether we’d be a good fit, offer representation. I’d hoped of course that she’d accept right then and there. But she did not—and I feared perhaps I came on a bit too strong. Nevertheless, I knew I had to do whatever it took to represent her.

When Megan told me that other agents had also expressed interest and she couldn’t make a decision immediately, I had what I thought was a bright idea to meet face-to-face in her hometown of Asheville, which is a couple hours away from our home and office in Charlotte, NC. I suggested we meet at a hole-in-the-wall Indian restaurant there that I love.

So I drove up to Asheville, and Megan and I had a nice chat (and lunch). At the end of our meeting, she still said she needed more time to think things through. Megan says she was screaming with excitement at the offer, but in person she was calm, cool and collected—and definitely a lot harder to read than her novel.

The drive home was perhaps one of the longest of my life. I kept thinking: “I’ve blown it. I should’ve chosen a fancier restaurant. I should’ve said this. I forgot to mention that.” I started thinking that perhaps going to meet her in person was a horrible idea, because if we then lost out on representing her, I’d be all the more heartbroken.

Thankfully, it didn’t take too much longer for Megan to put me out of my misery (and frantic pacing around our office) and accept our offer. We were ecstatic, and began getting our submission strategy together.

Shortly thereafter, Quinlan and I took THE MADMAN’S DAUGHTER to auction. Just as we had fought to represent Megan over several other agents, so too did multiple editors fight to publish THE MADMAN’S DAUGHTER—culminating in the 3-book deal for the trilogy with Kristin Daly Rens of Balzer+Bray/HarperCollins. It was immensely gratifying to all of us at Adams Literary that as a result, Megan was able to accomplish her dream of quitting her day job and writing full-time.

Since that time, and even before its debut later this month, THE MADMAN’S DAUGHTER trilogy has sold into many international markets (most also at auction), and has been optioned for feature film by Fake Empire/Paramount, where it’s currently in development. Nearly everyone who’s read it has had the same immediate reaction to it that we did when we first read it, so it’s no surprise that the book was the most requested novel of 2012 on Goodreads.

Megan has also begun a new trilogy, THE CAGE, which we sold to Kristin Rens at Balzer+Bray last year, and have also sold into many international markets at auction. It’s completely different than THE MADMAN’S DAUGHTER, but equally captivating—and we can’t wait for readers around the world to read it, too.

As I mentioned, Megan is the “real deal”—and to this day, we’re still not entirely sure she knows just how talented an author she really is. Despite all her early success—and we’re confident this is just the beginning of what’s to come—Megan is the same as she’s always been: down-to-earth, cheerful and friendly. Only quite a bit busier.

Which is certainly a good thing for Megan’s readers, because we’re sure that the moment they start reading THE MADMAN’S DAUGHTER, they too will know what we’ve known all along—and will be fighting to read more from her!

Many thanks to Megan and Josh for participating in our Query Series! And check out the giveaway below for a chance to win a signed ARC of THE MADMAN'S DAUGHTER.

Stephanie Kuehn

Stephanie is the William C. Morris award-winning author of Charm & Strange, Complicit, Delicate Monsters, and The Smaller Evil.

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  1. What an amazing and inspiring story. If the book didn't already sound awesome, I'd be sold just by virtue of how many people fought over it! Congrats to all :)

    1. Whoops, didn't include my animal! I'm gonna go with a wild horse (unless mythical beasts count, in which case - unicorn!).

  2. I would definitely pick my favorite animal--a sea turtle! Thanks for the giveaway!

  3. I've heard great things about this book.

    I'd want to be something of the feline nature.

  4. I can not wait to read this!.!. I would have to say a dolphin....

    Jenea @ Books Live Forever

  5. This story sounds incredible! Thanks for the awesome post and the giveaway! Oh, and I would probably want to be a cheetah. Or something equally beautiful and fast. Thanks again!

  6. Not sure I'd want to be an animal part of an experiment but I'd probably say a wolf (not a twilight-esque werewolf though!). This book sounds amazing and I am so excited to read it!

  7. Sounds like an incredible book! I can't wait to read it. Adding it to my Goodreads list now.

    If I could be any animal I'd be an otter. I love how playful they seem, not to mention the sun and water loving life.

  8. The book sounds fascinating, and Megan's story of her encounter with the publishing world is just as exciting. A ray of hope for all the aspiring authors out there. :)

    I'd be a bird, if given the chance. I'd love to be able to fly, high above everything else, out of reach of every problem and complication in my life... except for the occasional jet plane.

  9. I would love to be some kind of cat. They are so light on their feet and agile, plus they get to sleep a lot!

  10. Thanks for sharing this story--and for the chance to see a query that worked! I have to go with my inner seven-year old and say I'd be a horse. For sure.

  11. What an awesome success story, congratulations!

    If I were an animal, I would be a dolphin as well. Fun, happy, swimming freely in the water...

  12. This book sounds amazing. I can't wait to read it.

    I'd definitely be a horse. Can't let go of my elementary school passion!

  13. What an inspiring story! I especially love hearing about the deal from the agent's perspective. Now I can't wait to read the book. :)

    I would be a wolf. Seems dangerous. And exciting. :)

  14. I would be a leopard! Living in the trees, stalking my prey, my spots shimmering in the African sun... Yeah, that's what I'd be :)

  15. Definitely a cat. They live the life, or at least mine does. He gets to sleep all day. And the fatter they get, the cuter they are!

  16. i love the idea of this story! I've always been fascinated by the Island of Doctor Moreau. And if I could be any animal, I would be a white tiger. They magnificent beasts and can hold their own in the wild.

  17. What an interesting post. As for what animal I would be. I think something of the feline persuasion, probably a snow leopard.

  18. Love this new segment. I think I would be a cuddly dog.

  19. I love kitties! So it is hard to imagine being anything else.

  20. I love this post so much! It's like a Cinderella story (not rags to riches, exactly, but non-published writer to published author). Very encouraging and it's great to hear how Josh fell for her work!

    I've thought of this before, and I think it would have to be an animal that can be in both water and land--like an otter. They're like water puppies--so adorable and playful. Also, I don't think they have any natural enemies (I might be wrong!) which would be a huge bonus if I were to become one. I much prefer the idea of being a wild animal rather than a domesticated one.

  21. I'm really looking forward to this one. What kind of animal would I be? Probably some kind of wildcat or maybe a domesticated one. :)

  22. I cannot wait to read this book! It's been on my to-read list since I first saw the gorgeous cover. I must now save my pennies.

    If I were an animal, I think I'd want to be a lion. They are awesome. They have stealthy-skills and aren't afraid to cuddle with each other. And I've always loved the Lion King :)

  23. The post from both points of view of how you came to be published is fascinating. I have your books now on my to be read list.

  24. A wolf. They're independent creatures not fearing the night where they prowl, but loyal to their mates.

  25. I'm excited to read this!

    If I were an animal, I think I'd want to be a dog. Or maybe some type of bird. :)

  26. Right now, my animal answer is one of my cats. They are both sleeping in a sunbeam, bellies full and not a care in the world.

    P.S. I've never thought to add a bit about my bookstore experience into my query, but now that Josh says it helped sway him it makes sense.

  27. "THE MONSTRUMOLOGIST for girls". Hm. Does that suggest that girls need a different version of The Monstrumologist to read? Or that The Monstrumologist is written only for boys? If so, I don't think that's very complimentary for either gender.

  28. I would be a cat! Sleeping, eating, lazying around... the life. *sigh*
    Also, it's remarkable how similar the query is to the Goodreads description/synopsis. I can't wait to read this book :)

  29. I have no idea what animal I'd be! Probably something that could fly. :)

    I'm so excited for this book!

  30. Oh, thank you for this amazing post. <3 Sigh. I adored this book! It was just perfect. And oh, Megan is so amazing :) Thank you for the giveaway :D *hopes it it international, cause I really, really want a signed copy* <3 I would want to be a cat. Or a lion. Although I have always wanted to fly.. but I would never want to be a bird :p
    Love, Carina

  31. A doplhin, I was always fascinated by them! Btw, I look forward to read book!

  32. What a great story about her road to publication--only makes me want to read the novel more. As far as animals go, hmm, I would say rabbit, but then I couldn't eat meat. Maybe some kind of cute, little dog--like a shih tzu or something.

  33. What a great query--will be going into my pile of "Queries to emulate"! :)
    I've been anxiously awaiting this book's release for a long time.
    Oh, and I'd be a peregrine falcon, of course.

  34. This sounds like a fascinating plot! I'd want to be a cat. Preferably my cat who has a pretty darn good life!

  35. I love this query series. It is SO helpful. And Megan's publishing journey is so amazing.

  36. If I Were a writer I'd be so inspired by this. Now I'm even more excited to read the book!

  37. I was sold by the query's first line, but the author's credentials are certainly noteworthy! I'm really looking forward to reading this. Congrats to both the writer and agent for such a happy union!

  38. This book is on my 2013 TBR list for sure. Thanks for doing this query series. It's really helpful to see examples of successful queries while trying to piece together my own. As for what kind of animal I'd be, I'd probably have to say a wolf, or possibly a penguin.

  39. Can I pick a unicorn? I always wanted to be a unicorn. :D

  40. Oh gosh, if I could be any animal... probably a cat. My cat has the best life ever. I'm jealous of him every single day. /catlady

    On the subject of the book... OH MY GOSH WANT WANT WANT. Plus I'm loving this series. The "inside scoop" kind of thing is so intriguing.

  41. This book sounds amazing, and it's no wonder you got such a quick response. That query and the premise is amazing.

    If I could be any animal? A unicorn all the way :P

  42. an eagle or just a simple plain bird :DD I like the feeling of flying and be free :)

    Can't wait for the release of this book!<3

  43. If I could be any animal, I'd be a cougar or some other kind of wild cat; they're so majestic and beautiful, and being wild and in the jungle would be amazing.

  44. I'm looking forward to reading the book!!! If I could be an animal, I would probably want to be ahousecat~.... I dont really want to eat other little creatures or be eaten so... :D

  45. I have been dying to read this book! :]
    HG Wells is a hero of sorts to me and I was definitely intrigued by this story.
    Thanks for the chance!

    If I could one animal I would pick a cat. A Scottish Fold to be specific. :]

  46. What kind of animal would I be? A bookworm, perhaps... ;)

    Congratulations, Megan, on all the excitement around your work. May you have a long and prosperous career. :)

  47. I would be a unicorn.... or a penguin since we know those exist.

    The book looks interesting, thanks for the chance at a giveaway

  48. This is awesome. I wish we got to see some more posts like this.

  49. I'd definitely be a bird. Who can resist flying?

    I've heard a lot of good buzz about this book!

  50. I absolutely ADORE these kinds of posts. Hearing true author stories about their journeys is just so inspiring. I can't wait to read Megan Sheperd's writing!

  51. Yay! I've been interested in this book for some time now, but reading this has totally sold me on it!

    I have a hard time choosing just one animal to be, but I'm pretty sure I would go with an eagle or a hawk. <3

  52. I can't wait to read this book. As for the comment question: If I could be any animal I guess I would choose to be a bird. The freedom to soar must be amazing.

  53. This looks so good!
    I'd want to be some sort of bird- maybe a heron or albatross.

  54. If i would be an animal, I would love to be a falcon. I can fly and see things below while feeling the air breeze. :)

  55. I'd be a shape shifter, so that I could be ANY animal :)

  56. A Tiger so I could eat my children.

    Sorry...rough day LOL

  57. I would love to be a black panther. I love trees, and I would love to climb up a big jungle tree and sleep. The speed and strength of a panther is appealing too. And they can swim if need be. You know what? Scratch that... a bird can sleep in a tree and float in the water and soar... a hawk is the best choice. :)

  58. I would be some sort of cat or a corgi, most definitely.

  59. I'd love to be a tiger. They're my favorite animals at the zoo!

  60. Well, polar bears are my favorite animal, but I think I'd have to go with a lap dog of some sort. They seem to have it pretty easy.

  61. Thanks so much for the chance to win The Madman's Daughter! Hmm, this is a hard one....I'd say something at the top of the food chain like a panther or cheetah or something, those seem awesome. Maybe a wolf if I didn't live in the jungle?

  62. Mmm Maybe a Panther :D There fast and Interesting Animals.


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Item Reviewed: Query Series and Giveaway: THE MADMAN'S DAUGHTER Rating: 5 Reviewed By: stephanie kuehn