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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 M. G. Buehrlen and her agent Holly Root of Waxman Leavell Literary Agency. Mandy's YA novel, THE FIFTY-SEVEN LIVES OF ALEX WAYFARE, releases tomorrow (!), and she's here to share her querying experience -- and to give away a signed copy to one lucky reader! See the Rafflecopter widget below to enter.

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My querying days started back in 2009 after I finished my first novel, a YA epic fantasy. My good friends Myra McEntire and CJ Redwine helped me hone my query and get up the courage to HIT SEND. Holly Root from the Waxman Leavell Literary Agency was at the top of my list, not only because she was Myra’s and CJ’s agent, but because I tended to enjoy the books she represented, and she seemed like the epitome of class when it came to the publishing industry. Plus, Myra and CJ insisted she would be a good fit for me. After grilling them both on how Holly handles the biz, I figured they were probably right. I sent Holly my YA epic fantasy query, and she kindly asked to see the full manuscript. She ended up passing, sadly, since she had just recently sold a similar title. (**cough** Girl of Fire and Thorns **cough** Btw, epic fantasy wasn’t an easy sell back then, back before the Game of Thrones and Throne of Glass days.) I ended up signing with another agent in 2010, but that relationship didn’t work out. All the while, in the back of my mind, I knew Holly was the perfect match for me, but to snag her as my agent, I needed to write something she could sell in the current market.

I set to work and hammered out THE DESCENDERS, which was the original title of The 57 Lives of Alex Wayfare. I drafted it the entire summer of 2011, then Myra and CJ helped me write my query once again that fall. Myra and CJ were such champions of my second novel that Holly let me know she expected to see it in her inbox pronto. This time, since I knew Holly was the agent for me, I sent her an exclusive. I didn’t want to bother sending more queries if I knew Holly was The One.

After I sent the query, Holly got back to me right away with a response, something eloquent like: YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS. I sent her the full manuscript and waited to hear back. She made me wait a full week, ladies and gents, and let me tell you, it was ulcer-inducing. Finally she got back to me asking when we could chat on the phone. I don’t remember much about that phone call, but I do know it changed my life. She liked it, so she put a ring on it. ;-)


Hi Holly,
Thanks so much for agreeing to take a look at my new YA fantasy sci-fi, THE DESCENDERS. I’d still really like to be a part of Team Root, so I’m sending you the full ms as an exclusive. I hope it lives up to CJ’s and Myra’s hearty (and sometimes very entertaining) recommendations.

For as long as 17-year-old Alex Wayfare can remember, she has had visions of true historic events. Vivid visions that make her feel like she’s really there--on a ship bound for America, living in Jamestown during the Starving Time, or riding the original Ferris wheel at the St. Louis World’s Fair.

The visions have always pulled her along without warning, ripping her from reality at random, sometimes leaving her with strange and lasting effects like sea sickness, overwhelming starvation, and wounds she can’t explain. After one of the visions causes her to throw up in the lap of the most popular guy in school, her social status plummets. Then her grades start to spiral, and she seems to be spending more time in the principal’s office than the classroom. Alex is desperate to find out what her visions mean so she can get rid of them and just be normal.

It isn’t until she meets Porter, a stranger who seems to know everything about her, that she learns the truth: She is a Descender--a person whose soul can travel back in time by accessing Limbo, the space between Life and Afterlife. She also learns she is a special kind of Descender, the only one in the world who has been reincarnated and has the ability to travel between all of her fifty-six past lives.

When Porter teaches her how to harness her ability, she discovers how addicting time traveling can be, especially when the same cute boy keeps mysteriously showing up in each of her past lives. But the more she descends, the more it becomes apparent that someone else doesn't want Alex to travel again.


And he’ll stop at nothing to take her down.

THE DESCENDERS is complete at 100,000 words. Thanks again for your consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.


While Myra and CJ were insisting to MG that she would be a good match for me, they were also telling me that I would be oh-so-lucky to have her as a client, so when her query came in for that first book, I had my fingers oh-so-very crossed. I always want to fall in love, especially so when I know the author by her reputation for loveliness and general exceeding of the good-people bar. Much as I wanted to leap for that book, I had too many reservations to jump in right then, but when I said "please come back if you don't get snatched up," I really meant it. And when I heard MG had a new book, and was back on the agent market, in my head I started reserving a bit of space for this book I didn't know much about but I so hoped would be Our One. For the record, this sort of torch-carrying has happened with several of my clients whose earlier work I saw before eventually signing them, and while it doesn't work out every time, I really do remember the books I loved elements of but couldn't take on. So when MG's book came in (heralded once again by Myra and CJ who swore I could not tell MG they were cheerleading for her because she would punch them for meddling, and also with the caveat that they knew I would decide for myself, which was very much the case this time as before), I was so eager to see what she'd cooked up.

What she had written was at once totally contemporary and also filled with gorgeously lush historical interludes. It was time travel done in a way I hadn't seen before, and I had seen a lot of time travel at this point.  It was a girl aching to fly, to find her purpose, but desperate to still hold on to the ones she loved--haven't we all felt that tension? It was a mysterious boy I just had to know more about, and a family I wanted to snuggle into like a comforter. Oh, and it was a cracking good adventure along the way, filled with stagecoach robberies and skinny-dipping and shootouts on the streets of Prohibition-era Chicago. There were so many scenes that instantly burrowed into my brain--you know that feeling where you read something and it just feels so real it becomes part of you, like you might find yourself recounting it at a cocktail party as an anecdote that happened to a friend, only to realize midway into the telling it was from a book? That is how I remember feeling, over and over, as I read the manuscript. MG's writing just has such a lovely emotional truth to it that I kept having to remind myself that no, I probably didn't really have soulmarks of my own that needed exploring, no matter how real it felt.

I burned through the read and knew I needed this book--and its wonderful author--on my list. I remember feeling such excitement getting on the phone with MG, that sizzle when you know you've got a book you're truly passionate about, and was beyond thrilled when she was as lovely and grounded a person as I could've wanted to encounter. The publishing journey is a wild and often weird one, and finding someone whose work you love and who you can work with comfortably is a special thing indeed. I am so fortunate to have found that in MG, and am honored to have played a small part in bringing THE FIFTY-SEVEN LIVES OF ALEX WAYFARE to readers who will love it like I did!


When she’s not writing, M.G. Buehrlen  moonlights as a web designer and social media/creative director. She’s the current web ninja lurking behind the hugely popular website,
a social network for YA (and kids!) book lovers. The 57 Lives of Alex Wayfare is her debut novel. M.G. lives nestled away in Michigan pines, surrounded by good coffee and good books, with her husband and son and three furbabies. Say hello on Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr.

Preorder links:
Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | Amazon | Indiebound | The Book Depository | Waterstones

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Kate Hart

Kate is the author of After the Fall, coming January 24, 2017 from Farrar, Straus and Giroux. A former teacher and grant writer, she now owns a treehouse-building business in the Ozarks and hosts the Badass Ladies You Should Know interview series.

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  1. Love this story of both agent and author wanting to work together so much-- and of friends who are champions! Thanks for sharing.

  2. I was fortunate enough to meet Holly at a conference and found her to be a lovely individual. I would have loved to work with her. That is one crazy author-agent story though. Gave me anxiety just reading it! I'm so glad it all worked out.

  3. This sounds great! Thanks for hosting a giveaway that's open internationally ;)

  4. Congrats to MG! What a fantastic query success story.


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Item Reviewed: Query Series and Giveaway: THE FIFTY-SEVEN LIVES OF ALEX WAYFARE Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Kate Hart