Thursday, March 5, 2009


Dear X,

A few months ago you requested pages from my paranormal YA novel, X. Although you passed on that project, you wrote, “I'd like to see you tackle a YA project that has some supernatural elements but without having the majority of the story take place in an unfamiliar world.” You invited me to query you again with my future projects. I took your advice and wrote my new novel, SEVENTH SON.

Bento is a handsome fifteen-year old boy living secretly in the jungles of Argentina. But when local villagers try to burn him alive and end his looming werewolf curse, Bento escapes to New Jersey with the help of a friend. He must discover the truth about his bloodline to control the beast stirring inside him and learn to trust himself before it devours his soul and the girl he has come to love.

I'm not sure what a looming werewolf curse is. Do you mean impending? And how is he living secretly? Alone? Raised by wolves?

Most of this probably won't matter since this agent X has already expressed interest in your work. Your job in this query letter is simply not to sound like a raving maniac; most likely X is going to read pages unless you scare her off.

My 43,310 word paranormal YA novel, SEVENTH SON, explores not only Bento’s werewolf monster, but also the monsters we all keep hidden. It is written in the alternating voices of Bento and his girlfriend, Clarissa.

I have attended many SCBWI sponsored conferences, as well as Writer's Boot Camp, and online classes. I’ve written monthly articles for (redacted) Magazine. I participated as a nominated mentee in the (redacted) Workshop and was fortunate to work with author, Joyce McDonald as my mentor. In the past, I was represented by (redacted.) In the midst of projects he decided to give up the agent life, leading me to contact you.

Whoa. I though you were contacting her cause she'd passed on other stuff and invited you to resend new stuff. Be consistent.



Alissa Grosso said...

I have a picture in my head of a teenage werewolf trying to fit in in suburban NJ. It's appealing, and I think would play well to the YA market. I would start out here, throw in the Argentina back story later.

I know it's not the most important part of the query, but the title, for me, seems a little boring. Surely there have been other books by this title. It's just not memorable enough. I would try for something more specific like Suburban Werewolf or New Jersey Werewolf, but that's just me.

Unknown said...

Nice. I picture Mallrats meets Teen Wolf with a Springsteen soundtrack and horrifying fake tans.

Melissa said...

It's not explained in the query, but in some South American cultures, the seventh son is believed to be cursed to be a werewolf. I know it's Wikipedia, but it provides a nice overview:

Also, the short wordcount (only 40,000) plus the mention that an agent requested more work and here it is, a brand new book three months later, makes it sound like the book isn't quite ready for primetime yet.

Kelsey (Dominique) Ridge said...

I feel as though there's a lot of information you aren't telling me. The story sounds good, but I think it'd help to fill this out a bit.

Anonymous said...

Questions for the Shark:

I wondered about the length, too. Is the economic downturn reducing pages? Is that an acceptable length for YA?

Second, I've not seen mention of the type of POV in a query before. Is that a good thing, bad thing, unnecessary thing? Or something to make a query stand out?

I also wanted more about the story, but that may just be me.

Joshua McCune said...

Need more info.

VinceInAZ said...

I assumed the shorter length was apropos for YA lit. I agree with Janet that if the agent already expressed interest, the tone of this query should be more along the "here it is. Enjoy!" line.

Aside from that, a teenage werewolf? It's been done. Facing a choice between burning at the stake in Argentina or living in Jersey? What a dilemma! Either way, you're bound to regret it. :)

? said...

Someone correct me if needed, but I am not sure if Argentina has jungles.

Not all of South America has the famous Brazilian or Venezuelan jungles. In fact, Argentina's outstanding natural features are the glorious mountains and plains of Patagonia, which is a windswept place of stunning beauty. But most certainly not a jungle.

Anonymous said...

I love the idea of a boy struggling with the threat of turning into a werewolf. I have a bit of a problem with his name though. Is it just me or does "bento" sound like the name of a dog?

And the idea of the seventh son becoming a werewolf is fabulous. seventh children always get to become something cool.

Teagen said...

While I agree that a teen werewolf in NJ could be really interesting, I have no idea what else this plot entails. What kind of danger does he face in NJ other than inner turmoil and falling in love? It sounds incomplete to me. As if there's a huge chunk of plot missing.

theartgirl said...

Thank you Ms. Shark for reviewing my query.

Roland-Your comment makes me think I need a way to convey that my book is much darker than Mallrats or Teen Wolf.

Melissa- yes, you found the inspiration for my title. I know I said "a few months"--my version of few is closer to 10. The novel has been through many rewrites and critiques by my talented beta readers. Hopefully, it is ready.

Vince- "Jersey's not that bad," says the born and bred Jersey girl.

Tally- there are jungles in Argentina(closer to the Brazilian border). As part of my research, I interviewed a missionary who lived in those jungles and watched many travel videos.

Morphine- Bento is a very popular Argentine name. It means 'blessed' in Portuguese.

Angel- I tried to boil my novel down to three sentences for the query. The various plot lines are more detailed in the synopsis.
Perhaps I need more info?

Thanks for the comments.


Melissa said...


If you've been working on this for ten months, I'd say 'ten' rather than 'a few' or better yet, leave that part out entirely. What's most important is that the agent had previously asked to see more work from you.

Also, you're definitely on the low end of the acceptable word count for YA, edging into novella territory. Just something to be aware of, your target range should be about 50k-80k, but I don't doubt you'll be able to fix that.

Finally, regarding the title and the werewolf curse, you should give a quick explanation in the query, otherwise the reader is wondering what the title has to do with the story. Maybe something like, "As the seventh son, Bento's parents knew as soon as he was born that he would be fated to be a werewolf."

Good luck!

enya z said...

Is anyone else frustrated as hell with this new comma error sweeping our online (and surely written) world? As follows:

USAir stewardess, Lacey Sunshine, wants to....

There should be no comma before the name here! "USAir stewardess" is modifying the proper noun "Lacey Sunshine." No comma! A comma there means that Lacey is THE single and only USAir stewardess in the world.