Example Query: Rebecca Behrens

In March, a few years ago, I got a fabulous query by Rebecca Behrens for her debut novel. I knew within just the first few lines that I had to read this book.

Here's the query:

Dear Ms. Townsend, 
fump • \fÉ™mp\ v. 1 slang a dump or desert one’s (platonic) friend ‘Keisha made the swim team so now she is totally going to fump Annie’ b get rid of unceremoniously ‘poor thing got fumped by her best friend’ c friend-dumped.
Think there’s nothing worse than getting dumped? Try getting fumped—at least when it’s some guy who's breaking your heart, you can rely on your best friend for a shoulder to cry on and emergency fro-yo trips. When it’s said friend who’s doing the deserting, who can you turn to for support? Your pet hamster? Your parentals? In my young-adult novel Fumped (71,924 words), whip-smart sophomore Jocelyn Heller holds nothing back as she retells the story of how she got fumped by her best friend. 
Jocelyn and Alexis have been best friends their whole lives, although they’ve grown into two very different peas sharing a pod. By the start of sophomore year, however, Alexis has ditched Jocelyn to hang out with the popular, vapid Lacey and her soccer-playing boyfriend. Jocelyn is desperate to prove to her best friend that she can fit in with the new crowd, despite the fact that she cares more for books than for booze and has never had a boyfriend. Yet all of Jocelyn’s efforts to win back Alexis’s favor only lead to more cruel exclusions. Gradually, Jocelyn realizes that she’s more suited to new friends from her Art Metal class and the drama club (including the crush-worthy Peter) and that perhaps the BFF she’s fighting for isn’t really deserving of her loyalty and friendship. Equal parts introspective and angst-y, witty and heartbreaking, Jocelyn shows how getting fumped was both the worst thing that could happen to her and possibly the best. 
Fumped is my debut YA novel, and yes—I once had firsthand experience with the subject matter. I also have a BA from Northwestern University and an MA in Comparative Literature from the Graduate Center (CUNY). I’m currently a textbook editor at Macmillan/McGraw-Hill in New York City, where I have focused on literature products for grades K-12. I am a freelance writer and have been published in American Cheerleader magazine, which has a readership of 1.2 million and is targeted toward the teen athlete, and its business publication, Cheer Biz News. I’m also an active member of the Association of American Publishers’ Young to Publishing networking group, through which I have formed relationships with editors at Knopf-Doubleday, Dial Books for Young Readers, and Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. 
I look forward to sharing Jocelyn’s story with you, and I know you’ll love her as much as I do. Hers is a fresh and quirky voice, and she tells her story with humor and raw emotion. Getting fumped might have sucked really hard, but you’ll see that it gave Jocelyn the catalyst she needed to start being herself. The first five pages of Fumped follow this query and the full manuscript is available upon request. Please don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions. 
Thank you for your time and consideration,
Rebecca Behrens

Now, here's what I love about it.

Fumped. It's a fabulous concept and term and I loved how Rebecca defined it before the query. It drew me in immediately, let me know what the story was going to be about--but it did so in a creative way. 

I also love the beginning of the query--that first paragraph has such a fabulous voice and is a (rare) example of rhetorical questions that work really well. (Trust me, I normally hate them). Right then and there it won me over and I requested it. 

Once I'd requested the novel, I read and loved it and offered Rebecca representation. Unfortunately at the time, Fumped was a little too sweet for contemporary YA (which was a pretty tough market), but Rebecca when on to write When Audrey Met Alice which we sold to Sourcebooks and comes out in February.

It's a different story but it has the same fabulous writing and humor that I loved about Fumped.

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Laura Pauling said...

Problem? Now I totally want to read Fumped. :(

Congrats on her selling the second book!

Mirka Breen said...

Fabulous query.
It also shows backbone for ignoring the admonition not to ask rhetorical questions in a query, one of those "rules" agents on panels at conferences bandy about.

Congratulations all around.

Unknown said...

True. It does break rules and there are some great queries out there that do break rules. However, remember the rules are rules for a reason. It's because 99.9% of queries that break those rules don't do it well.

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