Example Query: Sara Polsky

Two summers ago I got a fabulous query from Sara Polsky for her debut novel. Now I'm going to share that query with you and the reason I requested it.

Dear Ms. Townsend:  
Sophie Canon has just started her junior year when her mother tries to kill herself. Sophie has always lived her life in the shadow of her mother's bipolar disorder, monitoring her medication, rushing home after school to check on her instead of spending time with friends, and keeping her mother's diagnosis secret from everyone outside their family.  
But when the overdose lands Sophie's mother in the hospital, Sophie no longer has to watch over her. She moves in with her aunt, uncle, and cousin, from whom she has been estranged for the past five years. Rolling her suitcase across town to her family's house is easy. What's harder is figuring out -- with the help of an after school job and new friends -- how to build her own life.  
I'm seeking representation for WHAT COMES AFTER, a completed 60,000-word YA novel. I'm querying you because of your interest in character-driven YA and strong female protagonists. I wrote WHAT COMES AFTER in Micol Ostow's YA novel writing class at Mediabistro.  
My credentials include short fiction in Fictitious Force and Behind the Wainscot and non-fiction in The Christian Science Monitor, The Forward, and Poets & Writers. I'm a writer and editor at Curbed, a popular New York City real estate and neighborhood news blog. In spring 2010, I was profiled in a New York Times article on emerging bloggers. The first 10 pages of the manuscript are below. Thank you for your consideration.

Sara Polsky

Here's what I love about the query:

The first line. It gives me the character, her age, and the main problem that she has. This query is well structured and well written, and even though it's a coming of age novel, it compelled me to read further. So I looked ahead to the pages.

And here's the first line:

On the fourth day of junior year, sometime between the second bell marking the start of chemistry class and the time I got home from school, my mother tried to kill herself. This is how I find her:

Here's what I love about it:

It's well written and it packs a punch. Sophie is a protagonist with a strong voice and I easily fell in love with her. The book was compulsively readable right from that first line and it didn't let up until it had me weeping.

And of course, I wasn't the only one who thought so. The title has changed but this is the book Sara queried me with.

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Stephanie Cain said...

I love that the cover tagline works in the original title she gave for it. I'm looking forward to picking this one up.

J Lenni Dorner said...

Thank you so much for sharing. It is difficult to figure out what a good query would be. I've tried rewriting mine based on this design (then put it in a blog post in hopes of getting feedback). So good to see a real example of what worked for someone.

Jessica Wilding said...

It's great to be able to see an example of a successful query and hear your feedback on it, so thank you tons for posting this. And, now I've got another book to add to my Want To Read list ;).