Tag Archives: publishing

Queries That Work: Gail Nall

nall_gailWelcome to the second edition of Queries That Work! This week, I want to thank Gail Nall for allowing me to share the query letter that helped her snag agent Julie A. Weber for her debut middle grade novel, BREAKING THE ICE, to be published in spring 2015 by Aladdin/Simon & Schuster.

Gail says of her letter: “It’s fun to go back and read this, because not only has the title of the book and the name of the main character changed, but one of the plotlines I discuss in the query is quite different now.”

Take heed, fellow writers: Writing the query and signing with an agent does not mean your work is done! It is simply the beginning of the next phase.

Now, onto the letter:

QUERY: Breaking the Ice by Gail Nall (Aladdin/Simon & Schuster, Spring 2015)

Dear Ms. Weber:

Twelve-year-old Chloe Demirjian-Carter dreams of being a champion figure skater. She practices every day and does everything she’s supposed to do. But when the judges award her perfect program with less-than perfect scores, Chloe lets them know exactly what she thinks.

As a result, Chloe’s coach dumps her and she’s kicked out of her prestigious training rink. No one wants a skater with a big mouth–no one except the misfit Falton Figure Skating Club. But joining Falton may be the second-biggest mistake Chloe’s ever made. No one takes skaters from the “Fall Down” club seriously. If Chloe wants to win the Regional competition, she has to find a way to change the judges’ minds about her new club. Which wouldn’t be so hard if she was the loudmouth skater everyone thinks she is.

A middle grade novel complete at 50,000 words, DON’T FALL DOWN is a cross between Kate Messner’s SUGAR AND ICE and the movie Stick It. The manuscript won honorable mention in the 2012 SCBWI Midsouth Fiction Contest. I am a member of SCBWI, and have experience in the world of competitive figure skating. The first three chapters and the synopsis are pasted below. Thank you for your time and consideration.


Gail Nall

Another fantastic query! Much like last week, we have a main character who is very passionate about her avocation and very good at it, and we have an obstacle that could get in her way of achieving her goals. We also have an author who has personal experience in the topic at hand. I like that in this one we also have what I suspect will be a group of underdogs … kids in the “Fall Down” Club that we’ll come to root for.

For more on Gail and her novel, check out her blog and add BREAKING THE ICE to your “to be read” list on Goodreads!

Queries That Work: Jessica Martinez

Welcome to the first edition of my new blog series, “Queries That Work,” in which we’ll take a look at … wait for it … queries that work. Specifically, queries that have elicited a “yes” from an agent or publisher for a published (or soon to be published) book.

virtuosityTo kick off the series, I am so excited to feature the query for Jessica Martinez’ debut YA novel, VIRTUOSITY. This a great honor for me, because (a) Jessica was my mentor for WriteOnCon last year and is an incredibly talented author and a wonderful person all the way around (and those of you who read the acknowledgements for THE FUNERAL SINGER may have noticed her name in there); (b) I once took an online class with Jessica’s agent, Mandy Hubbard, who is likewise very talented and wonderful; and (c) VIRTUOSITY is a wonderful, wonderful book.

So much wonderfulness in one little blog post!

So, without further ado:

QUERY: Virtuosity by Jessica Martinez (Simon Pulse, 2011)

Dear Ms. Hubbard,

Now is not the time for Carmen to fall in love. Two weeks before the most important violin competition of her career, she has bigger things to worry about–like growing out of that suffocating “child prodigy” label, and not disappointing her mother. But it isn’t just the wrong time. It’s the wrong guy. Jeremy is Carmen’s most talented rival, and according to her mother, he’s only interested in one thing: winning.

He isn’t the only one.

Carmen is so desperate to win she takes anti-anxiety drugs to control performance nerves. But what started a year ago as an easy fix is now a hungry addiction. Her mother insists now is not the time to quit, but Carmen is sick of not feeling anything on stage and even more sick of doing what she’s told.


VIRTUOSITY is a contemporary YA novel and is complete at 58,000 words. It is my first novel. I have degrees in English and Music from Brigham Young University, and I’m both a writer and professional violinist. I read about your move to D4EO Literary Agency on the SCBWI website and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading your blog.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Jessica Martinez

There is so much I love about this query, I don’t know where to start. Jessica had me with the first paragraph. What YA fan wouldn’t want to read a story about a talented violinist falling in love with her biggest competitor? Throw in the additional conflict a la her demanding mother and an addiction to anti-anxiety pills, and you’ve got a fantastic premise for a novel. The beautifully written query and the fact that Jessica is a professional violinist tell us we’re in capable hands. No surprise Mandy requested this one and Simon Pulse ultimately published it!

I did find it interesting that Jessica chose to include the resolution in her query (which I redacted because I didn’t want to spoil the ending for you all, and you really do need to go out and buy this book and find out what happens!). It is my understanding that this typically is not necessary and may even be inadvisable. The point of the query is to make the agent/publisher want to read the manuscript, so typically best to avoid spoilers. Still, this obviously worked for Jessica, so I guess we should never say never.

What did you think of this query? Did it make you want to read the book?

Why I Said ‘Yes’ to the (Small) Press

There’s been a lot of talk in the publishing world this week about the advantages and potential disadvantages of signing with a small press. For those of you who aren’t as familiar with the publishing world, a “small press” means any company that isn’t part of the Big 5–Harper Collins, Penguin Putnam, Random House, Simon & Schuster, and Time Warner. Some have gone so far as to suggest that in today’s environment, where self-publishing is such a readily available option, there’s no point in signing with a small press.

I can only speak for myself and my book, but here are the Top 5 things THE FUNERAL SINGER would lack if I’d decided to self-publish rather than sign with Swoon Romance:

  1. A main character who remains likeable even at her worst. Mel becomes quite the diva about two-thirds of the way through the book. She’s hot, she’s famous, and she is oh, so much more than a mere funeral singer. But the reader can still root for her because Mel also is vulnerable. And that, my friends, is because my editor, Amy Garvey, pointed out ways I could make her vulnerable even at her worst. Had I self-published, I would not have had that editorial guidance and the story would not be as strong.
  2. Its gorgeous cover. Have I told you how much I love the cover? Not sure what would have happened had I self-pubbed. I’m not a designer, so I would have had to hire one. Would he or she have come up with something equally as striking? Perhaps. But one thing is for sure: I would be poorer right now.
  3. Cool promos. Such as having my first chapter published at the end of Lizzy Charles’ EFFORTLESS WITH YOU. A lot of people are reading Lizzy’s book. Within the first 24 hours of its release, it ranked within the top 2,000 books in the Kindle store and within the top 100 “coming of age books” within all of Amazon. As of this posting, it is all the way up to #69 in that category. That promotion, along with the mention of my book on USA Today’s romance blog, my cover reveal, and the blog tour that is scheduled upon the release of my book on September 24, are all publicity efforts I could not have achieved on my own.
  4. The support of an amazing publishing family. I daresay this is something Swoon offers that not even the Big 5 can top. Its listserve is so full of author encouragement and advice, some days I worry that my inbox might explode.
  5. A new manuscript that is about a third finished. I hit 18,000 words this week on my next book, meaning I’m about a third of the way through. No way would that have happened if I had decided to self-publish THE FUNERAL SINGER and had to deal with formatting it, hiring a cover designer, placing it on Amazon, doing all my own promotion, etc., etc. Having a publisher behind me to do all that allows me to do what I most want to do: write!

Please don’t get me wrong. I am not saying there is anything wrong with self-publishing. Many people are doing it and doing it well. Nor am I saying signing with a small press always offers advantages. Some small presses offer better services and better distribution than others. The key is to know what you’re getting into and to make an educated decision.

For THE FUNERAL SINGER, signing with Swoon Romance was a marriage made in heaven. And that’s why I said “yes” to the (small) press.