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  • Writer's pictureAnahita Karthik

HOW I EDITED MY #SMOOCHPIT MENTEE'S QUERY THAT LANDED HER AN AGENT—Anahita Karthik

Updated: Aug 11, 2023

Writing query letters is no easy feat. It's an art, and something you master only with practice. You'd probably say, "But I'm a good writer. A query letter shouldn't be that hard to write, right?"

Wrong.

If you're fairly new to this querying thing and are still in the "I need to figure out how to write this godforsaken query letter", navigate to this post of mine instead. But if you're well versed with the formula of query letter writing, have worked on multiple queries and drafts of those queries before, then you're in the right place.

Reading hundreds of blog posts helps you figure out the formula to writing a good query. Eventually. And given the accessibility, everyone's going to have the formula right. Gone are the days when agents got a lot of queries that they could reject based on format alone. Gone are the days when you could land brownie points with an agent for just getting the tripartite structure right. Querying writers are at the top of their game, and you've got to make your query not just good, but stand-out among others.

The truth about mentorships these days is that mentors aren't looking for writers they can spoon feed about the entire process. They're looking for writers who have the basics right and just need that little push to get them over the fence. And that includes having a submission package and polished manuscript ready.

During my time as a #SmoochPit mentor, I read about a hundred query letters and sample pages and requested 5 fulls. Of them, I picked one, and I'm so blessed to be able to say that Cynthia Timoti is the best mentee ever. She's the sweetest soul on Earth, extremely hardworking, efficient, and had a strong foundation. Her writing was hilarious, voice-y, and memorable, and I had a gala time mentoring her.

Cynthia's query letter, in particular, pulled me in immediately (like I couldn't press that request button fast enough), but it just needed a little bit work to make it sing. In this post, I'm going to be showing you Cynthia's original query letter, and her query letter after I critiqued it. Thank you, Cynthia, for letting me do this <3 I'm so grateful to you for trusting me with your wonderful story. And I'm only wishing the best for you!!

Now, before further ado, let's get to critiquing:


ORIGINAL QUERY LETTER


Dear [agent name],

I’m seeking representation for ANYONE BUT HIM, an adult, single-POV multicultural romantic comedy, best described as The Hating Game meets Crazy Rich Asians. The manuscript is complete at 85,000 words, a stand-alone book with series potential, and would appeal to fans of Christina Lauren, Ali Hazelwood, and Sara Desai.

[agent personalization]

Ellie Pang is a woman of many titles: a type 1 diabetic, a reluctant financial analyst, and a lifelong enabler of her controlling, Chinese-Indonesian family. When they orchestrate a (humiliating) public proposal from their wealthy business partner, she snaps and goes on the run; adding jobless, viral YouTube video star, and the family black sheep to her long list of achievements. But her quest to rebuild her ruined life hits a snag and is about to flushed down the drain, and the only person who can help her turn things around is her sworn enemy. There’s only one teeny-tiny catch: she must pretend to be his girlfriend.

All she needs to do is survive the next few weeks feigning love and affection for (while trying not to maim) the man who almost killed her ten years ago. That isn’t so hard … right? But when the thin line between hate and fake-madly-in-love starts to blur, and ugly secrets buried a long time ago resurface, Ellie must learn to trust her heart, and choose between love and family.

Born and raised in Indonesia, I currently reside in Melbourne, Australia. I was lucky enough to have been chosen as a 2022 SmoochPit mentee, and am also a member of RWA (Romance Writers of Australia). I completed the Writing a Romance Novel course at Curtis Brown Creative UK, guided by NY Times bestselling author Jenny Colgan; as well as the Romance Clinic with Writers Victoria (Aus), led by USA Today bestselling Australian author, Amy Andrews. I enclose [required pages], as per your guidelines.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

Cynthia Timoti (she/her)


INITIAL THOUGHTS (left in Cynthia's document)


So I just completed the first quick read-through, and I think this is SUCH a strong query letter! You have the tripartite structure, voice, metadata, and bio NAILED, and this stands pretty well on its own, but I think a few tweaks and adding more flesh to the pitch in particular might help! When you're querying, it's super important to make an agent connect to the characters, their exact motivations, the love interest (so we can root for them to get together), and also not leave out any details!

The pitch section can be ~3 paragraphs long, so don't hesitate to add more words to it, especially if it helps serve the purpose of making the reader immediately beg to read more <3

My query letter's pitch bits were always longer and more fleshed out with emotions and details, and that always managed to get me more requests than the shorter, vaguer ones ever did. But of course, this is just my experience. You must edit your query letter in a way you feel is right <3 All that said, I hope my suggestions help you out!


COMMENTS


Dear [agent name],

I’m seeking representation for ANYONE BUT HIM, an adult, single-POV [1] multicultural romantic comedy, best described as The Hating Game meets Crazy Rich Asians [2]. The manuscript is complete at 85,000 words [3], a stand-alone book with series potential, and would appeal to fans of Christina Lauren, Ali Hazelwood, and Sara Desai [4].

[agent personalization]

Ellie Pang is a woman of many titles: a type 1 diabetic, a reluctant financial analyst, and a lifelong enabler of her controlling, Chinese-Indonesian family. When they orchestrate a (humiliating) public proposal from their wealthy business partner, she snaps and goes on the run; adding jobless, viral YouTube video star, and the family black sheep to her long list of achievements. But her quest to rebuild her ruined life hits a snag and is about to flushed down the drain, and the only person who can help her turn things around is her sworn enemy. There’s only one teeny-tiny catch: she must pretend to be his girlfriend.

All she needs to do is survive the next few weeks feigning love and affection for (while trying not to maim) the man who almost killed her ten years ago [5]. That isn’t so hard … right? But when the thin line between hate and fake-madly-in-love starts to blur, and ugly secrets buried a long time ago resurface, Ellie must learn to trust her heart, and choose between love and family.

Born and raised in Indonesia, I currently reside in Melbourne, Australia. I was lucky enough to have been chosen as a 2022 SmoochPit mentee, and am also a member of RWA (Romance Writers of Australia). I completed the Writing a Romance Novel course at Curtis Brown Creative UK, guided by NY Times bestselling author Jenny Colgan; as well as the Romance Clinic with Writers Victoria (Aus), led by USA Today bestselling Australian author, Amy Andrews [6]. I enclose [required pages], as per your guidelines.

Thank you for your time and consideration [7].

Sincerely,

Cynthia Timoti (she/her)

  1. You don't really need this bit, because if nothing is mentioned, it is implied it's a single-POV novel

  2. I love these comps so much they're perfect <3

  3. Oh man I wish ONE book of mine could be under 95k words. I'm such an overwriter, I have never written a first draft under 100k lol. That was the one thing that got me a lot of rejections before I learned my lesson.

  4. Once again, love these writer comps as well!

  5. I'd love for you to be able to add a strikethrough in your query somewhere, since it's present in your text as well and is so voice-y!

  6. Fantastic bio <3 Probably the best I've seen in a while.

  7. So, basically what I'm going to do is add more flesh to your pitch, and give the setting, Ellie's stakes, and Alec's character more depth—more emotion to connect to! Don't hesitate to lengthen your pitch; a longer query won't get you rejected.


LINE EDITS





Dear [agent name],

I’m seeking representation for ANYONE BUT HIM, anmy adult, single-POV multicultural rom-comromantic comedy, best described as The Hating Game meets Crazy Rich Asians. The manuscript is complete at 85,000 words, a stand-alone book with series potential, and would appeal to fans of Christina Lauren, Ali Hazelwood, and Sara Desai.

[agent personalization]

Ellie Pang is a woman of many titles: a type 1 diabetic, a reluctant financial analyst, and a lifelong enabler of her controlling, Chinese-Indonesian family. When they orchestrate a (humiliating) public proposal from their wealthy business partner, and get her fired from her job for saying no, she snaps and goes on the run; adding jobless, viral YouTube video star, and the family black sheep to her long list of achievements.

But her quest to rebuild her ruined life and finally open that sugar-free bakery she’s been dreaming of hits a snag when the “perfect” property she leases ends up being a rat-infested dump; needing renovations her measly savings cannot afford. and is about to flushed down the drain, and Unfortunately, the only person who can help her turn things around is Alec “Sexy Building Expert” Mackenzie: the man who not just broke her heart, but almost killed her ten years ago. If things weren’t bad enough, there’s a catch—in return for help with renovations, her sworn enemy. There’s only one teeny-tiny catch: she must pretend to be his girlfriend in order to save his business deal.

All sheEllie needs to do is survive the next few weeks feigning love and affection for (while trying not to maim) her sworn enemy the man who almost killed her ten years ago. That isn’t so hard … right? But when the thin line between hate and fake-madly-in-love starts to blur, and ugly secrets buried a long time ago resurface, Ellie must learn to trust her heart, and choose between love and family.

Born and raised in Indonesia, I currently reside in Melbourne, Australia. I was lucky enough to have been chosen as a 2022 SmoochPit mentee, and am also a member of RWA (Romance Writers of Australia). I completed the Writing a Romance Novel course at Curtis Brown Creative UK, guided by NY Times bestselling author Jenny Colgan; as well as the Romance Clinic with Writers Victoria (Aus), led by USA Today bestselling Australian author, Amy Andrews. I've enclosed [required pages], as per your guidelines.

Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you!

SincerelyBest,

Cynthia Timoti (she/her)


FINAL QUERY


Dear [agent name],

I’m seeking representation for ANYONE BUT HIM, my adult, multicultural rom-com best described as The Hating Game meets Crazy Rich Asians. The manuscript is complete at 85,000 words, a stand-alone book with series potential, and would appeal to fans of Christina Lauren, Ali Hazelwood, and Sara Desai.

[agent personalization]

Ellie Pang is a woman of many titles: a type 1 diabetic, a reluctant financial analyst, and a lifelong enabler of her controlling, Chinese-Indonesian family. When they orchestrate a (humiliating) public proposal from their wealthy business partner, and get her fired from her job for saying no, she snaps and goes on the run—adding jobless, viral YouTube video star, and family black sheep to her long list of achievements.

But her quest to rebuild her ruined life and finally open that sugar-free bakery she's been dreaming of hits a snag when the "perfect" property she leases ends up being a rat-infested dump; needing renovations her measly savings cannot afford. Unfortunately, the only person who can help her turn things around is Alec "Sexy Building Expert" Mackenzie: the man who not just broke her heart, but almost killed her ten years ago. If things weren't bad enough, there's a catch—in return for his help with renovations, she must pretend to be his girlfriend in order to save his business deal.

All Ellie needs to do is survive the next few weeks feigning love and affection for (while trying not to maim) her sworn enemy. That isn’t so hard … right? But when the thin line between hate and fake-madly-in-love starts to blur, and ugly secrets buried a long time ago resurface, Ellie must learn to trust her heart, and choose between love and family.

Born and raised in Indonesia, I currently reside in Melbourne, Australia. I was lucky enough to have been chosen as a 2022 SmoochPit mentee, and am also a member of RWA (Romance Writers of Australia). I completed the Writing a Romance Novel course at Curtis Brown Creative UK, guided by NYT bestselling author Jenny Colgan; as well as the Romance Clinic with Writers Victoria (Aus), led by USA Today bestselling Australian author Amy Andrews. I've enclosed [required pages], as per your guidelines.

Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you!

Best,

Cynthia Timoti (she/her)


And with that, we've reached the end of this blog post! As you might've observed, Cynthia's query letter already checked off a lot of points. But what it needed was just a little bit of flesh to add layers to the plot and character, and also, most importantly, not be vague (and end up confusing agents). Cynthia (the angel), ended up incorporating all my suggestions, lol, and I'm just so glad she found them helpful <3

You can let me know if you have any questions in the comments below, and I'll try my best to answer them. I might be starting query critiques for just $10 very soon, and regularly conduct query critique giveaways, so you can follow me on Twitter if you want an update on either!

Anyway, that's that! Thank you for reading <3

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