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THE QUERY LETTER THAT GOT ME MY AGENT (and 31 full/partial requests)

Updated: Jul 12

It's here, as promised: the query letter that got me my agent (and 31 full/partial requests) along with query tips + tricks that really helped me during my journey. If you'd like to view my stats for Desi Witch, you can navigate to my How I Got My Agent blog post, where I laid my querying journey bare.

No two journeys are the same, of course, so what helped me massively might not help someone else, but browsing query tips and query letter examples by other authors really helped me figure out what I might've been doing wrong when I was querying, and I hope this blog post helps you too!

I'll first paste in my query letter, and in the section following that, I'll share my footnotes and comments about each part of the query letter. At the very bottom, I've included a few resources that helped me massively during my querying journey (they're my own personal gold mine). Before that, though, here's a few thingsright off the top of my headthat you can take note of while writing queries:


Few things to keep in mind (purely for fiction queries):

  • Keep your query between 250-350 words

  • Include word count, comparative titles/authors, age category, genre, and title of the book. These together constitute your metadata paragraph

  • Keep max three paragraphs for the pitch and make sure the last one wraps up the stakes

  • Include relevant bio

  • Mention age of your main character


Formatting specifications:

  • Black text colour

  • TIMES NEW ROMAN

  • 12 pt. font

  • Single line spacing

  • Add space between paragraphs


Query Don’ts:

  • Don’t be vague/don’t exclude details. Be specific.

  • Don’t use rhetorical statements

  • Don’t include more than three comp titles

  • Don't write DEAR AGENT in your salutation line: nothing will get you a faster reject.


Query Dos:

  • Do follow agency-specific guidelines

  • Do consider joining Twitter and following the agents you wish to query

  • Do browse the #MSWL hashtag on Twitter to find out what agents are looking for

  • Do make your query as voice-y as possible

  • Do include a strong writing sample (if asked to include writing sample) that offers what your query letter promises

  • Do address the agent correctly (correct spelling, correct pronouns)


Now, without further ado, here's the query letter that got me my agent.


MY QUERY LETTER


[SUBJECT LINE]


#DVPit tweet: desi GILMORE GIRLS × CEMETERY BOYS When their coven’s magic collapses, kitchen-witch Ira & her mom are forced to: 1. Band together w/ a spunky spirit, 2. Prep for a road trip, 3. Take their rival covens’ help before time runs out—if they don't get killed first. #DVPit #OWN #YA


Dear [AGENT NAME],

Since you [EXPRESSED AN INTEREST IN…/ARE ON THE LOOKOUT FOR…/ARE ACTIVELY SEEKING…], I was hoping you might like [TITLE], my YA Contemporary-Fantasy complete at 89,000 words. The novel draws inspiration from the fun mother-daughter dynamic of GILMORE GIRLS, combines magic and cooking like JUST ADD MAGIC, and will appeal to readers who love CEMETERY BOYS. During #DVpit, my tweet garnered attention from 12 editors. I’ve included the list below the query.

When eighteen-year-old desi witch Ira’s ex-BFF Alia returns from the dead, she has bad news: the spell they performed three years ago not only killed Alia, but also infected the network of energy shells that bless the witches with magical powers. Sucks that Ira’s the daughter of one of the five Grand Witches associated with these energy shells, because if anyone found out that Ira also performed the spell, her mom Shashi’s reputation would be screwed.

It’s bad enough that Ira has to deal with her resurfacing anxiety, but what was supposed to be a Diwali full of jalebi-making ends in a disaster—their coven’s shell collapses. And bitter-tongued Alia is the only one who can help Ira and Shashi revive it before the coven loses their witching powers forever.

Armed with spices, oils, and cauldrons, and cooped up in their food truck, the three prepare to set off on a road trip to perform a ritual to collect energies from their rival covens and revive their own. As it turns out, road trips are just as romantic as Ira dreaded them to be, which means that while she’s trying to avoid getting killed by the other covens, she is also disastrously falling for Alia. But romantic involvement with a corpse-switching spirit can lead to banishment from the coven. Besides, Alia will never forgive Ira, not unless Ira reveals the truth about what happened the night Alia died, to Shashi and her coven—and most of all, to herself.

As a desi army brat, I’ve lived in all the Indian cities/towns Ira visits during her road trip. I spend my free time baking and devouring Indian mythology comics like Amar Chitra Katha, both of which inspired the writing of my novel. Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,

Anahita Karthik


[EDITOR LIST]


MY QUERY LETTER (with comments in light purple)


  • [SUBJECT LINE]

Every agency has different guidelines on how to tailor the subject line, so ignore this if it doesn’t apply, but here’s how I used to frame most of my subject lines (especially when there were no agency specifications):

#DVPit query, YA Contemporary-Fantasy: [TITLE] by Anahita Karthik.


  • #DVPit tweet: desi GILMORE GIRLS × CEMETERY BOYS When their coven’s magic collapses, kitchen-witch Ira & her mom are forced to: 1. Band together w/ a spunky spirit, 2. Prep for a road trip, 3. Take their rival covens’ help before time runs out—if they don't get killed first. #DVPit #OWN #YA

I included the #DVPit tweet at the very top of the query so the agent could know immediately what they’d requested.


  • Dear [AGENT NAME],

I used to address the agent I was querying using their first name so I wouldn't accidentally use the wrong titles.


  • Since you [EXPRESSED AN INTEREST IN…/ARE ON THE LOOKOUT FOR…/ARE ACTIVELY SEEKING…]

Most of my queries were either #DVpit queries (which meant I didn’t need to personalize them) and cold queries without personalization like [I’m seeking representation for…].

Unless you have a very specific reason why you would like to query the agent, I’d suggest sticking to not personalizing it at all instead of making a generic mistake and going with something like [Since you are seeking fantasy…/Since you are seeking YA…]. They don't count as personalizations; they’re just age categories and genres the agent represents. Mention something specific they might be looking for, or don’t personalize at all.

Fun fact: my query to my agent wasn’t a #DVpit query. It wasn’t even personalized. It started with a simple [I’m seeking representation for…]. It's crazy how subjective this industry is.


  • I was hoping you might like [TITLE],

Side note about the title: I’m not including it right now since I’m still working on revisions for the novel and haven’t gone on sub yet, so the title might change, but when it is final, I will make sure to edit this blog post!

Another side note: the title I queried Desi Witch with was fun, banger, and hilarious, which I think could be a reason agents were attracted to my subject line and book-info on email/QueryTracker? I’m not an agent, so I couldn’t know, but Desi Witch just got super fast responses in general, and it does help to have a funny, eye-catching title just to make things fun (there’s high chances the title will probably change later anyway, lmao, so I wouldn’t stress about it!).


  • my YA Contemporary-Fantasy complete at 89,000 words.

It helps to stick to industry-preferred word counts for novels. I have gotten very specific rejections on my previously shelved novels because the word counts were too high, and I made sure I had an ideal word count with Desi Witch. Remember, agents scan the metadata paragraph very quickly (and the info section on QueryTracker), which means they can easily send you a quick rejection for a way-beyond-ideal word count as well!


  • The novel draws inspiration from the fun mother-daughter dynamic of GILMORE GIRLS, combines magic and cooking like JUST ADD MAGIC, and will appeal to readers who love CEMETERY BOYS.

This line was just super important for me to include, because it gets across the exact themes and inspirations for Desi Witch, along with good, workable comp titles.

Side note: while it’s okay to start with the pitch paragraphs, I faced problems with marketability the first few times I queried and I wanted the agent to know immediately where my book fit into the market, why I chose to query them, and have context first before they dove into the pitch and concept.


  • During #DVpit, my tweet garnered attention from 12 editors. I’ve included the list below the query.

Usually people mention that editors expressed interest in their novel at the end of the query but (is it muahahaha of me?) I wanted the agent to know that lots of editors were interested in my novel at the start of the query itself ;))


  • When eighteen-year-old desi witch Ira’s

It’s important to include your main character’s age to make sure they fit in the ideal age range for that age category. For example, for YA,16-18 is a good age range for your MC.

I also put across the info that she’s a desi witch immediately, since I didn’t want to waste words easing into it.


  • ex-BFF Alia

We immediately know what this second character’s relationship to the MC is.

Note: make your query as voice-y as possible, especially if it’s fiction! More than the complexity of plot, agents are seeking voices to connect to.


  • returns from the dead, she has bad news: the spell they performed three years ago not only killed Alia, but also infected the network of energy shells that bless the witches with magical powers.

Build-up + inciting incident + setup for stakes


  • Sucks that Ira’s the daughter of one of the five Grand Witches associated with these energy shells, because if anyone found out that Ira also performed the spell, her mom Shashi’s reputation would be screwed.

The “oh no here’s why the inciting incident screws up things for her” and “trouble’s coming” bit.


  • It’s bad enough that Ira has to deal with her resurfacing anxiety, but what was supposed to be a Diwali full of jalebi-making ends in a disaster—their coven’s shell collapses. And bitter-tongued Alia is the only one who can help Ira and Shashi revive it before the coven loses their witching powers forever.

The “how do we resolve this issue?” and “why will taking this route to resolve the issue be a problem?”.


  • Armed with spices, oils, and cauldrons, and cooped up in their food truck,

Here’s a bit that’s there both in my synopsis and query letter because I Iove it so much. It highlights exactly what being a kitchen witch is about and also showcases why going with your mom and dead ex-BFF on a road trip is a “cooped” situation indeed!


  • the three prepare to set off on a road trip to perform a ritual to collect energies from their rival covens and revive their own. As it turns out, road trips are just as romantic as Ira dreaded them to be, which means that while she’s trying to avoid getting killed by the other covens, she is also disastrously falling for Alia.

The “what does the MC face during their journey?” + “oops now I’m also falling for this person” bits.


  • But romantic involvement with a corpse-switching spirit can lead to banishment from the coven. Besides, Alia will never forgive Ira, not unless Ira reveals the truth about what happened the night Alia died, to Shashi and her coven—and most of all, to herself.

Closing of stakes.

This has to be the most important part of your query letter, like [now the MC must choose between X and X …/now the MC must do X or risk X…]. Here, X and X are two equally difficult choices.

The stakes help wrap the query up and tie it with a neat bow, and they must be super personal to the MC.


  • As a desi army brat, I’ve lived in all the Indian cities/towns Ira visits during her road trip. I spend my free time baking and devouring Indian mythology comics like Amar Chitra Katha, both of which inspired the writing of my novel. Thank you for your time.

Although I do have some writing-related credits, I wanted to focus more on why I was the best person to write this novel, and what inspired this story. The query letter is more about the pitch and less about yourself, and I really wanted to highlight that! That said, if you have been an indie bestseller before or have decades of experience in publishing or a recognizable credit, those you must definitely mention.

PS: as someone who has been self-published before, I’d recommend not mentioning it unless you've had insanely good sales.

PPS: QueryManager has a *required bio option. Here’s a way to tackle this: keep two bios. A short, book-related, fun one that you keep in your query letter, and a second one for the *required bio section. This one can be longer and highlight your writing achievements. For example, mine was this:

I’m a desi engineering junior and I’ve lived in India all my life. I was a 2021 #RevPit finalist for my adult thriller BLOOD TURNED POISON and have had my short story BIRDS IN A GOLDEN CAGE featured on Voyage YA's 2021 short story longlist.


  • Sincerely, Anahita Karthik

I didn’t, but feel free to include your pronouns here like Anahita Karthik (she/her).


  • [EDITOR LIST]

I followed this format for the editor list:

  1. [EDITOR 1 NAME]: [IMPRINT NAME], [PUBLISHING HOUSE NAME]

  2. [EDITOR 2 NAME]: [IMPRINT NAME], [PUBLISHING HOUSE NAME]

and so on.


RESOURCES


  1. Amanda Woody's Obscenely Long Query Tip Compilation: The Ultimate Thread

  2. Real Life Query Letter Examples

  3. Literary Agent Laura Zats' Best Practices Thread

  4. A Thread of Query Letter Examples (check the comments)

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