Queries That Hooked An Agent #2 – Peggy Eddleman – SKY JUMPERS
The second query in our series comes from the amazing Peggy Eddleman, author of SKY JUMPERS (published by Random House). Peggy is represented by Sara Crowe from the Harvey Klinger Literary Agency. Peggy Eddleman lives at the foot of the Rocky Mountains in Utah with her husband and their three kids. She enjoys painting, playing games with her family (especially laser tag), and of course, reading.
Dear Ms. Crowe,
I loved meeting you and hearing your presentations and panels at the LDStorymakers conference in Salt Lake City in May. I met with you during a pitch session and we talked about my upper middle grade novel, THROUGH THE BOMB’S BREATH, a post-apocalyptic adventure complete at 60,000 words. You requested that I send you the full manuscript.
Twelve-year-old Hope Toriella lives in a town of inventors struggling to recover from the green bombs of WWIII that wiped out nearly all the earth’s population. Inventing has made life possible in White Rock, and it’s how the town views a person’s worth. But Hope would much rather sneak off to cliff dive into the Bomb’s Breath— the deadly band of compressed air that covers their valley— than fail at yet another invention. The town is filled with excellent inventors; they even invented Ameiphus, the medicine that cures the deadly Shadel’s Sickness that has run rampant since the bombs.
When bandits not only discover White Rock has the cure for the sickness, but find a way into their protected valley, they invade. With a two day deadline to finish making this year’s batch of Ameiphus and no ingredients to make more, the town is left to choose whether to hand over the medicine and die from Shadel’s over the next year, or die fighting the bandits now. Help lies in a neighboring town, but the bandits count everyone fourteen and older each hour. Hope realizes that she and a couple of friends might be the only ones who can leave to make the dangerous trek through the Bomb’s Breath and over the snow-covered mountain. Inventing won’t help her make it through alive, but the daring and recklessness that usually gets her into trouble just might.
I am a member of SCBWI and have a successful blog where I post every weekday at www.peggyeddleman.blogspot.com. My manuscript is currently being looked at by another agent. I am very grateful for your time and consideration and look forward to hearing from you. Peggy Eddleman
Peggy’s Comments On The Process:
I’ll admit: my biggest fear when querying was that I would query too early, and waste my chance with the agent who would’ve been perfect for me. So I made sure my query letter was the very best I could get it before I sent out the first one.
I first wrote it (and then edited it a few times) in April 2011, and sent it in to the instructor teaching a query class at a conference in early May (the same conference where I live pitched to Sara). After getting feedback, I revised again. And again. I poured over every query writing post I could find. I took a query writing webinar from an agent, and had her critique it. Whenever anyone had a giveaway on their blog for a query critique, or just offered them to everyone, I took them up on it. I asked every writer I knew and every English major I knew for feedback. Eventually, I had it down to 150 words. But… it felt flat. Clinical. Emotionless. So I tossed it all out, took those sentences and phrases that had been being honed in my brain for months, and rewrote it, with more voice. I didn’t worry that it took the word count up to 235. This one felt right. Then I revised and I revised and I revised. I wrestled with the wording on every single sentence and tried to come up with more effective ways to say things. After I had exhausted everyone else, I sent slight variations to my sister enough times that I’m still amazed she’s speaking to me. I slaved over that baby for a full FIVE MONTHS.
Was it overkill? Maybe so. And then again, maybe not. Because I had gotten my query letter to be the very best I could possibly make it, I was able to move more confidently into querying, and that’s a very valuable thing. I knew I couldn’t make it any better, and if it wasn’t good enough yet, then I wasn’t good enough yet. I didn’t feel the need to send out my query to 5-10 agents to see if I needed to revise it based on their responses, because I had already revised it all I could. So after I spent quite a while researching agents and making my lists of top agents, I started in September 2011 by querying my top three choices.
Spending that long on my query letter did more than get me an agent and an editor quickly— I’ve gotten a lot of mileage from it! Many of the phrases / sentences from it are word for word in my jacket flap, and my agent uses it as an example when she talks about query writing at conferences. Best of all? Those phrases are burnt so deeply in my brain that when someone asks me to tell them about my book, it’s not so hard.
I had the pleasure of meeting Peggy in person before she queried me, and I had liked her in-person pitch enough to ask her to send along the full ms when it was ready. I met her in May, and she was ready to submit the following September, so she smartly included her full query when she sent it. I use Peggy’s pitch when I talk about pitches that worked on me because it has all of the elements of a fabulous pitch.
Why this pitch is awesome: Peggy sets up a hook, conflict and character in her first paragraph: a girl who hates inventing in a town where invention is everything. Also, who would not be pulled in by the third sentence, and want/need to know what it means to dive into the Bomb’s Breath? And then she follows a great first paragraph with an even more exciting second paragraph, telling us enough about what is going to happen to make us want to find out more, and setting us up for the big adventure.
Sara Crowe represents children’s fiction and adult fiction and non fiction. Her clients include NYT Bestselling author Jonathan Maberry, USA Today Bestselling author Jeff Hirsch, as well as Nina LaCour, Michael Northrop, Lisa Schroeder, Kristen Tracy, and Dan Wells. Her authors have been nominated for Edgars and the Morris Award and have been on the ALA Best Fiction for Young Adults list and in the Top Ten. She is consistently ranked among the top three YA and MG agents in Publishers Marketplace. She has many debuts among her recent sales and hopes to keep it that way.