Queries That Hooked An Agent #3 – Jeffrey Nicholas – SAM VALE: PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR

jeffnicholasOur third query comes from Jeffrey Nichols author of SAM VALE: PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR.

Jeffrey writes books for children and their parents…and believes there’s less distinction between the two than most people think. He enjoys reading books of all genres, from children’s fantasies to hard-boiled mysteries. Some of his favorite non-literary things are good coffee, bad-for-you desserts, old Nintendo games, and new TV shows. He lives in NJ with his wife & best friend. They met at Rowan University, where they each earned a couple of degrees. He’s represented by Sarah Negovetich of the Corvisiero Literary Agency.

Website: http://www.jnicholaswrites.com

The Query:

Sarah,

I’m sorry to hear that. I was really hoping to work with you on this manuscript. I appreciate the compliments on my writing, though, and the invitation to query another manuscript. I recently finished a MG retelling of the Maltese Falcon…

What starts out as a simple missing-item case for 5th-grade detective Sam Vale turns potentially deadly when she learns of a treasure hidden in a construction zone at her school. Sam hires Freddy Prine, a classmate with Asperger syndrome, as her partner, but instead of finding fortune, they find out their teacher Mrs. Pincer is a mostly-evil treasure hunter.

When Sam and Freddy learn that their principal and the construction contractor might be conspiring with their teacher, they plot a nighttime break-in to find the treasure. Of course, that becomes difficult to do when a crazed Mrs. Pincer locks them in a supply closet scheduled for demolition tomorrow morning.

With time running out, Sam and Freddy must figure out how to escape and get away with the treasure—if  Mrs. Pincer (or those fast-approaching construction steamrollers) doesn’t get to it first.

Complete at 34,000 words, the manuscript for Sam Vale: Private Investigator is attached.

Thanks Sarah.

Jeff

Jeffrey’s Comments On The Process:

This query took several iterations. I posted it on some forums for feedback, tweaked, and repeated. I’d written queries for several manuscripts at this point, so I had the basics down, but no matter how many you do, they’re always painful. There’s nothing crazy going on with this one; I just tried to boil the plot down to its key points and be as straight-forward as possible.

Anyway, besides that, there’s something else going on here. As you can see, it’s highly personalized. Sarah had given me an R&R on a previous manuscript. She ultimately passed, but paid me some nice compliments on the writing. I really hoped that she was going to offer representation on that first manuscript, so it was a little painful when she said no. I forced myself to look at the positive side of her response and focus on that (I think stubborn optimism is a great mindset for aspiring writers everywhere). If I took the rejection personally and did something like vow never to submit to Sarah again (“Yeah, that will teach her to reject me!”), I’d only be limiting my own chances of finding an agent. Instead, I used the personalized rejection as an opportunity to write a personalized query for my current manuscript, and that’s what you see above.

Sarah’s Comments:

Sarah,

I’m sorry to hear that. I was really hoping to work with you on this manuscript. I appreciate the compliments on my writing, though, and the invitation to query another manuscript. I recently finished a MG retelling of the Maltese Falcon…

Jeff is very professional in his response to a previous pass after an R&R. I know it must have been tough to get that close and then hear a no, but he handled it very well. This definitely left a good impression with me when considering working with him on the next project. He introduces it well as a new version of an old classic.

What starts out as a simple missing-item case for 5th-grade detective Sam Vale turns potentially deadly when she learns of a treasure hidden in a construction zone at her school. Sam hires Freddy Prine, a classmate with Asperger syndrome, as her partner, but instead of finding fortune, they find out their teacher Mrs. Pincer is a mostly-evil treasure hunter.

here’s what I like so far, this has all the great elements of an adventure with some interesting twists such as a special needs side-kick. I can immediately see how this mystery will be different from what is already out there.

When Sam and Freddy learn that their principal and the construction contractor might be conspiring with their teacher, they plot a nighttime break-in to find the treasure. Of course, that becomes difficult to do when a crazed Mrs. Pincer locks them in a supply closet scheduled for demolition tomorrow morning.

The plot thickens. This second paragraph shows me that Jeff has some subplot in the story. Even though MG has a fast pace and lower word count, it still needs all the elements of a great story to hook picky young readers.
With time running out, Sam and Freddy must figure out how to escape and get away with the treasure—if  Mrs. Pincer (or those fast-approaching construction steamrollers) doesn’t get to it first.

Stakes -Sam and Freddy want the treasure and if they can’t escape from their teacher they’ll lose it and possibly their lives. The characters have a goal, an obstacle in their way, and consequences if they fail. So many queries are missing this plot line trifecta, but Jeff makes sure it’s all there.

Complete at 34,000 words, the manuscript for Sam Vale: Private Investigator is attached.

Jeff took a risk here by sending me the full manuscript. In this case, I didn’t mind since we had already spoken back and forth through email several times and I told him I wanted to see other projects from him. This wouldn’t be appropriate for an initial query.

Thanks Sarah.

Jeff

Sarah’s Bio:

SarahNegovetichSarah Negovetich is fully aware that no one knows how to pronounce her last name, and she’s okay with that.

Her favorite writing is YA, because at seventeen the world is your oyster. Only oysters are slimy and more than a little salty, it’s accurate if not exactly motivational.

Sarah’s background is in Marketing. FYI, your high school algebra teacher was right when they told you every job uses math. She uses her experience to assist Corvisiero authors with platform building and book promotion.

Twitter @SarahNego
Blog: Sarah Nego Writes
Agency Website: Corvisiero Literary Agency

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *