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Happy Monday Everyone! Today I have a fantastic guest post by author Gregory Funaro and a giveaway of one of his books in his MG Odditorium series. Just reading his query letter made me want to read his book.

Followers News 

David Powers King released a new YA zombie book THE UNDEAD ROAD. Here's a blurb:

Jeremy Barnes would rather watch a zombie movie than shoot a real one, but he and his family has no choice if they are to survive the end of the world. And their survival may rest in the hands of a mysterious girl who might just turn on them at any moment. And here's a few links to find more information:

Here's a blurb of ALLISTAIR GRIM'S ODD AQUATICUM, Gregory's most recent book, from Goodreads:

When Grubb, an orphan and runaway chimney sweep, entered the wondrous world of the Odditorium, his life changed forever. Apprenticed to the mechanical marvel’s strange proprietor, Alistair Grim, Grubb unfortunately must settle into his new position on the lam, as the whole of London is convinced that Alistair Grim is a villain bent on mass destruction. Grim, however, has come up with a plan to expose the real villain: Prince Nightshade, a wicked necromancer who wants the Odditorium’s power source for himself.

With the evil prince hot on their trail, Grim, Grubb and the rest of the Odditorium's crew embark on a perilous adventure to find the legendary sword Excalibur: the only weapon capable of penetrating Nightshade's magical suit of armor. As expected, their quest turns out to be anything but ordinary. Not only can the Odditorium fly, but it can also swim! And so the crew battens down the hatches and sets off on an underwater voyage to the otherworldly realm of Avalon, home to Excalibur. Along the way, they must battle a banshee assassin, sea monsters, and a witch who seeks revenge on Alistair Grim for stealing her magical objects.

But that’s not all. Unbeknownst to Grubb and the others, their fate has been written in an ancient Avalonian prophecy—a prophecy that holds the key to a destiny not even Alistair Grim could have possibly imagined.

So here's Gregory!

Writing A Successful Query Letter.

One of the most frequent questions I get from aspiring writers is, “How did you get your agent?” to which I always respond, “I wrote a good book.” You can imagine the eye-rolls and exasperated sighs of, “Well, duh!” that follow, because what people are really asking is, “How did you get your agent’s attention?”

If you’ve stumbled onto this post, you probably already know a little bit about how the publishing biz works, how a literary agent can help you, and what a query letter is. If you don’t, I suggest you take advantage of this new-fangled inter-web machine and school yourself on the basics. If after that you decide you still want (and even need) an agent to represent your work, you might find my insights on writing a successful query letter helpful. If not, well hey, as Bogie says in Casablanca, “We’ll always have Paris.”

Let me say up front that I am no expert on this—not at all—and consider myself a decent but by no means great writer. I am, however, a perfectionist and extremely stubborn (my friends say “driven,” but who are we kidding?) and rewrote my query letter many, many times before I finally took a deep breath and hit the “send” button. Is this the ultimate, super-duper-secret query letter formula you’ve been searching for? Probably not. But I can tell you that it attracted the attention of eight out of the twelve agents I queried, five of whom offered me representation after reading all or just a portion of my book (I ended up signing with Superman, aka Bill Contardi of Brandt & Hochman). That tells me I did two things correctly: 1) I wrote a good book; and 2) I wrote a good query letter.

There are basically three sections to the standard query letter: 1) The introduction/hook; 2) The synopsis; and 3) The bio/closing. How you choose to tackle each section is up to you (there are plenty of sites that give advice on this) so keep in mind that I am telling you what worked for me. In fact, I asked the agents who offered me representation what (other than my story idea) made my query letter stand out, and a common theme quickly emerged: they appreciated how professional, clear and concise it was.

I recently read about an agent who receives an average of 50-100 queries per day. She’s a pretty big deal, but even if we take the lower number as a baseline, that’s roughly 7 queries to read per hour (less an hour for lunch during a standard workday) on top of all her other duties. So, common sense would dictate that one should err on the side of brevity.

For example, in my query letter (see below) for Alistair Grim’s Odditorium (Disney-Hyperion, 2015) Odditorium I chose not waste the agents’ time trying to dazzle them with my “hook,” but instead began my query with a simple, one sentence introduction telling them the title, genre, and setting. Next, I split the synopsis section into two paragraphs. In the first, I tried to make the plot summary as economical and appealing as possible (I literally read dozens of book jackets to see what worked best). I then followed with a “comp” paragraph, in which I gave the word count, briefly highlighted the underlying themes, and compared Odditorium  to other books from which I drew my inspiration. In the last section, the bio, I only mention facts relevant to my career as a writer (education, previously published works, etc.).
I chose not waste the agents’ time trying to dazzle them with my “hook,” but instead began my query with a simple, one sentence introduction telling them the title, genre, and setting. Next, I split the synopsis section into two paragraphs. In the first, I tried to make the plot summary as economical and appealing as possible (I literally read dozens of book jackets to see what worked best). I then followed with a “comp” paragraph, in which I gave the word count, briefly highlighted the underlying themes, and compared

Of course, there is no “one size fits all” query letter—and you might even think mine is kind of boring—but for some reason it worked well for me back in the summer of 2012. What follows is my original query letter to Bill—well, most of it. Even three and a half years later, I couldn’t resist tweaking a few things.

I told you I was a perfectionist.

Dear Mr. Contardi:
Allow me to introduce you to my first middle-grade novel, Alistair Grim’s Odditorium—a steampunk influenced, sci-fi fantasy set in Victorian London.
For twelve year-old Grubb, life as a chimney sweep in the English countryside has always been hard. Apprenticed to a brutal master sweep named Mr. Smears, Grubb wants nothing more than a life free from toil and abuse. After incurring the wrath of a local innkeeper, Grubb stows away in a trunk belonging to one of the inn’s guests. Soon, the boy finds himself at the Odditorium—a flying house of mechanical wonders filled with supernatural beings and powered by a mysterious blue energy called animus. The eccentric owner of the Odditorium, Alistair Grim, allows Grubb to stay on as his apprentice, but when Grubb accidentally allows some of the animus to escape, he attracts the attention of Prince Nightshade, an evil necromancer who wants the animus for himself. After an intense battle and a narrow escape from London, Grubb and his friends set off in the Odditorium to defeat Prince Nightshade, during which time Grubb discovers the real purpose of Alistair Grim’s animus—a purpose as strange and nefarious as the evil necromancer who seeks to control it.
At 75,000 words, and layered with historical detail and world mythology, Alistair Grim’s Odditorium employs common Victorian themes such as hidden identities, unrequited love, and upper-class destiny in a darkly-fantastical Dickensian milieu. In the combined traditions of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Water Babies, and the fantasy works of Lloyd Alexander (The Chronicles of Prydain), Alistair Grim’s Odditorium is not only a tale of adventure and mystery, but also the story of one boy’s magical journey toward acceptance and self-discovery.
In addition to being a published author, I am currently a professor in the School of Theatre & Dance at East Carolina University. My adult thrillers, The Sculptor and The Impaler (Kensington/Pinnacle, 2010, 2011), have met with both commercial and critical success, and foreign language rights have been sold in nearly a half-dozen countries. I hold an AM from Brown University, and an MFA from Florida State.
After three years as a client of John Hawkins & Associates, my agent there, William Reiss, is retiring. Thus, I thought you might be interested in taking a look at Alistair Grim’s Odditorium. I’ve pasted the first two chapters in the body of this e-mail. I hope it piques your interest in reading more.
Thank you for your consideration, and I hope to hear back from you soon.

Gregory Funaro

You can find Gregory at:

Gregory has generously offered one book of the winner's choice in his Odditorium series. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower (just click the follow button if you’re not a follower) and leave a comment through February 6thIf your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter either contest.

If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry. This is for U.S.

Marvelous Middle Grade Mondays was started by Shannon Messenger. Find all the other participating bloggers on her blog.

Here's what's coming up:

On Monday I have an interview with debut author Sarah Ahiers and a giveaway of her YA fantasy Assassin's Heart.

Next Wednesday I have my new and first agent spotlight interview with agent Beth Campbell and a query critique giveaway.

Friday that week I'm participating in the Favorites Book Giveaway Hop. 

The following Monday I have a guest post by debut YA author Heidi Heilig and a giveaway of her YA fantasy time travel THE GIRL FROM EVERYWHERE.

Hope to see you on Monday! 


Ms. Yingling said...

Interesting insight to the process. I was impressed by Mr. Funaro's use of proper letter format when he asked if I would read and review his book. Always makes me pay attention.

Greg Pattridge said...

Great advice – some of it common sense that often gets lost in the process of writing a query. Good to see Gregory reads book jackets for inspiration.I'm not the only one doing this!

Christine Rains said...

Fantastic advice. Query letter writing causes great anxiety among many authors. Me included! Congratulations to Gregory and to David!

Bish Denham said...

Ooooo, Steampunk meets Dickens. Sound great. And Gregory's advice on writing query letters is spot on (not that I'm any good at it, but I can see what worked for him.) Congratulations!

Jessica Lawson said...

Great query letter! Thanks for the advice and congratulations on the book!

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

Loved the advice. I expect to be querying in a few weeks, and this was a great reminder of what counts. The book sounds fascinating. I'm going to let others have all the chances to win a copy, though, because I am already way behind on reading the books I already have, and I expect to be riveted to the computer, writing, for some time.

David Powers King said...

Writing a query is like fashioning a key to a lock that you don't know the workings of, but we keep trying! Excellent post, and thank you LR for sharing my book on your site today! :)

cleemckenzie said...

I would be delighted to win a copy of Gregory's book. It sounds wonderful.

Suzanne Warr said...

Sounds like a fascinating book! Excellent query letter, and great interview!

Joanne R. Fritz said...

What a fun query letter. No wonder you impressed so many agents! I'm amazed your original ms was 75k words (that's long for a MG). Did that get shortened in the final book?

mshatch said...

A big congrats to David! And wow! Alistair Grim's Odditorium sounds like a ton of and something I would definitely enjoy.

Jemi Fraser said...

Good advice! I've found the Agent Query site to be incredibly helpful with learning the skills of the query :)

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

That's something I've heard often - make the query brief. (Fortunately, I excel at brief.)
Congratulations, David.

Carl Scott said...

Thanks so much for the chance to win one of Greg's books. I'm looking forward to it already.
+1 - I also tweeted a link to this post: https://twitter.com/carlrscott/status/691766841019080704
I follow by email: crs(at)codedivasites(dot)com
Thanks again!

Sydney said...

I loved Gregory's response! The part about tweaking it three and a half years later was funny, and I really liked how he gave an example of a successful query letter using his own.
I followed by email xinyi1467 at gmail. Thanks for the chance!

Karen Lange said...

Natalie, thanks for the intro to Gregory. The book sounds like an interesting read. Gregory, appreciate you sharing your letter and experience. I dislike queries, but this down to earth version gives me hope that I can write a good one. :)

I'll pass on the giveaway this time around. Enjoy the rest of the week!

Anonymous said...

Excellent query...and can totally see how that opening sentence worked.

No need to enter me in the contest...already have both books oh yes I do!

Morgyn said...

Really nice to see a letter that worked! Now, off to Twitter (@Morgynstar)

thebloggingbadger2032.blogspot.com said...

(Twitter: @thebadgrproject)There are so many different ways to fashion a query, it's a little maddening. While some agents say to organize it exactly how Gregory did, others want the hook right away and don't consider it a waste of time at all. Another great source for queries, as you get to see exactly exactly why the agent was excited by the query because the agent themselves explain it, is: http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/guide-to-literary-agents/successful-queries

Liz Brooks said...

This book sounds really interesting. From the description, it reminds me of something Stefan Bachmann might write, so I'll definitely have to check it out. I also really appreciate the query-writing advice.

Thanks for the giveaway!

Unknown said...

Congratulations on your newest book! It sounds like quite an adventure and I'm looking forward to reading it!

Danielle H. said...

This book sounds so exciting! I can't wait to read it. I posted on my tumblr blog: http://yesreaderwriterpoetmusician.tumblr.com/post/138093863257/literary-rambles-gregory-funaro-guest-post-and

Kate Larkindale said...

Sounds like a great read!

Rosi said...

The book sounds great and the query lesson is a good one. I will pass on the drawing. In the midst of moving and don't need another thing to pack. Thanks for the post.

Stina said...

Congrats on your upcoming book, Gregory. And thanks for the great query advice. Not that I need it. I already have an agent (and publishers). But I remember how difficult it was to write the query. That, and waiting for an agent's response.

S.A. Larsenッ said...

I absolutely love the blurb of this book! There's London, chimney sweeping, and an evil prince. Who doesn't love an evil prince? Great query advice! Best of luck with the book!

Crystal Collier said...

Yay! Another fabulous sounding middle grade book. I'm busy reading one of those right now and burning through the list. This is one I should point my 9 yr old toward.

M Pax said...

Congrats to David and Gregory. Love the title of Gregory's. I would read that. :)

DMS said...

So excited to see David's book here! Wishing him all the best.

I have been wanting to read Gregory's book since I first saw it. Such a cool cover! I enjoyed reading his advice about the query letter and I appreciate him letting us read his. :) Wishing him much success! Thanks for a chance to win a copy. I tweeted and Google +d.

Donna K. Weaver said...

I've read The Undead Road and really enjoyed it. It's quite the ride. lol My review is on my blog today.

That is one cool cover. Congrats to Gregory!

Stephen Tremp said...

Ah the query letter. Thanks to Mike McNish and his crew I had a pretty good one. And good luck to David with The Undead Road!

Cynthia said...

Congratulations to David and Gregory! The Odditorium was very creatively named!

Unknown said...

Wishing Gregory much success on his MG novel - it looks so cute!

It's funny but 5-7 years ago, every writer was desperate to get an agent. Now if I put up a post on how I got mine, three-quarters of the commenters aren't interested because they aren't looking for an agent, they're just self-pubbing. It's anyone's game now.

Rachna Chhabria said...

Congratulations on your upcoming book Gregory. Loved your query letter (learn't a lot from it). Like the title of your book a lot (unique and creative)
Congrats on your book, David.

Unknown said...

Articles and content in this section of the website are really amazing. Great ideas indeed! I will surely keep these in my mind!
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Anonymous said...

This offered wonderful insight into query writing. I love a Victorian London setting. This sounds like a great book and series.

Narda said...

Wonderful article on querying. Looking forward to reading your book.

Carol Riggs said...

Fascinating reading this, with its good query points, and I love the fantastical cover of ODDAQUATICUM! Congrats to Gregory. :)

Michele Manning said...

The title alone captures my fancy - can't wait to read it!

Hoshikudaki said...

I'm a big fan of Gregory Funaro especially when I read his Odditorium series!

Shared on Twitter: https://mobile.twitter.com/agitype143/status/694693294391951360

Followed via email: hoshikudaki0@gmail(dot)com

Unknown said...

I really love this blog post! This is very helpful and I love Gregory's query letter! Thank you for sharing this! After reading his query letter, I really want to read his books!

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