Diana sent out 60 query letters and had several partial and full requests before she narrowed her agent search with books similar to TOKYO HEIST. Her book was picked up by Kim Kirby at Janklow & Nesbit and published with Viking Childrens Books / Penguin Young Readers Group.
Dear Mr. Kim,
I am contacting you because I recently discovered Paul Griffin’s wonderful writing. When I learned that you represent him, I wondered if you might be interested in my young adult novel, for which I am seeking representation.
In The Frame Game (87,500 words), an aspiring manga-style artist uncovers an international art heist. More of a literary mystery than a genre mystery, it is also the story of how a highly creative girl deals with the mysteries in her everyday life: family, friendships, and the process of making art.
When 16-year-old Violet Rossi shows up at a gallery reception for her dad’s new show, she stumbles into a major art mystery. A portfolio of Van Gogh drawings has been stolen from the home of Kenji and Mitsue Yamada, art collectors who have recently commissioned a mural from Violet’s dad. She and her best friend (and secret crush) Edge pair up to help solve the crime. But when their sleuthing puts them on the trail of the yakuza, the Japanese mob, the case takes a violent turn. Violet’s efforts to help find the lost art take her all over Seattle, and eventually to Japan with her dad and the Yamadas. In Tokyo she connects with Reika Otsuki-Silver, a mysteriously aloof girl from school. The girls outsmart the yakuza, uncover secrets about the Van Goghs, and confront a dangerous deception. Soon the girls are racing to Kyoto not only to retrieve the lost art, but to save lives – including their own.
My stories and essays have appeared in The Indiana Review, The Santa Barbara Review, South American Explorer, Writer’s Digest, Byline, Cricket Magazine for Children, Spider Magazine for Children, and others. I have taught writing in colleges and universities, most recently at Boston University, and have published several ESL (English as a Second Language) textbooks and videos aimed at young adults. I also spent several years in the 1990s working in a comic book store, selling bootleg copies of Japanese anime and manga before these genres found the enormous mainstream market they have today.
Please let me know if you would like to see sample chapters. Thank you for your time; I look forward to hearing from you.
My first young adult novel, TOKYO HEIST, was originally called THE FRAME GAME. I began querying agents in 2009-2010. I quickly blew through my list of five carefully targeted “dream agents” and began to realize what an agent search really entailed. Numbers. I made good use of databases like QueryTracker, and I spent a lot of time in bookstores browsing acknowledgments sections for agent names, and looking for books that seemed similar to mine. I received many requests for partials and fulls, and a couple of revision requests, but no takers. I began to realize, after about 60 queries with these varying results, that my query letter and sample chapters were probably fine, but my manuscript needed another overhaul. So I stopped query for a number of months and did another big revision. I was lucky to have received some feedback from a few agents who ultimately passed, and I did take their comments into consideration even though only re-queried one of them (who still passed). When I felt confident in my book again and ready for a new phase of queries, I was researching agents and happened to be reading a book someone had given me called TEN MILE RIVER by Paul Griffin (who remains one of my favorite YA authors). This book really had little do with mine; it was gritty and urban and featured boy characters. My book was a mystery set in two countries, with girl sleuths and a whimsical graphic novel story interspersed. What our books had in common, though, was the fact that they were a little different from the dominant YA trends at the time. (Vampires still reigned, and the wave of paranormal/dystopian/apocalyptic fiction was ascending). I was interested in the agent who would represent Paul’s somewhat unusual book, and thought perhaps he’d be interested in my somewhat unusual book. (Curiously, I omitted much of that in the query letter; looking back, I think I could have been more specific about the connection I felt to this agent’s client).
So I queried this author’s agent, Kirby Kim, who was with William Morris Endeavor at the time. I got a fast request for a full, and an offer shortly after. I’d had a couple of fulls out with other agents, and after giving them some time to read, and talking with Kirby on the phone, I knew that I had my agent. Kirby really got my writing and didn’t seem daunted by the book’s somewhat unconventional nature, or its relative length. He’s gone on to sell two more of my books in short succession, on proposal; my third novel, BLUE VOYAGE, comes out this fall. I’m really grateful to have him on my team!
I would offer some advice to those at the query stage: