On her 113th try, this query letter earned Kathryn an offer of representation fromKatie Shea Boutillier (who has provided a breakdown analysis of the query letter below) at the Donald Maass Literary Agency, and a publishing contract withSourcebooks Landmark for THE ART OF FALLING. Her second novel. THE FAR END OF HAPPY, is now available for pre-order and releases from Sourcebooks on May 5, 2015.
Dear Katie Shea:
She had the talent, she had the drive, and she had the opportunity. Only one thing stood between Penelope Sparrow and the dance career of her dreams: her imperfect body. When she wakes up in a Philadelphia hospital after what should have been a deadly fourteen-story fall, Penelope pushes through the pain to move again. That’s what dancers do. Harder to surmount is the dark possibility of what happened out on that ledge, hinted at by each muscle memory she triggers. She can no longer dance around her body issues: the same “sturdy thighs” and “mambo hips” that derailed her have now saved her life, and whether she can use them to create a more meaningful career becomes a fight to save her soul.
DANCE OF THE FALLEN SPARROW draws on aspects of my past: as both dancer and dance critic, as the wife of a suicide victim, and as a modern woman bombarded by advice about how to achieve the perfect body. Dance is a hot pop culture phenomenon in top-rated television (Dancing with the Stars, So You Think You Can Dance), award-winning film (Black Swan), and bestselling nonfiction (Apollo’s Angels by Jennifer Homans). Body image issues continue to make headlines and inform advertising choices (Dove’s “Campaign for Beauty”). The story will offer hope to readers with displaced careers who are now trying to reconnect with their passions. In style, it will resonate with the readers of Ann Patchett, Anne Tyler, and Elizabeth Berg.
I’ve had short pieces published, both fiction and creative nonfiction, and I’m a contributing editor at The Blood-Red Pencil blog. The Sewanee Writers’ Conference accepted my work; I studied there with Pulitzer Prize nominee Diane Johnson and National Book Award winner Alice McDermott. I serve on the boards of the Philadelphia Writers Conference and the Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group, and speak often on a variety of writing topics.
I’m seeking an agent who shares my enthusiasm for upmarket fiction driven by women’s issues. Emily Rapoport, Associate Editor at Berkley Publishing Group, is currently reviewing the full manuscript, which is complete at 99,700 words and ready to send. Congratulations on your new position at the Maass agency. My newly revised manuscript benefitted from my three-day interaction with Don and his wife Lisa at The Write Stuff conference last March. Thanks so much, in advance, for your consideration. The synopsis and first five pages follow my signature block.
Paragraph 1: This is an awesome first sentence. It connects me to the main character immediately. By the second sentence I’m hooked. A conflict has been presented. Then she gives me the setting and a tragic event that happened to the main character. Something quite unusual! Kathryn does such a lovely job incorporating Penny’s struggle for movement to her personal struggle to connect with her passion and to herself. She leaves this paragraph with me wondering what will happen to Penelope Sparrow?
Paragraph 2: Kathryn makes a personal connection to her novel with her background and her life experiences. I always love seeing this! Kathryn connects her novel with the universe by using her dance and body image hook. She then narrows her writing style as similar to best-selling authors.
Paragraph 3: Kathryn has a strong platform, has worked with highly respected published authors, and has a great following among other writers.
Paragraph 4: Mentioning that an editor is already looking at it is always a plus to agents. We love to know that others in our industry are interested in reading this novel. Then congratulations—how sweet! This is a smart move by Kathryn. It shows that she has researched me and knows my most recent career move. Kathryn makes another smart connection to my boss, Donald Maass, and shows that she used his teachings of how to write a novel to get where she is today.
(Agent breakdown was originally published on Writers Digest and has been republished here with author permission)