Today I wanted to offer my blog readers a behind-the-scenes look at my publishing process, and show you my query letter for The Last Hour.
In case you’re not familiar, authors send “query letters” when pitching their manuscript to literary agents. If an agent is intrigued by your query, they’ll ask to read your manuscript. If they love your manuscript, they’ll offer to represent you and try to sell your manuscript to a publishing house.
My query letter ended up getting a 40% request rate, and I signed with the fabulous agent Jim McCarthy, who landed me a book deal with HarperTeen! And I’m so, so grateful.
So without further ado, here’s the query letter that kicked off this process. I’ve made a few minor edits to reflect plot changes since querying, most notably the number of teens in the room. I’ve also removed one spoiler. 😜
The query letter for The Last Hour
I understand you’re looking for a super fun mystery, and you once indicated via #MSWL that you were seeking a book comparable to Agatha Christie’s AND THEN THERE WERE NONE, which is one of my comp titles. You also read my last manuscript two years ago, and my friend Lauren Spieller loves working with you, so I’m excited to reach out again!
THE LAST HOUR is a 84,000-word YA psychological thriller. It’s a dual-timeline deconstructed murder mystery with [SPOILER], and alternating flashback chapters drop clues about whodunit and who the victim will be. It’s perfect for fans of Agatha Christie’s AND THEN THERE WERE NONE and Abigail Haas’s DANGEROUS GIRLS.
Seventeen-year-old aspiring film score producer Amber is convinced she’s going to die tonight—from nerves, that is. She’ll be trapped at a scholarship dinner with the boyfriend she plans to dump and the nerd crush who’d take the blame—and a blow from her boyfriend’s fist. But the scholarship is a ruse, and when an unseen captor locks her and five other students in the deserted restaurant, they find a note, a syringe filled with poison, and a bomb. The note reads: “Within the hour, you must choose someone in this room to die. If you don’t, everyone dies.”
Determined to get everyone out of the room alive, Amber orchestrates friends and foes alike to work together to find a way out—and keep the tension with her selfish boyfriend from imploding. But as she grapples with the clashing personalities of her almost-ex, her former best friend, the queen bee, the stoner, and the nerd, the bomb’s timer ticks down. Confusion turns into fear, and fear morphs into panic as they race to uncover who locked them in… and who’s going to die.
By night I torture fictional characters, and by day I’m a marketing manager at BookBub, a leading book discovery platform. I regularly publish book marketing content on insights.bookbub.com. Outside the bookish world, I live with my husband and cat in Boston, and enjoy reading, yoga, and looking at the beach from a safe distance.
Never give up
As you’ll notice, Jim rejected my last manuscript. Case in point: NEVER GIVE UP, no matter your dream. Persistence is key.
The query can become marketing copy!
One interesting thing to note: The query letter has multiple uses! Agents often use authors’ queries as a starting point when developing their pitches to editors, and the copy can wind up all the way to the book’s back cover and its description on retailer sites! Here’s the description my publisher added to the Goodreads page for The Last Hour:
Speaking of Goodreads, if you think you’d enjoy The Last Hour, add it to your TBR list here:
I hope this was interesting! Or even helpful, if you’ll be querying agents yourself someday. And if you will be, here are some more query tips from me.
Want to share this post? Here are ready-made tweets:
Click to tweet: Check out @DianaUrban’s query letter for #TheLastHour. It got a 40% request rate! #querytip #writetip http://bit.ly/TLHquery
Click to tweet: Authors, are you #amquerying? Here’s a query letter example with a 40% request rate (and a book deal a few months later). #amwriting http://bit.ly/TLHquery