What is the link between a good query letter, a pitch letter to editors, and the contract that should follow–in order to finalize the sale of the book?
Context for Zoe’s Query & My Pitch:
See the three versions of her query letter in the post linked to above, including the version that she sent me, back in the fall.
The query prompted a request for the manuscript (the first paragraph gave me a heart attack, so tight and intentional was the craft, so evocative was the voice!), a read in three days, an offer of representation, some basic editorial work, my move to auction the project, and ultimately a sale to Macmillan outside a formal auction structure entirely.
I can’t wait to see this cover, and to see this gem of a novel in readers’ hands. We’ve got a good 1.75 years to go.
Some thoughts, to help put everything into context:
- There are some query letters that are so deeply immersive, evocative, and stunning that they make your jaw drop and shake your mind. I think Zoe’s was maybe 70-85% there, by the time that the third query letter went out, given a lot of world-building elements in the query letter as well as a lack of immediate clarity about the plot arc. (Here’s where just reading queries means, in my experience, for many agents, the loss of an opportunity to capture something great in execution at the level of the actual craft and novel; it’s why I prefer to start with the pages, as genius writing can’t be taught, but plot- and arc-related crafting can be, where a novel needs it.)
- At the same time, what I understood immediately reading the query letter and the pages was that there was something atypical about the structure of the novel, and this is also true: it’s not a typical protagonist v. antagonist set-up. I won’t break more, but the plot movement was unreal.
- This is, ultimately, I think, a difficult novel to pitch–for all of the reasons above–even when, in reading it, it all fits together seamlessly and stimulates the reader’s imagination. Zoe’s voice is also distinct, and here’s one example of a teen writing to teens that leaves its mark.
- When I went on submission, I wanted to do two things: (1) to break Zoe’s voice, and a sense of the maturity and intentionality in this 19-year-old’s grasp of her own crafting; and (2) to try to capture what is otherwise a rather complex plot set-up, without departing too far from Zoe’s own grasp and intent–in that, her hold on the novel’s world-building and set-up is so distinct, and particular, to depart would be to pitch a different novel entirely.
- What I didn’t include in the pitch is the Pacific Rim comparison, because, after having watched the film, given the query, having never seen it before, I ultimately voted that the book reads nothing like the feel of the film–even as both share in these multi-story monstrosities of robotic tech.
My Pitch to Editors:
The Windups were created to protect this nation.
I was created to protect this nation.
Godolia needed me, and so the Academy pulled me apart and put the Mods in the places where there was once breath and life and color, and called it my evolution. They said I should celebrate the day the sky bled.
In an age of mechanical deities puppeteered by a power-hungry nation, the sole defense against the onslaught of false gods is a ragtag group of renegades—the Gearbreakers—headed by the infamous Eris “The Frostbringer” Shindanai. Her mission: infiltrate any Windups—a charming nickname for hundred-foot-tall bionic nightmares that dare to cross her path—and take the atrocities apart from the inside.
Opposite Eris stands Sona Steelcrest—a full-fledged Windup Pilot, built to destroy for the nation. She is expected to be grateful for the wires shoved through her veins, the microchips implanted along her brain stem, and the cable sockets puckering the skin of her forearms.
Yet: Sona’s actual loyalties lie elsewhere. When she learns of a new model of Windups that could mean the end of the Gearbreakers, she seeks out the Frostbringer’s help.
For the first time, Sona has found something to fight for, but, more likely—in breaking one loyalty in exchange for another—something to die for.
As cinematic and vivid as novels come, GEARBREAKERS is a 134,000-word YA sci-fi that blew my mind—part super-deep friendship, part Hunger Games-esque intensity, with a pinch of Cinder [note for readers: Cinder was also published by Feiwel & Friends!] and a commentary on tech tossed in.
The author, Zoe Mikuta, hails from Boulder, CO, and is an 18-year old freshman at the University of Washington-Seattle, where she studies English. She is also a kickboxer, a skillset that makes for some kickass action.
This novel is Zoe’s debut, and demonstrates a profound depth of voice, world-building, and intensity-in-friendship—all that far surpass her age.
[Not serious, but still serious:
Please buy the novel now. You won’t regret it.
Also, think this, just more ragtag orphan-y and vibrant. Zoe writes with so much color.