My Queries and Successful Pitches (Updated)
This is an updated version of an old post from 2017 or 2018 on my old (defunct) blog. The opening portion is the OG post, but I'm also going to include the query that got me my second agent (my original agent and I parted amicably, and my Pitch Wars novel remains unsold) and what would go on to become my debut novel.
As a Pitch Wars mentor and previous mentee, I thought it would help to share my query and the PitMad pitches that led to several offers (and ended with me signing with the amazing Janet Reid of New Leaf Literary).
First, if you're interested in what my PW 2017 Agent Round pitch and first page looked like, click here.
Second, to be completely honest...my query wasn't all that successful. It helped get me my mentor, but when I went into the query trenches, I got ZERO cold query requests.
What can I say? Some books query well, others pitch well. Mine pitched well, which is why I linked to my Agent Round page and Twitter pitches below.
Caveat: I only sent out like, 10 cold queries, which is NOTHING in the world of publishing. So make of that what you will.
Here is the initial query I sent out:
Dear [AGENT]: Imagine Veronica Mars as queer, Asian-American, and all grown up, and you’ve got Sunshine Salinas, geek girl extraordinaire.
Obsessed with the cult favorite Samurai Surfer Squadron since she was a child, all Sunshine wants to do when she visits Chicago ComiKon is meet the show’s biggest star, Xavier Rhodes, and her childhood heroine, Cassandra Wu.
Instead, she stumbles upon Xavier’s dead body, and Chicago PD seems determined to pin the murder on Cassandra.
To right this wrong, Sunshine calls on her geek squad to help her investigate, but her not-so-subtle snooping soon has the police ready to cast Sunshine as Cassandra’s faithful sidekick and accomplice to murder.
In an effort to clear their names—and maybe even get into Cassandra’s good graces/pants— Sunshine delves deep into the twisted world of ComiKon, chasing down cosplayers, comic book writers, and other D-list celebrities in her attempts to dig up the truth. Sunshine’s nosiness and Scooby Doo-esque shenanigans have gotten her in trouble with the police before, but this time her antics may cost more than her freedom. It may cost her life.
Written as a standalone, but with series potential, Death Comes to ComiKon is a 71,000 word mystery that would appeal to fans of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series and Max Wirestone’s Dahlia Moss series.
The story draws on my experiences attending anime, comic book, and pop culture conventions for over ten years, and being a female geek in a male-dominated sphere my entire life. This manuscript has won me the 2016 Helen McCloy/Mystery Writers of America Scholarship and the 2017 William F. Deeck – Malice Domestic Grant for Unpublished Writers. It was also recently selected for the 2017 Pitch Wars competition. I’m part of several writing organizations, including the Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and the Chicago Writers Association.
As per your guidelines, I’ve included [INSERT AMOUNT OF PAGES]. I look forward to hearing from you soon.
I underlined the first sentence in the bio section because, knowing what I do now, I'd remove that line. It's unnecessary and clutters up my bio since I had some writing credentials at the time (nothing published, but still some things that spoke to me being a member of the mystery writing community). If you don't have writing credentials and are struggling to write your bio, it wouldn't hurt to include your personal connection to the story you're telling. Keep it short and sweet, though.
Stats: 5 offers, 7 step asides, 12 rejections (all my cold queries were rejections), 13 Pitch Wars Agent Showcase requests, and quite a few CNRs (closed, no response).
As for PitMad pitches, I think I got somewhere between 7-9 requests off these two pitches:
Obsessed with Samurai Surfer Squadron since she was a child, Sunshine must crack the case when the show’s star turns up dead at Chicago ComiKon and her childhood heroine/crush becomes the prime suspect. #PitMad #A #M #ownvoices #DV
When her childhood heroine/crush is accused of murdering a washed-up action star at Chicago ComiKon, Sunshine Salinas jumps at the chance to solve the case and finally be the hero of her own story. #PitMad #A #M #LGBT #POC #ownvoices #DV
And now here's the query for my second novel (now titled ARSENIC AND ADOBO). I queried this novel in January of this year, got multiple offers, signed with my agent Jill Marsal of Marsal Lyon Literary Agency within two weeks, and my book sold at auction in February.
Dear [INSERT AGENT NAME],
After an amicable split with my previous agent, I’m currently seeking representation on a new manuscript, a 79,000 word #ownvoices Filipino-themed culinary cozy titled LOVE, LOSS, AND LUMPIA.
When Lila Macapagal moves back home to recover from a horrible breakup, her life seems to be following all the typical rom-com tropes. She’s tasked with saving her Tita Rosie’s failing restaurant and has to deal with a group of matchmaking aunties who shower her with love and judgment. But when a notoriously nasty blogger (who happens to be her ex-boyfriend) drops dead moments after a confrontation with Lila, her life quickly swerves from a Jennifer Crusie romp to an Agatha Christie joint.
With the cops treating her like she’s the one and only suspect, and the shady landlord looking to finally kick the Macapagal family out and resell the storefront, Lila’s left with no choice but to conduct her own investigation. Armed with the nosy auntie network, her barista best bud, and her trusted Dachshund, Longanisa, Lila takes on this tasty, twisted case.
Written as a standalone but with series potential, Love, Loss, and Lumpia is a 79,000 word cozy mystery that would appeal to fans of Gigi Pandian, Vivien Chien, and Tina Kashian.
Mia P. Manansala won the 2018 Eleanor Taylor Bland Crime Fiction Writers of Color Award as well as the 2018 MWA-Midwest Hugh Holton Award with the opening chapters of this manuscript. She is also the recipient of the 2017 William F. Deeck - Malice Domestic Grant for Unpublished Writers, and the 2016 Mystery Writers of America/Helen McCloy Scholarship.
She is a member of the Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, Crime Writers of Color, Banyan: Asian American Writers Collective, and the Chicago Writers Association. She's also a 2017 Pitch Wars alum and 2018-2019 mentor.
Thank you so much for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you soon.
This query went over VERY well and had a high request rate, considering the short period of time I spent querying. Again, this is a small sample considering I only queried 14 agents.
Stats: 5 offers, 7 requests, 1 rejection, 4 step asides (informed of offer, but they chose not to act on it) 4 CNR (closed, no response).
My current agent loved it so much, she used it when pitching to editors, and my editors liked it so much, they just barely tweaked it to use for the book jacket copy.
Hope these examples help even a little bit. And for those of you who are thinking of parting ways with your agent but are afraid of jumping back into the Query Trenches, you can do it! It's super scary, but if your agent is no longer the right fit for you, you deserve to find someone who is.
Good luck out there in the trenches, and may the odds be ever in your favor!