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Behind the Scenes: A Query Letter

In May, 2008, I wrote to three dozen literary agents to see if any of them would be interested in taking on Birthmarked, then called The Baby Quota.  Here’s my initial email correspondence with Kirby Kim, who now represents me.

Dear Mr. Kim:

In a dystopian future, the world is divided between those who live inside the wall, and those, like sixteen-year-old midwife Gaia Stone, who live outside.  It’s Gaia’s job to turn over her quota of infants to the authorities within the wall, until the night one agonized mother objects, and Gaia’s own mother disappears.  Fraught with difficult choices that propel Gaia further and further within the confines of the wall, to the prison and even to the Bastion where the Protectorate lives with his privileged family, THE BABY QUOTA is the riveting story of a girl who wants to save her mother, and a society where a criminal is defined by her genes.

THE BABY QUOTA is an edgy young adult novel of 70,000 words, suitable for mature high school readers.  I understand that you represent young adult fiction, and I believe my novel has the intensity that would appeal to readers who enjoy the works of Ray Bradbury and Laurie Halse Anderson. 

Since I earned my MA in the Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins University, I have published six category romance novels with Silhouette, Bantam, Avalon, and Kensington.  I have also published a handful of parenting articles for The Hartford Courant.  Though I’m on leave this semester, I normally teach at Tolland High School, in Connecticut, where teenagers are a daily part of my life, and I have three teenage children of my own. THE BABY QUOTA is my first young adult novel.

I’m including a brief summary of the novel below.  If you would care to see the complete manuscript, please let me know.  Thank you in advance for your consideration of my project, and I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,

Caragh M. O’Brien

Yosemite, June 2008

That’s cute about Bradbury and Anderson, right?  How often do you see those two authors in the same sentence?  Kirby must have thought I was something else.  He replied the next day in what I would later discover was his typical timeliness.

Hi Caragh,

This sounds very interesting. Although I just sold something similar I’d be interested in taking a look. Please attach to an email at your earliest convenience.

Best,

Kirby Kim

By June, when my family was driving back to Connecticut via Yosemite, I had four offers of representation and began to believe my novel might have a chance of being published.

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