Monday, March 17, 2014

Kickass Queries Series! #1 - Michelle Hauck

Hi All!

Back in the day when I was querying agents and facing rejection around every bend, I constantly scoured the internet for something: examples of successful queries and pitches.

It was a perpetual question in my mind: what are others doing right that I might be doing wrong? What did those letters sound like - those golden queries or pitches that netted the ever-coveted "yes?"

And so, I've decided to dedicate the next several blog posts to answering those questions by instating the Kickass Queries Series.

Several talented authors have volunteered to share the letters or pitches that took them from author to agented and/or published author, and shared some insight into their personal publishing journeys. Feel free to stalk follow all of them on their own blogs, Twitter, etc. They are all awesome.

Now, without further ado, let's meet our first author: Michelle Hauck, represented by Sarah Negovetich at Corvisiero Literary.

Michelle's query:

Tom, the classroom hamster, wants to escape from the h-e-double-hockey-sticks otherwise known as school. His military training at the pet shop didn't include playing house or being sentenced to a boot camp of never-ending Show ‘n Tell, math facts rap, and story time. But he’s learned a lot behind the bars of his cage. For example, if you want to keep breathing, never trust a pygmy who has earned the nickname Squeezer. Somehow he has to get away before the pygmies dress him as Strawberry Shortcake again—or worse.
When a “subspatoot” teacher fills in, Tom sees his chance to put Operation Escape the Pygmies into action. He makes a run for the border, hamster style. Bad news. The principal says a rodent on the loose is a distraction to learning and better off flushed. The way out is turned into a battlefield of snapping mousetraps, sticky snares, and poisoned pellets.
Tom seems doomed until the friendless Squeezer lends an over-excited hand. She quickly goes from supervillain to super sidekick. Now, the greatest obstacle to his freedom may be Tom’s soft spot for this lonely pygmy.
PYGMY HAZARDS is a MG fantasy complete at 34,000 words, which would appeal to readers of The World According to Humphrey. My epic fantasy, Kindar’s Cure, was recently released by Divertir Publishing. My short story, Frost and Fog, was published by The Elephant’s Bookshelf for their summer anthology, Summer’s Double Edge. I’ve worked at an elementary school as a special needs assistant for over ten years, giving me lots of experience with pygmies.

G: How many manuscripts did you query prior to signing with your agent?

M: I queried three other manuscripts before PYGMY HAZARDS. My first adult fantasy got shelved. It’s just wasn’t ready. My second book another Adult Fantasy sold to a small press in a deal I did myself. I queried the third book a YA dystopian at the same time as PYGMY HAZARDS and it came close to finding an agent, but the market for dystopian is dead. It was my voicy MG that finally succeeded.

G: How long did it take to write your query, and what things/steps do you think were most important to make it agent-ready?

M: The query for PYGMY HAZARDS was the easiest I ever wrote. Maybe that says something about why it succeeded. I only ended up with five drafts and those were basically tweaks. All my other queries were in the thirty draft range. This one just flowed out of me.
Of course I got lots of advice from other writers. That step is a given. I pretty much subjected it to everyone I could find and posted it on forums for more feedback. There was such a positive response from readers that I felt very hopeful agents would like it too. 
 One thing that probably helped was I wrote this query before I finished the book, while it was still a WIP. That really helped me to carry the voice from the manuscript into the query. 

G: Tell us about your query style – do you approach your entire list of prospectives at once, or query in small batches and revise in between?

M: I always queried in small batches. Doing the research on agents and visiting websites takes so much time that large batches would be exhausting. I’d send ten one day and wait a few weeks then send another ten. I did revise a tiny bit in between and entered contests also.  

G: Now the fun part – what was “the call” like? How did you know your agent was the right person to represent/publish your project?

M: Ah, the call! I actually got two offers. After the first offer, I alerted all the other agents with requests and recent queries and gave them two weeks to get back to me.  That was a breathless two weeks of waiting for replies and checking email every few seconds.
I was out on a walk when Sarah called to give my second offer. My husband and I hurried back home as fast as we could go.
She’d read PYMGY HAZARDS in one weekend and emailed to say she wanted to talk. Over the phone she had so much to tell me about what she liked from my manuscript. She answered every question and was very positive about submissions. She got my sense of humor! I just felt she was the right one from that call. 

G: If you could give one piece of advice to authors seeking publication, what would it be?

Just one piece of advice?

I’d say to keep learning and improving and don’t walk away if your first book doesn’t find a home. Believe me, I’d guess very few first books land agents. Be persistent in getting better with each manuscript. Also don’t be afraid to get feedback. The more eyes on your query, the better.  Persistence and dedication are your friends.

Thanks, Michelle! Great advice, great query! Thanks for stopping by, and best of luck with all your writing endeavors!

Michelle Hauck lives in the bustling metropolis of northern Indiana with her hubby and two teenagers. Besides working with special needs children by day, she writes all sorts of fantasy, giving her imagination free range. A book worm, she passes up the darker vices in favor of chocolate and looks for any excuse to reward herself. Bio finished? Time for a sweet snack.

Goodreads: Kindar’s Cure


  1. I LOVE that query! And even though animal POV stories are not my usual thing, I would want to read this! Is it sold yet?

  2. Thanks for hosting me, GIna! Best of luck with your new series.

  3. This is great advice, especially the part about continuing to learn and improve even if your first book doesn't get published. I think a lot of writers get stuck on their first manuscript; it's good to branch out work on other things.