The Mark's Query Letter

The Online Launch Party continues!  Read the giveaway rules, prize list and enter here In the beginning, there was an idea:  what if you knew it was someone's day to die? 

I don't actually remember when it came to me, but I do remember telling a friend about it at dinner one night, not long after.  By that point, scenes and characters and a story arc had started to coalesce.  It was time to scrap horribly-unpublishable-novel #1 and get to work.   

Fast-forward a year or so, after the idea turned into a first draft, and we're near the beginning of The Mark's path to publication: querying

I'd learned with h-u-n#1 that finishing a novel isn't enough.  A first draft is - I'm pretty sure - never ready for submission.  So, I polished The Mark once or twice and started sending it out to literary agents.  Turns out, my second and third drafts really weren't ready either...101 queries, another year-and-change and LOTS more drafts and tweaks later, I had an agent. 

Here's the letter that finally got me one, itself tweaked many times in the process:

Dear [Agent],

I found your agency through Agent and hope you’ll be interested in representing my paranormal young adult novel, MARKED.

Cassie Renfield has seen the mark since forever: a light around certain people as if a candle were held behind their back.  Her grandmother only looked at her strangely that time she pointed it out.  So Cassie has kept it to herself, considering its rare appearances odd, but not significant to life in the small Pennsylvania town she loves.  Until the day she witnesses a man die.  Mining her memories, Cassie realizes she can see a person’s imminent death – not how or where, only when: today. 

Unnerving enough, but [her philosophy TA and new boyfriend Lucas is convinced it's her duty to use her ability]  Is that tampering with fate? Or is her knowledge part of a grand plan?  Guided by the teachings of the great philosophers and her own common sense, Cassie tries to understand the mark while also uncovering the story of her parents who died long ago. 

The more she explores the line between decision and destiny, the more Cassie believes Socrates had it right when he said the only thing he knew was that he knew nothing.  Just as she’s resolved how to use the mark, Cassie discovers [edited to omit spoiler!].  

Complete at 73,000 words, MARKED is a coming of age story with the familiar themes of responsibility, loss, and first love.  It is unique in entwining the philosophies of Aristotle, Socrates, and Kierkegaard and [spoiler omitted - sorry, agents always want to know how it ends!].

 Thank you,

Jen Nadol

The Mark was called Marked back then.  And it was longer.  It also spent the first part of it's submission life being shopped as adult fiction, until someone finally told me they thought it might be YA. 

There were so many changes along the way, I don't even remember all of them - all part of the learning curve.  The Mark was better and took less time to write than h-u-n#1.  Vision, my next book, took even less still, with better initial results.  

Writing-for-possible-publication is definitely one of those things where the journey is as rewarding as the destination.  It has to be or people would never do it.  I loved learning about agents and publishing and having those a-ha moments of finally getting what was wrong with parts of a story or my writing.  And I really loved the anticipation.  It felt like playing the lottery, waiting anxiously to see if an agent would like it.  The highs of getting a request for pages or a full manuscript?  Awesome.  Thrilling.   The rejections?  Yeah, that part wasn't fun. 

But for any of you querying now, the beauty is that you can always play again.   I did.  101 times.