Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Query Letter for Illegally Blonde

Way back in the summer of 2006 I began writing what would eventually become Illegally Blonde. By November of that year I had a complete draft. In December I spent about three weeks crafting the query letter that would, I hoped, generate some interest from agents for them to request the manuscript. I spent a lot of time writing that letter. I thought it was a good letter. Still do. That letter generated quite a bit of agent interest in the manuscript. By February 2007 I had an agent offer. I was signed by the end of that month. All this to say: Take the time to craft your letter with the same care you take with your novel. It's like putting on a snazzy to-die-for party dress and then covering it up with a torn, ratty old shawl. You know the dress is beautiful but nobody can see it for the crappy shawl covering it.

So I'm sharing the letter here to give you an idea of what I thought was important about the book I was trying to sell. Do whatever works for you but make sure you think of the second paragraph (the one describing the book) as the back cover blurb you'd actually want to see on your published work. I'd probably write a little less on the third paragraph (the 'bio' piece)now but for this book it seemed to work well.

Here it is. And happy query writing.

Dear Agent:

I’m seeking representation for my completed 55,000 word contemporary young adult novel Illegally Blonde.

Sometimes discovering your roots is about a lot more than watching your real hair color grow in ...

When seventeen-year-old Lucy de Amaral comes home with newly bleached blonde hair all she expects is a major lecture and another grounding from her strict, immigrant Portuguese parents. What she doesn’t expect is the shocking news that her family are illegal aliens who’ve just been told they’re being deported in less than a week. Lucy’s furious at her parents and has no intention of leaving her boyfriend and missing Prom and Grad to go live in some backwater village with no cable, no movie theatre and no life in some country she knows nothing about. But, as Lucy discovers, intentions and reality are sometimes worlds apart - or, in Lucy’s case, at least an ocean away. Lucy’s desperation to return to her ‘real’ home results in a reckless plan to buy a fake passport which further ensnares her in a web of illegal activity that threatens more than her journey home. But it’s when she unexpectedly falls for a guy whose connection to his home is centuries old and who can’t understand Lucy’s disinterest in the past or lack of plans for the future where she finally realizes you can never run away from your roots – not even if you bleach them.

I was inspired to write Illegally Blonde after a March 2006 Canadian immigration crackdown on illegal Portuguese workers in Toronto. Most YA books deal with the experience of illegal immigrant teens from the perspective of their living in North America. Not many describe what might happen if they’re sent back. As a second-generation Portuguese-Canadian, I’m very familiar with the juxtaposition of old world values vs. new and the tough choices immigrant teenagers face today. Any teenager can identify with Lucy’s confusion, anger and desperation if they found themselves in a similar situation. But it is Lucy’s sarcastic humour and ultimate acceptance of who she is, where she comes from, and most importantly, where she wants to go, that would appeal to a wide teen market – both legal and illegal.

If the premise of Illegally Blonde intrigues you I would be happy to send you a partial or full manuscript upon your request. Thanks very much for your time and consideration.


  1. Wow. That's great. Very polished and flows so nicely.

    Thanks for posting it.


  2. LOVE IT! Thanks for being brave enough to share your query. And it sounds like an absolutely fabulous book.

  3. Hi Susanne: I know I always enjoyed reading other query letters so I thought I'd share.

    Hey,Anne: I'm glad you liked it. Hope the book lives up to it! :)