Posted By on Apr 9, 2010 | 13 comments

Several people have asked me to post the query for AS YOU WISH recently, and I’ve been skirting around it primarily because the book that is AS YOU WISH changed so much from the book that I queried. I don’t want to change anyone’s impressions of the finished product– but then, I also know seeing queries was really helpful to me when I was querying, SO…here it is!

First things first: AS YOU WISH used to be called THERE ARE NO STARS IN CALIBAN, which I had to change 1) Because it was kinda a mouthful and 2) Because it was 2007 and the political climate meant “Caliban” looked way too much like “Taliban” for people’s comfort.
Also, AS YOU WISH was also originally meant to be a much darker book. I was trying to write a gritty paranormal romance, not a semi-light magical love story.*

With all that said, here’s my original query:

Dear Agent-person:

I am writing to inquire if you would be interested in my young adult urban fantasy/paranormal romance novel, THERE ARE NO STARS IN CALIBAN, due to your stated interest in the young adult genre (that line changed according to the agent’s sales and whatnot– I always tried to mention a book they’d sold recently). A brief overview follows:

Seven months ago, Viola’s boyfriend told her he was gay—moments before she was going to lose her virginity to him. Heartbroken, she’s thrown herself into a crush on Aaron, the charmer of her high school’s junior class. Viola has resigned herself to near invisibility, until she inadvertently summons a young jinn out of his world, Caliban, and into her own. Here he will remain until she makes three wishes.

Jinn is anxious to get back to Caliban, but Viola is terrified of wishing, afraid her wishes will be manipulated into curses. Jinn knows that should she wait too long, the Ifrit, guardians of earthbound jinn, will press her to wish by hurting those around her. As they spend time together, Jinn can’t deny that he’s slowly falling in love with Viola, blurring the lines between master and servant. It’s only after Viola makes her first wish—for Aaron to love her—that she realizes the feelings are mutual.

With every wish Jinn’s time with her diminishes, but the longer she waits to wish the greater danger she’s in from the Ifrit. Together, Viola, Jinn, and Viola’s ex-boyfriend try to outwit the Ifrit while dealing with their own romantic complexities and the alcohol-laced high school social scene.

While the novel contains topics aimed at the older young adult audience these are not the focus of the text, nor are they gratuitously present—at heart, this is a love story. Written in alternating first person narratives of the two protagonists (Viola and Jinn), THERE ARE NO STARS IN CALIBAN is complete at 44,000 words.

This was my second ride on the Query Boat– I’d unsuccessfully queried a novel called THE KEYBEARER the previous year. What kind of sucks about querying is that you only get better by practicing it– and yet, you don’t WANT to practice it because you want the first query to get you an agent/publisher.

Here are a few things that, in retrospect, I wish I’d known about queries:

1) Sit on the letter for at least a week. I know, it’ll be awful, you want to query NOW. But trust me. Wait at least a week. It’s just seven days, and you’ll decide to change all sorts of things in seven days.
2) Short and sweet and to the point is always better. For example: Lawrence is a HUGE character in AS YOU WISH, but he barely got a mention in the query.
3) Think of the query like a movie trailer, complete with big-fancy-voice-narration-guy reading my query aloud.
4) Read the query aloud to make sure there are no clunky sentences.
5) Remember that above all else, a query is an advertisement.

I also think it’d be great practice to write fake queries for books that are already out– pick your favorite book and see if you can make it sound as great as it really is. Also (I know I’ve linked it before, but I’ll link it again!) check out Saundra Mitchell’s entry on The Fine Art of Writing Blurbs. It is fantastic. I still refer to it on a regular basis. Saundra knows her stuff about blurbs, seriously. Plus she is super cool and almost always answers my emails that say things like HEY WHAT ARE YOU DOING I’M BORED GET ONLINE NOW THX.

Blurbs + Constant Email Answering. What more could I want?

*Why did AS YOU WISH not ultimately end up as a dark, gritty romance? Because it just…um…isn’t. I was trying to force something onto the story that just wasn’t there.


  1. Thank you so much for posting this. As an aspiring author, I always love reading published authors’ query letters and seeing the insight they offer.

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    • Thanks Jackson! I’ve been editing my query for two weeks & I love your books! Were you okay with 44,000 words? My YA is currently 50,000 which I know can be awkward.

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  2. Thanks for this, Jackson! I’m taking a break from editing next month to work on my query, and as DJ said it’s always nice to see queries that worked. 🙂

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  3. FASCINATING!! And thank you so much for posting this. Is it weird that I’m not *too* scared of writing the query? I always write a short synopsis and blurb of all of my WIPs during the writing process, which has helped me become less intimidated by the whole querying process (which I haven’t even started yet), but seeing published authors’ query letters is very, very helpful.

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  4. Thanks for posting your query letter, I love reading successful ones. I wish I’d thought of sitting on a query letter for a week. I sent one out the other day and completely forgot to thank the agent for their time *face palm*

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  5. Thank you so much for posting this. I find it extremely helpful to see a query that’s been successful off a book I’ve read and I genre I want to publish in. It’s really appreciated by all the aspiring authors out there!

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  6. Interesting! I love seeing successful queries.

    Is AYW really only 44k words? How much did it grow after you wrote your query? I don’t remember the novel feeling that short.

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  7. Ah, thanks so much for your advice! I’m the girl who emailed you a couple days ago with questions and I totally forgot to ask about query letters so this was infinitely helpful. I just hit the 34,000 word mark on my current novel so I’m getting closer to the point where I can start looking for agents since the official novel count is 40,000 words or more. Your advice is invaluable so please continue to give it whenever you can.

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  8. Thanks for posting this, Jackson. It’s definitely going to come in handy for me in the next few months!

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  9. Thanks for sharing! It’s nice to see an ACTUAL query letter sometimes, instead of just random tips. 😀

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  10. Lol…lucky for me it turned into “a semi-light magical love story,” because I like those a lot. ^_^

    Thanks for posting the query letter, btw; I’m always on the lookout for writing/publishing tips and whatnot.

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