Perfect Pitch: Samira Ahmed's Love Hate & Other Filters

Oh, hi there writers!

One question I get asked all the time, is how to craft a good query letter. At conferences. On Twitter. From random acquaintances on Facebook. So, what better way to help querying writers... than to start sharing a couple outstanding examples?

Welcome to my little "Perfect Pitch" series here on the ol' blog, where I'll post query letters from my clients. The queries that hooked me, and the books that sold afterwards.

Samira Ahmed's LOVE HATE & OTHER FILTERS hits bookstores everywhere on January 16th with Soho Teen and January 18th with Hot Key Books in the U.K. She's gearing up for her book launch and her book tour.

And fun fact, all this started with a tweet. And a different title.

Let's check out that query, as well as that tweet. And if you find all this helpful, please pre-order Samira's debut on Amazon, B&N, and IndieBound, and add it on Goodreads. Signed copies with limited edition art are available from Anderson's too.

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First, that tweet!

I love Twitter contests. I spent a lot of time scouring through Beth Phelan's #DVPit and Brenda Drake's #PitMad. And it's hard, trying to master just how to sum up your entire novel in 140 characters (though Twitter does have more now).

Here's the tweet that caught me immediately.

"She wants to make films & kiss boys--her Muslim parents forbid both. Will a terrorist & Islamophobia shatter her dreams? #pitmatch #YA #CON"

Somehow, in that tiny tweet, Samira was able to convey not just the internal stakes for the main character, but the external ones. The emotional turmoil and the very real danger on the outside. We get important character pieces. We know there's romance, we know the character's background, we know her family struggles. In. One. Sentence.

Masterful.

When you're playing along in those kind of pitch contests, try to pack as much as you can in. In that quick blip. You can do it.

Now, the query letter. Because when you do these Twitter contests, you still have to send a traditional query letter. So it's still important to get that query right, because you could still lose the agent's interest with one that's written poorly.

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Dear Mr. Smith,

Thank you for liking our #PitMatch connection! I'm excited to share my query for SWIMMING LESSONS along with the first 50 pages of the manuscript that you will find attached as a Word docx.

Seventeen-year old American-born Maya Aziz lives between worlds. Between the proper world her parents expect for their good Indian Muslim daughter and the one she envisions for herself. Between her small Midwestern town and her dream of going to film school in New York. Between the mundane reality of her every day and her imagination where she gets advice from Ilsa Lund and Holly Golightly. Between her conflicted longing for the Homecoming King and the Suitable Boy.

With the help and humor of her two best friends, Maya navigates a senior year that’s enlivened by teen angst, romance, a bit of magical realism, and swimming lessons at a secret pond—but a suicide bomber disrupts it all.

Told via brief inter-chapters, the aftermath of this act of domestic terrorism has repercussions in Maya's small town, changing her life forever. This intercalary story builds to the bombing and delves into its genesis and aftermath in ways both intimate and profound.

SWIMMING LESSONS, complete at 80,000 words, was one of three finalists for the 2015 Sheehan YA Book Prize. It is a contemporary young adult story, with a whiff of The Love That Split the World meets Quantico, set in a space where cultures collide, where the definitions of self and other are blurred, and where last names can be a threat.

I was born in Bombay, India, and currently live in Chicago. I have also lived in Vermont, New York City, and Kauai, where I spent a year with my husband and two young children searching for the perfect mango. I received my BA and MAT from the University of Chicago and taught high school English for seven years. My creative non-fiction has appeared in Jaggery Lit and Entropy.

Currently, the full manuscript is under consideration by three other agents. I will let you know immediately of any change in status. Thank you for your time and interest.

Best,

Samira Ahmed

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So let's talk about this query and why it's so great, using my favorite "the hook, the book, the cook" query construction:

The Hook: Samira already got me with the hook in the Twitter pitch event, so she didn't need to open with one. However, you'll see her dive into that format later on, when she talks about how long the book is. She shares really unique comp titles, and delivers a kick ass marketing line with "set in a space where cultures collide, where the definitions of self and other are blurred, and where last names can be a threat." I ended up using that while querying the book to editors!

The Book: She sums up the entire novel in three paragraphs, the last of which dishes some interesting notes on the format of the narrative, something that totally sold me the second I started reading the book.

The Cook: And the bio is perfect. Not only does she talk a bit about herself, she digs into her writing. Where her non-fiction has been, the awards this manuscript was nominated for. She's even open with the fact that other agents are reading it.

This, my friends, is perfect pitch.

And again, if you find all this helpful, please pre-order Samira's debut on Amazon, B&N, and IndieBound, and add it on Goodreads. Signed copies with limited edition art are available from Anderson's too.

Win One of Two Sets of Laura Tims' Books For Your School Library

Story time.

Samira Ahmed's LOVE HATE & OTHER FILTERS comes out in two weeks, and I'm just so excited about it. I've told the story a few times, about finding Samira in a Twitter pitch contest. But there was someone in the middle of all that, who pointed me at her.

Well, the person that connected us, is YA author Laura Tims.

She was playing along as "matchmaker" in the pitching event, and thought Samira's book might be up my alley. She was correct. And now, here we are, with a book hitting stores in two weeks.

Now, Laura Tims has two outstanding books out, The Art of Feeling and Please Don't Tell. She writes really fantastic, unique YA contemporary. TAOF is about a teen boy who can't feel anything (like, literally), and a girl who was hurt in an accident, and how they come together. PDT is about a teen girl who murders someone. What! You can learn more about those books via the Amazon pages I linked.

Now, as a thank you for bringing me and Samira together, we're giving away two sets of both of Laura's books to a school library. Maybe you're a teacher with a small library in your classroom, or maybe you're a librarian who could use some new books in your stacks. Or, perhaps you have a teacher / librarian friend, who could use a little surprise.

Well, this giveaway is for you.

Enter the Rafflecopter below (and for those of you who don't really do social media, you can leave a comment about your school library below), and I'll pick two winners the day Samira's book hits. Good luck!

And thank you Laura! (more…)

Win a Bundle of My 2017 Authors Books!

Ah, the end of the year is here.

It was a pretty lovely year agent-wise. A bunch of (announced!) deals, including seven new YA novels, a memoir, a cookbook, and two adult sci-fi and fantasy books, which is making 2018 and 2019 shape up to be really busy. And I'm so proud of my author children.

This year, I had my first three books as an agent come out, and I want to give you a chance to win a bundle of them to read at home!

These Things I've Done by Rebecca Phillips: Came out with HarperTeen in August, and is the story of a teen girl who accidentally kills (!!!) her best friend... and subsequently falls for her best friend's younger brother. It's a story about love and loss, and learning to forgive yourself. Rebecca's second book, The Girl You Thought I Was, comes out with HarperTeen next year.

The Temptation of Adam by Dave Connis: The very first project I sold and published by Sky Pony back in November, it's the story of a teen boy who wrestles with porn addiction, and finds himself discovering new friends in his addiction recovery group, and a chance at redeeming himself on a music-filled roadtrip of self discovery. Dave's second novel, Suggested Reading, will be out in 2019 with Katherine Tegen Books.

Eat Your Feelings by Lindsey Smith: Agent's first cookbook! A gorgeous book that will come out on December 26th with Wednesday Books / St Martin's Press, Lindsey's latest book teaches you how to pair healthy food with heightened emotions. It's a mental health cookbook, and I really think it's going to help a lot of people. You can catch Lindsey on tour all next year.

Love Hate & Other Filters by Samira Ahmed: This book doesn't come out for another four weeks, but here's your chance to win a pre-order (!!!). The story of a teen girl swept up in a wave of Islamophobia when a terrorist attack strikes a nearby city, and the alleged terrorist shares a last name with her family. It's a book full of first love and heartache, and the buzz around it is fierce. Her next book, Mad Bad & Dangerous to Know, will be out with Soho Teen in 2019.

You can enter the Rafflecopter below, and enter by following the authors (and me!), or signing up for my newsletter.

Thanks for a great 2017, everyone!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

International Rights: Spanish Rights to Samira Ahmed's Love Hate & Other Filters to Nuevo Extremo

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Oh my, Samira Ahmed and her debut novel are having a really lovely fall. From the Swedish language sale, to collecting more starred reviews (School Library Journal!), it's been an awesome season.

And there's one more piece of news, before the winter comes. Love Hate & Other Filters has sold into Spanish, and will be published by Nuevo Extremo. They've worked on authors like Romina Russell, Sara Raasch, Kendare Blake, and Michelle Falkoff, so she is in excellent hands

Here's the quick blip from Publisher's Marketplace:

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Go Samira, go!

And don't forget, you can pre-order Love Hate & Other Filters wherever books are sold. Amazon! B&N! IndieBound! You should do that!

Deals: MAD, BAD & DANGEROUS TO KNOW by Samira Ahmed Acquired by Soho Teen

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Let me tell you. It has been such a thrill watching Samira Ahmed and her debut, Love, Hate & Other Filters, find fans in readers, reviewers, and authors in the YA sphere. An important, beautiful book about family, friendship, and fighting against racism, it'll hit bookstores everywhere in January, and Samira is gearing up for some great things.

She's also kept herself busy, preparing for the launch of her book... by writing another one.

And I'm thrilled to say that Samira will be publishing another book with the amazing Soho Teen team in the Fall of 2019!

In MAD BAD & DANGEROUS TO KNOW readers are swept away on a literary mystery on the streets of Paris with Khayyam, a Muslim teen who summers annually with her parents in France, and a teen boy named Alexandre Dumas, who yes, is related to the person he shares a name with.

As they try to unravel the secrets behind the story of cherchez la femme-- a mysterious raven-tressed lady who first appears in letters between the classic author and his friend, the painter Eugène Delacroix, they are wrapped up in questions about poetry, literature, and art. 

And as the mystery surrounding Leila, the girl in the painting, unravels... her story as a Muslim woman living in Paris in the 1840’s is mirrored with Khayyam’s as a Muslim teenager in the present day. And as Khayyam explores a Parisian world full of literature, history, poetry, art, and forbidden love, she wrestles with her feelings for Alexandre… and the boy that may or may not be waiting for her back home.

It's a story about trying to discern truth from fiction, and how the line between the two isn’t always clear, and I'm so excited to see Samira with another book with Soho and legendary editor Daniel Ehrenhaft, who has quickly gone on to become one of my favorite humans. If you don't follow him on Twitter already, fix that.

MAD BAD & DANGEROUS TO KNOW reads like a YA take on Possession by A.S. Byatt, mashed together with The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh and Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell. It's a blend of romance and history, and lovers of literature, poetry, and art will find so much to adore in Samira's latest book.

Here's the blip from Publisher's Weekly:

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Congrats Samira! I can't wait for readers to meet Khayyam and Alexandre.