History of a query

I was digging through my querying files this week and guess what I found?

The very first query I ever sent out for The House of a Thousand Dolls.  

Do you want to see it?

*pretends to hear clapping and applause*

found at www.nma.gov.au

Oh good, I was hoping you'd would!

The date on this query is January 31st, 2009.
Dear Awesome Agent,
In the Sagitarian Empire the sky is always gray, there are creatures who can turn from animal to human in the blink of an eye, and everyone knows exactly where they belong.
Everyone except Katrin.
Katrin Satogo was left at the Houses of a Thousand Dolls at the age of seven. The Houses are an old and complex institution where orphaned girls of lower castes are taken and trained to be the wives of upper caste men. Too old to be groomed like the other girls, Katrin has spend her life on the outskirts. But now she's seventeen. If she doesn't find someone to hire or marry her at the yearly Redeeming ceremony, she'll be turned out of the Houses, or worse, sold.
When Katrin finds out that three girls have died suspicious deaths, she strikes a bargain with Matron, the head of the Houses. If she finds the killer before the Redeeming, the Houses will set her up in a trade. To solve the crimes, Katrin gathers some unlikely help: a half-human, half-fox warrior, a nameless assassin, and a tribe of sarcastic, mind-speaking cats.
But missteps in the Houses are as easy as wearing the wrong robe, and hidden anger simmers under the ginger-scented air. And when Katrin accuses the wrong person, events spiral out of her control....
The Houses of a Thousand Dolls is young adult fantasy and the complete manuscript, 50,000 words, is available for your review. I discovered your enjoyable blog through (famous author) blog and have found it very informative.
Thank you for your time and consideration.

Oh, the awkwardness! The culturally inappropriate names!  The confusing info dump in the third paragraph!  o_0

This query got me a couple of partial requests, but the vast majority were form rejections. So I worked on it. A year later, this is what my query looked like:

Dear Most Awesome Agent,
Nisha Arvi grew up in the Sagittarian Empire, a casteless orphan in a strict class society. Raised by the Houses of a Thousand Dolls, but never one truly one of them, Nisha is facing an uncertain future.
When a body is found in one of the House fountains, and Nisha learns that other girls have met mysterious deaths, she strikes a deal with the Matron. If she finds the killer, she’ll have a chance at a life outside the Houses. If she fails, she’ll be sold as a slave.
But mistakes in the Houses are as easy as wearing the wrong robe to dinner. And when Nisha begins to suspect her friend Mara, she risks losing not only her freedom, but everyone she’s ever loved.
The Houses of a Thousand Dolls is a 50,000 word young adult fantasy, set in a world based strongly on Southeast Asian culture and lore.  I have enclosed the first five pages for your review.
Thank you for your time and consideration

This one is smoother, but I think it leaves out a lot of what makes the book unique and doesn't give a good sense of the voice. Which may have been why I got nothing at this stage but form rejections and silence.

found at shopper.com
*sound of cricket chirping*

So I reworked it again AND rewrote the book. And almost exactly two years after I started querying, I wrote this letter.
Dear Ms. Laughran,
Nisha Arvi is a casteless orphan in an empire where caste and tradition are as unchanging as the roof of gray sky above her head. The only exception is the Houses of a Thousand Dolls, an estate where abandoned girls are trained to be anything from assassins to courtesans to nobleman’s wives.
Nisha is not so lucky. When she finds out that the Houses want to sell her as a slave, and also that they are hiding a series of mysterious deaths among the girls, Nisha makes a desperate bargain. If she can find the killer, she’ll have a chance at a caste and a future.
But it won't be easy, because in the Houses of a Thousand Dolls missteps are as easy as wearing the wrong robe. And when Nisha suspects her best friend of the murders, she puts both of their futures in jeopardy.
The Houses of a Thousand Dolls is a 57,000 word young adult fantasy based on East Asian (it's actually South Asian. Oops...) culture and lore. I queried you partly because I know you are the agent for Magic Under Glass by Jackie Dolamore, and I thought you might be interested in another multicultural fantasy. I also queried you because I follow you on Twitter and have a bit of a pet-crush on Moxie. :)
I have enclose the first ten pages as per your submission guidelines. The whole manuscript is available upon request.
Thank you for your time and consideration,

Jenn was impressed enough by the query and the pages to ask for a full and the rest....

found at thechangeblog.com

found at flickr.com

artwork by Rob Smith Jr. found at robsmithjr.com

...well the rest is history.

I could try to pull a lesson out of this, maybe something about always trying to be better and never giving up, but I'm having too much fun googling celebration pictures. So I'll let you do it.

What do YOU think?

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