Query for Hans and Greta

notebook-and-pencilSince I’ve recently posted about querying, I thought some of you might be interested in the actual query I sent. I had a lot of help with this, by the way. It took 250 posts total on the online subforum at Absolute Write, called appropriately enough, Query Letter Hell. I’d like to thank everyone again here who helped me with it.

My default query (in the absence of other stated preferences):

In fairy tales, good always triumphs over evil and unhappy children find a loving home. But for Agneta, life is no fairy tale. The Great Depression has stolen her father’s job as an architect, and her mother has sold her soul to a fire-and-brimstone church. Agneta struggles to make their home a safe place for Hans. All she asks is that he be spared the beatings with her mother’s wooden paddle.

After a beating so severe, even their father can’t ignore it, Agneta and Hans take refuge in the nearby foothills. At first their father visits several times a week. Then they see him only on Sunday afternoons. And finally, not at all.

Hungry and alone, the children shiver as the coyotes howl outside their tent.

But then they meet Mr. Dunne, dressed in old-fashioned breeches and coat. No taller than Hans, Mr. Dunne can walk unseen through the town streets. Locks cannot hold him. He helps them build a wattle-and-daub cottage, teaches them to grind acorns, and shows them where to gather berries.

But he can’t bring their father back.

If Agneta wants a happily ever after, she must find the courage to stand up to the mother she still fears. In the real world, sometimes people have to fight for their happy ending.

Hans and Greta is a 118,000 word YA historical fantasy, the first in a series, although it can stand alone.

My short stories have been published in anthologies by Raven International Publishing, Thinkerbeat, and Story Emporium. They have also appeared in the e-zines Every Day Fiction and Fantasia Divinity, and I blog still more on my website. I also have seven other completed novels.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Cathleen Townsend


Sometimes they’d want the intro paragraph to have all the stats for the story, so then I’d move this one to the front:

Hans and Greta is a 118,000 word YA historical fantasy, the first in a series, although it can stand alone.


Then there were a couple sites where I needed a super-short query. They stated that they wanted only a logline followed by six (!) sentences (not including bio). Eek. This is the one I used:

The Great Depression has sent Agneta and Hans’s family into a downward spiral that results in the children being abandoned in the Los Angeles foothills.

At first their father visits several times a week. Then they see him only on Sunday afternoons, and finally, not at all.

Hungry and alone, Agneta and Hans shiver as the coyotes howl outside their tent.

If Agneta wants a happily ever after for her brother, she must find the strength to stand up to the mother she still fears. Mr. Dunne will help them to survive, but he can’t bring their father back.

In the real world, sometimes people have to fight for their happy ending.

(Insert ending paragraphs, word count and bio, here.)


Anyway, I hope this was helpful and/or interesting. I don’t actually have very high hopes, even though I think it’s a pretty good query. The big problem is the word count. Having 118,000 words when most don’t want to risk going over 100k isn’t a very hopeful prospect. And while I’ll cheerfully admit it might be possible to cut more out of it, this is the best that I and some significant beta talent can do for now.

It’s one of those catch-22s. I think I might be able to get it shorter if I had professional editing, but I doubt trade publishers will be interested at the current length.

But I was advised to try querying it on the online writers group I’m a part of, Absolute Write, so I thought I’d give it a shot. I actually have higher hopes for the next novel I’m querying, Bellerophon, since it only has 70,000 words. But I’d love to find a trade publishing home for this one, too.

Avid writer and reader of Faerie tales and noblebright fantasy.

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20 comments on “Query for Hans and Greta
  1. I love that : soemtimes in the real world you have to fight for your happy ending! x

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks. That was a theme that runs through the entire trilogy. πŸ™‚


  3. I wish you success, Cathleen!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks so much, Rachael. πŸ™‚


  5. Sounds like a great story, Cathleen. Thanks for sharing about your querying and best wishes on the results! πŸ™‚


  6. Cathleen, this sounds like an enchanting adventure as well as a coming of age story. I wish you very success.

    Thank you for posting your query. I continue to be stumped by the process, so this is very helpful. I’ll re-read and see what I might adapt to my story, though all my books are quite different from yours. So, no adaptation possible, but I can learn from your achievement.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. As far as using mine as a model, just try to summarize your story in less than 250 words, keeping the focus on the protagonist and using lots of active verbs. (No heroines who sit around on fainting couches waiting for someone to rescue them!) πŸ™‚ You’ll have to trim away all subplots, which is tough.

    Then you run it by people who don’t know the story to see if it makes sense to them. I highly recommend stopping by Absolute Write. You’ll have to join–nobody can see the queries unless they’re a member, and even then it’s password protected, although the password is an open secret, printed above the Share Your Work forum–password vista. Query Letter Hell is part of Share Your Work. It’s well worth going to even if you don’t want to post–you can see many other examples of queries in progress.

    I’m sure there are other ways to get this done, but that was what worked for me. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  8. That was fascinating. I tweak my queries constantly, based on the agent/publisher. I have a basic body and then add/subtract as needed. You’ve inspired me to a few new ideas.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks. I’ve read and critiqued so many queries to acquire even the level of skill I currently have. (I’ve read queries where the writer nails it the very first time, and it just awes me. Definitely not there yet.)

      Glad it was useful. Soon I’ll be able to query Bellerophon, too. I thought it might be fun to follow an author as they query–win or lose. πŸ™‚


  9. My very best wishes to you, Cathleen. Based on what I’ve read, it’s an interesting plot.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Thanks. Execution is everything, of course, and I’m still developing my skills. As the writer, real objectivity is beyond me. But I love the story. πŸ™‚


  11. Might you respond to my Contact Tab? Need to know your preference for something. Please and thanks. We’re cooking now–f.i.n.a.l.l.y.
    letscutthecrap.wordpress.com at upper right hand. Please and thanks? ❀ ❀

    Liked by 1 person

  12. aliciagaile says:

    Sounds like a great story. Best of luck finding a publisher.

    Liked by 1 person

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