The Query Letter

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Randy’s Note:  The following query letter about my memoir resulted in two manuscript requests from NY literary agents.  If you intend to follow the traditional publishing route, check the specific query guidelines listed on an agent’s website.

Dear

Your representation of nonfiction writers in the areas of  health, wellness, and spirituality sounds like a match for Out of the Inferno:  A Husband’s Journey with Breast Cancer (77,000 words).  The memoir tells the story of my fifteen years as a caregiver for Laurene, my deceased wife, and about my new life beyond her death.  

To insure the accuracy of Laurene’s medical history, I worked extensively with Linda Yarger, the top medical librarian at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.  She has written the following blurb, and looks forward to recommending the book to cancer patients at the clinic (15,000 outpatients per day).  

“Can a husband find meaning in life’s journey when his wife’s breast cancer takes center stage ? Randy Evans bares his soul and shares his and Laurene’s story and the aftermath of that story in this very engaging book.  He combines down home Texas culture with a running commentary on lessons learned, all within the context of a trip through hell (Dante’s Inferno).  But he continues on, out of hell, and into a new life.  A powerful story.”

The book will appeal to men and women who deal with people who have chronic illnesses, or care for these people.  This includes 8 million Americans who are disabled, and another 34 million with serious illness, not to mention their caregivers (National Center for Health Statistics, 2014). The book contains a mix of love stories, local Texas color, and in depth looks at the inside of cancer support groups.  The thousands of cancer support groups in the US and Canada will be another target audience—1.7 million new cases of cancer a year, and 233,000 of this total are women diagnosed with breast cancer (American Cancer Society, 2014). 

Health care professionals and the cancer research community will also be interested in my descriptions of the different orientations of African American, Latina, and white women who live with breast cancer. The book should also have appeal beyond North America, especially for its multicultural perspective. 

There are very few grief memoirs written from a man’s point of view, and women will be especially interested in this perspective.  Also, men who have spouses or partners with cancer will want to read this book.  Comparable titles by male authors would include Grace and Grit by Ken Wilbur, a compelling love story of a couple dealing with cancer, but a bit academic and dry, and Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis, a coldly analytical book about faith in the wake of a spouse’s death.  Both books are difficult to read, because of style, depth, and content.  Joan Didion’s two bestselling memoirs, The Year of Magical Thinking, and Blue Nights, are closest to my manuscript in mood, tone, and feeling.   

The book’s thirty-four chapters each begin with a relevant quote from a contemporary translation of Dante’s Inferno, and each chapter ends with a practical lesson learned that should be of immediate use to readers.  More than anything, the memoir is filled with the stories and actions of lived experience—our the emotional ups and downs, successes and setbacks, hopes and disappointments.  

I hold a Ph.D in psychology from Saybrook University in San Francisco.  The Zig-Zag Road:  A Multiethnic Study of Breast Cancer Survivor Quality of Life, was published by ProQuest Information and Learning Compant in 2007.  I have also earned an MBA in Finance from Columbia University, and a BA in English Literature, Phi Beta Kappa, from Ohio University.  My business career has included corporate officer positions at Compaq Computer and Intuit, Inc. 

In addition to the dissertation, my short stories and poems have been published in several literary magazines, including Bear River Review, Walloon Writers Review, and Whiskey Island Magazine.  NPR’s “This I Believe Project” published one of my essays.  I have also written and published journal articles for business publications, including Compensation, Quality Magazine, and Grid Organization Development.  I have presented to audiences with over a thousand people in attendance, and have recently read excerpts from my work in smaller settings up to eighty people.  I also give readings on the first Monday of each month at Red Sky Stage, a local venue for musicians and writers.

I live in northern Michigan with Denise, my wife, and Lizzie, our English Setter.  We have five daughters, and eight grandchildren.  In addition to writing, I teach developmental psychology to nursing students at a nearby community college.  I also mentor at-risk high school students and volunteer at our regional food pantry.  

I will be happy to send you more material.  In addition to the manuscript, I have a synopsis, chapter outline, and marketing plan. 
Please represent me.

Sincerely,

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