Jun 27, 2011

Query- Sex, Drugs and the SATs: Getting out of High School and Getting in to College

Ginger Cobb and Kathleen Glynn-Sparrow
[Street Address]
[City, ST Zip Code]

March 10, 2011

[Recipient Name]
[Company Name]
[Street Address]
[City, ST ZIP Code]

If the baby books had told us that one day we would have to talk to our teenager about sex, drugs, and the SATs, we would have used birth control! Teenagers today text instead of talk, twitter instead of chatter and blog instead of blab. So how do we communicate with them about two key life journeys: getting out of high school and getting into college?

Sex, Drugs and the SATs: Getting out of High School and Getting in to College is not only based on research, but also, real-life experience. The advice here is culled from a combined thirty-five years of practical hands-on experience with teenagers and parents. We have worked day to day with teenagers and know they come with problems in all shapes and sizes; there is no one -size -fits -all solution when it comes to raising teenagers. From putting a party-gone-bad plan into place to crafting a clever college essay, this book will give parents savvy solutions to surviving the teenage years.

Ginger Walsh Cobb holds a B.A. in English from Denison University and an M.A. in Private School Leadership from Columbia University. Currently, Ginger is finishing her 18th year at St. Andrew’s Episcopal School in Potomac, Maryland. As Dean of Students, she educates students and their families about the following: drug and alcohol use, stress, harassment, abuse, internet safety, relationships and depression.
Kathleen Glynn-Sparrow holds a B.A. from Duke University and a M.Ed. from Emory University. Previously, Kathleen served as Director of College Counseling at St. Andrew’s Episcopal School in Potomac, MD. Currently, she is the Chair of the English Department at Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart in Bethesda, MD. She also runs The College Coaches, a counseling service which guides families through the college process. Kathleen has counseled students from prestigious college preparatory schools all over the Washington, D.C. area.
We have enclosed a Table of Contents and a few chapters. Thank you for your consideration.
Ginger Cobb and Kathleen Glynn-Sparrow
[Contact Information]


yankinfrance said...

Not sure why you bothered posting this here, this reads just great. Can't understand why an agent wouldn't leap at it.

GLJ said...

I have never written a proposal for non-fiction, so I don't know any of the rules/advice for this type of letter. This is just my reaction.

The second paragrap seems to waste time telling the reader that the book is gleaned from real-world experience. This isn't necessary. Your qualifications tell this story. And it is implied.

I would suggest that giving the reader a little taste of the topics might be more engaging, such as how to resist peer pressure. What do you tell a teen who is being pressured to drink? What plan or plans do you discuss for fending off pressure to have sex?

As a parent, I knew the potential danger spots before my kids became teenagers. What would be helpful would be ideas and suggestions as to HOW to address the various potential problems.

Anonymous Author said...

I don't get what this book is about. What is a party-gone-bad plan?

I'm a novelist, Jim, not a school counselor, but I think there's a format for nonfiction submissions and that it involves stuff like outlines.

At the beginning of this query, I thought you were writing as parents. Later I see from your qualifications that you're writing as education professionals.

While the bio is much more important in nonfiction than in fiction, you still need more here about the book. I think on the rewrite, you should try for two paragraphs about the book, and just one paragraph about your qualifications for writing it.

Rick Daley said...

If you are going to query by email you don't need the formal letter headers, you can just open with Dear Agent.

I've seen very few non-fiction queries. What strikes me best for this one is your sets of credentials.

The description of the book doesn't read poorly, and I'm not well enough versed in that genre to judge if it will stand out in the crowd.

Anonymous Author said...

No, it doesn't read poorly, but there needs to be more of it. I think that some of what's in the authors' bios is meant to tell us what's in the book, but it's a little confusing. The list of all the things that the authors have helped kids deal with sounds like it's meant to be what the book's about, but then the description of the book itself is...

Well, I'm looking over this, and it's really limited to the last sentence of the second paragraph.

The writing style is very slick and there's a lot of voice here, but I'm pretty sure there needs to be more about the book.

yankinfrance said...

Interesting reactions. To me, this one really seemed a no-brainer: I immediately had the sense I knew what kind of book they were pitching (perhaps because I've read a fair share of parenting books).

The writing captures a certain breeziness of tone, does not get bogged down in the details (which I appreciated -- that's what the table of contents and sample chapters are for, since this is a non-fiction proposal).

I had almost added a caveat about the authors' bio section, since it reads like a huge block of text (there's a missing paragraph break). And I didn't bother pointing out the superfluous header info.

Perhaps there's room for an additional paragraph before the bio section, which provides some actual examples from the book as to what various chapters handle. But for me that's not wholly necessary.

Now that I'm reading it again, though, I'd quibble with the "there is no one-size-fits-all solution" line, which seems self-defeating (and obvious anyway). By eliminating this sentence, the pitch becomes stronger, I feel.

If nothing else, at least these authors appear capable of writing properly. A rare thing these days, to judge from most of the queries I've read!

Alexander Field said...

Great query, strong writing, good credentials.

I only wondered how this book would stand out amidst the glut of other books on the same topic. What is the unique ANGLE or HOOK that will help it rise above other teen/college prep/talk to your kids about sex and drugs books out there? Also, some parents (and publishers) might wonder what to do with a party-gone-bad plan. Might not be a good selling point for parents.

Anonymous said...

I get that the authors are trying to be cute/funny with the opening line, but as a parent I found it condescending. It also implies a tone and approach that does not appeal to me (I am a smart person, I don't want to be talked down to. I also realized before having a child that there would be challenges throughout and find it insulting to imply that I didn't think past the baby years.). I'd stop reading there.

I was confused by what this book is actually offering. What is the focus? It states that there is 'no one way' yet it implies an approach that the authors take and it seems to cover a vast array of topics (which isn't necessarily bad if presented well). Also the "party gone bad" made no sense. Are you trying to tell parents how to throw their teenager a party?

I did like the qualifications. Clearly the authors have a lot of experience working with teenagers which is a huge plus.

However, what is the focus of this book? It seems to be an 'everything but the kitchen sink' book. How will this be marketed and to who? As another poster mentioned, what makes this book unique?

Best of luck.

Rowenna said...

I agree with GLJ--I'm still not sure what this book addresses, exactly. And with Alexander--what's the unique facet or angle that's going to make this stand out? The line about teenagers' problems not having "one size fits all" solutions bugged me--not because you're not right, but because, if that's true, what does your book have to offer? Is it a set of flexible plans and approaches? I didn't quite get that.

What's a party gone bad plan?

And I have to confess that the "getting out of high school and getting into college" theme sounded a lot more like a teen's goal than a parent's. Why the heck is a parent getting advice on how to write a killer college essay? That's the teen's job. It's only one example, but it really turned me off the book.

I'd take some time to really get at the heart of what's different and unique about your book. If I were a parent of a teenager, why would I pick your book over any other parenting book out there? While your credentials are impressive, you still need that element of what the book has to offer.

Anonymous said...

I had trouble engaging with the intro. Mainly because the majority of teenagers aren't in the 'middle class' arena of getting out of high school and achieving college. The ones I work with are trying to survive low rate pay jobs.

'So how do we communicate with them about two key life journeys: getting out of high school and getting into college?'

I think you are narrowing your target market here. The next paragraph reads better and appeals to a wider audience. I'd cut back the credentials and focus on the crux of the novel.

So far, it seems a bit light on content, and focused on a small segement of the popualtion. Teenagers are hard work. Perhaps focus on that line and you'll reach more parents who need help.