Remember the old Life cereal commercial? “Mikey likes it!”? Here it is again.

If Mikey likes it, it’s got to be good.

Well, in memoir query critique, if Marla Miller likes it, the same is true. She’s a tough critic, but kind. And she’s seen a lot of query letters in her role as columnist for The Writer magazine. You’ve met her here before in four previous posts. Now she has gathered all her memoir critiques in one YouTube location.

Her last memoir query critique got two thumbs up! Watch below:

What have you learned about memoir by watching Marla? What else would you like to know from her? She’s generously answered questions here before. I’m sure she will again. Don’t you just love Mikey? Wasn’t it fun to see him again?

You can learn a lot about what grabs and keeps an agent’s attention by watching Marla Miller critique query letters. Often she makes substantive revision suggestions. Here are a few Marla liked. Watch and learn:

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Shirley Showalter


  1. Gutsy Living on November 23, 2011 at 3:56 pm

    Thanks Shirley and Marla. I attended this query pitch and also thought the query letter hooked me to read her memoir.
    I have to say I’m finding that queries that reflect the personality and authenticity of the writer, are often the best ones, despite the rules that you often find in books. In other words, the more “Gutsy” queries, seem to hook agents, as long as there is substance to back them up. Thanks Marla and Shirley.

    • shirleyhs on November 23, 2011 at 4:03 pm

      So true, Sonia! That’s why I love your brand. Gutsy Writer, Gutsy Woman!

      The query writer in this video sounds Gutsy too. Maybe you can interview her some day on your blog. Loved the humor and the distinctive voice.

  2. marla miller on November 23, 2011 at 5:34 pm

    Sonia, so true–The anthem writers live by ‘Show Don’t Tell’ begins with the query. ‘Showing’ the writer’s voice in the query –along with a good story hook–pops it up above ‘query letter’ noise. When I hear the voice telling his/her tale, I really listen..and so does Shirley…and so do agents & editors.
    I’ve asked this particular writer to stay in touch-I have no doubt, her story will get out here—-one way or the other—-another writer-ly trait good to have—persistence–and you can hear it in this writer’s query..she has it.
    Good stuff here, Shirley & thank you MUCH for posting my ‘Memoir’ query critique video channel—a good place to learn more about that confounding query letter…:)
    Happy Thanksgiving, Shirley & all who visit her rockin’ site.
    Marla &

  3. Grace on November 24, 2011 at 4:17 am

    As a visual person, i would like to have seen the letter as Marla was reading it. Thank you for posting this.

  4. shirleyhs on November 26, 2011 at 12:58 am

    Grace, I think the posts on The Writer site have written texts. I agree it would be great to see the actual page. Any comment, Marla?

  5. Ange on December 13, 2011 at 6:56 pm

    Do you know what books Marla has sold to commercial publishers? I know about her nonfiction one to S&S back in ’99, but have there been any other sales, esp in fiction? Also have any of the queries she critiqued been picked up by publishers?

    • shirleyhs on December 14, 2011 at 3:40 pm

      Hi, Ange,

      Marla can answer this question better than I can, but I do know she has been teaching book marketing and query letter writing for many years at the Santa Barbara Writer’s Conference and at Writer’s Digest magazine. She also knows agents, publishers, and published authors. I attended her sessions at SBWC for two years and learned a lot.

      Marla, hope you chime in!

      • marla miller on December 14, 2011 at 4:12 pm

        thanks shirley-I’m being snarked—this could be one of them–they say i should not be offering quick query critiques nor should i be selling anything—they say i am picking writers’ pockets and am a fraud–they have a forum thread that’s now about 30 pages long of defaming stuff about me—‘they’re getting me good’—-very hurtful what these forums can do–
        thank you for putting up with this here…:)

      • Ange on December 15, 2011 at 6:29 pm

        Thank you Shirleyhs for your reply.

        I wanted to know more. But judging by the reply below, it appears my questions are not welcome by Marla. My heavens! I’m taken aback by her reaction. Was I insulting or prodding too much? I thought they were legitimate, polite questions. If someone is “snarking” her, imo she shouldn’t be taking it out on other people like this. What a disappointment.

  6. shirleyhs on December 15, 2011 at 7:55 pm

    Ange, I hope Marla will come back to answer your questions. Your questions were polite and do deserve a response. I’m sorry for the surprise to you. I’ve never been flamed before, but I know it happens and can be very painful.

    • Ange on December 15, 2011 at 8:27 pm

      I understand, but I hope she understands her reaction… grace under fire… counts for a lot esp to an outside observer. Hostility plus hostility just equals more hostility. If what I said was seen as hurtful and worthy of such unfriendliness then goodness gracious what does she consider snarking?

      Thank you again for your kindness. I’m still on the fence, leaning to the other side. Your politeness is the reason I’m trying to give Mrs.Miller the benefit of the doubt she’s having a bad day.

    • marla miller on December 16, 2011 at 1:51 am

      Shirley-my apologies to you and your subscribers-
      to ange, please email me at -we can discuss ur grievances against me there.
      thank you.

      • Ange on December 16, 2011 at 8:37 pm

        Mrs. Miller, I had no grievances with you… past tense. I asked a couple of reasonable questions I’ve asked others in publishing. I did not insult you or say anything “hurtful” but you responded to my genuine interest with hostility. It was at that point I did have a grievance with you.

        Shirley’s faith in you kept me from writing you off as a rude person. Maybe you were having a bad day and lashed out without thinking. Time has passed, but you remain aggressive and dismissive. I will not be emailing you where you can insult me in private with accusations of “snarking”. Very sorry to Shirley for what I’m about to say cuz I know she values your opinion, but if this is how you treat people interested in you or your services… no thank you. I hope others see this exchange and are as appalled as I am.

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