Tuesday, December 8, 2009

QUERY CRITIQUES WOOOO

Dear XYZ:

In a world with two socially divided classes, made up of genetically-enhanced "gens" and the now substandard bio-originals, or "subs", the classes clash. 

Ruby is a circus star ordered to train on the flying trapeze. She’s appalled to find her partner-to-be, Jobe, is a sub. Everyone knows that subs are incompetent; putting your life in one of their hands means certain death.

Jonah is a sub with a whole different set of problems. He travels to the circus hoping to find solutions. Instead, he finds complications; he finds Ruby. He's drawn to Ruby the first moment he sees her, undeniably attracted to someone who undeniably hates him, and all like him.

CONTORTED is a love story set in a futuristic world where a new kind of class division makes that love forbidden. Written in alternating points of view, the complexity of discrimination is presented by characters on opposite sides of the issue. CONTORTED is complete at 75,000 words.

I chose to submit this novel for your consideration because XYZ.

I have pasted the first pages of my manuscript below per your submission guidelines. I am prepared to send the full manuscript or synopsis if desired. I would like to note that this is a simultaneous submission.

I am a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators as well as an active member of the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis, MN. At the Loft, I have taken classes from such people as Andrew Karre of Carolrhoda and Brian Farrey of Flux. I attended the Big Sur Children’s Writing Workshop in December 2008, the Loft’s Festival of Children’s and Young Adult Literature in April 2009, and the SCBWI Conference in LA in August 2009.

Thank you for taking the time to consider representing my work. I look forward to hearing from you. 

Sincerely,

ZYX


I think the problem here is length—you've got a 300-word-plus query, which isn't a humongous problem, but it is indicative of a letter that could use some trimming. And yours could.

Your second paragraph is great: full of action, directly to the point, wham bam bam. Excellent. The first and third really linger where they don't need to. And the additional summary after the summary isn't necessary; it's just telling what you've already shown.

Jonah's paragraph takes a lot of words but gives us no new information beyond his attraction to Ruby. It could benefit from some strong specifics—give us his problem and his solution, and show us how Ruby gets in the way. I think the “and all like him” is a bit awkward, too, since at first read it's unclear if “like” is a verb or not (clearly it's not, but whatever, I STUMBLED OK??)

Beyond that, I'd like to see more of what the gens and subs have to do with Ruby and Jonah's individual cases. Is she genetically-enhanced to be a good trapeze artist? Anything like that would be a sweet tidbit to throw into that already tight 2nd para—just don't mess up the great flow!

(also, no need to say it's a sim. sub. They assume for queries.)

Here's my rewrite:

Dear XYZ:
In CONTORED, a YA novel from two viewpoints, Ruby and Jonah clash in a new kind of class war between the genetically-enhanced "gens" and the now substandard bio-originals, or "subs.” Ruby is a circus star ordered to train on the flying trapeze. She’s appalled to find her partner-to-be, Jobe, is a sub. Everyone knows that subs are incompetent; putting your life in one of their hands means certain death.

Jonah is a sub with a whole different set of problems. He travels to the circus hoping to find solutions (here's where we need some more specifics). Instead, he finds a complication: Ruby. He's drawn to Ruby the first moment he sees her, undeniably attracted to someone who undeniably hates him.

CONTORTED is complete at 75,000 words.

I chose to submit this novel for your consideration because XYZ.

I have pasted the first pages of my manuscript below per your submission guidelines. I am prepared to send the full manuscript or synopsis if desired.

I am a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators as well as an active member of the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis, MN. At the Loft, I have taken classes from such people as Andrew Karre of Carolrhoda and Brian Farrey of Flux. I attended the Big Sur Children’s Writing Workshop in December 2008, the Loft’s Festival of Children’s and Young Adult Literature in April 2009, and the SCBWI Conference in LA in August 2009.

Thank you for taking the time to consider representing my work. I look forward to hearing from you. 

Sincerely,



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Dear Agent:

What happens when four teens become entangled in a love square?

Kyle is afraid of love. He does not want anything to do with girls. However, when Rosabelle, the girl he liked growing up, and he become friends again after the end of their friendship in seventh grade, he finds he is starting to fall for her all over again.

Rosabelle has a boyfriend, Chase. They have been dating for one year. Now that Kyle and her are friends again, she realizes the feelings she had for him throughout her life had never left her all this time.

Chase is madly in love with Rosabelle. He never wants to lose her, so he warns and fights other boys he sees as competition, but he keeps this a secret from Rosabelle. When he sees that Rosabelle is friends with Kyle, he struggles with himself not to fight him.

Jeanette is Rosabelle’s best friend. Her own secret is her love for Chase. She is jealous of her best friend that has a perfect life, a perfect GPA, and the perfect boyfriend. She wants to be something more than the most popular girl’s best friend.

As junior year progresses, conflicts threaten to break apart old friendships and relationships. It's their choice to break free from old bonds or to stay in their current situations. But both sides of the decision have their positives and negatives. And if they're not careful, all four of them could walk out of this brokenhearted.

I am seeking representation for my multiple-perspective young adult romance novel, LOVE SQUARE, complete at 75000 words. I have a synopsis and the full manuscript available upon request.

Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,

Karla

This query is very clear, but it lacks voice. Voice is so huge in YA, and it's really what's going to set your manuscript apart.

Unless your manuscript is told in a very plainspoken, adult, un-nuanced voice, don't write your query in that way.

I'm sure you've heard how many agents hate rhetorical questions (hey there, Nathan!). Personally, I'm not bothered by them a bit, but it's something to keep in mind.

I'm not going to rewrite this because I don't know the voice of your novel, but I'm going to suggest that, for an experiment, you write the query in first person. Switch 1st person narrators for each paragraph as you switch from character to character. Then go back and switch it back into 3rd, but see if you can keep some of each character's spunk in the transition. Cool?


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Dear Agent:

Princess Sadie might have a face that can enchant a crowd, but a goddess wants her head. 

When Sadie receives a prophecy that she must marry a creature even the gods fear, she’s sure that Venus is finally taking her revenge. Sadie has no idea that her intended groom is really Venus’s handsome son, Cupid, who intends to wed Sadie without Venus finding out. Following a wedding procession more appropriate for a funeral, Sadie is left on a hilltop, swept away by the West Wind, greeted by invisible servants, and ends up married to a man whose only visible feature is his enchanting blue eyes. Then, as if overnight, Sadie finds her fear washed away by the unexpected kindness of her new husband. 

As she spends her evenings recounting every detail of her life to the most doting man she’s ever met, Sadie succumbs to the contented bliss of love. That is, until her jealous sisters convince Sadie she’s been tricked by the monster foretold in the prophecy and killing him is her only escape.

When Sadie nearly kills her beloved and, in doing so, learns his true identity, she realizes too late all she has thrown away. Cupid flees, forcing Sadie to journey alone through Greece and come face-to-face with Venus if she wants to reclaim his immortal love. On her road to redemption, Sadie finds the strength to take on the gods and challenges the ancient adage: you cannot escape what is destined.

Complete at 94,000 words, “Destined” is a YA historical romance novel and a modernized retelling of Greece’s most captivating love story, that of Cupid and Psyche. I am a member of SCBWI and was a classical studies major in college. 

As per your submission guidelines, I am enclosing the first ten pages of the novel with this e-mail. Thank you in advance for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you and hopefully working with you.

Sincerely, 
JLH

Definitely a well-written query, but I think there's also a bit of a voice problem. I'm really familiar with the story of Eros (if you're saying this is Greek, make sure you use Eros, not Cupid; Cupid is the Roman name) and Psyche, so I was reading this going “okay, okay, this is Eros/Psyche...what's the difference?”

I need to see exactly how this is a modernized retelling, because right now it just feels like you're telling me the story of Eros and Psyche. I think voice could be your savior, here—if the query sounded more modern, I'd be more inclined to believe you.

I'm worried that “historical” and “modernized retelling” might be a contradiction in terms, too. Make believe this really is modern and really is different from the original! Show how you're different.

I'd suggest ending the query at “killing him is her only escape” and using the space you save from deleting the last paragraph to add uniqueness to your query. I'd also restructure the query to edit out most of the mentions of Venus—keep it focused on Sadie/Cupid's drama and save Venus for the book.


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Dear [Agent Name],

The year is 1985, and seventeen-year old artistic genius Anna Sokolowska struggles to balance a growing artistic obsession with what is a consistently violent father-daughter relationship. 

Her father’s unexpected disappearance and a chance opportunity to attend a prestigious art conference force Anna to make a decision: Her obligation lies in providing for her mentally fragile mama, but her desire is to take a chance and risk joining the ranks of the famous, freeing herself in the process. Her decision will determine not only her future, but that of her mother and brother, as well as the boy that might just be her savior.

WHERE THE DOVES FLY is a 76,000-word literary YA, marked by the culturally unique 1980s Poland. I'm querying you because [of XYZ].

I’ve been published in New Moon, Teen Ink, Alive, and multiple Creative Communications anthologies, and I currently write for Pol-Am, Minnesota’s Polish-American newsletter. I also serve on a sub-council of Minneapolis' Loft Literary Center and have interned with acquisitions editor Brian Farrey of Flux.

Thank you for your consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,
WJ

The wording in this query is pretty awkward--”what is a consistely violent father-daughter relationship” reads clunky (how about “her consistently violent relationship with her father”?)--and the “force her to make a decision” construction is overused.

I feel like this story is so cool but I'm not seeing any of it because it's tied up in the language. 1980s Poland is so entirely wicked cool and it's SO interesting, but I'm not seeing anything unique in your query. Family obligations, main character with a talent, a boy.

I'm going to suggest rewriting this. Don't make it pretty, make it very plain and clear and make it focus on the parts of the story that make it really interesting. Show us what about this story was cool enough to make you write it.


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Dear Agent:

THE BEAST'S APPRENTICE is a YA steampunk re-telling of "Beauty and the Beast," complete at 95,000 words.

Growing up, Faye had no interest in her mother's bedtime fairy tales, as all her time were spent trying to keep herself and her ailing mother alive on the cold and ruthless streets of London. She never imagined that one day, she would have to seek help from the Beast, a vain and prickly creature who cares only for himself. If given the choice, she would rather die of starvation and frostbite than to do menial work as an apprentice in his rundown and dangerous mansion.

However, the Beast needs to have his curse broken before the winter passes, and Faye needs his magical expertise to stage a revenge on her father, the cause of her mother's death. Their bargain: Faye will find him his true love and he will teach her enough magic to topple her father's prosperous magical artifacts and potions business. It is the perfect arrangement.

The arrangement slowly crumbles, however, as Faye finds herself drawn toward the Beast and entertaining the thoughts of being the curse-breaker herself. Except she has already kissed him. And failed.

The synopsis and the full manuscript are available upon request. Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you!

Sincerely,
Sandy

I'm sold on this one. I'd request.

Quick question, though—isn't the original Beauty and the Beast kinda steampunk? I'm totally going off the Disney movie, but I remember the things her father invented gave me that sort of impression...and I don't see anything particularly steampunk in your query, so I might leave that out.

I'd revisit your second summary paragraph and work on making the wording a little clearer, but yeah, I think this is really good. Full of voice!


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Dear [Agent],

Ricky Marquard and his girlfriend, Sofia Bowen, are gifted, to say the least. He can control the earth’s elements while she’s got full control of people’s minds. Quite the dream team, right?

You’d think so, but then some guy tries to kill Ricky’s mom at a football game, so Ricky has to fry him to death in front of 90,000 people watching on the Jumbotron. Nobody hurts Mama Marquard and gets away with it. No one suspects a thing—who’d believe he murdered someone with lightning?—but he decides to lay low for a while.

That is, until Weather and Isochronal Natural Disasters International, or W.I.N.D.I., shows up. W.I.N.D.I.’s members dictate the world’s weather patterns and natural disasters, and boy, are they thrilled to have finally found the hilarious wisecracker who decided it would be nice for Orlando to have its first white Christmas last year. Better still, they don’t even care about the dead guy. 

Ricky is shocked there are others like him in the world (Sofia’s a tad peeved there aren’t more like her), but his excitement quickly downgrades to alarm as he discovers W.I.N.D.I. is as crooked as a tree in hurricane-force winds. Political gain and big money are the bottom line for the organization with six billion lives in its hands, and when W.I.N.D.I. spies its newest member’s quavering loyalty, it charges him with a rather difficult task. 

Whip up a natural disaster to destroy tens of thousands of lives, or lose his own.

W.I.N.D.I. is a young adult novel complete at 66,000 words.

Thank you for your time and consideration,
RYI

This is strong. But I think the voice gets a little too wink-wink-nudge-nudge in places.

I think you should cut Sofia out of the story entirely—she's probably awesome in the book, but here she's just taking up space. Focus it on Ricky.

Start your query as close to the actual jumbotron murder as you can. “Ricky can control the elements, which seems like a pretty cool power until some guy tries to kill his mom and he's forced to...” etc. That gets you into into the meat of the story quickly and cuts out the grating bits of the query's voice.

But I really like this, and I think your story sounds siiiick.


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Dear Agent,

It’s not like sixteen-year-old Skylar Jones’ druggie mother ever came round for a cup of tea when she got out of jail. Maureen never wrote, emailed, facebooked or phoned. So when mommy dearest roars into town on the back of some guy’s Harley and demands to see her, Skylar has no idea what to do.

She wants to forgive and forget, but the puckered scars on her stomach from when Maureen burned the house down make her hesitate. “Sorry” just doesn’t cut it when you nearly kill someone, especially when it comes ten years too late. Prompted by her aunt, Sally, Skylar reflects on the six years she spent with Maureen, looking for a grain of truth. Her mother’s motto “Heaven on Earth” permeates her childhood. If she can find heaven, she decides, she can trust her mom. 

Obsessed with beauty, Skylar reckons she can get blissed out on “Beautiful Places” like her mother did on drugs. For her, heaven’s just a particularly stunning colour palette. She makes a list of places she finds magical and tears through it, but heaven's yet to appear, and the guy on the Harley just revealed the reason Maureen finally came back: She wants to see Skylar before the cancer she’s refusing to seek treatment for kills her. 

Time is running out for Skylar to decide whether to see her mother. But she's holding out for heaven, despite the pull she feels towards Maureen. If there was no mother-daughter relationship before her mother took off, Sky doesn’t see why they should fake one because Maureen’s dying. 

SKYLAR’S STORY is a contemporary YA novel complete at 45,000 words. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,
Vee

So I'm kind of confused about what actually happens in your story, and how “heaven on earth” can really be a motto, per se. Is Skylar traveling? Because that's cool, and I want to hear about it. How is she “tearing through” this list? What is she doing?

Trim the fat—the guy on the Harley, facebooking, her aunt Sally—and focus on what actually happens in your book.

I'm going to suggest writing a synopsis, if you haven't—I know, I know, I hate them too—and using that to write to your query. Don't forget to add voice and a hook at the end, but use that to pick out your most interesting plot elements and include them, because I feel like this query is all set-up and I don't know what your book is about.

(Don't let anyone tell you your book is too short.)


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Dear :

With a family primed for Doctor Phil and a job involving a toilet brush, Daniel Cole realizes he's twenty-one and he has nothing to show for it. When people hear Dan's name, they think of his dropout brother- a candidate in the Board of Education election who destroys his opponent's lawn with thousands of anchovies and some stray cats. When Dan meets Aidan, a heartthrob guitarist for a local band needing a drummer, he has an epiphany: music, his long lost love, will bring him friends, girls, and popularity.

Instead, chaos ensues. With songs like "Fluffy Didn't Run Away (Your Parents Lied to You)" and "You Looked Better on the Web," joining Lincoln's Navigators doesn’t give Dan the aura of coolness he expected. With a front man who meditates to Enya and a crybaby bassist trapped in the body of a WWE wrestler, Dan's band mates are even more bizarre than their music. Just when Dan thinks he has found his equal in Shannon, a film-school dropout and a seasoned musician hater, he learns she is the lead singer’s sister, and the reason why Aidan has been ignoring his groupies. Dan can either win Shannon and get kicked out of the band for screwing over an unexpected new friend, or he can follow a dream he never knew he had. Because for Dan, growing up and growing a pair might just be better than getting a record deal AND the girl of his dreams.

This was in the new adult contest, yeah? I remember reading it and loving it.

But I think your whole query needs to be your second paragraph. And I think you need to ditch some of the lists, as cute as they are. And I think Dan needs to do something. A lot of this query seems to happen to him by coincidence
There are a few parts I don't understand—his brother's a drop out who was a candidate for the board of education? Definitely strike him from the query. Why is Aidan ignoring his groupies? I don't get it.
Simplify your query—streamline it, make the plotline easier to follow. Focus on your story. But I think your story sounds awesome. I hope you find a place for it—I don't have to tell you that a 21 year old protag is hard. Good luck!


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Dear [Agent],

When 18-year-old Anne Marie Gessner goes in search of her deceased mother's past, she instead tumbles - literally - into the life of a distant relative, Charlotte Corday. After Anne is shipped off to Paris to live with her grandmother, she tries to sort out the lies about her mother's death that have been propagated by a cold grandmother and a distant father. She also turns to the diary of Charlotte Corday, a French revolutionary woman who sacrificed herself for the good of France, and someone Anne's mother once considered a hero.

But strange things start happening with the diary, and Anne time-travels to the French Revolution and becomes Charlotte, a seemingly calm and unpretentious woman who is known in history for having murdered Jean-Paul Marat. 

Her two realities become increasingly intertwined. From back home in Chicago, her father nags her about what she plans on doing with her life since she doesn't intend to go to college. A new friend of hers, Pierre, tries to bring her in touch with her mother's past, while dealing with his own present troubles that revolve around the riots ravaging the Paris suburbs in November 2005. Her best friend Lisa, attending college in Illinois, is still mad at her and refuses to respond to any of her emails. And, as Charlotte, Anne struggles in deciding whether or not to follow through with what Charlotte considered her destiny: killing Marat, killing one man to save 100,000. 

THROUGH CHARLOTTE'S EYES is a 55,000 word YA historical fiction novel. I wrote a version of this story for my Masters thesis at [redacted], where I also received an Honorable Mention in the 2007 Emerging Writers Series for Fiction. 

While publishers have previously strayed away from protagonists 18-years-old who are no longer in high school, I've noticed a new trend for "New Adult" literature that targets this age group, with decisions and themes that are central to THROUGH CHARLOTTE'S EYES. Anne is trying to figure out what it is she wants to do with her life, while reconciling that with her place in her family.

Thank you for taking the time to consider this work. I look forward to hearing from you soon. 

Sincerely,
Liz

Cut the paragraph after the credentials—agents know the market better than you do.

I want more specifics on how exactly her realities get intertwined, and I want you to cut basically everything that comes before the time traveling. Give me the first sentence—she tumbles into her life—and then open the diary and have her fall in. Mother's death, cold grandmother, distant father—that can all really go for the purposes of the query.

This query needs voice voice voice all over it—it's reading very old. You know that there are time travel books out there—what makes your special? The part about killing Marat sounds so cool, but you barely touch on it. Either make the stuff in her life at home sound more interesting (and therefore connect her two lives better, because I don't understand how she's living them both at once) or concentrate on her life as Charlotte. Good luck!


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Dear Agent,

There are seven people who could have murdered Margot Matlin.
There’s Jenny. The best friend: obsessive, unreliable, two-faced and desperate.
There’s Ethan. The boyfriend: loving, jealous, violent and lost.
There’s Marisa. The nurse: sweet, kind, twisted and secretive.
There’s Naomi. The stepmother: hated, hateable, shallow and ruthless.
There’s Adam. The stranger: enigmatic, mysterious and bizarrely omnipresent. 
There’s Cameron. The conflict of interest: fiercely intelligent, analytical, down-to-earth and lying through his teeth.
There’s Jonah [now, how’s that for a weird coincidence?]. He’s the detective. He’s the narrator. He’s Cameron’s best friend. He’s telling the truth. 
Isn’t he?
As Jonah and Cameron travel through their small town, listening and interrogating, they must unravel the stories and the truth. There are seven people who could have murdered Margot Matlin. There are seven stories, seven endings and seven murderers. But the truth can be adjusted. Who is telling the truth? And who can Jonah and Cameron trust, when they can’t even trust each other?
FULL STOPS is a Young Adult mystery, complete at 50,000 words. I believe you would enjoy this novel because...etc. etc.
I am a member of the Poetry Society (UK), one of Foyle Young Poets of the Year 2009 and have published a short story, THE GREATER GOD, in Cantaraville Nine.
Thank you for considering my query. I look forward to hearing from you.

I'm so in love with your story and so hating on your query.
Start with Jonah and Cameron investigating a death, and why. The character profiles don't work because no one is going to remember the last one by the time they get to the next.

So expand the paragraph about Jonah and Cameron investigating and make that your query. Give us some specifics about what happens in the story—you've done a GREAT job with voice and setting the mood, now give me a good reason to really be invested in your story. Give us some exciting plot points.

And once that paragraph's done, THEN throw in the twist about whether or not Jonah's telling the truth. 'Cause I like that.

Oh, and I love your title.

Also, if you could shoot me an email, that'd be sick. (nothing to do with your query.)


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Leila Lefley is awkward. While the rest of the students in Eastbay High are panicking over prom and college applications, Leila struggles to come to terms with the real meaning of idioms, people’s lack of interest in van Gogh’s disfigured ear, and the need to wear heels. Why would someone willingly risk a bunion the size of a golf ball? Leila resigns herself to drooling over her crush Neil from a distance. What would the insightful, heartthrob want with Loony Leila? Especially since Leila has Asperger’s syndrome.

Then she bumps into the Thor, literally. He tells her that he is a nymph and she is his charge. His mission is simple-- make Neil fall in love with Leila. Welcome to Dating 101. As a nymph, Thor is a master of seduction. A simple look from Thor and the school’s ancient Latin teacher is ready to drop her pants. But this nymph has his work cut out for him since Leila is different. Cue uncomfortable silences, unnecessary rambling and cringe-worthy situations.

The rules are straightforward. Follow Thor’s instruction, don’t look like an idiot and most importantly, don’t fall in love with the nymph. Some things are easier said than done. The closer Leila gets to Neil, the more she finds herself longing for Thor. But, Thor's mission comes with a timestamp, and with it, his own expiration. Leila has to make Neil fall in love with her fast, or she'll lose Thor forever.

So I'm going to give you the same advice it seems like I'm giving everyone—lose your first paragraph. Leila has Asperger's syndrome and her crush on the football star (or whatever) looks hopeless, until she bumps into Thor. Bam. There's your start.

Your query is adorable, but the first paragraph is really unnecessary (we don't need a sentence and a half about high heels! Your query is not about high heels!)

Does Thor only die if the mission fails, or is he screwed anyway? If it's the first, make it clear, because right now it doesn't seem like seducing Neil is going to help Thor at all.

Cut the first paragraph (have I said that enough times?) and I love it.


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Dear [Agent's Name],

Jenna knows the sound of her mother's voice when she's buzzed, knows the angry defensiveness when she's drunk, and knows to make the morning-after coffee strong and black.

For years Jenna and her mother have been each other's only family, leaning on each other for everything. However, as her mom's drinking habit has gotten worse, Jenna's gotten stuck cleaning up her mother's alcohol-laden messes. It's been going on for too long and now, in Jenna's last month of high school, she's not sure how much longer she can handle it. Her boyfriend Brady is her most solid ally, the person she runs to when she needs to get away from the tiny apartment she shares with her mother. Unlike life with her mom, the relationship she shares with Brady is stable and reliable; she finds herself spending more time with him as graduation nears, trying to get away from the life she has cleaning up her mother's many messes. However, when Jenna comes home late one night to find her mother unconscious, passed out from a combination of alcohol and sleeping pills, she ends up in the ER waiting room, pulled back into her mother's orbit by the powerful mother-daughter bond she doesn't know how to escape.

With weeks left until graduation, her mother's drinking getting increasingly worse, and her boyfriend moving at the start of the summer, Jenna must find a way to separate herself from her mom in order to make her own life and stop the horrible, dizzying anxiety that comes from her mother's dysfunction. THE EMPTY BOTTLES is a 46,000 word young adult novel set against the backdrop of motherly love and dysfunction.

Sincerely,

Jordyn

First thought—is making coffee black really a skill? Don't you just...not do anything to it?
You have a ton of “is” constructions in this query—count the number of this you say some “is” or “has gotten” or “is growing,” etc. Use stronger verbs.

Beyond that, I feel like this query takes three paragraphs to say the something very simple—Jenna's mother has a drinking problem, it's disrupting her life, and she runs to her boyfriend for help. Cool. But what happens in your story? What does Jenna do? What is this story beyond the premise?

I need to know what happens in this book and what makes it different from other books about children of alcoholics. Right now, your query reads pretty generic.

16 comments:

Heather Zenzen said...

Thanks, Hannah! You rock, but you already know that.

Suzanne Young said...

You did a great job with these!!!

Sandy Shin said...

Thank you so much for the critique! I'm ecstatic to hear that you liked it. :)

The original Beauty and the Beast was originally in the 1700s (and slightly different from the Disney version), while steampunk is defined as SF/Fantasy set in the Victorian era. Mine is set in the late 1800s. But you're right: there isn't much of a SF element, so I'll leave out "steampunk" and go with "Victorian era fantasy."

I'll definitely revise the query many more times, but I'm very glad to hear the basic premise/structure works. Again, thank you! :)

Weronika Janczuk said...

Thank you!

I'm super confused at this point (LOL!), because previous drafts of the query were written in a plainer voice and others said it needed more, so I tried to add more. I'll try to rework this again!

Jordyn said...

Thank you thank you thank you!! This is the best advice I've gotten on that query... I've sent this version out to most of my agent list but have about 6 or so more agents that I'll query with a different (hopefully less generic) version. I knew something was wrong with my query but nobody could really tell me what it was until you used the word generic. Yay!

Robert Young said...

Thanks, Hannah! Oddly enough, I wrote another query a few days ago and cut out Sofia entirely. I have to agree with you, it makes it much stronger and more focused. You're a saint for doing this.

K.M. said...

Thank you :) :)

Obv. I lost the new adult contest :( Maybe they'll have another!

hannah said...

It's cool, I lost it too.

Thanks for the thanks, guys. :)

Amna said...

THANK YOU SO MUCH!

This is really helpful.

You are amazing.

Beth G. said...

Thank you! :) That was so helpful and actually very inspiring. Sure, I'd love to e-mail you...but how?

hannah said...

my b. until.hannah@gmail.com

oh and anyone and everyone can email me at any time, btw. i'm not like famous or some shit.

inkspatters said...

You're SO awesome for doing this. I'll take your advice and write a synopsis even though it'll probably kill me (how'd you guess I hate synopses?). Great feedback, Hannah and I definitely won't let anyone tell me it's too short!

Karla Calalang said...

Ah thanks so much! What's difficult with mine is that I have 4 characters and it's hard to insert four separate character voices in it!

stirlingbennett said...

Okay, I'm coming to this a little late (stumbled here via Suzanne Young's blog), but reading these queries and your comments was both fun AND informative! That sounds like an endorsement for some educational toy, but you know what–it fits.

I like your blog!

Liz S said...

Thank you for the critique! SO helpful!

jessieharrell said...

Sorry it has taken me so long to say Thank You! I appreciate the time you took to critique my query.