Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Query Letter Critique


I'm beginning to be really offended that I don't have time to check my email, blog, and twitter from work. Like, what is this? Some sort of Intensive Care? 

Original Query Letter

Dear Agent,

When a powerful crystal necklace jumps from Rachael’s dreams into real life, echoed by a desperate plea, her world is turned upside down. Add in a book with no writing, a vanishing thief and a faery named Ki, and Rachael soon doubts her sanity.

Of course the townspeople have always doubted. Being a prodigy in an oppressive society is tough, but it’s nothing compared to the strange powers that are thrust upon Rachael when she puts on the necklace. 

Soon driven from her town, Rachael’s time is spent just trying to survive. Yet she can’t ignore the questions that arise.  There are similarities between her crystal and Satu Fae; the illegal fairy tale book she has kept hidden for years. And who is the strange man living in an ancient ruin, secretly drawing townspeople into the woods?

As an exile, Rachael has no way to warn the people of the darkness growing in the forest. As faithful followers of Shendi, God of Order, they don’t believe in magic. They can’t see the thousands of spirits trapped in nothingness. But if Rachael and her friends can’t stop impending disaster, the townspeople may witness the spirits’ desire to live once more; no matter the cost.

Crystallized, a fantasy for young adults is complete at 85,000 words and has been professionally edited.

I can be contacted at (email redacted). Thank you for your time and consideration,

Sincerely,

(Name redacted)

Query Letter After I Got My Grubby Paws On It

Dear Agent,

When a powerful crystal necklace jumps from Rachael’s dreams into real life, echoed by a desperate plea, her world is turned upside down<Cliché alert! . Add in a book with no writing, a vanishing thief and a faery named Ki, and Rachael soon doubts her sanity.

Of course the townspeople have always doubted. <This reads as vague. I know it can be tempting to use this as a device in order to intrigue the reader, but it actually has the opposite effect and can be frustrating. Being a prodigy in an oppressive society is tough, but it’s nothing compared to the strange powers that are thrust upon Rachael when she puts on the necklace. Inneresting!

Soon driven from her town, Rachael’s time is spent just trying to survive. Yet she can’t ignore the questions that arise.  There are similarities between her crystal and Satu Fae; <This should be a colon and not a semicolon the illegal fairy tale book she has kept hidden for years. And who is the strange man living in an ancient ruin, secretly drawing townspeople into the woods? This is quickly becoming a jumble of plot. There’s no doubt that many aspects of the plot are intriguing, but as a whole this is confusing. I would resist the urge to mention every interesting thing that occurs in your book and try to narrow the focus down to a main plotline.

As an exile, Rachael has no way to warn the people of the darkness growing in the forest. As faithful followers of Shendi, God of Order, they don’t believe in magic. They can’t see the thousands of spirits trapped in nothingness. This is an example of detail that isn’t necessary in the query. But if Rachael and her friends<I thought she was alone in exile? can’t stop impending disaster, the townspeople may witness the spirits’ desire to live once more; <This semicolon is used incorrectly as well. I’d use either an em dash or a comma here no matter the cost.

Crystallized, <Title should be in all capital letters a fantasy for young adults is complete at 85,000 words and has been professionally edited<I’d have to ask an agent what his/her thoughts are about this part, but my instinct is to say that it wouldn’t matter whether or not a manuscript was professionally edited, just so long as it was good. I have lots of friends who are published (Oh, God, listen to me!), none of whom were professionally edited before acquiring an agent. It can’t hurt though, I suppose.

I can be contacted at (email redacted). <Your email address and other contact information should come below your name. Thank you for your time and consideration, <This should be a period not a comma.

Sincerely,

(Name redacted)

I can tell that there’s a whole lot  of awesomeness in your book, but it’s hard to sort it out because there’s just so much going on in the query, from the necklace, to the fairy thief, to the book, to the strange man drawing people into the woods, to the spirits—it’s too much for my brain to process in such a short letter. Maybe others feel differently? But my advice, like I touched on above, is not to try to cram so much into the letter in an effort to excite the reader, but to focus on the main plot. What does Rachael want more than anything? What does she have to do to get it? And what stands in her way? (Thanks, blog follower Rachel, for reminding me of this awesome rule!) Once you figure that out, try to slash anything from your query that strays too far from this focus.

Thanks for sending this in—I appreciated the chance to read it! And good luck with querying!




10 comments:

  1. Ah, the Query Shark mantra : D I have parroted this at ANYONE WHO WILL LISTEN for months! And yes, I suggest the author follows it here. All this query needs is a few details weeding out and a tighter focus on Rachael and what she wants.

    Good luck, author!

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    1. Query Shark! That's right! I'd thought it was AgentQuery and I was scouring the net to source it.

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  2. Yes, yes, and yes to all the above. :-) Another great query critique, Michelle.

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  3. Thanks so much for your advice, Michelle! It helped a ton, my query letter is much better I think after revising :)

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    1. No problem, Lisa! Glad you found it helpful!

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  4. I've heard a lot of Literary agents don't like hearing a manuscript was "professionally edited", they prefer to see what a writer can do on their own.

    The book sounds interesting and your critiques on the query will help it become tighter and more appealing, for sure.

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    1. Interesting! That's a good point--thanks for sharing!

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  5. Michelle, your posts and critiques are so informative, I want to pass along the Reader Appreciation Award to you. Thanks for all you do!

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    1. THANKS! That's so very sweet of you :)

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