Tag Archives: query week

Query Week 3: Send us your queries!

6 Jan

Twice in the past LTWF has hosted ‘Query Weeks’ in which we analzyed our own queries and those that were submitted to us by our readers. Since it’s a new year and many of you are gearing up to start querying agents, we thought we’d offer some guidance and critique if you need it.

The Rules

  1. Email your query to letthewordsflowblog at gmail dot com. We will pick a few queries and publicly critique the first week of February, possibly extending into the second week.
  2. Please include whether it is okay for us to use your name in association with your query or if you would prefer it to remain anonymous. If you like we can link to your blog as well, just be sure to include links!
  3. We are going to pick a few queries to critique, but we’re not going to be basing our decisions off anything concrete. Essentially the queries we think we can give the best feedback on will be selected.
  4. Please have your queries into us by next Saturday (January 15th) so we have time to work on them!
  5. We’ll all be critiquing as a group, so it doesn’t matter who the query is addressed to, but if you’re a stickler for details you can address your query to any of us, or leave it at Dear Agent.
  6. Prizes? Queries selected will receive multiple critiques; how awesome is that?!

Ask us your questions in the comments!

Query Critique 9: Chains of Hell

23 Jun

Welcome to the third day of our 3-day-long Query Critique Week (say that five times fast)! We received a ton of queries, and even though we wish we could have chosen more, we were only able to pick 9 of them to critique. Let’s get started!

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Query 9: Chains of Hell

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Dear fellow readers,

My name is Kairee-Anne or Rayne in the writing world, a soon to be seventeen year old writer of now nine years. The novel I am here to promote is part of a four book series call “WAR OF ANGELS”. The first book of this particular series is called “Chains of Hell”- this book will contain the later times in the Great War between the heavenly gates known as the Veil and the blood-lusting thorns known as the demonic Chapel. As of right now I have not began writing this story neither on paper nor on Microsoft word, because I am currently doing my character’s informational profiles and formats of all four books. I will however tell you the reasons to why people should read this soon to be 18 chaptered novel.

In Terisa, a world with mystical humanoid creatures with special abilities from their native tribes has been in a long, horrific war with the newest members of the demonic chapel. CHAINS OF HELL is going be about slave boy who completely has no memory of his past life. Inside his small cage, he waits for the great hero that is destined to rescue him, but just outside the castle of the Chapel leader, Virgil- the hero has no idea who this slave boy even is. Over the course of this book, the reader will experience meeting unique characters, who are now soldiers and hybrids from fallen angels, the possible chance of beautiful places of Terisa. Reader will love to finish this story because they will see the raw emotions each chapter will process and look forward to reading the next book soon after.

As for the writing experience I been through, I am basically self-teaching myself by reading other author’s works and trying to understand the world of English literature in high school to the best of my ability. The genres I usually write for are fantasy, adventure, the supernatural.

I hope you will enjoy seeing the future manuscript of CHAINS OF HELL and possibly the other four books to the WAR OF ANGELS series. Thank you for taking the time to read this, have a nice summer.

True regards,

Kairee-Anne/Rayne

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Critiques

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Savannah J. Foley:

Hi Kairee-Ann! I think when we announced the query contest you had asked if you could enter a query for a book you hadn’t written yet, as practice. That was perfectly okay, and I’m glad to see that you got your first query written and entered it!

I understand that you wrote a query for a book you hadn’t written yet, but when writing real queries you’re preparing to send out to agents the first step is to make sure that your book is already written. The thought here is that what is the point of querying if you don’t have any material available for when the agent requests a partial? No agent is going to wait for you to finish writing a book so they can look at it; as a writer your job is to make sure the book is written first. So I’m sorry if I wasn’t clear in answering your question; I meant you can totally write a query for a book that’s not written, but you shouldn’t send them out, and definitely shouldn’t mention that the book’s not written in the query.

That said, as a young writer you now have a choice to make outside of the query… do you choose to write the first book and query it, or write all four books before you query? I wrote all the books in my trilogy before I queried, but not with querying as the end goal. I wrote because I wanted to tell the story. I wrote for my fans on FictionPress. If I were older and more experienced, I probably wouldn’t have written the trilogy first, because what if I spent all that time and effort on three books, only to not be able to sell the first one? It’s fine to have ideas for a trilogy, and as a young writer writing all those books will probably be a great learning experience for you and strengthen your skills (it certainly did for me), but typically I would advise you to make your first book a stand-alone, and try to sell it before writing the others.

Back to the query itself… It’s not professional to use ‘Rayne in the writing world.’ The only ‘writing world’ an agent will care about is the published world, and Rayne, while beautiful, is only a username on FictionPress. When querying you should always use your real name. If you want to use a pseudonym, then I think you’re supposed to sign queries as ‘Jane Smith, writing as Mary Brown.’ But if you’re a debut author, unless there’s a professionally valid reason for not using your real name (like you write erotica but you’re also a high profile defense attorney or something), then you should query with your real name and you and your agent can discuss pseudonyms once you actually sign.

Again, back to the query… It’s not wise to tell an agent how old you are unless your age is relevant to the material. In this case I don’t think it is, and you run the risk of turning an agent off instead of impressing them. However, all this personal stuff should go at the end of the query; the beginning of the query is for drawing the agent in and hyping them up to read your book. You should start off perhaps with why you chose this agent, and try to get them connected to your book. Then, hit them with the plot/description, and only then do you sum up with your personal information.

You’re young, so it’s okay that you don’t have a lot of professional writing credits, but if you choose to query at this age it doesn’t look professional to talk about self-teaching. We are all self-taught to some extent, so just leave your bio brief, maybe tell the agent where you live, then close with a simple Regards, or Sincerely. Get in, get out, get them interested.

Best of luck in writing your quadrology!

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Jennifer Fitzgerald:

Your word count is low, that’s good. Agents don’t like really long queries, they like things that are short and to the point. As for to the point, the query needs to go straight to the important information about your book, not you. You also shouldn’t be selling a series off the bat, you should be selling a book that has the potential to be the first in a series, if everything goes well.

“As of right now I have not began writing this story neither on paper nor on Microsoft word,” This is far too wordy. Also you should have written this like you were really querying, in which case you would never tell an agent you hadn’t written anything because you would have the entire thing written and revised already. So pretty much axe the entire first paragraph.

The first sentence in the second paragraph is a run-on. Your writing needs to be crisp and clear. You don’t say ‘I will tell you,’ just tell them. At the end I’m still not sure what these Chapels and thorns are or what the plot is. The plot and the characters should be the main focus of your query and what you spend the most words on. Good luck writing.

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Sammy Bina:

The first (and most important) no-no of querying fiction is to query without a finished manuscript. Non-fiction writers can often sell a book on proposal, but fiction is an entirely different bag of tricks. You want a finished manuscript, and one that’s as close to perfection as possible. Write one draft, edit it, and write another. Or five. However long it takes until you think your book is in the best shape possible.

Then you can start querying agents. Make sure to let that particular agent know why you’re querying them. They know you’ve sent your letter to other agents, but it’s nice to let them know you’ve selected them for a specific reason (maybe they represent authors who write in the same genre as you, or they mentioned that they have a soft spot for hi-concept science fiction, etc.). Because your query is supposed to sell your book, not you, I’d take out almost all of the personal information you’ve included here. As Savannah mentioned, your age isn’t relevant, and the agent won’t care about your FP username. Just go with the basics: “This is my first novel, a whatever-genre complete at however-many-words.” That kind of thing. Your name goes at the bottom of the query anyway, so using your name earlier isn’t really necessary.

Because you haven’t written the book yet, I’m not sure what else to tell you. As we’ve mentioned with some of the other queries we received, make sure you focus your query on the conflict in the story. You mentioned that the reader will encounter some pretty unique characters, so mention them and how they relate to the main character(s). Also, take out this line: “Reader will love to finish this story because they will see the raw emotions each chapter will process and look forward to reading the next book soon after.” You don’t want to tell an agent how to respond to your book – let them figure it out on their own.

Good luck writing, and good luck querying!

~~~

Tell us what you think! Never written a query before? Only heard of them last week? You don’t have to be an expert to make comments; you know what sounds good and what doesn’t. Did we miss something? Let us know your thoughts!

~~~

Helpful Links

Queries and Cover Letters, from the Elaine P. English literary agency blog

Query Letter Mad Lib, from literary agent Nathan Bransford’s blog

How to Format a Query Letter, also from Nathan Bransford’s blog

Query Shark, where literary agent Janet Reid tears apart your queries and puts them back together

AgentQuery gives their advice on what makes up a good query letter

A Complete Nobody’s Guide to Query Letters, a good article from Science Fiction Writers of America

Query Critique 8: Strung Along

23 Jun

Welcome to the third day of our 3-day-long Query Critique Week (say that five times fast)! We received a ton of queries, and even though we wish we could have chosen more, we were only able to pick 9 of them to critique. Let’s get started!

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Query 8: Strung Along

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Dear Let The Words Flow,

Seventeen-year-old Sarah Avery has always been a violinist. It’s the only thing in her life that keeps her from falling apart, the only thing that helps her deal when her uncle makes his way to her room at night. Now, if she could just get into Juilliard.

But getting in proves to be harder than Sarah thought. For starters, she’s missing the community service hours her high school requires her to graduate, so the guidance counselor with the overly processed hair forces her to tutor another girl in violin—a girl who starts finding out a little too much about Sarah’s home life. There’s also the problem of perfecting her Paganini caprice and from keeping the neighbors across the street from interfering in her life.

But most importantly, Sarah has to keep her audition secret from her overbearing family. Because if her uncle finds out she plans to leave him, he very well may kill her.

STRUNG ALONG is a young adult novel complete at approximately 59,000 words.

Thank you for your time,

Nita Tyndall

~~~

Critiques

Sarah J. Maas:

I love the ideas here, and I love the strength of the voice. I think it gets a little tripped up in one line, which is WAY too long:  “For starters, she’s missing the community service hours her high school requires her to graduate, so the guidance counselor with the overly processed hair forces her to tutor another girl in violin—a girl who starts finding out a little too much about Sarah’s home life.” I’d break that up into two sentences, perhaps three.

Because the query is so short, there’s room for expansion, so I’d perhaps dedicate another sentence or two about the girl she’s tutoring—as that seems to be the tension that’s propelling the plot (in addition to the Juilliard audition).

I’d also like to see a line or two about you (the author) at the very end (right after the word count). Other than that, with a bit of expansion, I think this could be a really solid query. Good luck!

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Savannah J. Foley:

I agree with Sarah that you have room to expand, but I would go a little further by saying this query is way too short. I think you described a lot of singular events here but no action that spreads throughout the book. I get that there’s tension, but I think you need a few more active sentences, like ‘Sarah struggles to keep her two lives separate’ or ‘As Sarah’s secrets begin to expose themselves, she struggles…’ Just something that describes a lot of the action, not singular events.

Not really a big issue, but I would like to know why her uncle has access to her… maybe you could give a little more background on her family situation? Why is she living with her uncle? Are there other family problems going on? How will she pay for Julliard?

I also think you could pad out the query more with some information on the neighbors who keep interfering with her life. Are they offering assistance in any way that she has to turn down because she doesn’t want them finding out about the abuse?

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Sammy Bina:

As the other ladies have said, your query is a bit short. But that’s good! That means there’s plenty of room for improvement. I think the tone of the story is conveyed really well through what you’ve given us, and Sarah’s voice shines through and makes me interested to see more. I think adding a few more details like “the guidance counselor with the overly processed hair” to your query would be really great.

Also, beef it up. Your story sounds like it’s got a lot going on, what with her creepy uncle, nosy neighbors, and the girl she’s tutoring. Delve into those things a little more. Why would her uncle kill her? Would the neighbors helping her really be so bad? How about the girl she’s tutoring? Besides the violin, do they have anything else in common? Really get into the emotional storyline, and I think you’ll be golden. Right now it’s all plot points that, as Savannah said, are very singular, and don’t really span the entire book. Go with major themes and storylines that cover everything, rather than singular events. Save detailed plot descriptions for your synopsis.

Good luck!

~~~

Tell us what you think! Never written a query before? Only heard of them last week? You don’t have to be an expert to make comments; you know what sounds good and what doesn’t. Did we miss something? Let us know your thoughts!

~~~

Helpful Links

Queries and Cover Letters, from the Elaine P. English literary agency blog

Query Letter Mad Lib, from literary agent Nathan Bransford’s blog

How to Format a Query Letter, also from Nathan Bransford’s blog

Query Shark, where literary agent Janet Reid tears apart your queries and puts them back together

AgentQuery gives their advice on what makes up a good query letter

A Complete Nobody’s Guide to Query Letters, a good article from Science Fiction Writers of America

Query Critique 7: Towards Sunlight

23 Jun

Welcome to the first day of our 3-day-long Query Critique Week (say that five times fast)! We received 11 queries in all and chose 9 of them to critique. Let’s get started!

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Query 7: Towards Sunlight

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Dear -insert agent here-,

When seventeen year old farmboy Jack accidentally grows a beanstalk in his back garden, curiosity compels him to climb it. At the top of the beanstalk he discovers the Azure, a realm hidden in the clouds, where the ground is fluffy and white, the paving stones chime melodically with every step, and the elusive Faeries are thought of as saints. Here Jack befriends the cunning and secretive Feyrenne, a reluctant princess who desperately dreams of becoming a Faerie. She shares with him the history of the world, but he is most fascinated by her account of the Azurian royal family- the recently deceased Queen, her power-hungry brother, and the frustrated King who is struggling to cope with his twelve rebellious daughters, Feyrenne the sixth among them.

Every night, she and her eleven sisters sneak out of the palace and wear their slippers into a state of disrepair. Under questioning, they all refuse to divulge where they go or what they do, but it is clear that dark forces are at play. At his wit’s end, the King offers a great reward for anyone who can solve the mystery of the twelve dancing princesses- any one of their hands in marriage. In an act of chivalry, Jack accepts the challenge, convinced that this is his chance to prove himself as something more than a useless farmboy. Eager both to help Feyrenne, for whom he is beginning to feel more than just friendship, and to finally earn some respect, he vows to free the princesses from the mysterious curse that enslaves them, while unravelling the legends of Faerie lore.

My manuscript, Towards Sunlight, is a combined retelling of Jack and the Beanstalk, Cinderella and the Twelve Dancing Princesses, complete at 75,000 words.

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

Rondi Olson

~~~

Critiques

Sarah J. Maas:

Just to be really nitpicky off the bat, I think you need a mention of a “giant” beanstalk in the first line, because right now (even if we know the legend), there’s no mention of it being anything other than an average beanstalk. I like the world-building, but I feel like two things should be done: we need more of a voice, and we need less information. We have a ton of information being thrown at us in this opening paragraph—everything from the plot to the world to the characters—and we need some focus.

The jump between the first and second paragraphs (both of which need to be split in half and shortened) is a little abrupt, too: we go from Jack to three long sentences of history. I’m then confused by Jack accepting the challenge as an act of chivalry, when he’s really just doing it for himself. I’m also confused by the details of their curse—you describe them as rebellious, and yet they’re under a curse to go out every night? I love fairy-tale mashups, but this just seems a little confusing to me. I’d go through the query and cut out all the extra info you don’t need, then really try to hone it as much as you can. You also need to italicize your title, and give us one or two lines of bio about yourself.

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Kat Zhang:

For whatever reason, I am really obsessed with the fairy tale of the twelve dancing princesses right now and really want to read a good retelling/mash-up of it. I’ve heard of some, but there’re more on the MG/YA line and I’m looking for something late YA…okay, I’ll stop blathering on. My point is, I’m really interested in your story!

That being said, I do think some things need to be cleared up. A query needs to intrigue and allure. It doesn’t need to cover everything. Some of the first paragraph, especially the latter few sentences, could be cut or condensed. It’s not essential and it builds no conflict. Conflict is very important! (but you knew that :D)

I like the second paragraph, though I agree with Sarah about the confusion over the “act of chivalry” part. Is he just pretending to be chivalrous? Also, I’d like your characters’ personalities to come through a little more. You might not even have to add anything more–cutting some of the extra stuff will bring the description you do have of Jack and Feyrenne to the forefront.

Hope that helped some!

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Savannah J. Foley:

I’d like to hear a little more about Azure… so it’s basically cloud-land? Are there farms at all? What are the civilians like? How could a princess become a Faerie?

I don’t think that Jack accepting the challenge is the height of your plot… I agree with Sarah and Kat that you could cut out a lot of information, and here’s where you should add more in: What happens after he agrees to solve the mystery? Does he follow the princesses, and if so, what does he find? Right now I think you have a great concept, and the beginnings of a great story, but there’s not much plot displayed in the query. What’s the big action, the overall conflict? Identify that and I think you’ll be golden.

Best of luck!

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Sammy Bina:

I’m in complete agreement with the other ladies. I’m a sucker for a well done fairytale retelling, and your manuscript sounds really promising. One mistake people tend to make when querying, however, is having their letter sound more like a synopsis than a query. Because you’ve given us so much information about the world and the plot, we don’t really know much about the characters. I loved the details you used when painting a picture of Azure for us, but unfortunately I think details like those are better reserved for the actual story. The other ladies talked about condensing the information you’ve given, and as much as I hate to say it, I think the details about paving stones that chime need to be taken out. Queries are supposed to be concise and to the point, so all those extra details take up space you could be using to explain the story’s conflict, which is your main selling point. You can’t have a story without conflict, and while I’m sure your story has one, it doesn’t come across in your query. So make sure you find it and center your second paragraph around that, and I think you’ll be in great shape! Good luck!

~~~

Tell us what you think! Never written a query before? Only heard of them last week? You don’t have to be an expert to make comments; you know what sounds good and what doesn’t. Did we miss something? Let us know your thoughts!

~~~

Helpful LinksQueries and Cover Letters, from the Elaine P. English literary agency blogQuery Letter Mad Lib, from literary agent Nathan Bransford’s blogHow to Format a Query Letter, also from Nathan Bransford’s blogQuery Shark, where literary agent Janet Reid tears apart your queries and puts them back togetherAgentQuery gives their advice on what makes up a good query letterA Complete Nobody’s Guide to Query Letters, a good article from Science Fiction Writers of America

Query Critique 6: Seventh Daughter

22 Jun

Welcome to the second day of our 3-day-long Query Critique Week (say that five times fast)! We received a ton of queries, and even though we wish we could have chosen more, we were only able to pick 9 of them to critique. Let’s get started!

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Query 6: Seventh Daughter

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Dear Awesome Agent,

If the people of New Lithisle had been worth saving, sixteen-year-old Amy supposed she would have been sent to spy on them.  But she’s been told her whole life they’ve made themselves less than human through genetic engineering; hair as yellow as the feathers of a gold finch, eyes as purple as the fins of a royal dottyback.  So instead her father has sent her to evaluate the aegis dome that covers New Lithisle to determine if its impending collapse will harm their own civilization, a thousand miles away.

As Amy collects the data she realizes she may be able to alter its base computer code and avert disaster.  Her father, after all, engineered the shield of fire before he was banished.  But when her father concludes the collapse poses no threat to them, Amy is ordered home.

Amy’s perspective changes when she shares her first kiss with Daniel, a New Lithisle boy, and decides he has as much of a soul as she does.  She’d like to do something to save the tens of millions of people who live under the dome, but the coding is complex, and if she gets even one line wrong she’ll end up bringing it down on herself as well as all of New Lithisle.

SEVENTH DAUGHTER is a YA dystopian novel complete at 65,000 words.

I am a mother of four, ages 10-15, a small business owner, and a member of SCBWI.  I don’t mind public humiliation so you can use my name in association with my query if you choose.

Sincerely,

Rondi Olson

[Contact Information Redacted]

~~~

Critiques

Sarah J. Maas:

The first line made me go: “Huh?” And unfortunately, the next few lines did, too. I can see the attempts at adding world-building and voice, but the mention of royal dottybacks and the aegis dome just threw me. There is just SO much random information crammed into this query that it’s difficult to see the plot and characters beneath it. Daniel comes out of nowhere—how does he factor into the work she’s been doing? I would cut down on the info about the shield (keeping it as bare-bones and tension-packed as you can) and take some time to introduce Daniel, and how the computer coding works on the shield (which feels really random, too). I think this has a lot of potential to be an eye-catching query, but it really just needs some clarification and editing at this point.

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Jenn Fitzgerald:

The concept sounds really interesting, but I think you’ve tried to pack too much in here and I got a bit confused. Did Amy’s father get banished from New Lithisle? Why is she a spy? How did she get inside a giant crumbling fire dome to kiss some guy? Maybe focus more on Amy; mention the reason for her mission and then focus on the conflict, to follow orders or her heart. Show us why Daniel is important to her.

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Kat Zhang:

I enjoyed the first paragraph–it caught my interest and I liked the strong colors you invoked. However, I agree that things are  little unclear. I think we need to know what an aegis dome is, or maybe you can leave the term out completely. A good suggestion I got from someone once on my own query was to leave out all the “special” words and explain everything in layman’s terms. After all, you simply don’t have room to be giving out lots of new vocabulary.

The middle paragraph seems weak because there’s no conflict there. Is that information really essential? Or could it be simplified and combined with another paragraph? I’m thinking the third paragraph could, with a little tweaking, become the second since it introduces the main conflict.

When I wrote my query, I tried to answer the following three questions as concisely as I could: Characters? Conflict? Consequences? In other words, who is/are the main character(s), what sort of conflict are they facing, and what will be the consequences if they fail?

I think you have this information here, but it’s a little muddled. Bring it to the forefront, and I believe this query will be even stronger :)

~~~

Tell us what you think! Never written a query before? Only heard of them last week? You don’t have to be an expert to make comments; you know what sounds good and what doesn’t. Did we miss something? Let us know your thoughts!

~~~

Helpful Links

Queries and Cover Letters, from the Elaine P. English literary agency blog

Query Letter Mad Lib, from literary agent Nathan Bransford’s blog

How to Format a Query Letter, also from Nathan Bransford’s blog

Query Shark, where literary agent Janet Reid tears apart your queries and puts them back together

AgentQuery gives their advice on what makes up a good query letter

A Complete Nobody’s Guide to Query Letters, a good article from Science Fiction Writers of America

Query Critique 5: December

22 Jun

Welcome to the second day of our 3-day-long Query Critique Week (say that five times fast)! We received a ton of queries, and even though we wish we could have chosen more, we were only able to pick 9 of them to critique. Let’s get started!

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Query 5: December

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Dear Agent,

It’s December 1945, the war has been over for months, but Vernon Moore wakes his wife Helen when he imagines air-raid sirens into the Chicago night. Their daughter Emily loses her job and the only solace she had from the trauma she encountered working as a Land Girl. Younger sister Gloria slips further into the corruption of a seedy theater, far from her pre-war dreams of a ballet stage.  Their neighbor Nate Bennett brought home a banged-up Japanese pistol and memories he can’t shake from his time in the Air Corps. And Walter Moore never came home at all.

The past can’t stay buried as Nate discovers his attraction to Emily, Gloria uncovers a secret in her brother’s past during a chance encounter with a French war bride, and Helen and Vernon’s marriage is tested by Helen’s WWI pen pal.  In the midst of their unearthed memories, perhaps Walter is not as far away as he seems.  December, complete at 75,000 words, tells the post-war story that will appeal to readers who enjoyed Sarah Blake’s The Postmistress’s pre-war account.

While earning my BA in history from Indiana University, my writing was honored with both a Campus Writing Program Award and a departmental Thesis Award.  Research for December took me dancing at a restored Chicago ballroom, cooking in a WWII battleship galley, and attempting my own Victory Garden.

I welcome any opportunity to share more with you,

Rowenna LastName

[Contact Information Redacted]

~~~

Critiques

Sarah J. Maas:

I’m not quite sure what to do with the multitude of characters, plotlines, and events that are crammed into the first paragraph. It seems like there are some interesting storylines going on here, but there is just SO much information presented that I feel overwhelmed. Who is the focal point of this story? Is it a multi-POV narrative? Even if it is, this query needs some focus and direction. It needs to be slowed down a bit, too—right now, I just don’t know what to do with it, or what to expect from it. It seems like it could be really compelling, but, again, there’s just so much information being thrown at me that I can’t get a good grip on it.

~~~

Sammy Bina:

I have to agree with Sarah. I read through this quite a few times, and couldn’t pick out which storyline was supposed to be the main one. Even with a multiple POV story, there’s generally a main storyline everything revolves around. I think if you can decide what that is, and center your query around it, you’d be much better off. As is, there is just too many characters and plots being thrown into the mix, and no agent is going to want to wade through that to find the most important information. My best advice would be to find a published novel that is a multiple POV piece and see how the story is summarized on the back cover. Maybe that would give you a good model as to how you could focus your own.

This next bit of advice will vary depending on who you talk to, but generally I’ve been told not to compare your book to that of another author’s. So you can either leave that bit, or take it out. Either way, I don’t think it does any damage. Just work on focusing your query and ideas, and I think you’ll be set. Good luck!

~~~

Savannah J. Foley:

Like Sarah said, there’s too much going on, and it’s distracting. I think you should open up with an introduction to the story; is this a family drama about the devestation of war, a family drama about coping after losing a son/brother, or…?

The bit about Vernan Moore and Helen doesn’t seem significant; is this a major plot point?

Otherwise, this sounds like a great story. I’d even like to read it! Well done, and best of luck querying!

~~~

Tell us what you think! Never written a query before? Only heard of them last week? You don’t have to be an expert to make comments; you know what sounds good and what doesn’t. Did we miss something? Let us know your thoughts!

~~~

Helpful Links

Queries and Cover Letters, from the Elaine P. English literary agency blog

Query Letter Mad Lib, from literary agent Nathan Bransford’s blog

How to Format a Query Letter, also from Nathan Bransford’s blog

Query Shark, where literary agent Janet Reid tears apart your queries and puts them back together

AgentQuery gives their advice on what makes up a good query letter

A Complete Nobody’s Guide to Query Letters, a good article from Science Fiction Writers of America

Query Critique 4: Sins of Our Fathers

22 Jun

Welcome to the second day of our 3-day-long Query Critique Week (say that five times fast)! We received a ton of queries, and even though we wish we could have chosen more, we were only able to pick 9 of them to critique. Let’s get started!

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Query 4: Sins of Our Fathers

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Dear Agent:

Fifth century Makesh is the perfect place for a young man to mature.  Society is progressing, the economy is booming, and technology is developing more quickly than anyone could imagine.  Most people think that the world has gone about as far as it can go, but Camden Wright knows better.  The heir of a family with a five hundred year old secret, he becomes the head of that family just as that secret must be revealed.

SINS OF OUR FATHERS is a 100,000 word young adult fantasy novel which takes the reader from Makesh, a planet eerily like our own, to Mareen, a world fraught with magic.  As Camden seeks the answers as to why Makesh divided from Mareen, he stumbles upon an ancient enemy ready to destroy anyone without magic.

He could use his new friendship with powerful mage Shaun Smithson to close the portal between worlds, forever locking Makesh from its heritage but saving it from possible destruction.  But he could also fight for Makesh’s right to reunite with its past despite the consequences which seem inevitable.

This is my first novel.  Thank you for your time and consideration.

Taryn Albright

~~~

Critiques

Sarah J. Maas:

My first thought was: “Is Makesh in our world? Is this historical fiction?” Obviously, it’s not—but I would perhaps move the mention of your title/genre to the first line: “In my young adult fantasy novel, SINS OF OUR FATHERS, Makesh is the perfect place for a young man to mature.” That way, we know straight off the bat that this is fantasy.

I thought the first paragraph was pretty solid until the last sentence, which got a bit confusing/wordy: “The heir of a family with a five hundred year old secret, he becomes the head of that family just as that secret must be revealed.” Maybe instead of repeating “family,” you could say: “His father dies just as that deadly secret must be revealed.” Or something that both clears it up and amps up the tension.

The final sentence of the second paragraph is a bit confusing, too—I get that this is an important point in the plot, but it just confuses me: where does the enemy come from, what world does he threaten? The third paragraph should introduce that conflict, but it instead introduces another character, and rather blandly explains his two options. This would be the perfect place to hook us—to give us a huge dilemma and why Camden is so important, but it instead just gets bogged down in murky sentences.

We also need a bit of info about YOU—a final paragraph that includes the word count (if you take it out of the 2nd paragraph) and then a bit of bio would be great. I think this query has a lot of potential, but it just needs to be cleaned up first.

~~~

Vanessa Di Gregorio:

Like Sarah, I was also a bit confused as to whether it was historical or fantasy (I thought Makesh was a city in our world when I read the first paragraph). I would agree that adding “young adult fantasy” to the beginning would clear out any confusion.

The third paragraph is a bit awkward; you only use pronouns. The first sentence there should start with Camden, instead of “he”. Your second and third paragraphs could be combined, leaving you room to add a third paragraph describing yourself a bit more.

And I agree with Sarah that the third paragraph is lacking a bit in luster. You need to state the choice Camden has, and the high stakes involved; what is at risk? Why would it matter if the portal between worlds were closed forever? Why is this significant? I’m a bit unsure as to what is at stake here, and what is driving Camden to choose between one or the other. Adding that would make the query much stronger, and will give it more of a hook. But overall, this query definitely caught my attention. Best of luck!

~~~

Sammy Bina:

To some extent, I agree with both Sarah and Vanessa’s point about clarifying whether the story is historical or fantasy right off the bat. Information about word count and genre generally come at either the beginning or end of a query. Because yours comes in the middle, and is then followed by more information about the plot, it really throws the reader off. If you combined the information in paragraphs one and three, and moved paragraph two to the end of your query (while combining it with your bio), I think your letter would flow much better.

As Vanessa said, you also need to explain the conflict better. I don’t really understand Camden’s motivations, or why this secret is so important to the plot itself. A little information about that could really increase the tension, and maybe pique an agent’s interest. I’m sure your manuscript delves into this conflict a great deal, but you need to put some of that information in your query to entice an agent to request more.

Also helpful would be a sentence or two about why you chose to query this particular agent. It shows that you’ve done your research, and aren’t just sending your query to every agent on the planet. If they represent something similar to your novel, it never hurts to mention that, either. If you make some changes, I think you’ll have a really strong query on your hands. Good luck!

~~~

Savannah J. Foley:

Why is Makesh ‘eerily’ like our own world? Unless your story eventually ties in with Earth, it’s probably not a good idea to link them in an agent’s mind.

I get that this is an action story, and you do a great job with hyping up the drama, but I’d like to see more plot in here. What’s this secret that threatens to tear the worlds apart? I would also describe the enemy; anything in particular that makes them a good nemesis? If the consequences are inevitable, then what’s the benefit of rejoining the worlds?

I would also shy away from saying this is your first novel. It just doesn’t matter, and might actually signal to an agent that it may not be a very good novel, given that it’s your first.

Overall however, it sounds like an amazing story! Best of luck!

~~~

Tell us what you think! Never written a query before? Only heard of them last week? You don’t have to be an expert to make comments; you know what sounds good and what doesn’t. Did we miss something? Let us know your thoughts!

~~~

Helpful Links

Queries and Cover Letters, from the Elaine P. English literary agency blog

Query Letter Mad Lib, from literary agent Nathan Bransford’s blog

How to Format a Query Letter, also from Nathan Bransford’s blog

Query Shark, where literary agent Janet Reid tears apart your queries and puts them back together

AgentQuery gives their advice on what makes up a good query letter

A Complete Nobody’s Guide to Query Letters, a good article from Science Fiction Writers of America

Query Critique 3: Collide

21 Jun

Welcome to the first day of our 3-day-long Query Critique Week (say that five times fast)! We received a ton of queries, and even though we wish we could have chosen more, we were only able to pick 9 of them to critique. Let’s get started!

~~~

Query 3: Collide

~~~

Dear Authors with Let The Words Flow blog;

Drama Club President Madison Manning isn’t the type of girl to lose control. She’s calm, collected and mature—at least for a seventeen year old. What happens when you look in the mirror and realize you’re only living for your career, and a life outside the stage doesn’t exist? Aching for something more, Madison becomes involved with Lucas Valentino. At first, he is exactly what she’s always wanted—sexy, mysterious, and wild. Madison soon finds herself surrounded by a life of drugs and violence, while Lucas’s lust for her quickly turns into obsession. His physical outbursts and psychological abuse trap her in an inescapable hell. Madison knows there’s only one way out, but that would put her and the ones she loves in mortal danger.

COLLIDE is an edgy young adult novel, and takes place in present day Gainesville, Florida, where the tension is high, and nobody minds their own business. COLLIDE is the first novel in what I anticipate to be a 4 book series.

I have published an article in The Parade, a widely circulated publication and my previous writing experience has been in playwriting and producing. Thank you for taking the time to review my query for Collide. My 80,000-word manuscript is available for consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,

Angela Francis Hettinger
[Contact Information Redacted]

~~~

Critiques

~~~

Sarah J. Maas:

I really liked the opening line, and half of the second sentence (the “at least for a seventeen year-old” struck me as condescending). The third sentence, however, got a bit murky with the verbiage, and threw off the rhythm. However, after that, the query descends into a huge paragraph crammed with action that doesn’t really resonate with me (because SO much is happening).

I would start a new paragraph with “Aching,” and use a sentence to segue into WHY Madison would get involved with someone who is into drugs and violence…Right now, it just feels random, and though this is heavy material, it feels like it’s just thrown in there to generate tension. Slow it down a bit.

I would also avoid calling your work “edgy”—let us/readers/agents decide that for themselves. And is Gainesville like that in REALITY, or just in your book? It’s confusing when you say “present day.” Your final paragraph also needs a bit of editing in terms of punctuation and proper italicizing (the magazine you mention isn’t underlined/italicized, and you didn’t italicize the title of your book). 

~~~

Savannah J. Foley:

I think overall you have a good concept, but the feeling I get is that you know your work so well you’re having a hard time communicating the story properly to someone outside your own thought process (don’t worry, it happens to all of us). I really liked the first sentence, but I felt the second sentence, especially because it was a rhetorical question, really threw off the rhythm. What would cause Madison to feel like her life off the stage doesn’t exist? Particularly for a 17-year-old in high school, who surely must realize there is more to life than being on stage. In high school. Do you see where I’m going with this? Is there a family issue or something that’s making her feel sad like that? If so, be sure to mention it.

I think your transition from Lucas being what Madison has always wanted and the sentence about drugs needs a little work. He’s what she always wanted, BUT soon she finds herself surrounded by drugs? I feel like we need a ‘but’ in there, or a ‘however’.

What kind of mortal danger would her family be put in, and why? What would happen? These are plot details an agent would want to know.

I agree with Sarah about calling your own work ‘edgy'; it’s obvious that the novel is edgy from the drugs and sex, etc., no need to hammer the point. The bit about Gainsville doesn’t seem to fit with the rest of the novel, unless you left something significant out of the rest of the query. The description of Gainsville reminds me of Gossip Girl, or Pretty Little Liars, but that kind of theme isn’t present in the rest of the query. If the book isn’t focusing on a community of bitchy, snobby people, I would take the mention of Gainsville out entirely. But if their society and surroundings are like that and play a significant part in the plot, I would mention it earlier.

I think this query has a lot of potential! Best of luck querying!

~~~

Sammy Bina:

As a reader, this type of story is right up my alley. I think your idea is great, but doesn’t translate into your query very well. As you yourself said, the story is edgy, but I didn’t really get that feeling while reading your letter. I can’t understand Madison’s motivation to go looking for someone like Lucas, or why getting out of said relationship would put those around her in danger. As Savannah pointed out, I think we need a little more explanation there. Also, from the information you’ve given us, I can’t figure out how this would lead into a series, so maybe give an indication as to how that might work. As is, this appears as though it is very much a standalone novel.

As the others have mentioned, the Gainesville reference really threw me. I’ve been to Florida a total of one time, so my knowledge of the state, or this particular city, is incredibly limited. And obviously you’re allowed to have some creative liberty with things, but if the story is set in present day Gainesville, is that really how the people/city operates? Savannah suggested you remove the Gainesville reference entirely, and I have to agree. Unless it’s vital to understanding the story, you don’t really need it.

Good luck querying this project! I’d definitely be interested in reading it.

~~~

Jenn Fitzgerald:

I wouldn’t refer to a high schooler as having nothing more than her career. She doesn’t have a career yet. Also, I’d like to know why she was so devoted to the stage that she closed off everything else and if something triggered her attempts to find something more. Like the others have said, more of a transition from sexy and wild to drugs and violence is needed. I think a fuller transition would also help give the query more of an edgy tone, which doesn’t quite come across despite the subject matter. You should probably also mention that Lucas has threatened Madison’s family, or that she assumes it from his behavior as I’m not sure how they’re in mortal danger. I’m also wondering how this is the first of four books? Good concept, good luck querying!

~~~

Julie Eshbaugh:

Hi Angela!  I enjoy what’s often referred to as “edgy” YA, so there are aspects of your story that definitely draw me in.  (As an aside, I think you could probably get away with the label “edgy” if you put it in quotes, since then you come across as placing it in a sub-genre instead of making a personal judgment about the material.)  I like your premise, and I think it could have broad appeal, but I think the edginess needs to come through in the tone of your query.  It’s difficult for me to put my finger on it, because you tell us a lot about the dramatic elements of the story, but I just don’t feel the tension.  I would recommend working on the overall tone to create a sense of danger.  Maybe use shorter, more clipped sentences?  Try specific examples of the types of drugs, violence and abuse?  Experiment, maybe read samples of tension-filled writing, and revise until you feel the fear and danger you describe actually radiating through the query itself.

Best of luck with Collide!

~~~

Helpful Links

Queries and Cover Letters, from the Elaine P. English literary agency blog

Query Letter Mad Lib, from literary agent Nathan Bransford’s blog

How to Format a Query Letter, also from Nathan Bransford’s blog

Query Shark, where literary agent Janet Reid tears apart your queries and puts them back together

AgentQuery gives their advice on what makes up a good query letter

A Complete Nobody’s Guide to Query Letters, a good article from Science Fiction Writers of America

Query Critique 2: Artistic License

21 Jun

Welcome to the first day of our 3-day-long Query Critique Week (say that five times fast)! We received a ton of queries, and even though we wish we could have chosen more, we were only able to pick 9 of them to critique. Let’s get started!

~~~

Query 2: Artistic License

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Dear Let the Words Flow,

Seventeen-year-old Cameron Nile is a student in the visual arts department at Clearbell, an arts and sciences boarding school tucked back in rural Maine.  While he lives under the rule of his strict parents at home, at Clearbell he can be himself. That means telling corny jokes, spending the whole day painting and, as he discovered two years ago, being gay.  It’s easy for him because at Clearbell, there is no such thing as “normal.”

As Cameron goes into his junior year at the school, however, he realizes that the real world is catching up with him.  First it’s his boyfriend of almost a year, Michael, whose family suspects he has clinical depression.   Their relationship has been described by their friends as easy and sweet, but sometimes, Cameron feels like he’s walking on eggshells as he tries not to be the one to send Michael into a downward spiral.

There’s also Jean, an older classmate Cameron had a brief and failed affair with.  He’s taken an interest in Cameron again, and he’s used to getting what he wants.  This includes first place in the visual arts competition at the fall carnival in October.  Cameron loves Michael and is willing to give Jean a run for his money for that blue ribbon, and at least one of those things could end in disaster.

ARTISTIC LICENSE is a young adult novel complete at 62,000 words that mixes general fiction with romance and LGBT themes.  I am a current student in the Creative Writing department at the University of Maine at Farmington, where my studies have included fiction writing, sexuality, gender roles and mental health.  Thank you for your consideration.

Regards,

Joana Hill

~~~

Critiques

~~~

Savannah J. Foley:

Thanks for your query! Here are some nitpicky things:

“An arts and sciences boarding school tucked back in rural Maine.” Tucked back where? Into the mountains of rural Maine?

For your second sentence I would use your characters name for the second ‘he’, otherwise you’ve gone an entire sentence without really specifying who you’re talking about. In your third paragraph you run into this problem again, using ‘he’ when you should probably use the character’s names more.

The last sentence in the third paragraph is awkward.

Overall, I’m really not getting much of a sense of the plot. What’s the real struggle here? What’s the leading action, the conflict, the climax? Honestly the feeling I get from this query is that the novel might be just a string of events. Mildly dramatic, but not really plot-driven.

I think your mini bio was great, however. You gave the agent a bit about yourself and backed up your ‘expertise’ with relevant studies.

Best of luck querying!

~~~

Sarah J. Maas:

While I liked the ideas presented in the first paragraph, I think it could be made even catchier by adding some more of Cameron’s voice. As it stands, it feels a bit distant—adding some of his voice will make it stand out even more. The second paragraph definitely interested me more than the first, but the mention of Jean in the third paragraph was one character introduction too many.

I would like to see the query narrowed down a bit—maybe Michael and Jean’s drama can be condensed into one paragraph, and then the third/final paragraph can be more about the plot—which I’m still lacking some concrete details about (Savannah explains those concerns well in her critique). All in all, though, I think this query has a lot of potential, and if it were a bit more focused and had a bit more of Cameron’s voice, it’d be pretty good.

~~~

Sammy Bina:

You’ve got some really great stuff here! With some minor tweaking, I think you’d have a really strong query letter. From what you’ve provided, I get the sense that your novel is more character-driven than plot-driven. If that is, in fact, what you’re aiming for, I think some more information about the three boys would be really beneficial. There’s an obvious love triangle, and because you’re working with three main characters, I feel as though you could easily condense that information into one paragraph. That would leave some room to greater explain the plot. Even with character-driven stories, you need to be able to explain the plot as well, and keeping the romance aspect of the story confined to one paragraph would make it easier to do that.

I agree with Savannah in that you provided some good background information about yourself. It  shows that you are qualified to write the kind of story you’re presenting. I wish you the very best of luck in querying this story! I think it’s got great potential.

~~~

Vanessa Di Gregorio:

Your query is better than quite a few others I had seen while I was interning at a literary agency. That being said, I still think it could use a bit more work. Your mini-bio is wonderful, so I wouldn’t touch that. It seems to me that your story is more character-driven as well. Perhaps look at adding more of what the actual conflict in the story is, and the problems that arise (from both Michael’s depression and the love triangle). Think of what is crucial in understanding your story; if you were writing the blurb at the back of the book, would there be anything else you would add? Perhaps something more about the plot’s progression, or the character’s progression? We need to see that the story is moving somewhere, be it emotionally or physically or both.

But overall, great job. And best of luck!

~~~

Julie Eshbaugh

Hi Joana!  My critique will be fairly brief, because I agree with what’s already been discussed above.  I want to just add that I think your title and set-up are very evocative of a time and place in life that lends itself to a compelling story.  The idea of this nonconformist young man, tucked away in a locale where he can be himself, yet feeling the “real world” encroaching, is extremely appealing to me.  My suggestion would be to clarify Cameron’s main desire/goal (is it to maintain his idyllic life?) and the main challenges to that goal (the rising drama coming on one hand from Michael and the other from Jean?)  Lastly, if you also clarified the stakes that you imply with the words “and at least one of those things could end in disaster,”  I think you’d have a killer query.  I find myself very interested in your book, so the query succeeds at that essential task, but it doesn’t quite convince me that I will be compelled to read through to the end.  Add a little more tension, and I think everything will be in place!

Best of luck querying Artistic License!

~~~

Helpful Links

Queries and Cover Letters, from the Elaine P. English literary agency blog

Query Letter Mad Lib, from literary agent Nathan Bransford’s blog

How to Format a Query Letter, also from Nathan Bransford’s blog

Query Shark, where literary agent Janet Reid tears apart your queries and puts them back together

AgentQuery gives their advice on what makes up a good query letter

A Complete Nobody’s Guide to Query Letters, a good article from Science Fiction Writers of America

Query Critique 1: Eduardo’s Parakeets

21 Jun

Welcome to the first day of our 3-day-long Query Critique Week (say that five times fast)! We received a ton of queries, and even though we wish we could have chosen more, we were only able to pick 9 of them to critique. Let’s get started!

~~~

Query 1: Eduardo’s Parakeets

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Dear Agent,

Ann Haibel, Holocaust chronicler Nathan Vogelmann’s editor, is stunned to learn Nathan may have had an affair with an Auschwitz guard.

Nathan collapsed when he heard one of Eduardo’s Parakeets warble a song in German. The song unlocks Nathan’s past as an undercover agent in Buenos Aires in 1944, and an affair with escaped guard, Edalina Haselbeck.

The parakeets are supposedly bred by the shadowy “Eduardo” in Bolivia, but only Edalina could have encoded the song. Ann can’t live with Nathan’s crime on her conscience, but she can’t expose him without knowing the truth. Nathan is in the ICU. Ann can’t press him.

Ornithologist Derek Sarastro’s futile searches for Eduardo have landed him in hock with a loan shark. He unscrambles the song and threatens to sell Nathan’s unsavory past to the tabloids. While Ann parries with Sarastro, Bolivian government official Hector Merino arrives.

This is 1991 and reunited Germany doesn’t want its Nazi past sullying its new image. Berlin warns La Paz it will withhold IMF funding if La Paz doesn’t bury all traces of Edalina. Merino knows Ann will keep quiet to protect Nathan, but he has to silence Sarastro.

Ann won’t countenance bloodshed, and she has to learn the truth behind Nathan and Edalina’s alleged affair. Merino either takes her and Sarastro to hear what Edalina has to say, or Ann blows the story apart–Nathan, Germany, and Bolivia be damned.

Merino apparently backs down. In Bolivia, they leave for the nesting grounds. Merino carries weapons.

¿Está usted interesado?

Gracias por usted tiempo y consideración.

David Greer

~~~

Critiques

Sarah J. Maas:

The first sentence, while a bit abrupt, interested me a fair amount–I had the impression that this was a Holocaust tragic love story told through the lens of an editor’s research. However, the following paragraphs led me in a completely different direction from what I expected, and left me scratching my head. Is this a thriller? Suspense? The initial introduction of the parakeet felt out of left field, as does the mention of it being “Eduardo’s” parakeet—who is Eduardo? That question isn’t answered until the following paragraph. The entire query jumped around a bit—mentioning random people and events. By the end, I didn’t feel enticed to read more—but rather felt that I was left in the middle of a convoluted summary. This query needs serious focusing and paring down. And what’s up with the Spanish at the end?

~~~

Savannah J. Foley:

Hi David. I get the feeling from this query that English isn’t your native language. The transitions here are rough, or don’t appear at all.

In general this query is all over the place and not coherent. I’m sad about that, because this seems like a great story, from what I could decipher. Sarah’s right; you jump into the story too quickly. Your first paragraph should be a lead in, perhaps with information on how you found the agent and why you think they will like your story. Then jump into the plot. Also, you need a lead out. Tell the agent more about yourself, and potentially what experience you have that relates to this story.

Also, that Spanish at the end is weirding me out. If you’re querying an English-speaking agent, your query needs to be in English -all of it. The rough query would lead me to suspect that your novel is like this as well: great idea, but disjointed.

Best of luck!

~~~

Sammy Bina:

First off, I think the concept of your novel is really promising! But to get agents to request a sample of it, I think your query needs a fair amount of work. It would be wise to introduce your characters right off the bat, so the agent doesn’t waste his or her time trying to figure out who Eduardo is, or his relationship to the other characters. You want to be careful, as well, that your query letter doesn’t read more like a synopsis. I think you spent more time worrying about writing out the main plot points instead of weaving them into a brief, yet enticing summary. A good reference point would be the back cover of your favorite novel. It’s usually a paragraph or two that describes the very basic plot and leaves the reader hungry to fill in the gaps. I think, with some tweaking, you could rework some of the information you’ve given here and turn it into a summary agents would find very compelling. However, I’d leave out this line completely: “Merino apparently backs down. In Bolivia, they leave for the nesting grounds. Merino carries weapons.” It’s very weak, and doesn’t add anything interesting to your query. Also, words like ‘apparently’ make you sound unsure of yourself and your writing – not something you want to convey.

Queries are generally written in the present tense, and I noticed you switched back and forth once or twice. These are easy changes to make and will really improve the flow of your query. Another thing that would really help would be to remove the Spanish at the end. While some might know what it says, it’s very jarring and unprofessional (if the agent you’re querying speaks English, that is). Even if you’re querying a Spanish-speaking agent, I would suggest keeping your query entirely in one language.

Good luck!

~~~

Vanessa Di Gregorio:

While I definitely think your story has potential, I think your query needs a bit of work. Like the others have said, it’s a bit disjointed. I think one thing you could do to improve your query is to set the context of the story closer to the beginning (ie. it being 1991 and whatnot). Before seeing the date and the circumstances, I was a bit confused as to what was going on. I found myself rereading the query a few times, and I’m still not 100% sure what it is about. Start with the general basics before you go into the smaller details. While you definitely want the agent reading the query to wonder about what is happening, you don’t want them to be confused. Do you know who your market and target audience is? It might also help to add what genre your story is (suspense? historical thriller?). And I agree with Sammy; those last lines are unnecessary. Your query really should also be in just one language; the Spanish threw me off completely.

I would also suggest that you have someone read over your query before you send it out; if a critique partner finds themselves confused, then the agent will definitely be. A fresh pair of eyes never hurts. And always ask yourself if what you’re including in your query is significant to your story. I hope you find this helpful!

Best wishes!

~~~

Julie Eshbaugh:

Hello David!  I believe that your story may very well be an intense and fascinating international thriller.   However, as noted in the critiques above, your query is too much of a summary, which makes it confusing and unfocused.  That’s the bad news.  The good news is, this problem can be fixed!

A strong query is sharply focused on several key points:

1.) Who is the protagonist?

2.) What goal of the protagonist drives the book?

3.) What are the obstacles that are going to make the book interesting?

Although you convey a lot of information in your query, I really can’t identify the protagonist with certainty.  I think it’s Ann, and I believe her quest is to protect the reputation of her most celebrated author, but it also might be to obtain justice.  I’m not really sure.  The one thing that would make this query much stronger would be to tell the agent the most basic components of the story – who is it about, what is their goal, and what are the stakes? In telling that, you can generalize a lot of what you have specified here – you can use terms like “a desperate ornithologist” or “the Bolivian government” to avoid throwing too many names into the mix.  All the names make such a complex story confusing and also dilutes the focus that should remain on your main conflict.

Good luck!  I love the idea here and think you may have a great story!

~~~

Helpful Links

Queries and Cover Letters, from the Elaine P. English literary agency blog

Query Letter Mad Lib, from literary agent Nathan Bransford’s blog

How to Format a Query Letter, also from Nathan Bransford’s blog

Query Shark, where literary agent Janet Reid tears apart your queries and puts them back together

AgentQuery gives their advice on what makes up a good query letter

A Complete Nobody’s Guide to Query Letters, a good article from Science Fiction Writers of America

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