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!

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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!

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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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One Response to “Query Critique 9: Chains of Hell”

  1. Kairee-Anne June 24, 2010 at 8:32 AM #

    Thank you very much for the help! 🙂 I will use your advice for the future!

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