Query Critique 35

Dear ______________,

Missy Foxx found one thing more frightening than being bullied.So, having this in past tense feels weird. The query is usually in present tense, even if the novel is past tense. Love. Missy spent the better part of four years being terrorized and pranked during high school. Getting called Miss Piggy on a daily basis by the popular crowd is enough to bring her self-esteem down.This sentence shows what the last sentence told. Both sentences basically give the reader the same information, but the second sentence does it a lot more effectively. I read a lot of queries that begin by saying that the main character is bullied, and it gets easy to tune out. But being called Miss Piggy is vivid and demands the reader’s attention. On that note, I think you should work that into your hook. To me, it’s much more powerful than the sort of vague bit you have about love. She leaves the small town of Kennesaw, TN after graduation determined to change things.“Things” seems a little vague. She’s off to change her life? Her future? Missy is off to college to pursue her dream of being an actress.

While getting passed up for acting roles due to her weight she encounters the attractive personal trainer L.C. He starts to fall for her but the years of insecurities and being teased because of her weight she, at first, rebuffs his advances.This transition seems a little abrupt. Possibly because you say “at first” she rebuffs his advances. That sort of implies that then she starts to fall for him, but we don’t fully get there before we’re suddenly in NYC. Missy uproots to New York City to start her acting career and leaves L.C. devastated. After many struggles and only landing small roles, with the help of fast talking playboy agent, Quinlan Porter, Missy achieves her goal and becomes a successful actress.

When her mother suddenly passes away, Missy finds herself back in the town where all her problems started and now she’s a celebrity. It is there she reconnects with her old flame L.C. Now leading completely different lives she is torn between choosing her second shot at love and her lifelong dream. It needs to be more clear why she has to choose between the two. Why can’t she date the hottie and be an actress at the same time?

INTRODUCING MISSY FOXX is a diversity friendly I would just say diverse. new adult manuscript complete at 65,000 words.New adult is an age range, not a genre. I would specify that it’s contemporary. Also, some comparative titles would be great.

I have included the first ______________ pages for your review.

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

Very sincerely,

Limelight

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Query Critique 34

Dear Agent,

Any human servant would choose the workhouse over Evlalia – and her most recent two just have. Evlalia isn’t a common name, so it took me a minute to understand that that’s who “her” referred to.

She sacrificed hours informing them of every flaw. But her words were wasted on people, as usual. At least she didn’t dare to make a positive start: it would clearly have gone to waste as well. Short (1-2 sentence paragraphs) can be really effective, but only if used sparingly. Also, the number of short paragraphs in this query make it feel longer than it should be.

No High person makes their own food or laces their own corsets. Evlalia needs a new servant, and a magic one will have to do.

Part metal, part human, a unit is a magical servant summoned from the Internet. They come with unique software: some read or run faster than a forming thought, others grow their toenails or eyelashes six times faster than normal. To me, this seems more interesting than the first bit. 

Buying a unit so damaged it’s considered unsellable? At least he needs her too much to ever leave. And it reminds everyone that Evlalia picks the road less travelled, even if it leads over a cliff.

Her new unit is Tace, and he can teleport. At least he could, before his old user left him without hands and on a ventilator. I think handless and on a ventilator flows a little smoother, but that may just be personal preference. Thanks to Evlalia, he no longer passes out after twenty seconds, but he still waits on the roof every night for his old user to come back.

Evlalia’s words stop her disappearing into just another average, replaceable person; Tace’s muteness is more voluntary than everyone thought, and his body is built around being able to disappear at will. Maybe rework this sentence. It’s a bit confusing. Friendship between them was a risk neither planned to take; it just seemed to happen, like the cutting remarks Evlalia always assumed she could keep back if she tried.

Not being able to dismiss people makes interaction complicated; as Evlalia meets other units, she’s relieved to find them just as easy to offend as humans. Being installed with dictionaries and perfect memories just seems a bonus. I’m not sure how relevant this is to the main plot line.

Kyrillos can read every blood vessel pumping in Evlalia’s neck, and when his domination over his user is questioned he knows exactly which artery to pinch shut.

Halimeda can read every regretted word and past mistake in Evlalia’s mind, and when the motives of her sudden friendship with Tace are questioned she knows exactly what Evlalia wants left unsaid. I wouldn’t mention Kyrillos or Halimeda unless they’re REALLY important. Even still, they seem a little distracting.

Tactful silence might save Evlalia’s life, but also makes her indistinguishable from everyone else. That less travelled road does end in a cliff – and it might be better to jump.

Um… What genre is this? Age group? Comparative titles? (reminds me a little of Marissa Meyer’s Cinder)

Mystic Cyborg


My biggest concern with this query is lack of direction. I felt a little like I was wading through various plot lines. I think the query would be improved by focusing on the biggest source of conflict. Is it Evlalia’s lack of servitude? Is it Tace’s injuries? Is it that there are these other units potentially causing problems? Flesh out the main conflict, make it obvious, and establish clear stakes.

The Wonderful World of Wattpad

Wattpad is an interesting place, and nobody in the industry is quite sure what to do with it.

As an author I like Wattpad because I can post first drafts that are utter garbage and people still say nice things about them. Where else does that happen?

From an agenting standpoint, it’s much more difficult to deal with. My friend, Erin Latimer is a Wattpad superstar with over 40,000 followers. When she mentions that to agents or editors, a lot of times it pushes them away. Some assume she’s trying to have her Wattpad stories traditionally published. And why would anybody pay for a book that’s already been made available on Wattpad for free?

But the weird thing is, it does happen. Beth Reekles’s book The Kissing Booth was published by Random House UK. A handful of other Wattpad titles have also been picked up for publication.

Some agents see Wattpad as a great place for author’s to build a platform. Some are actively courting Wattpad authors. Just depends on the agent.

As for me, I’m not really sure what to make of Wattpad. But if you have a story that you don’t think is destined for traditional publication, Wattpad might be a good home for it. The community is incredibly supportive.

And you never know. Things do happen on Wattpad.

Query Critique 33

I commented in purple cause the main character is very manly… And I was too lazy to change away from purple after I chose it.


 

Life as a clone of Alexander the Great is just one big Gordian Knot. I started out really excited about this hook, because clone of Alexander the Great is really cool. But then it sort of lost me because I have no idea what a Gordian Knot is. I looked it up, and now I know it’s a thing. Maybe it’s something people should have heard of, but I hadn’t.
 
In near future England, Alexander 2.0 has been fighting his impulses since a childhood head injury roused his ancient memories. His warrior side wants to eviscerate anyone who crosses him. His domesticated side keeps a tight rein on his urges for the sake of his medical career and family.
 
But the normalcy Alexander longs for starts to slip away after he protects the son of a dangerous, drug-dealing acquaintance. He threatens to expose the illegal activities, and the dealer tries to silence him. Is he and him in this paragraph referring to Alexander or the drug dealing son? Alexander nearly loses his wife and infant children, and he ends up in the hospital with a bullet in his chest. When he awakens, so does a bloodlust of epic proportions. His fury only deepens when he learns his assailant has evaded police and disappeared.
 
With his peaceful world spiraling beyond his control, Alexander can no longer suppress the impulses that dominated his ancient life. Now the greatest danger he faces isn’t battling a psychopath. It’s keeping his thirst for revenge from turning him into one.

Complete at 119,000 words, THE SANDS OF HIS EMPIRE is speculative fiction with a historical twist and series potential. Any comparative titles? I read Jasper Fforde’s The Eyer Affair recently, and that has some sort of similar elements. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

Awesome Author 2.0


Some sort of general questions I have. I’m not sure how many of them you can address in the query, but decide which might be important to talk about. The more you can compress what you have (without making it confusing of course) the more of this you can address.

Does Alexander know he’s a clone?

Does he know who cloned him? 

Is cloning common?

Are there clones of other famous people?

 

The Subject Game

Sometimes I play a game when I’m reading through queries. The game is to look at the just the first bit of the email from the inbox and decide if the the query has potential. I have about a 95% accuracy rate for determining the quality of a query based on this alone.

Bad signs:

  • The author doesn’t address the agent by name, but rather addresses it to the agency or “to whom it may concern.”
  • Anything that doesn’t cut to the point. Ex: “I recently finished my first novel, a thriller with romantic elements. I would like to get published…”
  • A bad hook. Anything that’s too vague or generic. Ex: “Adventure is just around the corner.”
  • Thanking the agent for looking at the query. This isn’t strictly speaking wrong. But I’ve noticed the people who tend to do it often don’t have very professional query letters. I also think this goes along with cutting to the chase. Best to stick with “Thank you for your time and consideration” at the end of the letter.
  • Anything that begins “Imagine that you…”
  • Something with a stupid title. I see this the most with MG, but other genres are not immune.
  • Anything that begins with somebody being “ordinary until…” More on that here.

Just be aware that an agent is judging your query before they even open the email. Make sure you’re thinking about the impression you want to make.

Query Critique 32

Dear Ms. Nelson,

Fighting to survive in a land with little opportunity, a flyer promising honest work abroad might be the only chance sixteen-year-old Carina Whitaker has to save her family. The pen shakes between Carina’s fingers as she signs the contract for the Uessay government’s Life Labor Program, securing a future for her loved ones by leaving them behind.

Carina wakes up with no memory of how she came to be chained atop a cement stage. She watches helplessly as an auctioneer tempts a frenzied crowd with details of her body, her innocence, creating a full scale bidding war. After a final shout of “Sold!,” Carina is taken to be beaten, broken and humiliated into realizing that her life is no longer her own. To me, this paragraph is more interesting than the last, just because I care more about what her predicament actually is than how she got there. I think you need an indication of how she ended up where she is, but maybe not a whole paragraph for it.

Consumed with plans to run away from his abusive family, Samiel Turner doesn’t want anything to do with the controversial slave trade that has the whole country talking. Is this country the USA? Somewhere else in the modern world? But when he walks into his room and discovers the half-naked, fully terrified Carina gift-wrapped on his bed, Sam will have to decide if he is willing to risk his own life to save hers.

THE DARK LUXURY is a complete 83,000 word, futuristic young adult novel that explores one of the most heinous crimes facing the modern world, human trafficking. The book is told in alternating first person points of view and is the initial installment in a planned series. When I first read this, I thought “futuristic isn’t a genre.” To me it sounds most like a dystopia, but I can understand the logic behind shying away from calling it a dystopia. Is it futuristic enough to call it science fiction? Also, I’d like to see some comparative titles. Neal Schusterman’s Unwind comes to mind.

I have published several short stories on fanfiction.net and have gathered a loyal young adult following of over 500 subscribers. A very early edition of the novel received more than a quarter of a million hits on the same website.

Thank you for your consideration.

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