Query Critique 73

Dear Agent Name,

In an ancient Rome-like world, people who once had magical abilities – the Verasians – are enslaved, forced to fight each other. This sentence reads a bit clunky. Maybe there’s somewhere else to put the Rome-like world bit? On the other hand, if you leave that out, it sounds too much like Hunger Games. Their only chance of freedom is seventeen-year-old Aelia who defeated all odds: hiding in a forest, she guards the last Soultree left on Earth – and the growing magic inside it that could free them. But she can only hide for so long… Maybe this is the idea you need to start with. Also, I’m intrigued by this Soultree, and I want to know more about it. Do the people enslaving the Verasians know it’s there? So maybe consider starting with something like “Seventeen-year-old Aelia guards the Soultree, the only chance of freedom for…”

When Saro, the owner of a gladiator school, finally captures Aelia, taking her far away from her tree, it seems all hope is lost. What does protecting the tree entail? If she’s not there, will the tree die? Or does she need to be there to harness the power? Now a gladiator in Saro’s arena, Aelia must train and fight for survival. I’m kind of thinking that this Saro character doesn’t need to be mentioned in the query. It cuts down on the number of names the reader needs to remember, and it’s sufficient to say that she’s been captured and is now a gladiator. And she has to fight while chained together with Zenon, the star of the arena. Zenon dances on Aelia’s nerves – he pushes her to train, tests her limits, and has an irritating way of making her blush. Aelia doesn’t want to kill her people to save her skin, but if she dies, the Soultree dies with her. Why? I think this is something that should be tuched upon earlier. No magic will save her now, and the hope for all Verasians depends upon her swift blade. 

SUN AND IRON is a stand-alone YA Fantasy novel with series potential and is complete at 73,000 words. Spartacus meets Snow Like Ashes. Cool comp titles!

I. M. Verasian

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Query Critique 72

Ginnifer’s past vanished at five when her parents died in a fire. I think some of the stuff later in the query would make a better hook. A lot of books feature dead parents. Now sixteen, all that remains is endless nightmares and visions which she hardly can recall the next day. Other than the fact that someone is ALWAYS trying to kill her in them! The exclamation point is a little distracting. Also, the wording here could be a little smoother. I’d also like to see some indication if why these dreams seem more like visions than dreams.

Her adopted gypsy-born consider using Romani instead of gypsy family only tells her that the dreams will fade with time, but everything changes when three new students show up at school. Ginnifer is drawn to them; especially the bad boy that most parents warn about. (It’s the eyes…definitely the eyes) This little aside sort of provides voice, but I find it a little distracting. Suddenly, a girl dies at the football game: the very same girl she had a vision of that morning. It was a memory…so now she’s not a total mental case. I fail to see how this makes her more normal. I would be freaking out!

But as more deaths take hold of the town, Ginnifer is determined to find her connection to them. She learns that she’s an Abnormal, a half-mortal with a masked rare gene. This is The Big Idea of the book. I’d like to see it featured more prominently and sooner. Exploring this idea is more important than knowing the back story of how she learned this. One whose life will always be surrounded by blood. Then the bombshell: the killer might actually be targeting her. 

As if being a junior in high school wasn’t hard enough. Not only is she in a twisted gypsy protection program from someone who wants her dead, but she is torn between the life she knows and the life she forgot. Ginnifer is hell bent to find an in between. She must make a choice: either seek out the killer and fight or stay hidden. Beef up the stakes by giving us more of a reason why she wants to stay hidden, because right now it doesn’t seem like a very compelling reason.

ABNORMALS is a 94,000-word YA urban fantasy. This book would appeal to fans of The Vampire Academy and The Mortal Instruments.

#MockPit Rules of Participation

What is #MockPit?

I’m so glad you asked! MockPit is a practice round for Twitter pitch contests like PitMad. I will be going through pitches and offering suggestions for improvements. If I favorite your pitch, I think it’s great just the way it is! I’ll also be giving away a handful of critiques, so there’s some extra incentive to participate.

How to enter:

  1. Follow me at @kyramnelson.
  2. Tweet your pitch using #MockPit. You do not need to @ me.
  3. Get feedback from me.
  4. Pay it forward! Favorite or comment on other people’s pitches. This can be a great way to support others and make new friends!

What are the rules?

  1. Only one pitch per manuscript. Limit three tweets per person.
  2. Official MockPit runs from 12:00 (noon) to 2:00 EST on Friday, September 25th. I will look at all pitches during that time, but may look at pitches after that.
  3. You must use the hashtag. Otherwise, I probably won’t see your pitch.
  4. Be patient. I will probably be reading a lot of tweets. But I will make sure I get to all of them.
  5. Be kind. This is a subjective business. All comments are meant to be constructive.

Why am I doing this?

Mostly for kicks and giggles. I love pitch contests and I love helping writers. This seems like a good chance to do both.

Also, you may have noticed that Brenda Drake posted new rules for PitMad. These rules will help clean up the PitMad feed and encourage industry professionals to participate (which is good). The new rules will require authors to sharpen their pitches rather than throwing out as many possible and seeing what works. This is an opportunity to strengthen those pitches before the big day.

Any questions?

This is somewhat experimental. I’m hoping it goes well and could potentially be something I do again in the future. But we’ll see how it goes! If you want to polish your pitch before the event, check out my post on Twitter Pitches.

Books I Almost Didn’t Read: A look at cover design

We’re told not to judge a book by its cover, but we do. I’ve noticed that I actually have some pretty strong feelings about covers, so I’m going to blog about them today and next week.

For today’s post, I’m going to talk about books with covers I didn’t love. Now I know, I have a no book-bashing policy. Which is why I’ll say upfront that I liked all of these books. A lot. And the covers aren’t bad, they just didn’t grab me.

So in no particular order, some books I almost didn’t read because of the cover but ended up liking anyway:

Winnerscurse

Normally I’m a sucker for books with girls in pretty dresses, so I don’t know why I was turned off by this one. Maybe it’s her kind of weird position. I don’t think the sideways text worked either.

I will say the covers for this series got progressively better, and I actually liked the cover for Champion quite a bit. This is sort of blah though.

I will say the covers for this series got progressively better, and I actually liked the cover for Champion quite a bit. This is sort of blah though.

There's a cover to this book that's really beautiful. But this is the first cover I saw for the book, and I just... What even is going on here? The other cover, apart from just being more visually appealing, fits the tone of the book SO much better.

There’s a cover to this book that’s really beautiful. But this is the first cover I saw for the book, and I just… What even is going on here? The other cover, apart from just being more visually appealing, fits the tone of the book SO much better.

Another that has a perfectly good cover, but this is the one on the copy I read. Once I had a cover designer tell me that people on a cover should face toward the right, rather than the spine because it invites the reader to open the book more. I've been kinda obsessed with that idea ever since. Otherwise, this cover is fine.

Another that has a perfectly good cover, but this is the one on the copy I read. Once I had a cover designer tell me that people on a cover should face toward the right, rather than the spine because it invites the reader to open the book more. I’ve been kinda obsessed with that idea ever since. Otherwise, this cover is fine.

Lots of design elements I like here, like the silhouettes. The cover scheme looks dated, though. The other books in the series look a little better.

Lots of design elements I like here, like the silhouettes. The cover scheme looks dated, though. The other books in the series look a little better.

This actually has two alternative covers that are much better. Truth be told, I don't hate this cover. I just don't think it does justice to the story.

This actually has two alternative covers that are much better. Truth be told, I don’t hate this cover. I just don’t think it does justice to the story.

Moyes has a lot of books with similar designs. Sometimes the work (Me Before You) other times I think they feel cluttered, like I'm not really sure where to look. Also I'm unsure about the font choice on this one. Which is critical when there's no image to distract from the font.

Moyes has a lot of books with similar designs. Sometimes the work (Me Before You) other times I think they feel cluttered, like I’m not really sure where to look. Also I’m unsure about the font choice on this one. Which is critical when there’s no image to distract from the font.

So there you have it. Some covers I didn’t love. Next week we’ll look at some I DO love.

Query Critique 71

Dear [Agent Name],

I’m currently seeking representation for my NA romantic suspense novel, BEWARE OF BOLTON MANOR. Given your interest in the romance genre, I thought it might be a good fit for your list. 

In order to finally snag the coveted promotion at her posh firm – and prove she’s more than a broken-home statistic – junior estate agent Olivia Abate must secure the Bolton Manor listing before her tawdry coworker. Good hook. Their unethical rivalry takes a grim turn when the old woman who owns the property suffers a mental breakdown. This is pretty good but could be expanded upon a little. What about the rivalry is unethical? 

Ignoring her initial hesitation, Olivia agrees to spend a week in real estate hell, amidst quaint guests fond of collecting serial killer memorabilia, perpetually hungover nieces, and apathetic servants. Again, pretty good. But what exactly is she doing that’s real estate agent hell? Her only escape is the dry-humored heir of the estate, Thomas Bolton, who appears to be as starved for companionship as the manor is for renovation. I like this sentence! Despite his persistent attentions, Olivia fears crossing the professional line will give her an unjust advantage.

That fear vanishes along with her coworker, and Olivia must face the gutting possibility that she might lose not only her career, but also her life.  I think this idea should get a little more space. Her coworker disappears. That’s attention grabbing, so make sure you flesh that idea out properly!

BEWARE OF BOLTON MANOR is complete at 70,000 words, and is a standalone novel with series potential. The manuscript is available upon request. 

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Hawkgirl