Query critique 88

Chase Warner should be spending senior year at his elite Connecticut private school rejoicing the end is near. This hook sort of seems to focus on what should be normal. I think it would be stronger if you jumped right into the conflict and how not normal things are for Chase. But instead, he’s sneaking alcohol, dabbling in drugs, and watching his shoo-in acceptance to Yale, slip right out of his grasp. ‘Boys will be boys’ and ‘senoritis’ are expressions his counselors use to excuse his behavior. But they couldn’t be further from the truth. And Chase is fine with keeping the truth between just him and his sister. Not only does no one need to know he was raped by an alumnus, Chase is sure no one would believe him—or care. This is the main source of conflict, so I’d like to see it worked into the hook.

But when Chase (drunkenly) posts on an anonymous chatting app his secret, he finds solace in a strange soul: the headmaster’s super-senior son, Malakai. Malakai doesn’t ask questions, is comforting and most of all, a physical, as well as emotional, anchor for Chase. There are a lot of commas in this section, which make it a little hard to read. Consider using some em dashes. Something he didn’t know he needed until his rapist returns to school as an assistant football coach.

Chase knows if he goes to the school, they’ll crucify him and all his hard work at Harrington would be for nothing. I’d like a little hint at why he doesn’t think the school will believe him. Or why he hasn’t pursued other avenues to justice. Has he contacted law enforcement? If Chase wants justice, he’ll have to take the law into his own hands, no matter the personal, legal, or ethical ramifications that follow.

Chase’s favorite quote has always been, ‘When one goes on a journey of revenge, dig two graves’. But now, he wants to modify that. When one goes on a journey of revenge, bring one bullet. I kinda get what you’re trying to do here with establishing stakes and tying in the title. I don’t think you need to explain the title in the query, though. And I think you’d be a little better off just stating the stakes clearly. Overall, though, I think this is a great query with a lot of great potential.

THE BULLET PROVERB is a completed 75,000 YA novel that addresses male rape, vengeance, and the toxic ways people heal. It will appeal to fans of FAULT LINE and GOLDEN BOY.

12 Quotes that aren’t about writing (but could be)

  1. “Take chances! Make mistakes! Get messy!” Ms. Frizzle from The Magic School Bus
  2. “Just keep swimming!” Dory from Finding Nemo
  3. “Anything can happen if you let it.” Mary Poppins in Mary Poppins
  4. “The sun will come out tomorrow!” Annie from Annie
  5. “Adventure is out there!” Ellie in Up
  6. “The only thing that is impossible is impossibility.” Phineas from Phineas and Ferb
  7. “I never look back, darling. It distracts from the now.” Edna Mode in The Incredibles
  8. “Sucking at something is the first step to becoming sorta good at something.” Jake from Adventure Time
  9. “You make each day a special day. You know how, by just being you.” Mr. Rogers in Mr. Rogers’s Neighborhood
  10. “Today is a good day to try.” Quasimodo in The Hunckback of Notre Dame
  11. “In the darkest times, hope is something you give yourself. That is the meaning of inner strength.” Iroh from Avatar: The Last Airbender
  12. “To infinity and beyond!” Buzz Lightyear in Toy Story

Query Critique 87

Dear Ms. Kyra Nelson,

(Two personalization sentences). Without further ado, I would like to invite you to The Black Night Rave. This sentence seems sort of unnecessary. Just jump into the query.

At seventeen, Skyeler Anders is an exile, failed mage, and wanted for the murder of his missing best friend, who is a princess. Something about the wording on the last bit throws me off as it sort of sounds like you’re trying too hard to squeeze in extra information. Maybe instead try something along the lines of “wanted for the murder of a princess who happens to be his best friend.”

Only he didn’t kill her. To prove his innocence and find Jessica, Skyeler follows a cryptic letter to a magical rave, the deadly Black Night Rave. Again, I think the wording could be a little cleaner. Something to the effect of “follows a cryptic letter to the magical and deadly Black Night Rave.”

There he meets three other teens—the escaped freak experiment, the secretive hacker with earth magic, and the premonition-plagued actress. The four encounter the Guardians, elemental beings who reveal they are the Chosen, descendants of the hated mages who destroyed the home of all magic. I had to read this sentence several times, and I’m still not sure I know who the Guardians are or what they do or what their goals are. The teens all need something unusual and the Guardians will obtain it, in exchange for their aid.

Now Skyeler must choose. He can either help the Guardians defeat the dark mages attacking the rave or forsake his destiny to save Jessica. Either way, somebody will die. I almost like the stakes better leaving off this last sentence. I like the idea of ending the query with the main character being forced to make a hard choice.

THE BLACK NIGHT RAVE is a YA urban fantasy complete at 75,000 words. Though told in the alternating viewpoints of the Chosen, it focuses on Skyeler, who is mixed and out as gay. My novel will appeal to fans of Aimee Carter and Cassandra Clare, by taking well-known mythologies and flipping them to create something familiar, yet new.Good comp titles, but I don’t think you need the part about familiar, yet new. While I believe this novel has series potential, I am writing other novels, such as an LGBT retelling of THE LITTLE MERMAID. I would axe this sentence. Focus instead on the book you’re trying to pitch.

My writing experience includes an internship at The Dallas Voice as well as articles published with them. I’ve also interned with Paige Wheeler of Creative Media Inc. Summer 2013, I had the pleasure of was being mentored by Malinda Lo in the YA/Genre workshop at the Lambda Literary Retreat for Emerging LGBT Voices. Additionally, I’ve had short stories and poems published in my community college’s art and literature magazine.

Thank you for your time and consideration. As per the guidelines on your agency website, my materials are pasted below. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Query Critique 86

Byron enjoys his damned existence as a vampire until the night he attacks a young twentysomething with a gold cross around her neck. A pang of guilt prevents him from hurting her as she stirs memories of when he had been human so long ago.

Although red belt librarian Grace is frightened of the vampire, she thinks his act of conscience might mean he isn’t damned after all. This paragraph should be longer than just a sentence. I’m interested in knowing why Grace is willing to help this vampire or what makes her think he isn’t damned. Just the one sentence paragraph here makes the query feel choppy.

The quest for Byron’s soul leads them to uncover an ancient conspiracy to keep vampires damned forever—and brings them far closer than either intended. While rejoining Byron and his soul may save him, he might end up dead for the final time.  You need a lot more explanation here. “quest” and “ancient conspiracy” are both concepts that should be explained in way more depth. I also see that you’re trying to create stakes here, which is good. But I think they could be a little stronger. I need to know just what he is in danger of dying from. The query lacks a clear antagonist. Just in general, the conflict needs to be explored more thoroughly.

HIS SOUL PURPOSE is a 90,000-word paranormal romance. Any comp titles? Also, vampires are a really hard sale right now, so it would be good if you could incorporate some way to let the reader know what would set your book apart from other vampire books already on the market.

I have two trilogies with Desert Breeze Publishing. Swoon Romance has published two Regencies, and Astraea Press published a YA novella and two Regency time travels. Nineteen of my short works have appeared in various anthologies, including Holiday Magick by Spencer Hill Press.

5 Things Self-pub Authors Wish Traditional-pub Authors Knew

By Erica Crouch

I’m a self-published author. Saying this elicits a number of responses—some good, some indifferent, some that induces a severe case of Liz Lemon-style eye-rolling. Funnily enough, there are even those that ask something along the lines of, “Do you hate/are you jealous of/do you wish you were a traditionally published author(s)?”

The answer to those pointed questions is no, I don’t hate them; sure, sometimes I’m jealous (who isn’t??); and no, I do not wish I had traditionally published any of my novels. I made choices that made sense for me, my novels, and my career. One day, I might make a different choice. Besides, even though we went down different paths for publication, we’re not all that different.

Here are five things self-published authors wish traditional published authors knew:

  1. This wasn’t a last resort. I consciously chose to self-publish my book. It wasn’t because I “couldn’t hack it” in the traditional publishing world. I weighed the pros and cons of both sides, and it just so happened that the pros of self-publishing (creative control and greater royalty share, for example) outweighed the pros of traditional publishing.
  2. Not all self-published books are poorly edited/terribly written. Ugh, this prejudice kills me, especially since I put in a lot of effort writing/revising and then hand it off to beta readers before my manuscript even makes it to an editor (whom I’d trust with my life, by the way). That’s not to say that all self-published books are gold—they’re not. But self-published authors writing as a career take the steps necessary to publish something—ideally—indistinguishable from a traditionally published title.
  3. We hate spam as much as the next guy. Another bad rap self-published authors get is polluting the interwebs with a slew of self-promotional spam. Some people over do it big time, but the smart authors know that pummeling followers with a thousand hashtags and links is exhausting and annoying—definitely not worth whatever return they may or may not see. We, like traditionally published authors, understand there’s a code of conduct when it comes to reviews, promotion, and interacting online with readers (or potential readers). I won’t email you out of the blue asking for a glowing review because that’s five kinds of shady, and seven kinds of irritating.
  4. We don’t hate the traditional publishing world. Speaking as a whole, I’d like to say that most indies admire the traditional publishing world. We take a lot of our cues from them! But we also don’t overlook the flaws—when we see imperfections in the process, we ask “how can we improve this” and then start experimenting. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. But really, why would we want to wage a war with fellow writers? A rising tide lifts all ships, or however that saying goes.
  5. Just because we self-published doesn’t mean we will only self-publish. There seems to be this idea that once you self-publish a book, you’ve locked yourself in a box. You are now a SELF! PUBLISHED! AUTHOR! The truth of the matter is, there are many authors who’ve decided to traditionally publish a novel after self-publishing a few, or vice versa. Hybrid authors are great—don’t erase them.

Just like there is no “more correct” way to write a novel, there is no “more correct” way to publish. What works for you may or may not work for me. I don’t think I’m better than you because I self-publish, and I don’t think traditionally published authors are better than me. We’re just different. And that’s cool!

It’s important to keep an open mind and to realize that whatever publishing road you take is no higher or lower than the next. Do what’s best for you, and support those who choose something else. We’re all authors, after all; at the end of the day, we’re still sitting around talking to imaginary friends and rationalizing these conversations by putting them to paper. As long as you’re putting out work you’re proud of, nothing else matters.

Erica CrouchErica is the self published author of books such as Surviving First Drafts; Madly, Deeply; and the Ignite series. She is also the co-founder of Patchwork Press and a member of the YA Wordnerds. If you’re interested in learning more about Erica, checkout her website.


Query Critique 85


I am writing to inquire about representation of my young adult paranormal romance, KEEPER OF SHADOWS.

A broken 17-year-old boy must break a Shadow Keeper’s curse before he loses his life, but with his fierce and stubborn neighbor helping he might lose his heart first.

KELLAN CASEY gave his heart to a girl, but instead she took his soul and traded it to a Shadow Keeper for her own survival. Capitalizing names is good in synopses. It’s a little weird in a query letter. Now Kellan is turning into a Shadow Keeper – a dimension hopping wraith creature that collects the souls of the living. It’s a little strange to me that you would wait until now to define what a Shadow Keeper is when you’ve already mentioned it twice. Hiding his transformation and resulting intense physical pain behind a bad boy reputation, Kellan has pushed everyone away including the one person who might be able to save him.

Desperate to save her childhood friend, ABBY MARINO forces Kellan to let her into his twisted world of hell beasts and betrayals. For a girl who thought not getting into the right college was the end of the world, the almost dead boy shows her what it’s like to really live and that there may be a fate worse than being average. In return Abby gives Kellan back the one thing he’s already lost – hope.

Now with a ticking clock on the Shadow Keeper’s curse, Kellan and Abby need to work together to find a way out or Kellan will lose his life and the one girl that he might actually be willing to die for. Good stakes, except that this is the first mention of a curse that we’ve gotten. I think that’s probably something that needs to be expanded upon earlier in the paragraph..

A combination of edgy and sweet, KEEPER OF SHADOWS would appeal to readers of Katie McGarry’s DARE YOU TO but with a supernatural twist. Put the comp title in italics rather than all caps to set it off from your title. The manuscript is complete at 89,000 words.

Thank you for your time and consideration.