Query Critique 84

Baronet Brandon Shrike is in serious trouble. Too vague! Give me something specific in the hook. King Justin Capet has been poisoned and is near death. Tasked with finding the perpetrator, Brandon, the king’s trusted bodyguard, has instead gotten himself exiled. The information in this sentence is what should be worked into a hook. He knows he’s been set up by ambitious General Kalt, but Justin is too ill to listen, and Brandon needs proof.
In the north, Lady Bria Perregal’s mother has been murdered, and if her suspicions are correct, it was her father who committed the crime. This is an abrupt point of view shift. Even adding the word “meanwhile” to the beginning could help smooth it out. Earl Rostis Perregal seems poised to seize power if the king dies, but Bria has no proof, only fear and doubt. With her twin brother hundreds of miles away in the royal city, Bria realizes she must act alone in order to avoid becoming a pawn in their father’s power games. I’d like to see how this ties in to the conflict from the first part.
Major Michael LeVay has been ordered to arrest Bria on sight–to his great consternation, as he has been secretly in love with her for five years. If he is loyal to the cavalry, he must obey his orders. If he is loyal to his heart, he must defy them. On top of that, he must make his choice while facing down his old mentor–and his old nemesis–General Kalt. There have been enough people mentioned in this query that I had trouble making the connection between Kalt in this paragraph and the first paragraph. So again, I’d like to see at least a hint of how the different narratives will weave together.
Pursued by both human soldiers and monsters that look like men but aren’t, Bria flees south. Brandon, risking capture and torture, defies exile to stop General Kalt from destroying both king and kingdom. Michael struggles to stay true to himself while serving the king. Renegade baronet, rebellious noblewoman, and conflicted soldier are on a collision course as they attempt to thwart not only Kalt’s plans, but those of someone even more sinister…the supernatural Dark King. As I’ve mentioned, I’d like a little bit more indication of how these paths collide. Also, the Dark King kinda comes out of left field. We’re not given a chance to see why he’s scary, so there isn’t any real reason to fear him. Which means the ending lacks the punch it should have.
The Loyalty Factor is an adult epic fantasy complete at 145,000 words. I have a rough outline for a sequel and plan to write several books set in this world.
Thank you for your time.

Query Critique 83

I am seeking representation for THE PERFECT WIFE, a 70,000-word novel.  I noticed that you are looking for upmarket women’s fiction, and I think this book fits that genre very well. This would probably sound stronger if you just said “and I think this would be a good fit.” Be confident about your genre.

Shanta believed in love; she saw it from her parents, from her sister, and she knew that her husband would be her constant, caring companion.  She had a vision of walks through Bangalore, India with her new husband, sharing cardamom infused milk sweets and cups of chai on their porch.

Gandhi’s declaration of India’s independence and the onset of World War II shatters these dreams.  Her husband becomes dedicated to the freedom cause, quits his job, and leaves her, with two children and little life experience, to work with Gandhi. I’d almost like to see this worked into a hook. The last paragraph does a good job setting the scene, but this sentence has conflict. And it’s the conflict that’s going to make people want to keep reading. World War II sparks protests all over India, and Shanta finds herself caught up in it, faced with racism and violence that her parents shielded her from all her life.  In this increasingly unstable world, Shanta is forced to find in herself a protector and provider to survive in a way she never thought she would: on her own.  This is an okay ending, but it would be stronger with some stakes. A deliberate statement that tells the reader what happens to her if she doesn’t find a protector.

I am part of a mother-daughter team.  Dipti Ranganathan has written short stories and was a finalist in Glimmer Train’s Short Story Award for New Writers.  This story is particularly important to us because it is heavily based on the life of my great-grandmother.  THE PERFECT WIFE tells a well-known story, that of the freedom movement in India, from a new perspective of the wives of the men who fought for their country.  I believe that this novel will help bring the perspectives of women to light in a way similar to Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club.  THE PERFECT WIFE is also similar in themes to the novel that you represent After the War is Over.

Query Critique 77

Dear Lucky Agent:

TITLE TBD, an upmarket suspense novel, is complete at 90,000 words. It follows the mental deterioration of a desperate character and will appeal to fans of Dennis Lehane’s Mystic River and Gillian Flynn’s Dark Places. Because of your call for psychological suspense with deeply troubled characters, this might be the book for you. I think you’re probably better off saying “this might be a good fit” than this is THE book for you. Agents handle multiple books at a time. And it just comes off as a little over confident to me.

A john’s love for his hooker descends into a crippling obsession. I think the main character’s name needs to be in the first sentence. Makes the character clear from the beginning. Paul Myers, who lives a humble, dinner-for-one life in Las Vegas, can no longer ignore the urge to profess his love to Janelle, his hooker. I actually think this sentence might make a better hook. But when her self-proclaimed “broker” forbids him from seeing her, Paul breaks into the home-brothel and discovers that her broker recently sold her to overseas sex traffickers. Abandoning his life of apathy and mediocrity, Paul has no choice but to rescue her himself, which leads to desperate and deadly acts of moral ambiguity. There might be a little room for more specificity when you say “desperate and deadly acts of moral ambiguity.” Like what, exactly?

While the book is by no means didactic, I was inspired to write it during my work with Nevadans for the Common Good, a group that has pushed to enact harsher penalties for johns. I currently live in Las Vegas with my wife, our Cane Corso Mastiff, and our orange tabby cat. I have a BA in English from UNLV, and I spent a year as a copy editor. I’d leave out the part about it not being didactic. Let the story speak for itself. 

Below, I’ve pasted the first ten pages of my manuscript, and the remainder is available in its entirety upon your request. Thank you for your time and consideration.



Author Contact Info

Query Critique 69

Thirty-one-year-old Francy is sure she’s already solved the mystery of her family’s murder. Until she discovers she was wrong. Intriguing hook!

When Francy was just twelve years old, her entire family was murdered aboard a chartered yacht, all while she was fast asleep below deck. The media dubbed it the Shook Family Vacation Massacre. I’m not sure this sentence is very important as it doesn’t really provide me with new information about the plot. Phobic loner Francy has spent most of her adult life trying to forget this past while barely scraping by in the present. When the convicted murderer—boat captain Harvey Denham—passes away in jail, Francy becomes unexpectedly mixed up with the killer’s son, Eli. Just to be clear, Eli is the captain’s son? It’s a little confusing to call him the killer’s son since you’ve indicated that the captain wasn’t really the murderer. Eli is adamant about his father’s innocence, and Francy is sure of his guilt. Together, they set out to discover the truth—him searching for new suspects, and her trying to rule them out. When Francy finally separates fact from fiction, though, she begins to wonder whether the truth isn’t actually worse than the lie. I like that you’re trying to introduce some stakes here, but I think it could be made stronger by including more specifics. What makes it worse than a lie? Overall, you have an interesting concept, though.

Can’t Take It with You is a 75,000 word mystery novel. Readers of Paula Hawkin’s The Girl on the Train, Gillian Flynn’s Dark Places, and Susan Crawford’s The Pocket Wife will find enjoyment in this book. Good comp titles, but this sentence feels a little awkward in the wording.

Partial or full manuscript is available upon your request. Thank you for your time,

Query Critique 61

Dear [Agent],
I am currently seeking representation for my supernatural novel, DEAD WRESTLERS,  which is complete at 90,000 words. I noticed that you are interested in books with a “fantastical or magical element,” and books that are “often quirky, sometimes funny.”
When Mark Chapman was just twelve years old he accidentally killed his little sister with a wrestling maneuver, a maneuver that would bring forth twenty-one years of remorse, regret…and the frequent company of the ghosts of deceased professional wrestlers, many of whom want him to save the lives of their living peers. This is an awesome hook.
Mark is now thirty-three and his grappling ghosts are engaged in a bitter battle over whether he will travel to Georgia to stop the Benoit murders of June 2007. Mark chooses not to, and wrestler Chris Benoit, having killed his wife and son before committing suicide, appears in his ghostly form at Mark’s job a broken man. The wording in this sentence is just a little bit awkward. Also, do we get a clue why Mark would choose not to stop these murders? During a wrestler-saving mission, Benoit causes an accident that nearly kills Mark and his friends. As a result, Mark’s friends and ghosts all bail on him, not wanting anything to do with Chris Benoit. There are, however, still lives to save, and, as Mark chases Billy Lincoln, a local guy who wrestles as Corpus and who Mark knows will die any day, there is a chance that the life of Mark himself could be in jeopardy. This sentence is also worded a little bit awkwardly.
Told across twenty-five years via flashbacks, DEAD WRESTLERS is the story of a man trying to save his favorite wrestlers from dying, to maintain his relationships, and to forgive himself for what he did more than two decades ago. I’d be wary of mentioning that there is a lot of flashback in the book, as that is something that is often a turn off to agents.
Thank you for your time and consideration. I’m looking forward to hearing from you.
Smash Hit

Query Critique 57

Dear Fabulous Agent,

Tova’s ambitious husband, Andrew, is often gone for a month at a time on business, but this is the first time he’s left without a word. Frustrated, she meets Neil, a private investigator who tempts her with his all-knowing blue eyes, dangerously curly hair, and witty banter. I would be a little interested in being more specific about how she met him. Did she hire him to find her husband? Run into him at a bar? She thinks she’s safe, until he turns out to be her new neighbor. What do you mean by safe? Safe from his charms? Is he a physical threat to her?

Beyond attracted to Neil, he makes her question resuscitating her marriage or breaking her deeply held moral code and giving into a temptation she always assumed she could walk away from. The wording in this sentence is a bit awkward. But fighting her attraction to Neil only points to what is missing in her life—passion—and magnifies her loneliness and the sacrifices she’s made for her husband. The wording could be a little more condensed by saying something to the effect of “only points to the missing passion in her life.” Magnified loneliness seems a little redundant beyond missing passion.

When Andrew unexpectedly comes home during a party and embarrasses Tova, Neil sees her farce of a marriage. Tova’s frustration boils over into anger. She confronts Andrew, but he attacks her in a rage. Could you be a little more specific about how he attacks her? She’s rescued by Neil’s good friend and employee, yet Andrew’s secrets, and Tova’s life starts start to unravel under a threatening promise. Hang-up calls and a hit-and-run accident convince Neil something sinister is going on. Together, they must unravel the mystery behind the lies she’s believed throughout her marriage as their friendship—doused in sexual tension—heats up and Tova lands in the crosshairs.  I don’t think you need to say it’s doused in sexual tension. I think that’s been established. It sounds like there is some danger, which could be worked into the query to create more specific stakes than “caught in the cross-hairs.” Why should we be worried about Tova? What do we think Andrew will do to her if she can’t figure out what’s going on in time?

I’m seeking representation for my contemporary romance novel with a suspense edge. Given your information on Publishers Marketplace I thought you would enjoy GREED & JEALOUSY. It’s complete at 95,000 words.

I’ve been a retail store owner for the last 21 years and write technical handouts for my business on the mechanics of making jewelry.  I’m a member of RWA and Midwest Fiction Writers. I share a similar career with my main character and I’ve also been duped by a lover, but that’s a story for another time.

 Thank you for your time and consideration,

Two of Seven

Query Critique 54

The Confessions of Gabriel Ash

1982. As the Falklands War erupts, a disgraced diplomat recounts his sins while confined to a medieval castle in the Eastern European country of Keshnev.Gabriel Ash, an American-born representative for Keshnev at the United Nations, has enjoyed the luxuries of a privileged life in New York for several decades.  A series of romantic missteps and catastrophic events trigger his diplomatic recall to the People’s Democratic Republic of Keshnev (“Like Albania, but without a sense of humor”), where further events plunge him into captivity, amid accusations of treason and attempted murder.  In confessions ranging from New York to the coast of the Black Sea, Gabriel Ash is haunted by his affairs with dangerous women, pursuit by the CIA (and later, by agents of Keshnev’s Ministry for State Security) and the electrifying transformation he undergoes after his escape from confinement.  The Confessions of Gabriel Ash charts a journey of self-discovery amid personal betrayals, state-sponsored assassination and the turmoil of identity in a world ravaged by the last gasp of colonial war.

My biggest concern with this query is that it needs to be fleshed out. There are some good elements of conflict there, but they need to be better developed. The query is quite short, so there’s certainly room to do this. Also, I want to really see stakes introduced. I want to see just how much Gabriel Ash stands to lose.

Also, the query is going to need some conventional things. I want the word count, genre, and comparative titles in the query. It helps ground the reader.