Query Critique 81

Dear Miss Nelson,

When music lover and Massachusetts native Sarah McPhee transfers to the London offices of Sixteen Magazine, she expects the number of miles between herself and her old life to be enough to repair her crushed heart. I like these opening sentences.

It’s been a slow process getting over Ben, Sarah’s boyfriend of six years, who left her without an explanation but with an abundance of self-doubt.  Having always understood her life in terms of music – her childhood shaped by her father’s passion for sixties rock bands and her adolescence influenced by Madonna and her older brother’s knowledge of everything grunge – she finds this stretch of years to be eerily silent.  Determined to make her heart sing again, Sarah plants herself in a new city, where she immediately struggles with the ups and downs of starting over.

Tasked with saving the magazine from declining sales and subscriptions, energetic and curious Sarah quickly meets a range of new acquaintances, including her offbeat landlady, the always friendly Megan, and Megan’s charming but arrogant brother, Rob.  From getting lost (which she expected to happen) to being taught how to drive on the left side of the road (which she didn’t), Sarah learns, thanks to impromptu afternoon cocktails, an adventure through Hampstead Heath, and listening to old mix tapes, about getting over heartbreak, trusting her decisions and how to hear the music again.  Even in one of the most exciting cities in the world, happiness, she discovers, isn’t something that can be found – happiness must be made from within. So I normally don’t like queries that end with “and the character will learn x” it sort of works since this query has a quieter tone to this. Even still, I don’t think it would be bad to make the ending have stronger stakes. In other words, tell me what the character stands to lose. Overall, I think the query looks very good, though.

I studied abroad in London during college and fell in love with the city.  The balance of an almost stubborn persistence to maintain tradition and the desire to be one of the more modern cities in the world struck me as unique and fascinating.  As I can no longer “up and move” to Europe, I decided to write a story about a girl who does.

A Song for Sarah McPhee is a new adult novel complete at 86,000 words.  Put your title in all caps. Per your submission guidelines, please see below for _________.  Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.

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.


Query Critique 62

For twenty-two-year-old Phoebe Lawrence, life has always resembled a project managed by her parents.

Although she’s been over parented, Phoebe is content with life that she has. Her world suddenly collapses when, due to huge debts, her parents can no longer afford her college fees, sell their fancy house and get divorced, not to mention her boyfriend leaves her without a word of explanation. This sentence has a lot of good conflict in it, but is worded very awkwardly. No more plans, fixed arrangements or busy schedules, and, most of all, the chance to take charge of her own life.

As a victim of overprotective parents, it’s hard for Phoebe to find herself in a new reality full of risks, confrontations and decision making. She’s lost and insecure. To pull herself together she takes part in the 100 Happy Days challenge – the social media experiment aimed at reaching long term happiness. For the next three months, each day Phoebe is supposed to take a picture of something that makes her content. Along the way she meets Chris, her neighbor and son of her employers in one person. The “in one person” bit is a bit awkward sounding. He’s the type of a guy whom she can’t stand – an emotionally flat, careless playboy. Initially, Phoebe gets irritated whenever Chris is around, and consistently blows him off. Nevertheless, the more time she spends with him, the more she’s made sure he’s more complex than she expected. This sentence also could be reworded to sound a little smoother. Chris is the total opposite of Phoebe, he emanates rebelliousness and courage, and has never abandoned himself to please anybody. With the help of Chris and the challenge, Phoebe comes to realize that the life which she used to have was like imprisonment. Yet, it’s hard for someone whose level of trust and confidence in the world are critical, to start taking risks and making steps towards a fulfilled, free life. Further complicating matters is the fact that Phoebe clearly has a crush on Chris, but at the same time is haunted by the feelings for her ex-boyfriend, whom she accidentally runs into one day. Phoebe’s terrified because she has to, as never before, make a lot of groundbreaking decisions that will have a bearing on her life. I think this would be stronger if it ended with a stronger sense of the stakes. What does Phoebe stand to lose? Also, this paragraph is way long. I’d split it up. Don’t underestimate the power of white space.

Complete at 150,000 words, 100 Happy Days is a New-Adult fiction novel set in New York. Fiction novel is redundant, as novels are by definition fictional. I would call it a New Adult contemporary novel.

Thank you,
2 Many Choices

Query Critique 56

Dear (Agent Name),

In the three years since the plague mutated and eradicated half of human civilisation, the members of the Junior Reconnaissance Unit 5/07 have done the following:

Run an approximate distance of twelve thousand kilometres.

Witnessed a little over nine hundred deaths.

Terminated a combined total of seven hundred and twenty two infected people.

But the plaque is basically under control now, and the six of them need a break. And they’ve been promised one by central headquarters, as soon as their mission is over. I think the query would read a little easier if it was condensed from lots of really short paragraphs into a few longer ones.

Then, one of them recruits a mysterious sharpshooter, throwing team cohesion into disarray. As they struggle to adjust and continue to trust each other, love and jealousy rear their heads, and a long hidden secret begins to grow too big to hide. This last bit seems a little vague to me and isn’t as gripping as some other elements of the query. In general, I’d like a lot more details about what this mission entails.

Their mission is due to end in a week, but despite the waning of the plague, the odds of the team making it back to central headquarters in one piece aren’t looking too great.

BEAUTIFUL WORLDS is a 70,322 word, standalone New Adult fiction novel novels are by definition fictitious, with elements of romance that include LGBT+ perspectives. Told from six, third-person points of view, it explores the relationships between the six members of the team, and their personal experiences during the plague. Six is a lot of point of view characters for a book. It’s also problematic in the query, because we aren’t actually introduced to any of the characters in the query, which is a little disconcerting to me. At this point I don’t feel like I have enough details about the characters or the plot. The world sounds interesting, but I’m not sure if it’s enough to really grab my interest.

I have had the odd piece of fiction published on fictionpress.net and fanfiction.net, although those have long since been taken down. Aside from writing, I also beta read, and have offered critiques for different pieces of writing so far.

Thank you for your time and consideration.



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,


Query Critique 18

Dear Mrs. Nelson,

No-nonsense, 19-year-old Violet Mason knows what she wants: she wants to rock college like a hurricane, she wants to take her little sister trick-or-treating, and she wants the nightmares to stop. Vi’s always dreamed of ice and blood, but they aren’t dreams– they’re memories, and they aren’t hers.

When Evie Beware of names that look to similar on the page (in this case Evie and Vi)—beautiful, bubbly, and bloodthirsty—sits down beside Vi and says ‘hi’, things take a turn for the bizarre. There’s the confusing attraction between them, for one. Does Vi know that she’s blood-thirsty? Then, the boy who’s been watching Vi for months attacks her with a strange knife. This seems a little out of nowhere. Also, what is strange about the knife?

Evie saves Vi from being ripped apart by a snake-like monster, Where did the snake-monster come from? Also, what happened with the thing with the knife? and the girls embark on a twisted, deadly road trip across the American southwest. Evie has the dreams, too, and she knows about guns, which is great. Why is that great? What’s less great is that their chance meeting has set off a cosmic beacon that’s drawing more monsters to them. And that boy who tried to kill her? He’s an amnesiac named Toby and might be Vi’s only ally. It’s too bad he’s possessed by an entity that can’t decide whether to kill her or kiss her. There’s a lot happening in this paragraph. I’d like to know more WHY things are happening. What’s causing these things to happen? Also, just smooth the transitions a little.

So here’s Vi’s carefully organized To-Do list: learn to kick ass, or at least bruise it, while on the lam; find out whose memories are in her head and why it’s made her a target; fix an amnesiac, if she can find the time; and, most importantly, stay alive. This paragraph has great voice.

No problem. The body count might be rising, but she’s got this. Also good voice.

VESTIGE is a complete, 87,000 word YA urban fantasy action/adventure novel with strong elements of action/adventure and romance. I’d pick either action or adventure. I don’t think you need both. Also, 19 is a little old for the YA range. Do with that what you will.

Thank you for your time and consideration.
Dream Slasher

If you want a little more of my thoughts on New Adult versus Young Adult, check out my post on New Adult.


Is New Adult a Thing?

Is New Adult a thing?

The short answer, I think, is yes. New Adult is a thing. But nobody knows what that thing is.

It should be pretty simple. New Adult books are books that focus on twenty-something protagonists. Some people have said NA is YA with more sex, but I don’t think that’s true. At least not in all cases.

At any rate, every agent approaches the emerging NA category differently. Some embrace it fully, while others won’t touch it with a ten-foot pole. A lot will look at it, but only if it could cross-over into another category (like women’s fiction, fantasy, or even young adult).

I see a lot of people out there writing NA, and I think there is a demand for it. I’ve seen plenty of it from indie publishers and on sites like Wattpad.

And it is getting published traditionally, though usually not under the NA banner. For instance, I would say Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl is more NA than YA, even though you’ll find it on the YA shelf at the bookstore.

That said, I would expect to see NA become more recognized, even to the extent that I think you’ll be able to find a NA bookshelf at Barnes & Nobel in the nearish future.

Until then, though, what do you do with your NA book? How do you pitch it?

I think the top of your pitch list should be the agents who are very open to NA. If they aren’t interested, decide which genre would be the next closest fit. The pitch it to agent’s who represent that genre and let your query letter show the market potential.

I’d consider something like, “Novel X is a NA romance, but could be sold as women’s fiction.” It’s good to have some versatility in how the book can be marketed.

And as always, keep writing. If the book never sells, write something else and pitch that while you’re waiting for NA to become the hot thing that everybody’s after. More manuscripts=More publishing opportunity, after all.