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.

Query Critique 82

Ashlynn Weaver doesn’t know she’s a dream-walker, only that she can control her dreams So for this first sentence I would try focusing on the dream controlling aspect rather than throwing out this unknown term, especially since she doesn’t know what that is. Her waking life is another story—falling for her best friend who’s hung up on his ex, wondering if her missing mom is still alive, and worrying she’ll vanish next. Ash tries to hide her delusions, so similar to the ones her mom had before, but the monsters are getting harder to ignore. The monsters sort of came out of nowhere. Especially when a serpentine creature nearly drowns her in a pool.
When Ash finds a magic lamp and releases Rizian, a jinn made of fire, she’s ready to get fitted for a straight jacket. The jinn is interesting, and I almost wonder if it could be worked into the query sooner? Maybe even in the hook? But, surely hallucinations don’t introduce themselves, and who could resist three wishes on their eighteenth birthday? Rizian introduces Ash to a magical world she never knew existed, and she offers magic he’s equally unfamiliar with: friendship. Some good voice in these sentences. Together, they rescue Ash’s bewitched mom, but a fairy queen won’t let them return to the human world unless Ash agrees to unravel a twisted scheme that targets fairy children. The evidence points to witches and reveals secrets about Ash’s family that explain why she sees monsters—fairies—and why her dreams have turned deadly. Her emerging ability to dream-walk proves dangerous when an unplanned foray into her sister’s dream has effects on waking life.
After using two wishes with unexpected consequences, Ash is caught in a conflict between worlds and a romance with Rizian that’s literally too hot to handle. When it turns out her sister is the real target of the witches’ sinister plans, Ash must relinquish her last wish, one that could make an impossible love possible, unless she can dream up another way to save her. Great stakes!
WISHES OF FIRE is an 107,000 word young adult paranormal romance, with potential for a trilogy. Thank you for your time and consideration,

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 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 48

Dear Agent,

Twenty-one-year-old Lea Cobb has a legion of fans at her feet, but the man she wants keeps running away.

A former KidCast actress, Lea is making a comeback on a new hit show. I almost like this better as a hook. The leading role of sexy-nerdy African-American college student should get her back on the cover of popular celebrity magazine, Rules of the Stars. I’m a little distracted by the name of the magazine. Is it important? To solidify her rise to fame, she only needs one thing: a steamy guy to show off on the red carpet. Lea sees her chance in the smoking hot Australian body of the last actor to join the show.

Thirty-one-year-old star Joshua Housten accepts the small part hoping for a change of scenery after his catastrophic divorce. Is this the Australian guy, or a different guy? Make it clear. Desperate to escape his past while rebuilding his career and image, he’s determined to follow three hard-and-fast rules: no relationships, no co-stars and no younger women. Easy enough–until he meets Lea, the former child star that makes his body react in a very grown-up way. 

Joshua tries to stymie Lea’s seduction attempts, and as her feelings for him grow, she uses every seductive tool she possesses to convince him rules are meant to be broken. She’s set on winning his love, but the closer she gets, the more he throws up walls. Lea knows one thing for sure: she isn’t ready to take no for an answer, because if Joshua chooses his rules, he’ll break her heart. Overall, I would say this is a pretty solid query letter. Good sense of setting and conflict. If at all possible, I’d like to get a little more indication what their personalities are like. 

Told from Lea and Joshua’s POV, RULES OF THE STARS is an Adult Contemporary Romance novel complete at 69,000 words.  I think you could easily pitch this as New Adult. I also don’t think you need to capitalize contemporary or romance.

Upon your request, I would be delighted to send the complete manuscript. Thank you for your time and consideration. 


Rising Author Star

Query Critique 41

Dear Secret Agent Man:

Lily Monroe survived the end of the world. Most would say she’s lucky. She’s not so sure.

The plague left surviving males virtually sterile and the hope of rebuilding society nearly nonexistent. Now, stuck with her ex-fiancé Garrett in a rural cabin in Tennessee, Lily is ill-equipped to survive whatever comes next – until what comes next arrives in the form of Cash Walker. This is good over all. I’m a little confused why she’s in a cabin with her ex-fiancé. Are they together despite a falling out? Or if there was no falling out, why is he her ex-fiancé?

Tall and trim and tough, Cash is exactly the kind of man who can get Lily and Garrett to one of the government-sanctioned survivor colonies. But Cash, tormented by his past, seeks only the solitude of the Louisiana bayous he calls home. Guiding two city-slickers through a landscape of burned-out buildings and mass graves is the last thing he needs on his post-apocalypse plate, and his attraction to Lily is a complication he wants to avoid as much as the plague itself. Yet Lily’s maddening mix of stubborn independence and kind-hearted determination proves more than he can resist. How does Cash end up in Tennessee? And if all he wants is to get down to Louisiana, why would he stop to help out this random couple? The only reason given is his attraction to Lily, but before that develops, what reason does he have to get involved.

As they trek deeper south, Lily sees the kind of man You’ve already used this “kind of man” phrase once, so it sounds a little repetitive here. Cash Walker is: broken, tortured, determined to fight off anyone who gets close. But Lily has spent her life healing broken creatures, and she’s convinced love can heal Cash, too, if only he will let it.

But when their arrival at the first colony ends in disaster, Cash saves her by leaving a severely injured Garrett behind. Feeling betrayed by his choice, Lily must choose: strike out alone or follow Cash to Belle Terre, a plantation colony in south Louisiana. Lily is torn between her anger with Cash and her growing feelings for him. When she learns she’s carrying Garrett’s child – possibly the last unborn child on earth – the rift between them widens and leaves Lily doubting the one thing she’d always believed – that love can heal any broken heart. Good. Stakes are established.

THE BEAUTIFUL EARTH is a 108,000 word adult post-apocalypse romance – the kind of romance created when a Deep South author reads Gone With the Wind and The Road in rapid succession. The novel can be read as a single manuscript or as the first of a proposed trilogy focused on three couples struggling to build a new society in south Louisiana. Thank you for considering it for representation.


Southern Harm

This query has a lot going for it. Good conflict and stakes. Just look into tying up some of the loose questions, and you should be good to go!

Query Critique 12

Hello lovely readers! Before I dive into this query, I just want to announce that I’ll be hosting a contest on Twitter soon. So follow me and keep up with Twitter and the blog so you don’t miss out on details.

And now the Kyratique. You know the drill.


Dear Ms. Nelson,

My manuscript, Piece of Your Soul, Put in all caps. is a feel-good I’d rather get the feel-good vibe from the tone of the letter, rather than having the author say it., small town love story aimed at college-aged kids, and therefore, I would place it in the New Adult Romance Just say that it’s New Adult. That implies that it’s aimed at college-aged kids.  category with approximately 57,350 words. Go ahead and round to 57,000. We’re not actually going to count. This story is told with two points of view, both the girl, and the drool-worthy boy. Drool-worthy is another thing I’d like conveyed through how he acts rather than being told he’s drool-worthy.

It’s the late 90s. This fact alone brings the reader back in time before everyone had a cell phone! This sentence seems unnecessary. Even the youngest people in agenting will remember the 90s. People (and couples) had to result in actually talking to one another on the phone. Oh the torture! Someone might actually get to know one another without texting back in forth all night!  And, of course, no social media to help you creep on someone before a first date! I feel like this is a lot of space devoted to talking about things that don’t actually tell me about the plot. It could be shortened to a single phrase, I think, and I also don’t think I would lead with it. 

Emily has just graduated from high school, and is desperately trying to start over and get away from her past. This might be more interesting if you were specific about what her “past” is. Is it just the ex? Other things? Her spirit is broken, as she feels used by her former boyfriend. But, she’s excited about her future when, due to an outrageous set of circumstances, she meets Landry. Landry is irresistible. And Emily has never felt so alive since that morning fate forced them to meet. He has this fun, joyful way about him that bleeds into all his words and actions. He’s a mix of bad boy and good ‘ole southern chivalry wrapped up in a package to salivate over.  Amidst fully clothed cannonballs, piggy-back rides, sultry kisses, and four-wheelers, This sentence has some of what I mean about showing rather than telling.I’d like to see more of that. Emily realizes her brokenness begins to heal with every second spent with this man. I think this could be shortened a little by condensing some of the sentences. I would also like to see more 

But, Landry is only home in Georgia for the summer, before he has to go back to the “land of the fields” to play football at his little college in Missouri. Really, fate must be playing a sick joke.  They have exactly two weeks together before Landry has to head back to the mid-west.  Fate surely brought them together, and fate is surely pulling them apart…

I am a young 30s wife and mom of two young children living in the suburbs of Atlanta.  But, I have held many titles other than “wife and mom”. I have been a schoolteacher, real estate agent, and theologian. Until recently, I held a day job as a children’s ministry director.  I got to make stories come to life on a weekly basis.  I may not be gifted in organization, but I can tell a story in a fun and exciting way.  My day job gave me the opportunity to mentor many teens and young college students over the years. This experience is why I felt compelled to tell a different story than what I see on the best-selling new adult novel list, and on goodreads. Though I read many of those books, Piece of Your Soul, is a story I needed to hear, and one many of my friends needed too.  In a world rampant with sex, drugs, alcohol, depression, suicide, bullying, and cutting beginning at such young ages, I realized that some of my past mistakes and decisions could possibly be used to help someone else.  The best way I know how to do that is to tell a story.  And so, I began writing…. In general, I don’t care about bios very much (unless the author has some fairly impressive credentials). I do think it’s interesting that you talk about how you became interested in writing the story. Yet like everything in the query, it needs to be shortened. It sounds like this might fall under the category of “clean” romance. Which is great, because there is a demand for that (consider submitting to Shadow Mountain’s Proper Romance line). If that’s the case, I would state it explicitly. So maybe just keep it brief by saying something like “My experiences as a wife, mom, schoolteacher, real estate agent, and theologian inspired me to write PIECE OF YOUR SOUL because I feel it’s a story people need to hear. In general, I recommend bio paragraphs be no more than one or two sentences.

Thank you so much for your time!


Warm Soul


This entire query letter needs to be condensed. The best way to do this is by doing more showing than telling.

If I’m trying to convince my friend to go on a blind date with a guy I know, and I say “He’s nice” she’ll probably be like “Eh. That’s not very convincing.” But if I say, “This guy spends his weekends volunteering for a soup kitchen and he also runs a non-profit dedicated to providing education to children in impoverished areas” my friend will know the guy is nice without me actually saying he’s nice. I’m using specific details to SHOW her. And that’s just a more convincing way to convey that he is nice.

You can do the same thing with a query letter (and a statement of intent or cover letter, I might add).  SHOW me. Don’t just tell me.