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 21

Well, this looks suspiciously like one of our contest winners 🙂 It’s cool to see the Twitter pitch turn into the full query.


I am querying you because of your interest in women’s fiction. PROJECT MATRIMONY is a 52,000 word women’s fiction that will appeal to readers of The Suitable Boy. I’d include the author’s name for your comparative title.

When twenty-four year old Neha is left standing alone at her wedding in Mumbai with nothing but henna designs on her hands as humiliating souvenirs, she has to swallow her pride and do the unthinkable – embrace the age old Indian tradition of arranged marriages. Try tightening this sentence up a little. I don’t think you need to specify Mumbai, since it’s clear from the rest of the query that the setting is India. I don’t think you need to specify that the henna is on her hands. Taking these out would make the sentence a little shorter.

Thanks to her nosy relatives, rumors spread about her scandal. Worried the stigma will adversely affect her younger sibling’s prospects, her parents place matrimonial ads in leading newspapers. While Neha is not entirely thrilled about being reduced to ‘Hindu software engineer girl, slim, fair seeking alliance with highly educated engineer or doctor in Mumbai’, she goes along with it for the sake of her parents. This sentence does a great job of giving the reader a lot of information very fast. Good job. With her stressed father is on the brink of a second heart attack,she agrees to marry Sameer – a man she barely knows and yet Neha knows in her heart that here is a man who would never walk out on her. This sentence is a little clunky to me. Play with it a little.

But when Neha is sent to New York on an IT consulting gig, somewhere between battling snow storms to I think this to should be an and getting mugged, she falls for another man. Now Neha is having second thoughts about her impending nuptials. But with the potential love of her life planning to marry a U.S citizen to permanently stay in America, Neha must choose between traditions and her own desires. Good. Establishes stakes.


Query Critique 16

THE HIDEAWAY is 88,700 words of contemporary women’s fiction. The novel tells the story of two women—Margaret Van Buren, known to most as Mags, and her granddaughter Sara. When Sara takes over The Hideaway, Mags’s tumble-down B&B in Sweet Bay, Alabama, she discovers her eccentric grandmother led a life of passion, bravery, and bold choices Sara never imagined. I’d like a solid one-line hook somewhere in this paragraph. I do think the part about passion, bravery, and bold choices would be a little strong if shown rather than told.

After the unexpected death of her grandmother Mags—her only remaining family—Sara goes home to The Hideaway expecting to tie up loose ends and quickly return to her busy life and successful shop in New Orleans. Instead, she learns Mags has willed her The Hideaway and charged her with renovating it—but that’s only the first surprise. A box in the attic containing clues to Mags’s real life, a motley crew of elderly B&B residents, and a handsome contractor named Crawford I almost feel like you don’t need the name. Like not saying his name makes him more mysterious and intriguing. Especially since we already can tell he’s the love interest. tie her to Sweet Bay in ways she didn’t expect. When an opportunistic land developer threatens to seize The Hideaway, Sara is forced to make a choice—stay in Sweet Bay and fight for the house and new family she’s grown to love or leave again and return to her successful but lonely life in New Orleans. So this paragraph has all the right information in it. It establishes setting, character, and conflict. It is really long, though. I wouldn’t necessarily say cut information, but can some of it go in the first paragraph? 

In my former career, I published many articles in regional magazines and in Southern Living. I currently write a monthly column in The Homewood Star, our community newspaper that reaches 14,000 readers each month. This is my second novel; the first is in a box under my bed.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Belle of the Ballpoint Pen

My overall comment on this one is to say not to underestimate the power of white space in queries (or in general. I love white space). A paragraph may be very well written, but if it’s long, my brain decides it doesn’t want to read it before I’ve even gotten to the first word.

Of course, this is hard when you’ve already been asked to strip your novel down to the bare bones. But then, is anything about querying easy?

Query Critique 9

Somebody on Twitter called these Kyratiques, which I think is fabulous. I’m going to see if I can get that to stick.

Comments are in green (in case you’re new here and haven’t caught on to my rainbow (sans red) comments yet).


After reading on your blog/on twitter/ on the agencies website your wish-list included women’s fiction, I thought my manuscript,Watercolour Riddles & Bergamot Tea, might be a good match. Put the name of the manuscript in all caps.

If MARICA If you put this in all caps, people will think this is the title of the book. learned anything from her mother, it’s that make-up is no more effective at covering crow’s feet than cried-out eyes.

But at twenty-four Marica finally had control of her life. A completed degree, a planned career and her own apartment far enough removed from her mother’s indifference and step-dad no. three’s interference…until her mother’s sudden death. With her mother gone, regret helps Marica decide to abandon her cute Paris loft and her fear of affection, and return to Melbourne Australia to live with heroctogenarian GRAN, longing for nothing less than ordinary. The placement of this modifier makes it seem like Gran longs for nothing less than ordinary. Also, I wouldn’t put GRAN in all caps.

And for a minute normal seemed possible, she even meets a hot new guy with a deliciously sexy accent. What type of accent? Specifying can help you play up the diversity, and a lot of agents are looking for diverse books. Then she uncovers one-hundred-year-old Russian journals which reveal her family’s part in the Romanov murders and subsequent four generations of deception. THIS. This is what needs to be in the hook. This is ten times more interesting than any of the stuff that leads up to it. The more she discovers the more uneasy she becomes about her family and more specifically her Gran, the one person she’d always called ‘home.’ I don’t think the quotes around home are necessary. So when the truth about her father’s death is revealed, Mention that the dad died sooner, or I might just assume that he and her mom were divorced. what remains of her world crumbles and then implodes.

With a grandmother who’s been keeping secrets, a mother who wasn’t who she seemed, and a father who died for all the wrong reasons, Marica feels deceived and fragile. With her relationship with Gran as brittle as toffy I think the more preferred American spelling is toffee, because the first time I read I thought it was taffy, which is like the least brittle candy in existence. shards, her flimsy grip on reality spirals Marica into a depressive melancholy. If she can’t break free of her family’s past, Marica’s future is assured. She’ll become the next family tragedy.

Set in Melbourne, Paris and Moscow, WATERCOLOUR RIDDLES & BERGAMOT TEA is a 90,000-word women’s fiction with historical elements, I’d break this into a new sentence right here. It gets a little long as is. think Coco Chanel & Doctor Zhivago/Romanov’s-style Russia, dealing with family and trust, and if the truth should remain buried with the dead.

Per submission guidelines I have not included …


Screen shot 2014-07-10 at 11.31.07 AM



Overall, I would say WAY more information about the involvement with the Romanov murders and quite a bit less information about how she’s trying to live a normal life. Normal is boring. That’s a lie. There are lots of great books about normal people, but I don’t think that’s where the focus should be here.

The Romanov murders are a great premise, though. People have been fascinated with that bit of history for a long time, and I think there is definitely more room for stories about it.