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 …


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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.

Query Critique 5

Three critiques in one day! Don’t get used to it. I’m usually too busy for that.

Purple comments!


Dear Ms. Nelson,

Walt Disney’s Snow White meets John Cusack’s Better Off Dead in POISON APPLES, a 55,000 word young adult novel with magical realism. Make sure to italicize comparative titles. I’d maybe say a contemporary magical realism novel, just to clarify since historical fiction can also have magical realism.

Bianca Snow’s life is over. I think you could find a better hook. This, too me, sounds a little dramatic and teen angsty. The fact that animals follow her around is unique, so I would find a way to work that into the hook. Her boyfriend, Lance, dumped her after one too many run-ins with the animals that follow her everywhere, and now he’s dating the hottest member of the Eastern Alexandria High School dance team.  Comma’s added under the assumption that Lance is her only boyfriend. Snow’s persistent parade of woodland creatures is a huge scandal at school- and in her father’s congressional campaign- and her evil stepmother volunteered all Snow’s newly found “free time” to babysit the seven kids of a politically powerful family. Consider breaking up this sentence. It’s a little long.

But just when Snow thinks she’s ready to end it all, I’m not entirely sure what “end it all” means. Is she planning to take her life (would NOT fit the tone of the novel)? Quit her babysitting job? Run away from home? she meets Will, a cello-playing senior who doesn’t mind her odd way with the natural world.  When the school talent show is announced, Snow realizes a good performance could redeem her reputation, and her relationship with Lance; with Will’s help, she might even win.  But singing her way back into Lance’s arms requires pretending she’s already in Will’s. And using Will to get to Lance might mean losing her real prince.

I am a member of SCBWI with an extremely average singing voice.  I think that’s a nice short bio. This is my first novel.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Super-duper Terrific Doer of All Awesomely Fantastic Things.


The query feels short, but it covers all the essentials. So short is actually good in this case.

I will say, I see a lot of fairy tale retellings. In particular, I see Snow White, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty done all the time. I haven’t seen one quite like this, though. Which is good. Just don’t be surprised if some agents read “Snow White retelling” and groan. It is possible to get a story like this published, even though these retellings have been done a lot.

I talk about this a little bit in this post on timing.