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Saturday, July 16, 2011

Gearing Up To Get an Agent - The Query

It's week 3 of GUTGAA Blogfest over at Deana Barnhart's site. This week, it's about helping and getting help for the almighty QUERY.


I hate queries (though I hate the synopsis more.) It's something about it being the one chance you have to get an agent's attention that makes me break out in a cold sweat. I have had my query letter critiqued by Agent Barbara Poelle at a conference, and I'm going to share her comments with you later in the week, but I really want your feedback because her suggestions, while good, were not that extensive and I think she was more swayed by the accompanying material than the query. Come the fall, I'm going to be querying everyone and their dog, so I want it to be tight. What do you think?



Dear [Agent Name]
I am seeking representation for my Young Adult novel, BOOKEND, complete at 75,000 words. I am enclosing a synopsis and sample pages. The sequel, BOOKBEGIN, is currently in outline form.
Finial Smith lives in a world  where discarded book characters, called QRs (Quasi-Reals), come to be recycled or pressed into servitude. The Smiths are the last natural-born family living in a village of QRs. The Farm is renowned for the fine quality of Qr workers they produce. But being the only real boy for miles is getting on this fifteen year old’s nerves. Fin’s missing his dead mother, bored at school and tired of hearing his Da tell him about Nobless Oblige – the duty all natural-borns have to care and defend the dependent and weaker QR creatures.

When Fin meets Anne, a QR who breaks away from the herd, he finds a girl who is more alive and real than anyone he's ever met. A revolution is brewing in BookEnd with QRs determined to fight for the same rights as natural-borns. Fin has to decide whether to stand with his family and let Anne be destroyed, or to endanger the world he knows to save her.  

Thank you for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Best wishes,

17 comments:

  1. Hi,

    Following are my suggested line edits, in parenthesis and all caps:


    I am seeking representation for my(DON'T NEED THIS; IT'S AN UNDERSTOOD) (WHAT KIND OF YA IS THIS?) Young Adult (CAN SHORTEN TO "YA") novel, BOOKEND, (DON'T NEED COMMAS AROUND "BOOKEND.") complete at 75,000 words. (I am enclosing=REWRITE: ENCLOSED ARE) a synopsis and sample pages. The sequel, BOOKBEGIN, is currently in outline form. (SOME AGENTS/EDITORS GET NERVOUS WHEN THEY HEAR ABOUT A SERIES FROM A NEW AUTHOR. SOME, THOUGH, LIKE THAT YOU WILL BE MORE THAN A ONE-BOOK WONDER.) (THIS GRAPH NEEDS TO COME LATER IN YOUR QUERY.)

    Finial Smith lives in a world (DELETE EXTRA SPACE) where discarded book characters, called (QRs (Quasi-Reals)=REWRITE TO READ JUST "QUASI-REALS."), come to be recycled or pressed into servitude. The Smiths are the last natural-born family living in a village of QRs(.=REPLACE WITH ", FOR) The Farm is renowned for the fine quality of (Qr=QR) workers they produce. (I LOVE THESE OPENING LINES!) But being the only real boy for miles is getting on this fifteen year old’s nerves. Fin’s missing his dead mother, bored at school and tired of hearing his Da tell him about Nobless Oblige – the duty all natural-borns have to care and defend the dependent and weaker QR creatures. (THESE SENTENCES DON'T SEEM AS STRONG AS THE OTHERS IN THIS GRAPH.)

    When Fin meets Anne, a QR who breaks away from the herd, he finds a girl who is more alive and real than anyone he's ever met. A revolution is brewing in BookEnd with QRs determined to fight for the same rights as natural-borns. Fin has to decide whether to stand with his family and let Anne be destroyed, or to endanger the world he knows to save her. (GREAT!)

    (PUT THE FIRST GRAPH HERE.)

    (ADD A GRAPH ABOUT WHY YOU'RE THE BEST PERSON TO WRITE THIS BOOK.)

    Thank you for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

    (WHAT A GREAT CONCEPT!)

    Michelle

    P.S. I'm a new follower. :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. hi Michelle.
    What great feedback. Thanks so much, and nice to 'meet' you!

    ReplyDelete
  3. This is such a great idea! I love the idea of discarded book characters coming to life--how fun :)

    I would lose the whole first paragraph, except for the first sentence--it is all backstory and explanation. You don't need it. Take us right into the plot. The second paragraph is great!

    Good luck in the fall--I'm going to start querying then too. Lets cross our fingers together.

    Author Elana Johnson's blog about querying helped me tons: http://elanajohnson.blogspot.com/p/writing-query-letter.html

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hi,

    I also thought it was a great idea. I struggled a bit with the second paragraph as it was complex.

    I would open with: "The Smiths are the last natural-born family living in a village of QRs."

    You second para (When Fin meets Anne) is perfect, very clear.

    What a great new world you've created - good luck! Also a new follower here.

    Freya.
    (http://freyamorris.blogspot.com/)

    ReplyDelete
  5. Great concept! I bet this was a fun one to write :)

    I'll second the backstory thought- jump straight into the action of the story. If you feel some of that info is important put it into a paragraph that goes after the first one.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Yeah, this is such a unique, fresh idea! And you've actually boiled it all down quite nicely. I have only a few comments on structure. Some of my changes are subtle.

    While I like a book's intro at the beginning, your query is one where it is better served at the end, so I am going to show it moved there.

    Finial Smith lives in a world where discarded book characters called QRs, Quasi-Reals, come to be recycled or pressed into servitude. The Smiths are the last natural-born family living in a village of QRs. The Farm is renowned for the fine quality of QR (both letters capped) workers they produce. But being the only real boy for miles is getting on the fifteen-year-old's nerves. Fin misses his dead mother, is bored at school, and tired of hearing his Da tell him about Nobless Oblige – the duty all natural-borns have to care and defend the dependent and weaker QR.

    When Fin meets Anne, a QR who breaks away from the herd, he finds a girl who is more alive and real than anyone he's ever met. But a revolution is brewing in BookEnd with the QRs determined to fight for the same rights as natural-borns. Fin has to decide whether to stand with his family and let Anne be destroyed, or to endanger the world he knows to save her.

    BOOKEND is a young adult novel (what kind exactly? Fantasy or whatever) of 75,000 words. As directed on your website, (because you should NEVER send unsolicited pages) I am enclosing a synopsis and sample pages (give the exact number of pages - the first ten or whatever). The sequel, BOOKBEGIN, is currently in outline form. (I wouldn't include this last line.)

    Thank you for your time and consideration. (Sorry, but you can't assume you will ever hear from them so saying so isn't relevant.)

    Best wishes, (A little too personal - use something more professional such as Sincerely or Best Regards)

    Name
    Address
    phone numbers
    email
    blog

    I must say, though I do not read this genre, you did a very nice job with the query! Good luck!

    ReplyDelete
  7. thanks everyone for your great feedback! I'm looking forward to chiming in on your queries today. And good luck to all!

    ReplyDelete
  8. i'm not really sure what a discarded book character is. Characters from early drafts of books? Will they be from famous books or known characters?

    Also not clear how they differ from normal people.

    Does the farm produce QR's or train them or look after them?

    I get the Finn's frustration with the hand he's been dealt, but I would say my main concern is that the premise and central concept isn't very clear at the moment (to me anyway).

    mood

    ReplyDelete
  9. What a fun, fresh, unique idea!!! It seems again that I'm late to the party. Having just found your blog (yes... I'm a new follower!!!) you're getting the best feedback I've seen! The first commentor was so detailed that I feel she nailed it on several levels!!!

    I love the idea of discarded book characters and I'd love to be a human trapped in that world... as long as I'm not 15 (I think)... hehe.

    I do hope you'll stop in and check out my query!

    ReplyDelete
  10. Wow, you've gotten some great feedback already! YA is not a genre - it's your audience. You need to include your genre.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Great job! You've already gotten great feedback, so I won't add more. I agree with Nicole that you need to include the genre - fantasy or even sci-fi fantasy as it sounds to me.

    Good luck!

    ReplyDelete
  12. Oh my goodness, now I am not the one to ask about the way queries are supposed to be, but as far as the book content, you have me hooked!

    If you are planning on submitting your query for the contest please email it to me by 12PM ET Tuesday.

    Good Luck!
    D

    ReplyDelete
  13. Great story idea. Follow the good advice on here and you'll be golden:) Best of luck to you!

    ReplyDelete
  14. Also love this story idea. I think you could do some trimming of a few words here and there, but as a whole, I like it. I'd read it :D

    ReplyDelete
  15. Love the story idea. I think Nancy Thompson's revision is the format to use. Can't wait to see this book in print.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Great query and awesome story premise!! I would move the word count and such to the end, and start with your hook.

    Nice job!

    ReplyDelete

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