QueryDice #12

The following is a query critique. Comments, suggestions and discussion are welcome and we hope you join in. I can only offer one opinion. The author of the query and I would love to hear yours!

Dear Ms. Ruth:

Superstes Island is a completed 90,000 word young adult novel narrating the first person perspective of two main characters. This fast-paced read is the first in a trilogy and should fit in well with the popular science fiction slash romance genre that captivates young adult readers.

I would have stopped reading after this paragraph. “Superstes” looks like a spelling error and I’m wondering how to pronounce it. The paragraph is extremely wordy. A novel doesn’t “narrate” anything, it’s characters or narrators do. We don’t need to know, at this stage, anything about point-of-view or even who is telling the story. I worry, at this point, that your thought-process is not focused enough to write a book. There is no “science fiction slash romance genre.” You have lumped two very different, huge genres together, which tells me you might not be very knowledgeable about your target market. Finally, no one, even a hard-core genre reader, is captivated by a specific genre. They might like one fantasy novel and not another. I assume that you were trying to express your awareness of young adults’ attraction to romance and science-fiction, but this was not clear. None of these issues on their own would have earned a rejection from me, but lumped together, all in two sentences, I’m confident that this query is not ready to be sent to agents and I can only assume the same is true of the manuscript.

Adah Trevino is a handpicked orphan who stars as a member of the newest type of reality show. The producers of the show have assumed legal guardianship over three dozen orphans who make up the cast, and the memories of these orphans have been wiped clean of their lives prior to arriving on Superstes Island. These orphans were then genetically engineered to become a new type of being, ones with superhuman abilities from altered DNA strands injected into their bodies. These genetically engineered orphans, or GEOs as the whole world has dubbed them, are the most innovative version of reality show stars known to man. They’re glorified teens who lead a life above ordinary; lives that have captivated an international audience for ten years.

We really don’t need a breakdown of how the orphans became altered. I think it might be better to simplify that into a single sentence and focus instead on building your character and your world.

I also think you should establish Adah’s life as she knows it in a couple of sentences. How is her life above ordinary and how is she glorified. Is she happy this way? Then, you can introduce to the reader that she’s actually a GEO, stolen and abused to be cast in a reality TV show.

But Adah has no idea she is a contender in this reality show that airs twenty four hours a day. She thinks she is the survivor of a nuclear world war that has caused her mutated abilities.

Like millions of viewers around the world, William Harrison watches Adah Trevino every day of his life. Like millions of other males around the country, he is also head over heels for this gorgeous GEO on the show. But his attachment to Adah goes far beyond superficial attraction. Will knew Adah before she became a legendary icon. Not only does their past link them together, but Will’s father is also the network producer for the show. Through this insider connection, he begins to realize that Adah’s life is in real danger.

Suddenly, Adah’s dreams of escaping the island one day become a necessity, and Will plans on doing whatever it takes to help set her free.

How did Will know Adah? Was their relationship significant? More importantly, why is Adah’s life in danger, why should Will care this much, and what obstacles do they face in saving Adah’s life?

The best thing you can do for your query is to build up your story’s world. In what kind of world would something like this happen? How would the authorities allow orphaned children to be abused in this way? Is this set in a dystopian future in which the government no longer cares about its people?

My name is Raiza Jaimes and I have a true passion for writing and Literature. I have a Bachelor’s degree in English and I am a high school English teacher. I hope this short taste of Superstes Island captures your interest. Please contact me if you are interested in reading more. Thank you for your time and your consideration.

We already know your name from your salutation. Personally, I don’t need to know that you have a true passion for writing and literature. I’ve already assumed this, since you’ve written 90,000 words. This won’t make or break your query, but I wouldn’t waste space on it. I normally disregard any personal information in the platform/credentials paragraph that does not directly contribute to a platform. Things that directly contribute to a platform are contest wins, previous publications, writing experience, industry affiliations, etc.

Lastly, this story is actually really intriguing, especially the fact that she’s an engineered orphan who doesn’t know what she is, that she’s being constantly watched, and the element of danger in her life. If this query were organized better, I would have been more interested, but I’m concerned that the manuscript will have the same problems as the query.

Sincerely,

[redacted]

LR

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Posted on September 29, 2011, in Advice, book publishing, literary agency, manuscripts, publishing, queries, Query Dice, rejection, slush pile, submissions, writers, YA and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. I think this is a fantastic premise, but I have no idea who Adah is and there is no sense of the novel’s voice in this query. There’s too much backstory that tells us very little about the book.

    If the query was more focused on Adah and her journey, and who she is, I think we’d get a better sense of what the book is like.

  2. I agree with the notes. This is about Adah so start with her. According to her pov she’s stranded on an island (I wonder what she does there that makes it so entertaining). What she doesn’t know is that billions of people are watching, including her best friend Will. Then maybe go from there.

    One thing that’s not clear to me – She lost her memories so she wouldn’t know that she’s mutated or that there’s been an apocalypse, she might just think this is normal. Unless she’s been taught these things OR they only erased a month or year from her memory.

    Still this mostly set up. Cut it down so you have room to give us more of the plot ->why her life’s in danger and what they plan to do about it, etc.

  3. The premise *is* interesting, and while I agree that the query needs work, I might request a partial to see if it really is just the query that’s the problem. However, if I had better-written queries in the pile with as-good premises, I might give this one a pass. Goes to show how important it is to nail the query. Glad I’m not an agent! :)

    I would encourage the writer to re-read the query aloud and ask in all honesty if that pitch alone would compel him/her to read the novel. What changes would I suggest? Push the main character, make me care about her, and cut details–anything I don’t need to know in order to understand what the crisis is and why it matters. You have 250 words to make me want to read 90,000. Don’t waste them!

    I hope that’s helpful.

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