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!
There is no greeting in this query. Now I feel like you’ve just thrown yourself in my face without warning.
A young girl, destesting the move to the gold rush territory in 1849, tries unsuccessfully to avoid the journey.
There is a typo in the first sentence. It happens. It certainly won’t earn you a form rejection just on its own. But I hate typos. And now I know you ignored the wiggly red underline in Word or you didn’t bother to proofread this yourself. I don’t know you, so I’ll just assume you’re lazy and unprofessional. I know you’re probably not, so don’t make me think you are.
Judging by this sentence, it sounds like your whole book is about this young girl trying not to go on this journey. But since that’s not really the conflict, we don’t need to know this information. You should save it for the synopsis. Begin your query, instead with the main character or with the main conflict.
During the five hour trip from NYC to Philadelphia, she is annoyed by the endless chatter of her siblings, and the small size of the wagon that must carry her family of six.
I like the idea of a young girl caravanning with her family across the country to get to the gold rush. I’d read that book. But I need to know more about it.
I thought she was going to gold rush territory, but now it sounds like she’s going to Philadelphia. In two sentences, you’ve mentioned three different locales, which seem to be disconnected.
Her perspective towards the journey changes when a widow joins her family’s caravan and invites her to sit in her wagon.
This sentence is a bit ungainly since you’ve used the word “her” twice within five words to refer to two different women. I don’t think the young girl sitting in the widow’s wagon is even important at this point. I’d rather you use the space to tell me about their friendship.
Thus begins a friendship that involves the widow’s life stories of love, inheritance and possible deception through a little known California ruling.
What kind of deception? What ruling? Why is this important to the young girl? The significance and poignancy of their friendship needs to be clearer to me if your whole manuscript revolves around it.
The widow’s murder abruptly ends their wagon train’s friendships, yet the widow’s influence on the young traveler is profound.
Which friendships of the wagon train does the widow’s murder abruptly end? Just the one between the young girl and the widow, or is the murder the type of event that causes larger strife among the whole caravan?
A young black traveler is involved as an ally in helping track down the murderer.
So then this has a thread of mystery too. And another character. How thick is this thread? Is it just an aside? Who is this new character that gets mention only in the last sentence of you query?
My biggest problem with this query is that it doesn’t introduce a conflict strong enough to be the focal point of a whole novel. A young girl being forced to go to California is not conflict enough. I think part of the problem is the length of the query, which is only about 130 words. I need to know more about this young girl (including her name) what her troubles are and how she might overcome them.
There’s no salutation at the end of this query, so it feels a bit abrupt. Also, I like to know the word count. I would reject this.