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,
At seventeen years old, I was a voracious reader.
This is not important information and since you have so little space to tell us about your book, I would leave this out. I’m not going to request more information based on this, nor will I reject based on it.
Still, there were never enough of the kind of books I liked to read- the ones with characters so real and flawed that they were like old friends, or people I’d met at school- so I wrote one myself.
This sentence is one of my pet-peeves. I’m sure you didn’t mean it this way, but here’s what I hear in your sentence: “I’m a better writer than anyone I’ve ever read (and I read voraciously, so that’s a lot).” Now, I think you’re cocky and difficult to work with, which is never good, and I think this before I’ve had a chance to learn anything about your book. While I’m learning about your book, which will happen in the next 10 seconds, I’ll be looking for genius work, which is what you’ve set me up for. Anything less than that will turn me off because it isn’t what I’ve been promised.
Eight years later, [redacted] is complete at 101,000 words, and I’d like to submit the end-result to your agency for consideration.
[redacted] follows Karli and Marián, two cousins with almost nothing in common: she scores goals, and he writes scores; she breaks bones, he breaks hearts; she creates drama, and he embodies it… (you’ve spent precious words making the same point three times here, and I still know nothing about your characters) but they really aren’t as different as they think. Their story, like a hockey-game, (I’m assuming hockey is a thread in your book, but you’ve left me guessing. You don’t want to leave my understanding of what you’ve written up to chance) is a fast-paced, emotional ride, but also a tale of love, in all forms— friendship, first romances, family-ties, and, above all, learning to love oneself.
We’re at the end of your query and I have no idea what your book is about. Loosely, it is about two cousins who are both similar and dissimilar. Hockey is a thread. They go through some journey or other and come out the other side different people. This is just about as generic as you can get. I would reject this query because I don’t know what it is and I worry that I’ll read a partial and still not know what it is.
Other considerations: Marian is a very ethnic name. Is this cross-cultural fiction? Is there a romance involved? How do the cousins’ stories interact or converge?
[redacted] is geared primarily toward older teens, specifically girls between the ages of 14 and 21, and, as such, is equal parts tender, dark, and humorous. This is my first novel, and I am sending it to you exclusively— I can be reached at [redacted] and [redacted] or emailed at [redacted]
Thank you for your consideration, and I eagerly anticipate your response.
Posted on November 17, 2011, in Advice, literary agency, manuscripts, publishing, queries, Query Dice, rejection, slush pile, submissions, writers and tagged character, characterization, characters, commercial fiction, conflict development, crime, cross-cultural fiction, disjointed query, dos and donts, making your query interesting, making your query stand out, plot, plot description. character development, plot holes, queries, query, query length, query problems, querydice, rejection, romance, slush pile, standard query format, talking about yourself in a query, up-market commercial fiction, women's fiction, world building, writing, ya, young adult. Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.