QueryDice #18

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.

Faith and belief are are common themes in the supernatural and horror genres: “You must have faith for the cross to work,” or “You must believe in the magic.”

There’s something about the lack of a greeting line that bothers me. I feel sort of like something really heavy just fell into my lap.


While your opening line is true, I’m not sure I appreciate being told this in a query. It sounds too much like you’re justifying your work, and too textbook. I don’t want to know about the genres—I know them well enough—I want to know about your book.


In The Unbeliever , a supernatural adventure/romance novel, it is the principle character’s lack of belief that gives him the ability to battle dark forces and return long lost humanity to the victim of a 400 year old curse.  Former Major Max Bradley struggles with the loss of his leg and the emotional scars from an unending war and finds within himself a new power and a new cause.


This is my first novel, but my experience as a military physician enables me to bring the main character, a disabled Iraq war vet who is dealing with both physical disability and emotional trauma, to life.


I feel that this book will appeal to both male and female readers.  Male readers will appreciate the realistic action and the military background of the hero.  Female readers will respond to the strong romance that builds between the hero and heroine.  Elena, the heroine, is a woman existing under the curse of the undead since the Sixteenth Century and in Max, the hero, she finds that she finally can have what she has been missing for centuries: the return of her humanity.


The problem, here, is that you’re trying to be concise, which is necessary, but you’re excluding important information. What I need to know is this: what is the major conflict, what does it place at stake for Max? I need to know just a little about Max and Elena. What about the world? How does it differ from ours, and does it place limitations on the characters, or enable them?


Also, you might consider omitting the paragraph about who the book will appeal to. While this is important information, an agent knows already where your book would be placed or sell best, so your words are better spent on the book itself.


I think there could be a great story here, but I don’t know enough about your book to request more information.


It is a complete manuscript at 113,000 words and is available for your immediate review.

You haven’t included a salutation, here. To me, this felt like you approached me, dumped your idea on me, and then without so much as a half-hearted wave, just walked away. A query is a business letter, fundamentally, and should always read like one, even if its an e-query.



Posted on December 8, 2011, in Advice, literary agency, manuscripts, publishing, queries, Query Dice, rejection, slush pile, submissions, writers and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. I understand what the author was doing with drawing the ditchotomy between the faith explored in most books of the genre and the MC, but I agree it’s not necessary, and it’s possible that an agent wouldn’t read beyond the opening paragraph, believing that the author didn’t do his job of hooking the agent.

    Also, the author might want to be careful with making such sweeping generalization about what men and women like. While it’s true certain demographic groups perfer certain genres or certain elements in their stories, he could face the potential of alienating an agent with that verbiage.

  2. I agree this query needs work. There could be a really good story in here. ButI have to confess that it was the author bio information that got me really interested. I know they will have had some incredible experiences (good and bad) and I was intrigued to see if that was represented in their work. Maybe that’s the wrong way round!

  3. I totally agree with both of you on this query. Lauren, doesn’t it seem like this could possibly be a mass market type query where the writer sends out numerous e-queries at once hoping to catch at least a few fish? Me-thinks this fisherman needs to alter his bait a little! 🙂 Have a great weekend!

  4. I have always heard that you want to get to the action of your story. Start with the Character’s name instead of stating “principle character.” That is a waste of words, and you only get around 250, so use them wisely.

    You want the reader to have a feel for the character and be drawn into the story. A query needs to entice an agent to want to read your manuscript. Show us what is so difficult about the Major’s powers and why it will change his world.

    Also, this is where I think your Query should begin —> “Former Major Max Bradley struggles with…” Then I would add Elena’s struggle and how the two come together. Show us the conflict and what choices these characters have to make in order to save the world. You don’t have to tell everything, in fact you want to leave the reader hanging, wanting more.

    I think you might have a good story, since you have personal experience with the subject matter, but that needs to come through in the query. Follow Ms. Ruth’s advice and rework the query. Good luck!

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