Posted by Lauren Ruth
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
Amelia Ben Ari is beautiful, talented and icy cool. She drives a ’67 Mustang and wears wait-list-only Nicholas Kirkwood shoes. She’s bilingual and first in her AP Calculus class. She was even a bridesmaid in her father’s wedding – but that’s just one side of the story.
This last sentence didn’t work for me. I don’t see how being a bridesmaid in her father’s wedding is a reflection on Amelia, personally, positive or otherwise.
This is the other: her stepmother is her favourite parent and they’re not even related.
The last half of the sentence, about Amelia and her stepmother not being related is a waste of words. We already know this.
She’s first in calc but practically failing almost everything else. Prep school? It’s hell: the boys think she’s easy and the girls call her a slut.
The new boy next door only knows the good side of her, the one that tells funny stories and raps along to A Tribe Called Quest and bakes cupcakes for her half-sisters. Ryan doesn’t know about her horizontal past, and she never wants him to.
You can only keep secrets for so long, though.
This query has no well-developed conflict. You’ve spent all your words telling me how great Amelia is and implying that this doesn’t go much deeper than the surface. This could be accomplished in a single sentence, leaving you the rest of the query to tell me why this matters.
Also, I don’t get a sense of Amelia’s personality or why I should like her. She seems to be a flat character. This may or may not be true, but it is what I’ve taken from this query.
[redacted] is a YA novel complete at 54,000 words. I believe it will appeal to fans of Gabrielle Zevin, Rachel Cohn and Sarah Dessen.
Some agents disagree with me on this point, but I advise against name-dropping or comparing to other authors in a query. You don’t know if the agent reading your query likes those authors. If they don’t, you risk turning them off. If they do, and your writing or your book is not close enough to those authors’ work, they’ll feel lead-on and disappointed. If someone tells me I’m going to read something that is like the work of Sarah Dessen, and after reading through it this turns out not to be true, I will be disappointed and this will color my reading of the manuscript and of the query.
Previously I have been shortlisted for the Franco-British Council Short Story Prize, and I was the 2010 recipient of the Graham Greene Birthplace Trust Prize for Best Writer Under the Age of 21. <— This is excellent. I love to know if authors have any kind of writing experience or accolades.
I would reject this query because it doesn’t reflect a manuscript with a solid conflict or story arch.
Thank you for taking the time to review my query.
Posted on April 26, 2012, in Advice, literary agency, manuscripts, publishing, queries, Query Dice, rejection, slush pile, submissions, writers and tagged comparing to other authors, conflict development, credentials, dos and donts, making your query interesting, making your query stand out, name-dropping, queries, query, query example, query for YA, query problems, querydice, rejection, slush pile, standard query format, writing, young adult. Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.