By repeated request we’ve started Workshop Wednesday. It will definitely play out through 2011, and beyond that we’ll just have to see. We’ve received well over 200 queries at this point, but we are choosing at random, so don’t be afraid to participate as per the guidelines in our original post.
For anyone wanting to comment, we ask that you comment in a polite and respectful manner, and we ask that you be as constructive as possible. If you can be useful to the brave souls who submitted their query and comment on the query, that’s great. Please keep any anonymous tirades on publishing or other snarky comments to yourself. This is and should remain an open and safe forum for people to put themselves and their queries out there so that everyone can learn. I’m leaving comments open and open to anonymous posters, as I always have; don’t make me feel the need to change that policy.
And for those who have never “met” Query Shark, get over there and do that. She’s the originator of the query critique, the queen, if you will.
“Murder in Montana” is a cozy, with just enough edge to remain modern. It is complete at just over 80,000 words. Followers of Laura Child’s Tea Shop Mysteries will enjoy this novel.
I wish you had more of a “dear agent” opening. Personally, I like being eased into my letters and introductions with a little bit of “small talk.” Your first sentence, title included, makes me worry that you might not fully understand what a cozy is. You mention Laura Childs, which makes it sound like you know cozies, but after reading your query I question whether you’ve actually read Laura Childs’s tea shop books or if they just happen to be a name you know.
The title is definitely not cozy and has nothing to do with your hook. In the grand scheme that’s not a problem, but because you describe your book as having “just enough edge to remain modern” I worry that this isn’t a cozy at all, but something you’re trying to squeeze into the market. Cozies tend not to have edge, and plenty these days are modern without it.
Murder is always ugly, and it doesn’t matter how much lipstick the victim is wearing.
I’m usually not a fan of taglines, but this is cute. I like it.
Pageant coach, Anne Thomas lives in a world of high heels and manufactured smiles. Corpses are not an everyday occurrence. When the state pageant director is murdered, and Anne’s protégé is implicated, Anne knows that she must find the truth or forfeit her clients chances at the Miss America Pageant.
I like the first sentence in this paragraph, but the rest feels incomplete, like a collection of taglines rather than a true summary. I’d rather have you spend a little more time setting up the story, a few sentences or so that help us understand the setting and who exactly Anne is and maybe what a pageant coach is. One question, isn’t Miss America copyrighted? I think, but I could be wrong, that you need to get permission to use it.
Adding to Anne’s problem is the presence of Detective Andrew Cartwright. A transplant from the Los Angeles police department, Andrew is a savvy homicide detective who knows that a pageant should be Anne’s last priority. Anne’s biggest problem is staying alive.
This paragraph doesn’t connect with me at all. Why should a pageant be her last priority if she’s a pageant coach? It seems that would be her first priority.
******** has been involved in the Miss America Pageant system both as a contestant and as an executive director for seventeen years. She spent over seven of those years as a legal librarian for a private law firm. This is her first novel and she is working on her second.
This bio aside bugs me, especially with the long line of asterisks. It really feels like this query was sent as a rough draft and not a lot of thought was put into it. And, honestly, since the query is so rough and you’ve told me this is your first novel, I’d probably pass. My feeling is that your book is probably equally rough, if not more so, and needs a lot more work before it’s ready to be seen.