- By: Jessica Faust | Date: Apr 06 2011
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.
Dear Ms. Jessica Faust:
I sent you a query on December 22, 2010 and I haven’t yet heard back from you, so I was hoping it was appropriate to check in. I hope you’ll be interested in my YA novel, The Aviation Waltz—though to be honest, I’m not sure if you still represent YA because the “About Us” page on BookEnds-Inc.com contradicts with the blog post on October 8, 2007 on what you represent. In any case, I hope I can catch your interest with an updated query.
I’m not sure you’re using the best tactic to open your query letter. At worst it seems like you’re scolding the agent and at best it feels a bit passive aggressive. You’ve introduced yourself by calling the agent out on the carpet regarding their lack of response and website. First of all, be sure you’ve checked the agent’s website and taken note of her response time. If the agent doesn’t comment on a usual response time, then you should wait at least 4 to 6 weeks before checking in. If you’ve waited the appropriate amount of time and you still haven’t heard from her, I’d recommend resending the query and introducing it with “Resending my query of December 22nd in case you didn’t receive it.”
In fact, if you did indeed e-mail your query to Jessica on December 22nd, you would’ve received an auto-response explaining that she was closed to queries at that time and informing you of the date she’d be accepting queries again. Always make sure you pay close attention to the responses you receive back from an agent—even if they’re a form letter, they may contain important information.
Referencing a blog post from more than three years ago is a bit perplexing. The publishing industry is always fluctuating, so it’s not uncommon for agents to change their areas of interest. There’s plenty of more recent blog posts that explain just what type of YA fiction Jessica is looking for right now. And information on the agency’s website would definitely trump anything written in a blog post from 2007.
To her admirers, Scilla Rotcod is perfect: she’s rich, pretty, and talented enough to land the lead role in every ballet. But before the end of her eighteenth summer, Scilla will become the ultimate traitor.
In a society where people value their sky-colored hair, perfect immune systems, and clean planet, the government prohibits a vehicle that can pollute the sky. Even so, Scilla and a low-class engineer spend their summer studying forbidden technology, with hopes of taking off to the sky and challenging traditional views about the exploration of freedom.
I’m a little confused by your blurb here. I don’t have a clear picture of this alternate reality you’re describing. I think you need to provide the reader with a more detailed understanding of this world. Why does Scilla yearn to fly? What could happen to her if the authorities/government/whoever found out what she was up to? Is the engineer an important part of the story? I think I’d be more interested in the story if I had a better sense of what relationships are important to the book. What does Scilla’s dancing have to do with the rest of the book? I think you’d be better off starting with the introduction of this world and giving the reader some context for the rest of your description. We need more information in order to see the conflict.
The Aviation Waltz is adapted from an audio drama of the same name that I had produced online. It is complete at 63,000 words and appeals to the general young adult audience, though anyone can enjoy the story of perseverance, stage rivalry, and a friendship spiked with sexual tension.
I’m not sure you should mention your audio drama, unless the website garnered an amazing number of hits or it gained some other kind of big attention. If you’ve introduced this as a YA book from the beginning of the query, you don’t need to detail anything more about the audience.
Many young adult books on the market take place in high school, but The Aviation Waltz takes place after that. Though it is set in an imaginary world, it wrestles with real young adult issues, like parental acceptance and one’s purpose in the world. Instead of encouraging young readers to gain popularity, seek revenge, and land a date with the hottest guy in school, The Aviation Waltz aims to inspire readers to defy common ideals and do something others thought was impossible.
I am completing my fourth year at the University of California, Davis; as a young adult, I still have a fresh memory of my teenage experiences and the mistakes and parental issues that went with those younger years, which reflects in the consequences of Scilla’s decisions and her fear of disappointing her father.
Honestly, you wouldn’t need the rest of this if you’d written a more comprehensive blurb about the book above. These two paragraphs seem to tell me more about the book and yet confuse me even more. Work on strengthening your book’s description, so that the bigger themes shine through, instead of having to tell us what those themes are.
I, personally, think it’s best to keep your age and situation to yourself. It wouldn’t sway me one way or the other about requesting more, but I generally think it’s best to focus as much as possible on your book. If you feel it’s really pertinent, however, I’d keep it as short and sweet as possible. “As a college student, I have an intimate understanding of the types of issues Scilla struggles with in this story.”
I look forward to hearing from you and hope that you are indeed considering YA fiction. Thank you in advance for your time and consideration.
Again—if you’ve done your homework, checked the website, and read recent blog posts, you’ll know that Jessica is considering YA.