- By: Jessica Faust | Date: Mar 09 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. Anonymous,
Your intimate involvement with the agent/author relationship combined with your hands-on, editorially-focused approach would be invaluable to my journey as a writer. Your years of experience in the industry plus your love for characters placed in wacky situations that remain grounded to a relatable reality, would be a perfect match for my novel, Gaia’s Secret.
I think it’s great to include a personal connection in your query whenever possible. The problem with this opening is that it’s not at all personal, it’s an impersonal attempt to be personal, or at least it feels that way to me. In other words, it feels like you’re doing nothing more but attempting to butter me up, not showing how you might know me personally. If I were you I’d skip the attempt at flattery and simply get to the point. “I’m querying you today about my novel Gaia’s Secret” is perfect.
In a parallel world, connected by an ancient system of portals, eighteen-year old Daria Jones is the heir to the Regius dynasty, the keeper of untold powers, and the final link uniting Earth-as-we-know-it with its magical sister, Gaia. The only problem? No one bothered to tell her. And to make matters worse, a reawakened race of evil sorcerers make a house call; someone wants Daria dead.
In some ways this paragraph suffers from the same problem as your opening paragraph. It uses a lot of words, but in the end it doesn’t really say anything. It leaves me with more questions than answers. Be careful that you aren’t working too hard to set up the story by including too much information. For example, does it matter for the pitch that this world is parallel (I assume you mean parallel to ours, although I’m not sure) or that it’s connected by portals? I also assume that Gaia is this world, although that’s not clear either.
In fact, I don’t even see how “keeper of untold powers” fits in. It sounds like this could be interesting, but in the end it’s not, because I don’t know anything about it.
I think this would be stronger if you went more along these lines: No one bothered to tell eighteen-year-old Daria Jones, heir to the Regius Dynasty, that she’s also the final link uniting Earth with Gaia (and now I need to know why that even matters). When she suddenly discovers . . .
When her overprotective father disappears, she turns to Cicero and Sonya Anderson, the only family she trusts to find him. With the illusion of her once-mundane life now completely shattered, she’s forced to follow them through the nearest portal—Yosemite National Park—into the heart of this beautiful and deceptively dangerous new world. Further compounding her problems, their son Alex, her childhood crush, plans to join them. But after a bad break and three years of silence, Alex is the last person she wants to see. And he’s changed. He’s completely gorgeous.
The problem with this paragraph is that it doesn’t answer any of the questions I have from the previous paragraph. What does her father’s overprotectiveness have to do with the pitch? Why doesn’t she trust anyone, and who are these people she turns to and why does she turn to them? Does it even matter who they are? It doesn’t seem like they play any big role in the pitch, which should probably focus more on Daria and less on everyone else.
What makes her think she needs help? This seems like it’s probably the most important question of the entire pitch.
The biggest problem is that you have told me nothing about this story. You’ve told me what leads us to the story, why we have a story (because Gaia is in danger and her father has disappeared, although we don’t have a connection between the two), but we don’t know what this story is about.
My suggestion is you need to make the focus on Daria and Alex, since I assume there is a romance there, and you need to stress how these two travel from the magical world of Gaia to Earth in order to . . . what? Are they planning to find her father? Save Earth? Save Gaia? What is their purpose and what do they face during their journey? Most important, your pitch should be about what happens once they are on Earth, since I’m assuming this is the most important piece of the story.
Not your average coming-of-age story, Gaia’s Secret brings a new twist to life-as-we-know-it. This 106,316 YA fantasy tells us of a world just beyond ours that was never meant to be separate. Through the determination of a strong female heroine, the worlds may find peace and be unite once again.
The problem with saying something like “not your average” is that so far the book sounds pretty average. You haven’t given me anything to show how this book stands out from others. And personally, I’m not sure if I see this as “coming-of-age.” I mean, I guess all or most YA is coming-of-age in some way, so I think you could skip that.
Your tag line, “tells the story of a world beyond ours that was never meant to be . . .” is interesting. I find this probably the most interesting part of the pitch, but I didn’t get any of that from the pitch. I didn’t get that these worlds weren’t meant to be separate or why it’s important that they unite.
This novel has strong series potential but tells a complete tale and stands alone.
I think you could skip this sentence. All books, except in a very, very rare instance, should be a complete tale and stand alone. This doesn’t add anything to the query and, in fact, might make the agent instead wonder why you would have to point out that the story is a complete story.
I completed post-graduate work in Clinical Laboratory Science and have an all-consuming passion for literature and the extraordinary.
This short bio is fine, although if you have bio info on your writing that would be more powerful. In other words, are you in a critique group or part of a writing organization? I would be more interested in that. The other thing, which isn’t that important, but when it comes to a bio I’m more interested in what you are doing now. In other words, you “completed” post-graduate work, but what’s going on with you now?
Thank you for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you soon.