Query critique – YA commercial fiction

Hello, blog friends! It’s been a while since I’ve posted a query crit, so you’re in for a little treat today. Oh, and happy fall! Hope you all get to indulge in some pumpkin spiced goodness and read some creepy books. Have you seen Kim Liggett’s blurb for BLOOD AND SALT? (A super scary looking read that just came out September 22nd!) Yeah, you need to grab a latte, snuggle into your favorite sweater and read it.

Enough book-geeking out, here’s the query crit!

Original Query:

Dear [Agent],

Yasir Thomas, high school basketball star, can’t help but wonder why his mother would name him after Edward Thomas, when he’s not even his biological father. All he wants is the truth. Too bad she’s not around to give it to him. Because according to his grandmother, she’s dead.

When well-paid defense lawyer Edward shows up after being absent most of Yasir’s life, he seeks legal custody to whisk Yasir away from his rough neighborhood. But the court requires that he takes a DNA test to prove his paternity. When the test comes back negative, both of them are taken aback.

Yasir goes to his grandmother for answers, but she won’t even look him in the eye. Refusing to continue travailing in the pain of not knowing who his real father is, he goes on a quest for the truth. But that means less time for basketball. And there goes that scholarship—his only ticket out of the Brooklyn projects.

ONE OF YOU WILL BETRAY ME is a commercial/multi-cultural novel complete at 74,000 words.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

All the best,

[Name Redacted]

Query with my immediate questions/reactions while reading the first time:

Dear [Ms. Agent],

Yasir Thomas, high school basketball star, can’t help but wonder why his mother would name him after Edward Thomas, when he’s not even his biological father.

This is almost there but not quite. How old is Yasir? It’s almost like there’s too much and not enough in this opening. Plus, in the next paragraph we learn that Edward isn’t his biological father, so it’s kind of redundant info and takes the surprise out of it. What’s the inciting incident in your book? What gets this whole ball rolling? Is it when Edward shows up out of the blue? Is it out of the blue? Why is Edward suddenly taking an interest in him? Does he think that Yasir is going to make it big in basketball and is using him, or does he truly want to build a relationship with a son he didn’t know he had?

[OR…if you keep this opening sentence, build on it from there. Don’t repeat the part about the DNA test in the next paragraph (if he’s not Yasir’s biological father, we get that from the opening) use the next paragraph to get into why he sets off on his quest and up the stakes.]

All he wants is the truth. Too bad she’s not around to give it to him. Because according to his grandmother, she’s dead. Why wouldn’t he believe his grandma if she said his mom was dead? Does she have a history of lying to him? 

When well-paid defense lawyer Edward shows up after being absent most of Yasir’s life wait…has he had interactions with Edward before? this sentence almost reads like he has and is a bit confusing, he seeks legal custody to whisk Yasir away from his rough neighborhood and how does Yasir feel about this? happy, nervous, mad, unwilling to leave his friends and life behind? and where does Edward live? Still in NYC but in a different borough? Still in the tri-state area? What kind of change will Yasir have to deal with? Are we talking from BK to country club Connecticut?. But the court requires that he takes a DNA test to prove his paternity. When the test comes back negative, both of them are taken aback.

This whole paragraph is good information, but can be easily condensed–or even removed from the query–to add more crucial plot info in its place. I still don’t quite understand the inciting incident that sets Yasir off on this journey to discover the truth. What triggers this? Does he find a picture of his dad and want to track him down? Does he do a reverse google image search a la CATFISH the tv show and discover that Edward is a famous lawyer? There’s got to be something that sparks him into action. Give us a little more of that and build the query from there.

Inciting incident happens ——> throwing MC into action because if he doesn’t act now _______ happens/could happen. What are the stakes? Is his grandma sick and possibly going to die, taking with her all the answers he seeks? Right now this is all kind of like background info.

Yasir goes to asks his grandmother for answers, but she won’t even look him in the eye. Refusing to continue travailing in the pain of not knowing who his real father is, he goes on a quest for the truth. What kind of quest? Does he follow clues his mom left? Does he find a box of her old stuff? Did his mom leave clues? HOW does he know where to start this quest. But that means less time for basketball. And there goes that scholarship—his only ticket out of the Brooklyn projects. Again, why is his grandma not being forthcoming with him? (Also, it’s kind of saying the same thing again re: his grandma lying and we still don’t have a firm enough grasp on the stakes and *why* grandma isn’t being honest with him to begin with.) Does she live alone (aside from Yasir being there)? Does she rely on him to help her out? Does she think he’s going to leave her behind?

Losing the scholarship is clearly a HUGE deal, and is great to see what Yasir stands to lose, but the whole motivation and “why now?” hasn’t been answered. And the quest is great! BUT, what’s his starting point? How does his quest kick off?

Also! Since Yasir is a basketball star, and that’s how he sees the world, maybe include some basketball terminology? I.e. How can he attack this issue with the same precision he uses while playing the game? What position does he play on the team and how does that affect the way he goes after things in life? (These are things for you to think of, not necessarily include in the query letter.)

ONE OF YOU WILL BETRAY ME is a commercial/multi-cultural novel complete at 74,000 words.

Great title! Is it a standalone, or a standalone with series potential? Also, what is the multi-cultural aspect of the book? That doesn’t come across at all in the query as it reads now. And to build off of the title more, maybe you should go into more of the betrayal aspect/possibilities IN the query. We don’t really get any of the juicy betrayal factor and THAT is the real zinger and heart of your query. THAT is where the drama lies and where we can see what Yasir is struggling with.

It’s risky, but you could even come up with a short paragraph for each potential betrayal broken down by person. (If that makes sense?) Like, who are the people in his life that are lying and potentially betraying him? I.e. his grandma is suspect one, his mom (I’m guessing) is another suspect — maybe thinking of them like that while you’re reworking this will help it out. 

His grandmother has lied about everything from where she plays bingo to if his mother is actually dead…this time.

His mother’s faked her death countless times, leaving them in debt and grief.

His jealous friends set him up for _______. (Clearly, these aren’t great examples, it’s just an idea of how a reader/agent can get a better idea of how he’s been betrayed in the past, or possible future betrayals. Like, who can he trust when everyone in his life has lied? etc.) 

This is a mystery that Yasir needs to solve — what are some of the clues?

Even though this isn’t a mystery novel, you might want to read the blurbs on a few of them to see how they’re structured. Or, since he’s going on a quest, you could even read some fantasy/quest novel blurbs to see how they’re structured.

Thank you for your time and consideration. ——> fyi: this is a different color, make sure you highlight it and make it black so it doesn’t stick out as a cut and paste job in your query.

Perfect and polite closing.

All the best,

[Name Redacted]

Okay, I don’t have enough info to rework it, so here’s a loose example of a revamped query with fill-in-the blank stakes. Like my agent says the thing to keep in mind while writing your query letter are these three things:

    1. the hook

    2. the book

    3. and the cook

Dear [Ms. Agent],

Seventeen-year-old basketball star Yasir Thomas’s one shot of escaping the projects is anything but a slam-dunk when ______ happens. Then add a follow up sentence of that incident, adding the potential for more problems.

Life isn’t finished handing out violations, and before he _________, _________ happens (think of this as building brick upon brick of the stakes, each getting worse than the last). Now include something here about setting off on the quest, and any other issues that might arise in a sentence or two.

All his time away from practice is ______, and with college scouts coming for the playoffs, he stands to lose more than just _______ – he could lose his scholarship. Now he needs to choose ______ or _______ and his decision will affect not only his life but _________. (Again, just a super loose structure on how you can add the stakes and mystery and choices your MC needs to make and the consequences of them.)

ONE OF YOU WILL BETRAY ME is a contemporary YA complete at 74,000 words.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

All the best,

[Name Redacted]

That’s it! That’s all I’ve got. Thank you so much to this brave author for sharing her work with me and letting me dig my little fingers in to it. Having your work sliced and diced and critiqued is NEVER easy. Give yourself a giant hug and bask in how brave and amazing you are. You wrote a book! You are filled with so much awesome. Never forget that.

Query Critique

Original Query:

Dear (Agent),

Small-time thief, big-time troublemaker, Tristan Storey has been accused of a murder he didn’t commit. And is going to hang for it.

With a rope squeezed tightly around his neck, Tristan knows it’s the end, but just as his consciousness flickers, lightning tears down from the sky. It smashes the gallows, freeing the thief. Eager to cheat death, Tristan attempts his escape in the midst of the chaos, but instead of freedom, he is accidentally sucked into another dimension.

After smashing into the grassy plain on the other side of the portal, Tristan realizes someone else was pulled through: Vespa, the daughter of the man he “murdered.” Trapped in a foreign world, they have no choice but to work together, despite Vespa’s stubbornness and Tristan’s habit of saying the wrong thing—all the time.

This new world is ruled by an evil god who desperately desires the eternal soul dwelling within Vespa. And when his henchman fails to capture the girl, the man instead steals her memories.

Robbed of her past, Vespa’s future suddenly falls in the hands of Tristan who reluctantly embarks on a journey to recover her memories. Memories which hold the truth about Vespa and her true mother: the god of Earth.

The Eldritch Tales is YA fantasy, complete at 84,000 words and was a finalist in Critique My Novel‘s 2012 annual writing competition. It is the first novel in a planned trilogy.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

The Critique:

Dear Ms. (Agent),

Small-time thief, big-time troublemaker, Tristan Storey has been accused of a murder he didn’t commit. And is going to hang for it. (How old is he? We find out it’s YA at the end, but you want to ground the reader (agent) in what kind of book you’ve written up-front. That can be fixed easily by adding: Small-time thief, big-time troublemaker, seventeen-year-old…etc. Also! You can tighten this and make it more present by moving a few words around. Ex: Seventeen-year-old small-time thief, big-time troublemaker, Tristan Storey, is about to hang for a murder he didn’t commit.)

With a rope squeezed tightly around his neck, Tristan knows it’s the end, but just as his consciousness flickers, lightning tears down from the sky. It smashes the gallows, freeing the thief. (This can also be condensed a bit for more impact. It’s a wordy way of continuing to talk about Tristan’s hanging when the reader should be thrust into the action/conflict faster. So far we’ve read a lot about the stuff that happens BEFORE the action. Since most of the conflict occurs after this, flesh that out more.) Eager to cheat death, Tristan attempts his escape in the midst of the chaos, but instead of freedom, he is accidentally sucked into another dimension.

After smashing into the grassy plain (this is unnecessary) On the other side of the portal, Tristan realizes someone else was pulled through: Vespa, the daughter of the man he “murdered.” Trapped in a foreign world (since they were sucked through a portal, the “foreign world” part is assumed. You can cut this extra info so you have more wordage to add to the conflict and obstacles) they have no choice but to work together (by saying “they are forced to work together” it conveys the same message and chops extraneous words), despite Vespa’s stubbornness and Tristan’s habit of saying the wrong thing—all the time.

This new world is ruled by an evil god who desperately desires the eternal soul dwelling within Vespa. And When his henchman fails to capture the girl, the man instead steals her memories. (Who steals her memories? The henchman or the evil god? It’s a little unclear. A fast way to fix that is like this: When a henchman fails to capture the girl, he steals her memories instead. Or better yet, do we need to know the henchman steals her memories? It might be best to remove that element completely to avoid character soup.)

Robbed of her past, Vespa’s future suddenly falls in the hands of Tristan who reluctantly embarks on a journey to recover her memories. Memories which hold the truth about Vespa and her true mother: the god(dess) of Earth. (What conflict does that pose for the evil god? We need a little something here about why the evil god wants her and what the consequence will be if he succeeds. What are the stakes or choices? Will capturing her soul destroy their world?)

The Eldritch Tales is YA fantasy, complete at 84,000 words and was a finalist in Critique My Novel‘s 2012 annual writing competition. It is the first novel in a planned trilogy. (Good ending. One minor tweak; I would say that it’s a stand alone with series potential.)

Thank you for your time and consideration. (Perfect!)

Your Name

Phone Number

Email

Other Contact Info/Website/Etc.

A couple of nitpick-y things: Be aware of using too many words that end in “ly”, there are quite a few that are “telling” instead of showing. I.e. Tightly, accidentally, desperately, suddenly, reluctantly, etc. It’s okay to use some – just know that for a short blurb they start to stand out when they aren’t necessary.

The Aftermath:

Dear Ms. Agent,

Small-time thief, big-time troublemaker, seventeen-year-old Tristan Storey, is about to hang for a murder he didn’t commit.

Just as his consciousness flickers, lightning tears down from the sky, smashing the gallows and freeing him. While attempting escape in the midst of the chaos, he’s accidentally sucked into another dimension.

On the other side of the portal, Tristan realizes someone else was pulled through: Vespa, the daughter of the man he “murdered.” Trapped, they are forced to work together despite Vespa’s stubbornness and Tristan’s habit of saying the wrong thing—all the time.

This new world is ruled by an evil god who desires the eternal soul dwelling within Vespa. When his plan of capturing the girl fails, he steals her memories instead. Robbed of her past, Vespa’s future falls in the hands of Tristan who reluctantly embarks on a journey to recover her memories. Memories which hold the truth about Vespa and her true mother: the goddess of Earth.

The Eldritch Tales is YA fantasy, complete at 84,000 words and was a finalist in Critique My Novel‘s 2012 annual writing competition. It’s a stand alone with series potential.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Your Name

Okay…so with this condensed version, you now have extra word space to flesh out the conflict and choices the characters face once they are in the other world MORE. Don’t be afraid to lay the stakes out there for the agent. 

Thanks so much for sharing your query and for letting me dig my little fingers in. Your book sounds like a really fun read, and the query has a great voice!

Say what? Publishing Terms Defined

Publishing has a lot of jargon we take for granted because we’re around it ALL the time. Over the weekend I was asked a few questions, so here are some definitions if you’re seeing things floating around twitter or the blogosphere and feel out of the loop…

Please note: This list isn’t all inclusive, so if there’s something you’re a little unsure of – or if there’s something you’d like to include – please ask or add it in the comments.

Agatha Awards = awards for mystery and crime writers who write via the same method as Agatha Christie (i.e. closed setting, no sex or violence, amateur detective).

ARC = Advanced Reader Copy. (These are used for book reviews.)

ALA = American Library Association (they have a GREAT annual conference)

Auction = when more than one publisher offer on the same project and bid against each other.

BEA = Book Expo of America (it’s like Disney World for new books, check the link out.)

Beta Reader = a person who reads your manuscript with a critical eye, with the aim of improving grammar, spelling, etc.

Critique = in-depth feedback on areas where you can improve your manuscript.

Critique Partner = someone who you exchange manuscripts with to offer helpful feedback.

Edgar = Award given for the best in the mystery genre.

Elevator Pitch = is a short summary used to quickly and simply describe your book.

Full = when an agent requests your entire manuscript

Frankfurt = Frankfurt Book Fair aka the largest book and media fair in the world.

Hook = One sentence pitch on what your book is about. (The more gripping, the better.)

Hugo = Award given for the best Science Fiction or Fantasy novel from the previous year

MS = Abbreviation for manuscript

MWA = Mystery Writers of America

Nebula = award given each year by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA), for the best science fiction/fantasy fiction published in the United States during the previous year.

Partial = when an agent requests part of your manuscript. (Normally they will specify how many pages to send them. I.e. 50 pages.)

Pre-empt = a preemptive offer from a publisher. (Usually a large sum to avoid going to auction.)

Query Letter = a 3-5 paragraph business letter that introduces your book, a short author bio, and reason for contacting a particular literary agent. Normal length is 250-350 words. (check out QueryShark for excellent examples.)

RWA = Romance Writers of America

SCBWI = Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators

SFWA = Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America

Sublist = submission list. (Your agent sends you a list of publishing houses/imprints that are currently considering your manuscript.)

Synopsis = extended summary of your book. (Including the ending.) (The best examples of summaries are on wikipedia for any given movie.) Usually range in length from 1-5 pages, single spaced. The tighter the better.)

WIP = Work In Progress

Great sites for writers to check out:

Absolute Write: A wonderful forum/community for writers at any stage in the game. Ask any writing/publishing question/share your work & find critique partners, and do research before querying agents here. (Not to mention meeting and hanging around with other amazing/knowledgeable writers.)

Chuck Sambuchino’s Guide to Literary Agents Blog: A fantastic resource for new agent alerts, and tips for EVERYTHING.

Hey, there’s a dead guy in the living room blog: I’m going to link you to my agent’s (Barbara Poelle) blogging days here. I may be biased, but I think reading through her blog archives is AMAZING.

Miss Snark: The mysterious secret agent who will live on in blogger history. She may not be blogging anymore, but there’s a WEALTH of information worth checking out.

Nathan Bransford: This former mega-agent’s (now author) blog is the guide to publishing BIBLE. Countless hours were spent there when I first started researching everything I could about publishing. It’s like the Holy Grail of the book world. Seriously.

Preditors and Editors: If there’s one site you add to your MUST list before querying, it’s this one. It’s a great resource for finding agents/agencies that are not scammers.

Pub Rants: Agent Kristin Nelson dishes on everything industry related. There are also some great examples of query letters that worked posted on the sidebar.

Publishers MarketPlace: I highly recommend that you get a subscription. Daily deals are posted as well as breaking industry news. I peruse my Pub Lunch every single day.

QueryShark: A phenomenal blog dedicated to the art of crafting a great query letter, run by super agent Janet Reid.

Query Tracker: Keep track of your query letters, search for agents who represent your genre, and hang around other writers in the query trenches. Another amazing site that has a forum where you can have your query letter critiqued by your peers.

Writer Beware: Is basically a watchdog blog for writers to avoid scammers and bad eggs. Highly recommended.

A Day in the Life: Querying Phase

Regular blog followers know I’m just beginning to query my latest shiny manuscript. So I thought I’d interject some humor for others who are, or have ever been a part of the query-go-round. Enjoy!

Day in the writing life: Querying Phase

  1. Morning coffee
  2. Open special query email
  3. Gasp when you see 10 new messages
  4. Swear when you see they’re not from agents
  5. Check OTHER non-query email account
  6. Keep query email window open
  7. Check it again
  8. Scan new deals on Publishers Marketplace
  9. Check query email again
  10. Check out Guide to Literary Agents blog
  11. Did the email ding?
  12. Check again
  13. Swear at your over active imagination. No wait! You need that.
  14. What day is it? Blog
  15. Tweet
  16. Check email
  17. Sip coffee
  18. Check other, other email account
  19. Head over to Query Tracker
  20. Obsessively check for agent updates in the comment section
  21. New message!
  22. Heart flutters
  23. Comment pingback, awesome
  24. Respond to comment. I love blogging
  25. Check out Absolute Write
  26. Check email
  27. Open your manuscript
  28. Read the opening chapters
  29. See an error on page seven
  30. Why do commas FORSAKE me?!
  31. Email dings
  32. Rejection
  33. Expletive
  34. Re-read query letter
  35. Decide your writing sucks
  36. More coffee
  37. Mooore coffee
  38. Check email
  39. Check twitter
  40. Chat with writerly friends
  41. Check email
  42. Check sent mail
  43. Laugh manically
  44. I must be crazy
  45. Check email again
  46. Stomach flips
  47. New message alert
  48. Prepare for the worst
  49. Blink.
  50. FULL REQUEST!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

All this before lunchtime… Hope your weekend is filled with requests, writing, reading, laughter, and sparkling butterflies. XO

Query Letters Dissected By Those Who Know

Last week I posted some query letter tricks that I’ve learned over the last year or so, HOWEVER there’s a weekly post you should check out on your own, by people in the biz.

BookEnds (a fantastic literary agency) posts a query letter each Wednesday, then gives feedback on what works, and what doesn’t.

Be sure to check it out, then click on some of the popular posts on the sidebar, they’ve got A LOT of great information.

Psst! Click here—> BookEnds Blog (Wednesday Query Letter AKA Workshop Wednesday) 

<3333333333333 XOXOXOX <33333333333

Query Letter Hell? Not Necessarily…The ABCs of #Query Writing Made Easy

Its been a little while since I last blogged about the wonderful world of writing. Since many of my blog readers, are…well, readers I try to keep the behind-the-scenes writing stuff to a minimum. You’re welcome, BTW ;)

That being said, I’ve gotten a few questions regarding query letters in recent weeks from friends, family, fellow writers, and even some tweethearts.

Why? I’m not sure. (That’s a lie. It could be that my friends and family worry about me, methodically/psychotically crafting pitch letters, and manuscripts for days, weeks, and months at a time. I’m normal Mom – all the writers are doing it. Pinky swear!)

It could be because I tweeted that I was an absolute query-lovin’ sicko, and enjoyed writing them. Or, it could be that I spend A LOT of time on Absolute Write assisting other writerly types with their query letters.

Why? Because I’m a sick, twisted little girl that’s why. Oh, and I love helping other writers out when I can. Aww… Fuzzy moment alert!

So what’s my secret to writing a good query letter?

That’s the easy/hard part to explain. There are TONS of agent blogs out there, that give STELLAR advice on query letters. By all means, please check out some of the sites listed below. (I’ve included links to make it REAL easy for you. XO)

Always take the advice that works best for you, above anything/everything else. Okay so enough disclaimer shiitake.

Here’s the breakdown of a query letter:

Paragraph ONE

This is really up to you / the agent you’re querying. If the agent specifically says they like writers to get right into the heart of the book, then of course DO THAT! I myself, fluctuate between starting with my hook, or personalizing it – depending on what the agent I’m querying specifies.

Am I speaking Chinese right now? If yes, then stop reading and check out the QueryShark. Go on, I’ll wait. Now that that’s settled, let’s continue.

Here’s what I’m talking about:

Example One: Personalized Intro (Per Agent Guidelines, again, each agent is different, so do your homework.)

Dear Ms. Dream Agent:

Recently I read an interview you gave on ABC blog, stating that you’re seeking XYZ in a manuscript. My young adult novel SUMMER DIE-VER is complete at 60,000 words, and contains XYZ.

(Or you could write, I recently finished reading TITLE BOOK, by awesome AUTHOR and saw you represented the work. I hope you might find my novel, SUMMER DIE-VER a good fit for your list as well.) (You get the idea, right?)

Example TWO: Gettin’ Down and Dirty Right Away

Dear Ms. Dream Agent:

Fifteen-year-old Olympic diver Lillian Awesome’s been having a hard time fitting in with the other, less talented kids at Summer Swim Camp, but that’s about to change with the mysterious arrival of her super cute, and equally talented dive partner, Gill.

See the difference between the two intros? Good. (And no, this is not one of my books, it’s just the first thing that popped into my head during the writing of this entry.)

I should point out quickly what NOT TO DO so you can easily tell the good from the bad right away.

Things to AVOID: DON’T write your query like this:

Dear Ms. Dream Agent:

My young adult novel SUMMER DIE-VER delves into the inner psyche of what it’s like being a successful young swimmer in a world filled with jealousy, and deceit. The title is a play on words, expertly crafted to show a mystery lies deep within the novels pages. It talks about friendship, death, betrayal, and summer crushes. The reader embarks on a journey through adolescence, and learns what’s right, and wrong along the way.

This is what agents are talking about when they say SHOW don’t TELL. See what I’m talking about? The first example is showing, and the second example (To avoid) is telling. Got it? Good. Let’s continue.

The first sentence of your book intro, (no matter if you have it in the first, or second paragraph) HAS TO BE CATCHY.

How do you accomplish that?

Write it, over, and over until your eyes cross, AND bleed, then write it over some more. If you had to introduce the conflict, and basic premise in just one sentence, this is where you do it. What does your main character do, where does the story take place, and what’s the conflict? If you can capture that in the first sentence, and build from there, you’re on the right track.

Helpful Hint: If your book is fun, don’t have a sterile query letter. Make sure the tone of your work matches the tone of your query letter.

Remember, your query letter is your sales pitch for your book. Read the back covers of books that you already own, (and have read) and see how it matches up to their story. Once you get the idea of how it worked for them, start crafting yours the same way.

Heck, write yours the same EXACT way as your favorite book blurb, to get the format down, then rewrite it until it’s in YOUR voice. Practice makes perfect. I swear.

So here’s what the whole thing would look like: (Following Ex. 2’s Jump Right In Method.)

Dear Ms. Dream Agent:

Fifteen-year-old Olympic diver Lillian Awesome’s been having a hard time fitting in with the other, less talented kids at Summer Swim Camp, but all that’s about to change with the mysterious arrival of her super cute, and equally talented dive partner, Gill.

The other campers are jealous of the dynamic duo’s constant winning, and conspire to take them down. Permanently. After a close-call at the bottom of the lake, the young divers find more than just a terrible plot to end their swimming supremacy. They find a local swimming coach, that’s been missing since last summer, and apparently he’s been sleeping with the fishes. Now it’s up to Lillian and Gill to solve his murder before the Summer’s over. But who can they trust, when everyone’s a suspect?

SUMMER DIE-VER is a young adult novel complete at 60,000 words. Recently I read an interview you gave on ABC blog, stating that you’re seeking XYZ in a manuscript, and hoped you might enjoy my work.

Currently I’m a member of (Whatever writing group, SCBWI, MWA, etc.) (If you’ve been published, here’s where you can include that too. FYI it’s okay if this part is short and sweet. Less is more if you don’t have many writing credits behind you. For realzies.)

Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,

Awesome Author Who Did Their Homework

Phone Number

Email

Link to blog/website/whatever

(AGAIN: This isn’t my book, or query letter. It’s just a five minute mock-up for this blog post.)

Check out the following links for excellent #Query Letter Tips:

YA Fantasy Guide recently broke each paragraph down expertly. Read it HERE.

Agent Kristen Nelson posted winning query letters HERE, HERE, and HERE.

Agent Jessica Faust also posted query letters that worked for her HERE, HERE, & HERE

Agent Janet Reid gives the best query letter help in the shark tank, so check out her entire blog dedicated to helping writers create stellar query letters HERE.

Q: Did I forget anything? Don’t be afraid to ask any questions I may have missed. I hope this helps you, my super talented friends! <3333333

Literary Agents, a writer’s best friend or agents of the dark side?

Photo credit free-extras.com

While the majority of writers appear to be genuinely grateful for agents, others seem less enthused. I’ve read blog posts where agents are put right up there as Satan’s right hand man or woman.

They sit back in their office on the 32nd floor of a Manhattan high-rise, grab a cup of coffee and then mull over a newspaper for an hour or so. The phone rings, but they surely won’t answer it since they’re too consumed with the happenings on Page Six. Emails ding away in their inbox, but they don’t bat an eye–they’re too busy setting fire to your query letter while toasting marshmallows in the conference room with their colleagues. They forward your email to other agents in their office and mock your storyline until it’s time to place the lunch order.

Silly scribes.

Literary Agents aren’t sitting back wasting the day away thinking of how to ruin your career before it begins. They don’t have time. They make money if your book sells. I imagine them to be more like the judges on American Idol, sifting through the hundreds of thousands of hopeful contestants until they find their top 12. It’s a tough job, but someone has to go home unhappy.

On the bright side of this analogy, the people who made it to the top 24 are great singers (writers), they just need some more polishing.

If you send out a query letter that doesn’t follow the format, how can they make a split second decision regarding whether or not your manuscript will follow the format? Is that a  chance they are willing to take while sorting through the other 300 query letters that came in this week? Probably not.

Most importantly don’t be discouraged. Keep improving your query letters and keep sending them out to agents who rep your genres. If you get a rejection, pick yourself up-brush yourself off and try it again. Don’t send a nasty follow up to the agent that rejected you either. It may feel satisfying for a second, but it’s just bad karma in the end. Send them happy thoughts and move on; you’ll feel better playing nice. Like my mother always says, you catch more flies with honey.

Photo credit cinie.files.wordpress.com

I don’t know about you, but I’m going to think of my agent as my best friend or partner in book selling crime. The Huck Finn to my Tom Sawyer and not the Darth Vader to my Luke Skywalker. XO

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