Monday, May 11, 2009

Monday Mania--Query Letter

One of our readers submitted a query letter for critique. Feel free to make comments, but please keep them constructive.

Critique Archive 0022:

Dear Agent:

What if the FBI could whittle down their suspect list with the help of a teenager? This is the premise for my young adult fiction novel A Royale Pain: A Draven Atreides, Teenage Informant Novel.

Sixteen-year-old, African American, Draven Atreides (pronounced Dray-ven, Uh-tray-deez) has just started a new gig as an FBI informant. Her To Do list includes: adjust to new life, make new friends, and try not to tell said new friends about her secret job. A French chemist is peddling his “specially formulated” products to high-class spas and his latest target is celeb favorite, The Royale Treatment Day Spa. Unfortunately, his products cause some nasty side effects and the results are so not pretty. Just when Draven’s first assignment seems to be heading south, she receives unwanted assistance in the form of Rader DeChanel. What does he want with Draven? Will she be able to solve her first official case without blowing her cover?

This completed project of approximately 39,000 words is the first in a linked character series that takes place in Phoenix, Arizona. Unlike other YA espionage-type series (Spy High, The Specialists, Gallagher Girls), Draven Atreides, Teenage FBI: A Royale Pain is about one girl bringin' down the bad guys—or girls. No weapons. No special training. No disguises.

I'm a member of National Association of Women’s Writers and Arizona Author’s Association, and I’m a native of Arizona. I'd be happy to send you a partial or complete copy of the manuscript for your review. Thank you for your time and I look forward to hearing from you.



Anonymous said...

RED FLAG: Don't say "fiction novel" a novel IS fiction. So just take out the fiction part.

I like where you are going with this. In a recent agent blog, (I think it was Nathan Bransford), said not to start with a rhetorical question. It might be an agent preference, but something to look into when researching. I don't know if you necessarily need the name pronunciation included as part of the query letter. Maybe it just didn't come through on the blog, but be sure to italicize the title of your book. I think that the premise sounds really interesting. Good luck.

Josi said...

I agree with Anon on the fiction novel thing, but I don't have a problem with the question. I think a lot of queries open that way. I think you can leave our the pronunciation and agree that you should have the title italicized. I'm also intrigued with the phrase 'character linked series' I haven't heard it before. At first glance I think it means that secondary characters from one book become main characters in later books (also called spin off, though Character Linked is a great description) and yet the other things you say about the book makes it sound like it's a traditional series, with the same 'sleuth' in a new circumstance each time. Just something to consider.

I think it sounds really good. You could leave out the 'native of Arizona' thing to shorten the final paragraph, but other than those details I think you've done well.

folksinmt said...

I agree with the other two comments.

Just a few questions: Is she just a paid informant or is it actually a job? I know the FBI wouldn't hire anyone without a degree and four years of experience, so you might want to clarify this in the query so it shows you've done your research.

What are the side effects? I think it was a little too generic here. Did the rich and famous break out with green and purple pimples? Let us know how serious the side effects are.

Who is Rader DeChannel? Is he the villain previously mentioned? Can you give a little more info?

And if she doesn't use disguises, special training, or weapons, how does she do it?

I had someone critique my query and they said "be more specific." I was so can I be more specific in so few words? It is such a huge challenge to give enough critical info while being brief. But I think a little more details would be helpful with your query.

It sounds like a interesting premise for a book. Good job!

You can also post queries for critiquing on openquery.blogspot

Noble M Standing said...

I agree with the other comments but you have a big red flag here. "Atriedes" is the last name of the MC (Paul Atriedes) in Frank Herberts "Dune". I would change the name. Otherwise you might have Dune fans pounding down your door. Better to choose a name with no fictional connection.

Gale Sears said...

I agree with NM Standing. Change the last name of the protagonist. It was off putting to have it the name of the Dune character.
It sounds like an interesting idea. Good luck!

Julie Wright said...

I agree about the fiction novel part and the changing of the name Atriedes. I am a huge fan of Dune and that jolted me to see that name. I know it's likely a real name to real people on earth but fans of dune will be jarred to see it since it's a rare name.

Another thing I would mention is your word length. Your average middle grade novel is 40-60 thousand words. Your average YA novel is 60 to 90 thousand (I just contracted with an agent for a YA novel that is over 100,000). Your YA word count here is still under the low end of a middle grade novel. You might want to go back and flesh out the novel a little more in order to not fall short. It seems a small thing but it will be hard to market a YA book with such a small word count.

I also did wonder at the wording that shows our fbi agent has no training. Would they give someone with no traiing a professional job?

I think the premise of the book is fun and there is a ton of potential here for a fun series. Good luck with your project!

Celise said...

Thanks for all your comments everyone. I will take them under consideration. To answer some of the questions:

~ The FBI prefer not to use teen informants. However there have been certain instances when they do: to catch online predators. The have have brought in teens to help them "sound like a teenager" when going into chatrooms. It's not paid, just voluntary.

~ She's a paid informant, it's not an actual job. Although she sees it as one. There's more to it than that, but it's more than I want to get into here.

~ Rader DeChanel is a classmate of hers who becomes connected to her case.

~ She does this without "disguises, special training, or weapons" because she's an INFORMANT, not an AGENT. There's a difference. She's like a C.I. (criminal informant). She keeps her eyes and ears opens and reports back. Nothing real heavy.

Julie Wright said...

Thanks for the clarification! And really, I do know how to spell the word training. I feel so sheepish. You might want to call her a C.I. in your query. A criminal informant sounds technical and seriously cool. I'm going to echo myself and say the premise sounds like fun!

Kimberly said...

A hearty amen to the Atreides issue. I'm also a Dune fan and that caught me off guard.

For me, there's no huge hook here. A teenage girl working for the FBI seems a bit of a stretch, especially if she has no particular talents or abilities. What sets this girl apart? That may become clear in the book itself, but all the agent knows is what you tell them in this letter.

The letter is well written, barring a few tweaks already suggested, but the plot line you lay out here doesn't really grab me (that's just me though).

Anonymous said...

I notice that the majority of the comments began with "I agree". For a bunch of writers, surely you could be more imaginative to begin :-)

Julie Wright said...

True. I could have said
--I concur

or the yoda jedi master
--Agree, I do.

or the intellectual lawyer
--pursuant to the above comments, I find myself in complete accordance . . .

or the country boy
--What all them others said

or the "I don't have a thought in my own head" movie star
--If they aren't taking my picture, why do i care?

or the preacher
--Wo unto those who find themselves outside the circle of our agreement.

Or the frazzled I-have-too-much-to-do-today-but-want-to-support-this person-with-a-query-author
--I agree


Noble M Standing said...

LOL Julie, I love your last comment. And your right, we should be working on our own stuff while trying to find the time to support others. :P