Monday, November 16, 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 0029:

Dear XXXX,

“Waves” is a completed 96,000 word Young Adult novel that shares the emotional story of a young girl as she adjusts to big changes in her life. Alyssa's mother passed away the previous fall and her dad has recently remarried a woman who has two children of her own. Alyssa is having a hard time adjusting to this new family, especially to her attractive step-sister, Jessica, who is just one year older than Alyssa. She is determined, however, not to let jealousy get in her way. She will have the best summer of her life . . . or will she?

Alyssa Chamberlain is determined that this summer will be one filled with romance and fun, unlike summers past, as she returns to her family’s beach house for their annual three-month vacation. But, things will be different this year for other reasons. Alyssa quickly succeeds in her mission to have an amazing summer, hanging out with old friends and falling in love with someone new, Ethan Andrews. But, as Ethan begins to constantly argue with his older brother, Mason, it becomes obvious they are hiding something. Alyssa struggles to understand their tense relationship and swears to herself that she will uncover their family secret. However, what they are hiding goes beyond her wildest imagination and her acceptance of it can only go so far as she tries to comprehend exactly what the two brothers and their dad are up to. It's a mystery that she insists on solving, even if it means losing her first true-love.

She discovers that they have been drugging girls and taking their blood. They then alter it in a way so that, when injected into themselves, it dramatically slows their aging process. Can her relationship with Ethan move past this deception? She isn't sure it can when she learns that Ethan's brother is actually his father, and who she knew as his father is actually his grandpa. The only thread of hope she can cling to is that Ethan himself hasn't been injected with the stolen blood. However, that could change at any time. Vampires aren't the only ones who want your blood.

“Waves” is my first novel, which I have put many hours of writing and research into in order to create an incredible situation and make it become feasible. I am currently working on a sequel so that my readers can continue to follow Alyssa’s journey as she starts her senior year of high school with new self-confidence.

I have enclosed a synopsis (???, the first three chapters???) and a SASE for your reply. If you are interested, I would be happy to send the completed manuscript.

Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.




Lu Ann Brobst Staheli said...

This needs to be your hook: Vampires aren't the only ones who want your blood. Until that point in your query the book sounds likes a hundred other books already available on the market. This gives it something unique that captures the editor's interest. Play more upon the mystery and less upon her family situation and the romance since solving the mystery is her main focus. I wouldn't mention the sequel or how long you've worked on this book. Sound like a professional who has many publishing credits under her belt, even if you don't have. Editors want to know they can count of you to do the hard work they will require because you've been there before. Good luck!

Maria Zannini said...

I do love examining queries.

I agree with Lu Ann in that there is too much back story. Swing with your hook.

In your first paragraph, use your first line, then immediately go into the hook.

In your second paragraph, describe the conflict without the back story.

For example: Falling in love with Ethan has been the highlight of Alyssa's summer vacation until she discovers a grisly secret. Ethan and his brother are drugging girls and stealing their blood.

Continue the paragraph about how she learns they're not really brothers and how this affects HER.

Delete the fourth paragraph. Editors/agents aren't interested in how long you've worked at it or that it's your first novel. Do not mention the sequel until after you sign your contract. :o)

Try to keep the query well under 300 words. And don't forget to use active verbs.

Hope that helps. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Great comments Lu Ann & Maria. I agree! The first few paragraphs read more like a short synopsis than anything.

That 4th paragraph can go completely.

The shorter and more powerful your query, the better. Your goal is to get the agent to request sample chapters.

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