Monday, November 23, 2009

Monday Mania--Query Letter

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

Critique Archive 0030:

To The Editor,

Eden has a new, blue umbrella, and its not your average ho-hum, every-day umbrella,this is the kind of umbrella that can sweep a girl off her feet! Which is just what happens to Eden in this adventre story for kids aged about 2 to 5 years old.

I see from my research that you are interested in fresh imaginative picture books,and I hope this manuscript will fit your list well.

My completed manuscript is XXX words, and is enclosed along with an SASE.

Thank you for your consideration,

The Author


Critique Archive 0031:

Dear Agent:

On the game board of Ancient Greece, mortals are despised, but not dispensable, creatures, for it is their worship that is the basis of the Gods’ power. Robbed of this power and stripped of her Godhood by her sister Hera, abandoned by her lover Zeus, Demeter finds herself in the position of a pawn, moved hither and thither by the Gods’ whims.

Living as a mortal, Demeter must bring her child into the world and raise her without all the privilege and power she possessed as one of Olympus' chosen. A mother Goddess who has no desire to be a mother, Demeter grows increasingly bitter under the burden of motherhood and her mortal life. She vents her anger on the one she should love best, her daughter, Persephone.

Persephone seeks solace from her mother’s wrath in the forest surrounding the village in which they live. On one such foray, Persephone plucks a narcissus growing at the mouth of a cavern. The cavern spews out a chariot bearing Persephone’s fate in its basket; Hades, ruler of the dead. He abducts Persephone, carries her to his realm and forces her to share her body and her bed with him.

Frantic at Persephone’s loss, desperate, now that her daughter is beyond her reach, to recompense for all the ways she wronged Persephone, Demeter sets out on a quest for Persephone’s freedom that takes her from Poseidon’s depths to Olympus’s heights. Zeus restores Demeter’s Godhood, but refuses to command Hades to release Persephone.

With a wealth of power once again at her disposal Demeter is free to manipulate the mortal world in any way necessary to gain her daughter’s freedom. Her only consideration is how many mortals it will be necessary to destroy before Zeus feels his throne tilt beneath him and comes to heel.

As Demeter schemes for her release in the Upper World, Persephone formulates plan after plan of escape in the Under; all of which Hades thwarts. However, daily pressed into proximity with this dark God, Persephone finds his impassive exterior hides a kind man, whose need for love and compassion surpass even her own. Unaware of Demeter’s cruel plan and what her continued absence from the Upper World means to the mortals who dwell there, Persephone begins to wonder if escape is truly what she wants.

SEEDS, a historical fantasy, is my first novel.

Thank you for your time and consideration.




Anonymous said...

First query
I really liked this. It sounds like a fun story. In the second paragraph, I think it would be stronger to say something along the lines of "I believe this would be a perfect addition to your list as you are known for your interest in fresh, imaginative picture books."

Second query
While I enjoy the mythological stories, this one felt the same as many others I've read (although if I passed this on a library shelf I'd at least give it a once-over!).

It's hard, but I would recommend shortening the query, making it less of a synopsis. Start with something that makes your book different from all the others out there. Why, with so many to choose from, should yours be selected? Then continue with a short paragraph (3-5 sentences) that really grabs the meat of the story.

One other thing - you need to make sure you clearly state who your target audience is (it sounds YA mythology/fantasy to me, not historical fiction, but it can be hard to nail this down), and somewhere you should include the word count on the finished manuscript.

It takes a lot of schmoozing to get a foot in the door. Don't give up-just don't give them any reason to toss your query aside! Good luck!

Annette Lyon said...

Very brief comments--

#1--I think we need a little more here. A picture book is so short that you can really get to the heart of it in the query. What does the magic umbrella DO exactly? Also, be sure that your grammar and punctuation are CORRECT, especially in such a short space. Any error will jump out.

#2--You've got the opposite problem, I think: too MUCH information. Cut the story part down to 2 paragraphs at the most, highlighting 1) who is the main character 2) what is the main problem 3) what's at stake. And don't mention this is your first book. Chances are, that'll be a strike against you.

Good luck to both of you!

Lu Ann Brobst Staheli said...

Picture books do not require a query letter, but a cover letter. Editors prefer to see the entire manuscript on those because they are so short anyway and a query doesn't add to the storytelling.

I felt like the second query was more of a retelling of things I already knew about the mythology rather than a hook for something fresh and new. Get to the conflict and resolution quicker.

Melanie J said...

I don't think the first one had enough information, actually. I'd like to know a bit more about the adventures related to the umbrella.

As for the second query, I don't think your genre is clear. At first I assumed it was YA because of the Rick Riordan influence but then some of the content made me think, "I really hope it's NOT for YA." Also, I think you can condense or elminate the Demeter backstory at the beginning and just focus on the Persephone part of it. I think this would work for me if I could feel her as more fleshed out since the plot is a foregone conclusion. Who she is will drive this and your query should give a clear sense of that so that we're sure she's someone you can hang a book on.

Term Paper Sample said...

Thanks a lot for a bunch of good tips. I look forward to reading more on the topic in the future. Keep up the good work! This blog is going to be great resource. Love reading it.
research term papers-Essay Writing Help