Monday, November 30, 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 0032:

Dear Agent,

Overwhelmed by the paparazzi hanging out in her hedges, twenty-something Abigail Kelly banishes herself to secluded Seaside, Florida for much needed R&R. But her band’s manager wants her back in LA—pronto. She needs to record, and there’s that photo shoot, and those interviews…

Abby ignores him—in search of peace, and the perfect combination of anti-depressant and skinny jeans to take the edge off her crazy life. Instead she finds Todd—who understands her better than anyone…and likes her anyway. As they laugh and swim and fall in love over the summer, Abby remembers life before the spotlight, and is reminded that there is more to life than hollow fame.

Back in LA three months later, Abby manages to balance work and life. But it’s short-lived with a new record deal looming, and an overseas touring schedule into the next millennium. Sensing the oncoming pressure, Todd tries to help, but this only drives them apart. It comes to a head when Todd fights with her manager as Abby stands by. Even after Abby tries to smooth things over, Todd goes home to Florida. Alone. And her manager is thrilled.

Now Abby is really on her own—facing a boss who is taking advantage of her guilt and workaholic tendencies. Pushed to the limit, she finally snaps, and for the first time in her life, she’s determined to stand on her own, and to stand up for what she wants: control of her life.

A work of women’s fiction, ABBY ROAD is complete at 95,000 words. My Bachelors Degree is in English. I belong to the Writers’ Guild of Texas.

Thank you for your generous time. The complete manuscript of ABBY ROAD is available upon request.

Yours, etc...


Annette Lyon said...

My first thought after reading the whole query is that the main character is inconsistent. She blows off her entire career to take off for 3 months and then later she's a workaholic? I don't see how the two can work. I'm not sure what the main conflict is, either--this feels like a series of small conflicts. Is this a romance? A work of women's fiction? It sounds a bit like both, but I'm not sure what's at stake or why I should care, and since she's inconsistent, I don't care enough about HER.

Also, with the title being what it is, I expected the Beatles to be significant in some way.

Lu Ann Brobst Staheli said...

My comment is about suspension of disbelief. As someone who has worked with music industry professionals and those who want to be, three months away from an up and coming band is a death sentence to them ever getting a recording contract. I don't buy it.

Maria Zannini said...

I read this several times to figure out where exactly the story begins because it really isn't too clear. The first three paragraphs appear to be mostly back story. I get that Abby is overworked, that she skips off and falls in love, and then splits from her lover, but I get no sense of where the real conflict is and why I should care about her problems. Everyone gets stressed--but what's the trigger? Where does this become different from any other story?

My suspicion is that it comes in the fourth paragraph where she "snaps". This one sentence immediately captured my attention and empathy. This is the moment of change, where things (hopefully) begin to happen for Abby and helps her grow as a character.

Why she snaps is not nearly as important as how she handles what comes next. I think you can get across the image of an overworked and overwrought entertainer in less than a sentence and then pitch the crux of the story--the point where Abby decides to reclaim her life and the obstacles that will try to stop her.

For me, describing the conflict within a query should be like flipping a light switch. Once it's tripped, it opens up an entire vista of possibilities. You might consider pitching this from the point where things change for her. Use her breakdown as a jumping off point.

I hope this was helpful.

Melanie J said...

Aw, see, and I was going to say it sounds like exactly the kind of thing I would pick up and read. I love chick lit and it sounds like my kind of story. Guess I should have been looking with an agent's eyes.

Julie Wright said...

Using the term twenty-something seems off putting to me. Forty-something works because people in their early forties don't change much when they get to the late forties, but there is a drastic change in a person from 21 to 25 and 25 to 29. Just say she's young and leave it at that.

I think the query is too long and reads more like a synopsis than a query. I'd like to see it condensed and focused on who the character is, what she wants, and what is at stake.

I love a good chick book and think your story has promise, but the query isn't tight enough to grab an agent or editor's attention. Good luck!

folksinmt said...

It's always rough having to go back to the drawing holding up okay? :)

The one thing you want to remember is: how is my book different than the thousands of others in the slush pile? You have described a book about a starlet needing a break and falling in love with ordinary life. This story has been done thousands of times. What about your story is new and exciting? What makes your story stand out?

Think about it long and hard and make sure you add your unique spin to your query. Your writing is solid, so once an agent can see the originality in your story, your query might get some hits.
Good luck!