Monday, March 28, 2011

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 0043:

Dear AGENT,

Because of your interest in young adult fiction with a historical bent, I’m sending you the first chapter of my novel Beyond the Fortune-Teller’s Tent.

Petra Baron, a senior at Arroyo Oaks High School, enters a fortune-teller’s tent at a Renaissance faire and exits into Elizabethan England. This detour into the past radically alters her carefully laid future plans. Despite her ambivalence towards her father’s recent remarriage, Petra is desperate to return to her life in Orange County, California. The seventeenth century presents all sorts of challenges -- a gypsy hunt, a demon dog named Black Shuck, and an overwhelming attraction to Emory Ravenswood. She also meets Friar Rohan, who challenges her to ask a new set of questions, “Instead of asking how, you should ask why you are here.”


When Petra returns to the here and now, she’s reunited with her newly created stepfamily emotionally as well as physically because of the lessons of love and loss learned in the Golden Age. She’s lost Emory. Or has she? Centuries apart but drawn together by extraordinary circumstances, can Petra and Emory survive the test of time? A first in a series, Beyond the Fortune-teller’s Tent is an 80,000 word novel.

I’ve been writing for a number of years. My second novel, The Promise, received an honorable mention in an international contest. My third novel, Hailey's Comments, was a semi-finalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Contest. My fifth novel, Stealing Mercy, placed second at the LDS Storymaker’s Conference first chapter contest in the historical category.

I studied English Literature at Brigham University and at BYU’s International Center in London. I’ve written for local newspapers and political campaigns. As former chapter president of a charitable organization, I’m frequently asked to speak publicly and I write my own addresses.

Currently, I’m president of Orange County Fictionaires, a local writing group. Neal Shusterman, award winning young adult author, and prolific romance writer Jacqueline Diamond, both friends and fellow Fictionaires, a have promised to speak kindly in my work’s behalf. Raymond Obstfeld, bestselling novelist, called my writing ‘intelligent, witty and strong,’ and Charles Salzberg, director of The New York Writer’s Workshops, was ‘impressed by my writing and characters.’ I hope you’ll feel the same. I look forward to hearing from you and I thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

9 comments:

Kristy said...

Okay, I've been waiting for someone to comment and nothing. Nada. I don't know if this means it's so good no improvement could possibly be made, or if it's so bad, no one knows where to start, or, most likely, people are too afraid to comment (or offend) this person that they don't know. In which case, pretend I'm your little sister, someone you love and want to protect from any unkindness from others, but are quite willing to subject to all sorts of criticism of your own. (I'm the youngest of six... go ahead. I can take whatever you can dish.

Annette Lyon said...

Or maybe others are in the same boat I am--I hadn't read the blog yet today!

The query pretty darn clean. You state why you picked this agent, then you go straight to the protag, setting, conflict, and some of the action.

Only suggestions: I'd get the main story question out sooner and end the plot summary earlier--leave us hanging more.

I'd also cut down the bio quite a bit. Most agents aren't interested in many contests and the like (But Amazon is definitely worth mentioning, I think.)

Good luck!

Kate said...

Your book sounds quite intriguing. You've done a good job of pairing things down. Here are my thoughts:

A TYPO:
fellow Fictionaires, a have promised to

This sentence is obvious and unnecessary:
This detour into the past radically alters her carefully laid future plans.

You use the word challenge in two consecutive sentences. Change one.

REWORKED:
The seventeenth century presents all sorts of challenges -- a gypsy hunt, a demon dog, a determined friar, and an overwhelming attraction to Emory Ravenswood.

This sentence makes me think the book is over, but then you continue with another set up. It's also a bit clunky. I would take it out.
YOURS:
When Petra returns to the here and now, she’s reunited with her newly created stepfamily emotionally as well as physically because of the lessons of love and loss learned in the Golden Age. She’s lost Emory. Or has she?

REWORKED:
When Petra returns to the here and now, she loses Emory. Or does she? Centuries apart, but drawn together by extraordinary circumstances, can Petra and Emory survive the test of time? A first in a series, Beyond the Fortune-teller’s Tent is an 80,000 word novel.

I don't know what the main problem of your story is. Is it getting back to modern times? Or is it Petra and Emory? Your query makes it seem like you have one problem for the first half of the book and another for the second half. What is the major problem of the book? What are the subplots? I think Petra and Emory is the main problem and the rest are subplots. Introduce the main problem first then weave in the subplots.

Good luck!

Susan said...

Your first line sounds like a poem--bent rhymes with tent. I'm pretty sure you didn't want to go there, right?

I agree with Annette--the bio is way too long. More about the book and less about yourself. That's just my opinion though.

I'm wondering if you've looked at any other queries. This one is quite different than anything I've ever seen. I think you need to work on a hook line. You kind of brush over the story and get onto yourself. You need to show the agent how good you are, not tell her.

Good luck! This is the hardest part, I think.

Susan said...

I just realized I sounded really short. Your story sounds very engaging. I guess all I'm saying is, if you've won all those awards (and I'm sure you must be some kind of amazing since you did)then SHOW the agent that.

Annette Lyon said...

One other thought I had--the story sounds almost YA rather than adult with the step-family issues.

Josh Hoyt said...

It looks good to me. I felt like it was too long and didn't really pull me in. There needs to be more of hook to get me interested in the book. Mentioning all the people who like you may not be helpful especially if the agents don't know them. If they don't they are not going to go looking them up. Remember "Show don't tell" applies to query letters as well.

Kristy said...

Thanks, everyone for your helpful comments! I appreciate your feedback!

Courtney said...

Okay, so I'm going to give you the advice that has helped me the most. What's so great about your story? What makes it unique? Why should I choose your book? Ask yourself these questions as you summarize your story. What's the overall conflict? Think about these questions and make sure you are answering them in your summary. Definitely tone down the bio. They want to know your story . . . that is what they'd be trying to sell if they took you on as a client.