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Thursday, June 04, 2015
Query Critique: Science Fiction
Dear Query Queen,
As the last surviving human on Dragonworld, Speaker for the People would do almost anything to feel like she belongs, but she lacks the tail, set of mid-limbs, and claws which all her adoptive family have. Worse than that, at twenty-five, she’s terrified of responsibility.
Now the Others are returning to Dragonworld.
Speaker has been chosen by her adopted parents to protect Dragonworld from the Others, despite a betrayal she knows nothing about. She will face lies, slavery, and interstellar politics at the hands of her biological kin, and hatred and accusations of blasphemy from her adopted relatives.
And all that is before she gets to Old Earth.
In SPEAKER FOR THE PEOPLE, a 90,000 word stand-alone science fiction novel, Speaker struggles against the corruption and stagnation of an empire. The novel explores the agony of making the best choice possible when all the options are bad, as well as the ability of people (despite the skin, scales, or fur they wear) to overcome horrendous adversity.
This is my first novel.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
I'm going to preface this by saying that science fiction is not my area of expertise. For that you'd have to talk to either Moe Ferrara or Beth Campbell at BookEnds. However, I do think that in many ways a strong or weak query is the same no matter what genre you represent. A really great query should grab the reader no matter the genre. In fact, just the other day I read a query that was amazing, but not at all a subject matter I was interested. I rejected it, but forwarded the query to everyone on the BookEnds team thinking one of them might be intrigued. I do believe another agent requested material.
There is nothing technically wrong with this query. You have all the facts, bits and pieces that are required. The only thing I felt was missing was anything that made the story itself stand out. Personally I'm intrigued by Dragonworld. I know it's something that's been done a number of times, but it's a storyline that I've always been fascinated by.
Speaker and her story feels YA to me, SF YA, but still YA. And it's not just her age. The storyline feels more suited to YA. It also feels very done. Like something I've read a thousand times before. Now of course it's possible that there's a bigger hook in there that you failed to tell me about, but my job is to make a judgement based on the query and based on the query, "likes, slavery and interstellar politics" sounds like a typical SF. What makes this different?
Personally I also really dislike queries that tell me what themes the book explores. I'm not sure anyone buys a book because it, "explores the agony of making the best choice possible when all the options re bad." That tells me nothing about the book. In many ways, that describes almost every YA ever written (slight exaggeration there).