Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Workshop Wednesday

Thanks to all of your contributions, Workshop Wednesday has been a success. We're going to continue on with it for as long as we have entries and the energy to comment on them. If you haven't yet submitted but are still interested, don't be afraid to participate as per the guidelines in our original post.

For anyone wanting to comment, we ask that you comment in a polite and respectful manner, and we ask that you be as constructive as possible. If you can be useful to the brave souls who submitted their query and comment on the query, that's great. Please keep any anonymous tirades on publishing or other snarky comments to yourself. This is and should remain an open and safe forum for people to put themselves and their queries out there so that everyone can learn. I'm leaving comments open and open to anonymous posters, as I always have; don't make me feel the need to change that policy.

And for those who have never "met" Query Shark, get over there and do that. She's the originator of the query critique, the queen, if you will.

Dear Agent,

It is always best to personalize your query so that it doesn’t look like you’ve sent the same query to everyone on

Powers she’s sworn to keep secret…

…an ancient society in hiding…

…a soul-mate she never knew existed…dead.

In Morgan Cauldwell’s life, nothing is as it seems.

This sounds like one cliché after another and it doesn’t tell me very much about your book. Also, the unorthodox style feels like a lazy cop-out. I would much rather have this information — and much more — in a few well-written paragraphs.

After her Grandmother's passing, Morgan must make a new home at secluded Manchester Academy, where mysterious Chase Thomas knows some of her deepest secrets. He knows much more than Morgan bargained for; especially when it comes to the inexplicable powers she’s been guarding so carefully.

Is Chase a student? The weird janitor? What do you mean when you say he knows more than Morgan bargained for? Why did she bargain for him to know anything?

But when the secrets come out, when will they stop? How much power should one person possess?

I do not like these hypothetical questions. I would like you to tell me about your story, not ask me about it. A simple enticing question at the end of a well-written query such as, “But will she get there in time?” can be effective, but questions don’t work here because all we know about your book is that there is a young girl with supernatural powers and someone knows about them. What conflict is Morgan fighting? Why does Chase matter and what role does he play in her journey?

Gifted is an 86,090 word YA Fantasy Romance. 

I appreciate your time and consideration. 

Thank you.

This is romance? Oh. I didn’t know — and that’s a problem. If, by the end of your query, I was not able to categorize it, I worry that I won’t be able to categorize your book — a requisite for pitching it to publishers.

I would have rejected this because I don’t have enough information and I worry that, since you’re not able to get across your point in a one-page query letter, your book’s plot might have interesting elements but go nowhere.



Anonymous said...

I actually didn't know she was a young girl, either. I assumed she was a grown woman. After all, a teacher might make a new home at a boarding school, but a student would just be going there.

Julie Daines said...

Sounds like an interesting story, but the query is awkward and cliche.

Rachel Menard said...

I agree with much has already been said. It sounds intriguing, but I too would like to know what her power is, the character's age, and the stakes. Is she only trying to hide her ability from Chase? Is her ability dangerous? I'm not saying it's bad, it only needs more. Also, Anonymous Querier, you can simply say your novel is 86,000 words. Round up or down to the nearest thousand on word count.

Beth said...

I actually liked the query. I guessed it was romance with "a soulmate she didn't know she had...dead." Although, I didn't know it was fantasy. I was going with paranormal. I think the writer wrote what might be a good jacket copy. Sometimes that works for a query and sometimes it doesn't. But I would buy this.

Laura W. said...

Mainly I'm wondering, why the heck does Chase care about anything Morgan does? Is he after her because of her secret powers? Or does she fall in love with him and then have to try and hide her powers from him? Right now, it just seems like Chase is a boy thrown in for the sake of there being a boy...

Lucy said...

Hey, congratulations on being brave enough to submit a query here. Now, let's look at one of the issues you've got here.

The reason that movie-trailer speak doesn't work for queries is that agents see queries like this one after another. All the time. Until their eyes cross.

Take the example of "hidden powers." Read the slush pile, and just about everybody in a paranormal YA query has hidden powers. If your character has a hidden power, it needs to be explained, and it needs to be relevant to the query.

For some excellent query practice, I'd suggest you go to, register and start reading examples in Query Letter Hell. Once you make fifty posts on the forums, you can post your own query for help and suggestions.

Best of luck!


Anonymous said...

Isn't Chase Morgan an investment bank or something?

Dale said...

Helpful comments regarding this query especially about not asking questions.

newmancht said...

Sorry...I got nothing from this query other than a confused scowl.

Seriously, waaaaaaaaaayyyy too coy in just about every sentence and paragraph. Like others alluded to, it might make decent jacket material, but it simply didn't work in an agent query. I'd have been left very annoyed....

You need protagonist, antagonist, conflict and consequences for actions taken about said conflict. None of that was present, leaving us (well, me at least) confused and in a state of head scratching with furrowed brows. Probably not quite what you intended.