Thursday, April 23, 2015

Query Critique: Fade to the Edge

I agree that the material in this email can be posted and critiqued on the BookEnds Literary Agency blog. I give permission for it to be archived for the life of the blog. 

Dear Query Queen:
Tracy Allen wakes to find DJ, her seven-year-old son, missing. With a custody hearing just days away, this could be her soon-to-be ex’s way of show how unfit a mother she really is.**this sentence feels awkward to me. Would it be cleaner to say her soon-be-be ex's way of showing that she is an unfit mother? An awkward sentence like this can completely ruin it for the reader. My thought is that if the first sentence is this awkward, what does the manuscript look like? Another concern: if the ex took the kid wouldn't he be the one who would look bad? I'm unclear about how this works which is a red flag for the plotting. But when the police locate DJ’s suitcase and the clothing inside covered with blood**this also feels awkward. I get what you're trying to say, but it doesn't read clearly, she knows this is more than a mere “get even” scheme. And once Tracy realizes she’s the mains**yet another typo suspect, she is determined to locate DJ, whatever it takes. But how can you save the one person who relies on you most when those closest to you are the ones you should trust the least?**I think this is generally a good hook overall, although nothing special, but I guess I haven't seen in the previous paragraphs who is closest to her that she trusts the least. If you're going to make a statement like this at any time you need to make sure you show it before making the statement.

I am writing in the hope you will be interested in reading my completed suspense book, Fade to the Edge. It is approximately 73,000 words in length.  

My current releases are as follows: 
  1. My award winning inspirational romantic suspense, Breathless (first place Royal Palm Literary Award), and it sequels, Catch Your Breath (Third Place in the Heart of Excellence Contest), both published with Pelican Book Group in 2012; Also the third in the series One Last Breath, self-published December 2014;
  2. Suspense short The Visitor, self-published September 2014;
  3. Game of Hearts, a humorous novella published with Astraea Press, released in March 2012;
  4. A humorous mystery, Knight & Day published by Write Words, Inc. in 2013; and
  5. Beautiful Imperfection, inspirational romantic suspense, was published through Pelican Book Group on September 29, 2013. It was also the winner of Best Inspirational Cover for 2013 in the “Show Me Your Covers Contest.”  
I was the President of Florida Sisters in Crime from January 2010 – December 2011, and am currently the Public Relations Director for Ancient City Romance Authors. I am co-chairing the September 2015 Ancient City Romance Conference. I have spoken at several writers’ events including the 2014 Florida Writers Association Conference.

I am also a Florida Certified Paralegal and work for an estate planning attorney in Jacksonville, Florida.  

Thank you for your attention. I look forward to hearing from you.  

Sincerely yours,

Writing Clean Fiction with an Edge!

I'm always intrigued by missing child suspense novels. I'm afraid though that I probably would not request this. Setting aside the problem with the awkward sentences and errors, this just didn't feel special to me. A boy is missing and his bloody suitcase is found. That doesn't make the book stand out for me. What makes this book special? What makes it different from any other book about a mom trying to find her child?

Does the case link to an old case from her childhood? Is there a clue left behind that links to a past she's been running from? Is her ex a big muckity-muck in town and not really the boy's father? In other words...what's your hook?

The biggest mistake this makes is that it's bland. It's a common mistake, but one that equals rejection.

As for other parts of the query. I'm fine with your list of current releases, but I do feel like they are lacking information. I'm not sure they need to be a bulleted list as much as a paragraph with the publisher's name in parenthesis after.

your final paragraph about yourself is fine. You can probably skip the sentence about being a paralegal. It just isn't necessary.

I hope this helps. By focusing more on your hook I thin you'd have a strong query. If you have focused on your hook you might want to go back and rework the book itself to make it bigger.



Anonymous said...

A thing that struck me here was that the mother worried about things related to herself: whether it would make her look like a bad parent, whether she would be accused of the crime. I would have expected her to just be frantic to recover the child no matter what.

Anonymous said...

I found the hook a little intriguing. (I'm a fan of psychological thrillers with torn-apart families like DEEP END OF THE OCEAN.) But, wow, this letter was so riddled with typos and sloppiness I'm amazed that the writer really published the books she claims to have published. Is it a red flag too that the writer went from being published (Pelican) to self-publishing? I think you were kind in your assessment.

Elissa M said...

I, too, was a little baffled that the mother seems aloof. She becomes determined to locate her child only after she becomes the main suspect in his disappearance? And this AFTER a suitcase of bloody clothing has been found? Any normal mother I know would be frantic from the start.

I can't imagine the character is really this dispassionate, so I'm blaming the query. I think focusing on the idea that those who are closest to the MC are the ones she can least trust will help. Show who these people are and why they can't be trusted. And maybe mention why the MC doesn't think the bloody clothes indicate the worst.

DLM said...

I actually like the bullet points, as the visual separation highlights the info, which is good. Putting all that in less pithy form would feel muddy to me, reading.

Agreed on the point about the query's focus on the mother's concerns. I wonder, too, where is the hook? :)

John Frain said...

In addition to the things already mentioned, such as the hook, two things struck me:
1. The awkward sentences. So easy for me to imagine. We write a sentence that makes perfect sense to us because we know what we're trying to say. But if you read it aloud, you might realize the awkwardness that a reader will sense. Need to check for that in my own query.
2. OMG! I'm competing against people who have been published multiple times?! That knocked me down. I'll get up again, but it staggered me for a bit. Didn't realize people who were already published would be shopping around for an agent.

Kudos to the author for putting this up, and thank you to Jessica for this series. So helpful.

BookEnds, A Literary Agency said...

Thank you for all of the great comments. I think the more people who participate the better it is for everyone.

A couple of extra thoughts:

It's not a red flag for me if the writer went from traditional publishing to self-publishing. A writer's career is never an even trajectory. It's always a series of ups and downs. I also don't know the why. It could have been a decision the writer made to try something new, to or to get away from a contract she didn't like, or something different.

Elissa: I think it's an interesting point that you blame the query, but not the book. Agents tend to see the query as a representation of the book. My advice is if you get feedback on a query you should also check the manuscript to make sure that it's not a problem throughout.

John: You are competing against people who have been published, but that doesn't mean their chance is much better than yours. It's about the book.


Elissa M said...


I realize agents assume the query is an accurate representation of the book; how can they do otherwise?

I guess I'm being optimistic about this particular novel, knowing how hard it is to write a query. If I received query feedback, I would certainly check that query faults weren't the result of faults with the novel itself.

That's one of the advantages of getting feedback. It's far better to find these things out before one starts querying "for real".

AJ Blythe said...

I've been looking forward to reading your query critiques. Thanks for doing this Jessica, and to the brave souls who have put their queries forward.

I found the query to be a little clunky and vague.

I didn't think about the Mother's position (I assumed the fear for her child was assumed and the author was highlighting what else was going on - but maybe you shouldn't have to assume in a query?).

Also interested by Elissa's comment and your follow-up to that, Jessica: Agents tend to see the query as a representation of the book. My advice is if you get feedback on a query you should also check the manuscript to make sure that it's not a problem throughout.