1. Amanda_Geisler
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    Amanda_Geisler Contributing Member Reviewer

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    Need a Query Letter Opinion

    Discussion in 'Query & Cover Letter Critique' started by Amanda_Geisler, Jun 21, 2014.

    Hi All,
    I know I said that I am not intending to search for an agent yet, but I couldn't help myself from making a start on the perfect query letter. Any opinions on this query letter would be great.

    Amanda

    ___________________________________________
    Dear Agent,

    My name is Amanda, I am a Brisbane based writer of young adult fiction. I am a student at the University of Southern Queensland, enrolled in a Bachelor of Arts (Professional Writing and Publishing). I have completed a certificate in creative writing through Open Colleges Australia. I have also just completed a certificate of editing and publishing through Australian College, I am continuing this qualification with a certificate in advanced editing and publishing.

    Please find attached/enclosed a synopsis and the requested number of chapters from my novel, The Stray, which is approximately 80,000 words in length. The target audience is young adult as mentioned above from ages 13 to 25.

    My book is about a young werewolf, Rya Garcia. I know that werewolf novels are quite common these days, but I have removed some of the normal clichés from the myths of werewolves, such as the full moon. Rya Garcia is part of the pack in the town named Cascade Falls, the human world is on the verge of finding out about the pack, while Rya struggles with the pack peaking order, and her abusive alpha.

    This novel is part of a trilogy that I am still writing, I am approximately 50,000 words into the second novel, The Lost, and then it will then lead into the final novel of the trilogy, The Found. Information about these two novels can be provided on request. I have the goal of finishing both of these novels by the end of this calendar year.

    This trilogy may appeal to readers of Kelly Armstrong’s, Bitten series, and Carrie Vaughn’s, Kitty Norville series, as well as a few other authors that published books in the paranormal genre.

    My novel writing won’t end with The White Wolf Trilogy, I intend to continue writing for the young adult audience with two more series of books named, The Jewel of Elements and The Gates Trilogy. I also have a single story idea that I have been playing around with that I may write in the future. Information on these can also be provided for on request.

    Many thanks for considering my work for representation, I look forward to hearing from you.

    Yours Sincerely

    Amanda Geisler
     
  2. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Sorry Amanda I don't know enough about query letters to critique one. But I'll bump the thread for you in hopes someone who does know will see it.
     
  3. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    1.) You do not talk about the novel nearly enough. You need to give a solid 3 paragraphs about what is going on

    2.) Don't defend yourself. Yes there are a lot of werewolf books out there, but don't draw attention to that. If they like your synopsis they'll have the opportunity to talk more about werewolves with you.
     
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  4. Toriel
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    Toriel New Member

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    Amanda, this needs some work. You've got some good credentials, which is great. But you need to spend more time talking about the story. I'm not an authority on query letters, but here's my advice. I'll put my comments in italics in the paragraphs; I'll bold what I think you should change/or consider changing.


    Dear Agent,

    My name is Amanda, I am a Brisbane based writer of young adult fiction (this may sound harsh, but they don't care about your name). I am a student at the University of Southern Queensland, enrolled in and majoring in a Bachelor of Arts (Professional Writing and Publishing). I have completed a certificate in creative writing through Open Colleges Australia. I have also just completed and a certificate of editing and publishing through Australian College, I am continuing this qualification with a also earning a certificate in advanced editing and publishing. (You have some great credentials to work with! That's really good, but this paragraph should be at the bottom of the query. Talk about your story first; that's what agents want to ear).

    Please find attached/enclosed a synopsis and the requested number of chapters from my novel, The Stray, which is approximately 80,000 words in length. The target audience is young adult as mentioned above from ages 13 to 25 (Any young adult agent will know the the age range for YA). (Again, put this at the end. Also, agents usually don't want things attached)

    My book is about a young werewolf, Rya Garcia. I know that werewolf novels are quite common these days, but I have removed some of the normal clichés from the myths of werewolves, such as the full moon. Rya Garcia is part of the pack in the town named Cascade Falls, the human world is on the verge of finding out about the pack, while Rya struggles with the pack peaking order, and her abusive alpha (this sentence is really, really long).

    This novel is part of a trilogy that I am still writing, I am approximately 50,000 words into the second novel, The Lost, and then it will then lead into the final novel of the trilogy, The Found. Information about these two novels can be provided on request. I have the goal of finishing both of these novels by the end of this calendar year (Okay, you can include this, but make is a lot shorter. It's good to show the agent your working on it, but they don't need so many details).

    This trilogy may appeal to readers of Kelly Armstrong’s, Bitten series, and Carrie Vaughn’s, Kitty Norville series, as well as a few other authors that published books in the paranormal genre.

    My novel writing won’t end with The White Wolf Trilogy, I intend to continue writing for the young adult audience with two more series of books named, The Jewel of Elements and The Gates Trilogy. I also have a single story idea that I have been playing around with that I may write in the future. Information on these can also be provided for on request.
    (Delete this entire paragraph. The agent doesn't want to know about your other projects; he or she only cares about the one you're sending to them).

    Many thanks for considering my work for representation, I look forward to hearing from you.

    Yours Sincerely

    Amanda Geisler


    So, I would focus more on the story. Tell me more about Rya. Why is she special in particular? What kind of abuse does she suffer from? For how long? Why?

    Why is her pack getting discovered? Why is that important? How do they plan on stopping it? Who will stop it? And so on.

    Also, you state you novel is YA but never what genre within YA (I'm guessing paranormal or urban fatnasy, though).
     
  5. Amanda_Geisler
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    Amanda_Geisler Contributing Member Reviewer

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    Thanks for your opinions. This is my first attempt at writing a query letter, and I couldn't find many examples to work from. Thanks Toriel for a thoughtful review. I will post an improvement when I have the chance to rewrite it.

    Amanda
     
  6. ToDandy
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    ToDandy Contributing Member

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    You make a typical error that most queriers do. You start with yourself, that's a quick route to form rejections.

    Start with the story, unless you have a personal connection to the agent in question (like having gone to one of their seminars or met them at a conference).

    Focus on these

    Who is the story about?
    What are the stakes?
    What happens if the they fail?

    Like anything, there are principles to writing queries and you break them if you want, but just recognize that they are there for a reason.

    Here is a link to an agent who does query critiques and shows both good and bad ones. This site has been hugely helpful to me and she's amusing in a sardonic way.

    http://queryshark.blogspot.com
     
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  7. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    Brevity. You need to demonstrate your ability to write, so be as brief yet effective as possible. The writing in the letter is very weak so this won't bode well for the novel. At least, that's exactly how I'd respond as an agent. They will give this letter very little time as they will receive hundreds. You need to hook them immediately. Fast, sharp, and to the point.

    The other posters mentioned many suitable changes. Forget about the trilogy. Focus on the story you are submitting only.

    "I have the goal of finishing both of these novels by the end of this calendar year." - This is BAD. Spending just half a year writing two novels is a big red warning flag.
     
    Last edited: Jul 10, 2014
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  8. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    Dear (Agent's name),

    I am pleased to submit for your consideration three chapters from my 80 000 word Young Adult novel, The Stray.

    (I'm not editing this as I don't know the story): Rya Garcia is part of the pack in Cascade Falls, the human world is on the verge of finding out about the pack, while Rya struggles with the pack peaking order, and her abusive alpha..... AND MORE ABOUT THE STORY - The main dilemma, the challenges, etc. Short but sharp. This is the bulk of your query letter.

    The novel will appeal to readers of Kelly Armstrong’s, Bitten series, and Carrie Vaughn’s, Kitty Norville series.

    I am currently studying a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in publishing at the University of Southern Queensland. I have completed a certificate in creative writing through Open Colleges Australia and a certificate of editing and publishing through Australian College.

    Many thanks for your consideration and I hope to hear from you soon,

    Amanda Geisler
     
    Last edited: Jul 10, 2014
  9. ToDandy
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    ToDandy Contributing Member

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    I want to reinforce what was said here. Writers will push out books at different speeds but typically 1 year= 1 book is standard.

    6 months writing followed by a rest period to separate yourself from the material and then 6 months of revision.

    Saying you push out two books in half a year tells the agent that you didn't spend enough time polishing it, and agents like books to be shiny and well polished when sending it off to editors and publishing houses.
     
  10. Amanda_Geisler
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    Amanda_Geisler Contributing Member Reviewer

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    So I need to be clearer about finishing writing them this year not actually finish polishing. If I reach my goal I will have finished writing three books this year
     
  11. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    Still best not to mention it. It could give the agent a reason to worry. The only thing a query letter is meant to do, the ONLY thing, is to convince the agent to read your sample chapters. If they like those, the rest will take care of itself.

    (And in my humble opinion, three books a year is insanely, and worryingly fast. If I wanted to I could type three books in a month, but how good would you expect them to be?)
     
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2014
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  12. Amanda_Geisler
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    Amanda_Geisler Contributing Member Reviewer

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    I spent 6 years on the first book in my trilogy then I spent a few months on the 2nd book with maybe another two or three weeks to go. I plan to use the last of this year on the 3rd book, it is just working for me now. I think it as something to do with having all the foundation knowledge in the first book so the sequels are easier to write. I'm not having to think up the information, the information is already there
     
  13. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    It's cool, just saying. Yes, the foundation knowledge certainly helps speed things along. With many series the author has 'knocked out' the sequel books much faster because that initial learning/ creating period has been dealt with.

    Can I just add for the benefit of everyone: as you're no doubt aware the publishing industry is brutal and criticism will often be severe and harsh. It's good to see that so many people intending to expose their most intimate creative works are not daunted by the harsh nature of feedback, which can often be not only depressing, but destructive. Again, it's good to see that maturity, humility and reason are brought along for the ride.
     
  14. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    That sounds more reasonable than churning out three novels per year. :)

    However, the other people on this thread are right. This query letter is to sell THIS book and no other. How fast you write and how many other books you've got waiting in the wings is not what an agent wants to know AT THIS STAGE. If they ask for more of your story and like it, they may well ask you what the rest of your work is like. But until that happens, stick to selling them about this story only. Make the premise sound so original and exciting that they just HAVE to know more.

    It is a good idea to compare it to others of a similar nature, though: "This (book) should appeal to readers of Kelly Armstrong’s, Bitten series, or Carrie Vaughn’s, Kitty Norville series. " This tells the agent you've identified your target audience.
     
  15. Amanda_Geisler
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    Amanda_Geisler Contributing Member Reviewer

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    Exactly, I might very well finish this series and the first book in my next series will take me several years, but I have a lot more ideas for that series then I did when I started this series

    I put my query letter up here to get good advice, that is exactly what I have gotten. I knew that my query letter would need some work I wanted to find out what kind of work it would need. I will being taking all of this feedback into account when I re-write my query letter and I will probably post the revision on here for further advice

    I actually based my query letter on a guide in the Australian Writer's Marketplace book, but it is a few years outdated now I need to update my copy. These are actually among the books that I have read to check that my book isn't using others ideas, I could have listed a lot more but I thought that two would be enough.


    I still have another six months of writing this series and I'm not planning on sending anything off to agents until I have had at least my first novel professionally edited. I wrote my query letter in a bout of procrastination and I will probably have another bout during the writing of the third book when I will write the revision of my query letter.

    Amanda
     
  16. daemon
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    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

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    The sole purpose of a query letter is to motivate the agent to start reading your manuscript. Elements that help with that:
    • genre and target audience (to relate it to agents who already specialize in that niche)
    • a hook -- something that distinguishes your book from the noise in the market (in this case, an unconventionally realistic take on werewolves)
    • a problem the protagonist faces, and why it is a problem
    • a reason to care that the protagonist averts or solves this problem
    • a glimpse at the motives and plans of any antagonist(s) (to make the plot sound like more than "a big meanie is mean to the protagonist and an outside force threatens the pack's way of life")
    Elements that do not help:
    • that your book is targeted at a crowded market (I realize that a big hook of your book is that it differentiates itself from the clichés of the market, but mentioning the market makes you sound apologetic. Just mention a couple clichés you avoid. If the agent is familiar enough with the market, then you show that you are keenly aware of the market -- a good sign -- and you promise a fresh take on the genre. If not, then no big deal.)
    • your education (the proficiency you demonstrate in writing a query speaks stronger than your education about the potential quality of the manuscript, and the quality of the manuscript speaks for itself.)
    • other books you are writing (the mere fact that you are writing other books does not indicate that this book is any good; in fact, it might indicate that you are spreading yourself too thin and not giving this book enough attention. If you want an agent to consider your other books, then write separate queries for them.)
    • that the synopsis and chapters are attached/enclosed (if the agent has instructed you to provide them, then (s)he will know where to look. Otherwise, (s)he will simply reply and ask for the information (s)he wants.)
    • that you look forward to hearing from the agent (I have read that some agents interpret it as the author trying to overstay their welcome)
    After the agent has read a few pages from the manuscript and enjoyed them, there will be an opportunity for you to talk more about yourself, your other books, etc.

    Dear Agent,

    I would like you to represent THE STRAY, a young adult fantasy novel targeted at fans of Bitten by Kelly Armstrong and Kitty Norville by Carrie Vaughn.

    Rya Garcia is a werewolf who has nothing to do with full moons or [other specific werewolf clichés you avoid].

    She lives in a pack in Cascade Falls with an alpha who [briefly describe how he is abusive]. She wants to escape his shadow and [move up in the pack's pecking order -- what does she really want to accomplish, and why?], but [something keeps her in her place -- what is it?]. [Those sentences should allude to some qualities of Rya that get the reader to care that she should progress from the status quo.]

    [Name one or two humans who are "on the verge" of finding out about the pack -- what information are they about to discover? How might they discover it? What will happen if they discover it, and why would that be bad?]

    At 81,000 words, THE STRAY downplays the fantastical elements of werewolf lore and focuses on the consequences that Rya's "alternative lifestyle" have on her life, her pack, and her town.

    Thank you for your time.

    Amanda Geisler
     
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2014
  17. daemon
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    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well, there goes the rest of my week.

    (Seriously, as soon as I followed that link, I went on a binge through the archives. It was entertaining to no end, and I learned a ton about how to write concisely and colorfully, not just query letters. My favorite example is Premeditated.)
     

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