1. Deloctyte
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    Deloctyte Member

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    Query Letter The First Query of my first Novel: Cosmic Leap

    Discussion in 'Query & Cover Letter Critique' started by Deloctyte, May 3, 2015.

    Hello there!

    So, I finally got my book into a shape that was more-or-less decent (About two iterations ago) and as such, decided to create a query. I read a few articles and looked at Queryshark's blog in an attempt to figure out what to do. What I ended up with is what can be found below. I might have been a tad impatient, so after a few rewrites, I sent it to a couple agents, but so far, I had no luck.

    So, as I keep working and refining my novel, I was hoping to do the same with my query as well. Any feedback would be appreciated! :)


    -----------

    Dear [Agency name here].

    Vicarion's having a rough day. His education has been halted, he has been given two bizarre cloaked men to look after, five planets are in peril and to top it all off, he has been told he doesn't exist.

    And it's not even noon.

    The Empire of Five Worlds, a medieval regency spread across the stars, is in danger. A mysterious group called the “True Words” has propped up on multiple planets simultaneously, spreading whispers of dissent among the populous. The only ones who can pursue the truth are those who might be in on the conspiracy themselves: those with the ability to travel between planets. Bartimaeus and Terim, two such gifted individuals, are tasked by the Emperor himself to get to the bottom of the issue. To ensure their loyalty, they're forced to accept an official observer by their side.

    What they did not expect was a fifteen year old boy not even out of the military academy with only the most basic knowledge in his head and a dumbstruck look on his face. Bartimaeus and Terim, growing suspicious of his behaviour reveal Vicarion to be a brainwashed operative for the Emperor: His past, and all he knows is a lie, a surprise even to him. Regardless, Vicarion truly seems to be here only to observe. Now aware of the strings that pull at him, Vicarion must aid Bartimaeus and Terim in unravelling the mystery of the True Words, but who can he trust, when even his own head is a stranger to him?

    ---

    My young adult fantasy, Cosmic Leap, runs slightly over 49,500 words. It's the initial volume of an ongoing series, but should be capable of standing on its own. Cosmic Leap is my first novel.

    Thank you for your time and consideration!

    -----------
     
  2. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I like the opening, but you run into some strange word choices part way through.

    "propped" should be "popped"
    "populous" should be "populace" or "population"

    also a missing comma between "behaviour" and "reveal"

    And then the plot gets a bit confusing. Do you have a main character for this story? At first it seems like it will be Vicarion, but then we get a whole paragraph about Bart and Terim. Three MCs seems ambitious for a 49 500 word novel, especially one that will require a lot of world building, so probably you've got just one MC? In which case I'd follow him more closely in the query.

    I think you might also want to work on the tone - at first it feels light and airy, and then it seems quite serious - not sure which is more representative of the tone of your book.

    Finally, I wonder if the length is a challenge. 49K is really short for fantasy, even YA fantasy. (And honestly, this book sounds more like SciFi? Maybe?)

    Does any of this help?
     
  3. B93
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    B93 Active Member

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    I agree with the previous advice.

    The description of the book seems a bit long and unfocused. Focus the summary around one main character

    Do not say that the book is the first of a series because the agent will suspect the story will NOT stand on its own. Perhaps, at most, mention that although the story is complete, there is series potential using other characters who appear in this story.

    Leave "first novel" unsaid. It screams amateur. The agent will know it's your first by the lack of any listed publishing credentials.

    And a "couple of agents" is hardly scratching the surface. You should expect to query many agents before finding a match. Some authors have wallpapered their office with rejections before you find the right agent.

    Search the web for advice on query letters. There is a multitude of people giving good advice.
     
  4. Deloctyte
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    Deloctyte Member

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    Holy mackerel, real feedback!

    I'll spruce up what I can, and I've been working on the length while I was tightening up the novel . Believe it or not, it used to be 40k words when I first thought it was good enough to show to other people. I know 50k isn't exactly of Geroge R.R. Martinian proportions, but it's how long the story takes to come to it's full conclusion without padding at the moment.

    I know I have to go into rapid-fire mode when it comes to query-ing agents, but I didn't want to do it with a query that felt a teeny bit flimsy, even from my perspective. Hence me looking for advice!

    When it comes to defining what it is genre-wise, I picked Fantasy over Sci-Fi because it felt like people running around in medieval armour and dark mysterious gods all around the place fit that category better.

    Well, there's one main character who we actually get to see the thoughts of, which is Vicarion, but Bartimaeus and Terim are really prominent parts of the book. Hm...

    Thank you both for your responses, I finally have some outsider opinion to work with! :D
     
  5. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    In terms of numbers of agents, I think you're on the right track to test-drive the query with only a few. It's pretty rare to get real feedback in a rejection letter, but you can learn SOME things about your work by the stage at which something is rejected.

    If you send out ten queries and get no requests for additional materials, there's something wrong with your query. If you get requests for additional materials but no requests for fulls, there's something wrong with your first three chapters or whatever the agents have asked for. And if you get requests for fulls but no offers of representation, then there's an issue with the book as a whole. It'd be a shame to have sent out queries to all available agents when there was a problem with something early in the process!
     
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  6. Deloctyte
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    Deloctyte Member

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    Right, here's a workover of the synopsis while I'm still busy fleshing out the story (And dealing with real life) some more.
    ------
    Five hundred years ago, three godlike beings known as the Raven, the Serpent and the Spider visited the medieval planet of Sol, and granted a handful of gifted individuals the power to travel through space. Using these abilities, mankind was united, then spread out to four other planets This time is known as the Age of Stars. The Empire of the Five Worlds stands proud, with a strong emperor in power and the gifted of the Three, organized into Orders, taking turns in ferrying individuals between planets.


    This long lasting peace becomes threatened, however when a secret group called the “True Jeremiah” appears on two worlds at the same time. Seeing as this should be impossible without a great amount of organization or having one of the Orders involved, the emperor seeks aid from two members of of the Ravens, Bartimaeus and Terim. They are tasked to unravel this mystery, and to ensure their loyalty, they are to carry with them an official observer, who will be the emperor’s eyes and ears.


    After they accept, the Ravens are nonplussed to find that this observer isn’t a warrior or some high-level dignitary, but a sixteen year old military-school trainee by the name of Vicarion. To make matters worse, his obvious lack of experience is overshadowed by the uncanny fact of him showing every sign of not even being an individual, but a brainwashed puppet of the empire.


    Now, Vicarion, Bartimaeus and Terim must put aside their differences to uncover the truth behind True Jeremiah and find a way to halt their sinister plot before five whole worlds collapse into chaos and bring about the end of an age.
    ----

    Any better? :)
     
  7. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    No, not really. Your problem here is that the first 3 paragraphs are all about the exposition the agent could read in the prologue. No one is going to pick up your book to read about theocratic politics on a galactic scale.

    They want to know about the characters. All the rest of this is just so boring.

    Start with your main character, outline his motivation and the start of his character arc. If there's anything about galactic wars and the Age of Stars it should be alluded to as obliquely as possible. Tease the agent with the details, so that if they want more they have to ask for your manuscript.
     
  8. kfmiller
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    kfmiller Active Member

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    This is fantastic advice, I'm copying and pasting this so I don't forget.
     
  9. Phil Partington
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    Phil Partington Member

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    I was really thinking the same thing, here. So rather than say it, I figured I'd mimic. From all I hear in talking to agents and those who've been more successful than I with querying (I've had moderate success, some full requests with a few partials, but no publication yet), character's what drives a story to a reader/market. A good, general rule of thumb is to address in this order:

    1) what the hero wants
    2) why the hero wants it
    3) what is standing in the hero's way

    Granted, that's a general look at it, but you can see how the focus is on the character with the plot details being moderate and filling in the details of the characters motivation and conflict.
     
  10. Nicoel
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    Nicoel Contributing Member

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    I'm not a reader of fantasy/sci-fi unless it really get's my attention, but I feel like even in this scenario your beginning is boring. Just reading your short outline of how your world works I'm bored (I really don't mean this in a mean way).

    Give me something that interests me. Show me how your universe is different than the millions others out there, and give me a preview of your character!

    I also noticed that you have the same problem I have. You, put, commas, everywhere, (that was meant to be funny, not mean! I struggle with this myself). I feel like I'm in traffic, and my driver is inexperienced at best.

    An example: "The Empire of the Five Worlds stands proud, with a strong emperor in power and the gifted of the Three, organized into Orders, taking turns in ferrying individuals between planets."

    I believe this is actually grammatically correct but there's so much information in this one sentence; there's got to be a cleaner way to say it.
    Hope I helped a little bit! :)
     
  11. Deloctyte
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    Deloctyte Member

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    I like intergalactic theocratic politics.... :C

    To be fair, I thought that this universe was relatively unique, I can't think of many examples where old gods fling people left and right on demand. Medieval empires without sci-fi tech across multiple worlds is also something I'm drawing a blank on. Do you have any examples on that, Nicoel?

    Obviously this is not to say that I do not appreciate all the aid I got in this thread. I took everything I read to heart, and have devised the following:

    -----
    Vicarion's having a rough day. His education has been halted, he has been given two bizarre cloaked men to look after, five planets are in peril and to top it all off, he has been told he doesn't exist.

    And it's not even noon.

    Vicarion and the two men he was tasked with overseeing, Bartimaeus and Terim, must solve the mystery of a secret group that is spreading across planets without having any means to do so. While the impossible nature of this is enough to pique the interest of those in control of normal space travel, the Emperor of mankind demanded an official observer to be present. Enter Vicarion, the idealistic, naive young man who is in told, in short order, that all he believes of himself is nothing more than a cover story to hide his true self: that of a brainwashed puppet agent. And not even a complete one. Puppets are rare commodities, too rare to be shoved out the door the way he was, a mess of patriotic duty, no information on anything and the flimsiest of backstories.

    Both liberated and burdened by the knowledge of his false existence, Vicarion must now figure out who he is and who truly deserves his allegiance: those that have created then seemingly discarded him or those that have told him the truth, but see him as nothing more than a pair of eyes attached to the Empire?

    If only he had a minute to himself, he might make a sense of the chaos in his mind but as the trio become entangled in a web of impossible acts and devious intentions, the thought of respite and a clear head start to feel further away than the planet he started out from.
    -----

    I tried to follow what was outlined by you lovely ladies and gentlemen:
    1. Character.
    2. Character.
    3. Character.
    4. Picking the primary main character and focusing only on them.
    5. Shoving the world in the background as much as possible.


    Have I inched closer to a more interesting query? :)
     
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  12. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Overall, your writing feels a bit unnecessarily convoluted. I don't believe in a blanket ban on passive voice, but in this case I wonder if it's part of the problem - it's hard to know who's doing some of the things in the summary. I think you might also want to look at verb tense a bit more closely - for example, I'd shift "the two men he was tasked with overseeing" to "the two men he's been tasked with overseeing". I'm not sure what my rationale is, but it just feels better to me.

    ETA: I read back over your first version, and I think it has a good example of what I mean by unnecessarily convoluted. You wrote:

    My young adult fantasy, Cosmic Leap, runs slightly over 49,500 words. It's the initial volume of an ongoing series, but should be capable of standing on its own. Cosmic Leap is my first novel.​


    but the same idea could be expressed as:

    Cosmic Leap is a 50 000 word young adult fantasy. It's the first book in a series, but can stand alone. Cosmic Leap is my first novel.
    Do you see the differences? The agent doesn't care whether its slightly over 49.5K - she's just looking for a ballpark. And I don't know what you're trying to get across with the "ongoing series" instead of just "series"...? And "should be capable" is kind of strange - it either is or it isn't, and you're the one who knows. So just say it is.

    Your query should capture the style of your book, but it should also be as clear as you can make it. Don't try too hard!
     
    Last edited: Jun 7, 2015
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  13. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    I think you need to condense it. I know it's really hard, but reading example query letters you really have to boil it down.

    The opening paragraph is intriguing (needs touch of editing). But it doesn't connect to the story.

    The hardest part to condense (in my experience as I'm having the same issue) is avoiding the desire to set the whole story up in a paragraph. That's where it comes out as exposition.

    Take out the backstory, how the world got that way & how the characters got their powers, and take out most of the details because they aren't needed.

    So, does the first paragraph relate to the story, or is it just an opening hook?

    You need to know.

    Vicarion and the two men he was tasked with overseeing, Bartimaeus and Terim, must solve the mystery of A secret group that is spreading across planets without [the visible] having any means to do so. While the impossible nature of this is enough to pique the interest of those in control of normal space travel, the Emperor of mankind demanded an official observer to be present.
    Here you need the mission the Emperor commands, not the smaller details, even ones that are important to the story line.

    Enter [idealistic] Vicarion, the idealistic, naive young man who is in told, in short order, that all he who believes of himself is nothing more than a cover story to hide his true self: that of he is a brainwashed puppet agent. And not even a complete one. Puppets are rare commodities, too rare to be shoved out the door the way he was, a mess of patriotic duty, no information on anything and the flimsiest of backstories.

    Both liberated and burdened by the knowledge of his false existence, Vicarion who must now figure out who he is and who truly deserves his allegiance: those that have created then seemingly discarded him or those that have told him the truth, but see him as nothing more than a pair of eyes attached to the Empire?
    You can still mention something about his puppet agent belief but you have to reword it, make it short, precise, not like you'd write it in the story.

    And you can leave in his choices of allegiance, but again, make it straight to the point, don't tell us so many details about his deliberations.

    If only he had a minute to himself, he might make a sense of the chaos in his mind but as the trio become entangled in a web of impossible acts and devious intentions, the thought of respite and a clear head start to feel further away than the planet he started out from. the goal gets further and further from reach.
    You are the only one who knows the story, I don't so don't consider this exactly right. But look at all the stuff that doesn't need to be in a query synopsis.
     
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  14. Jack Kensington
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    Jack Kensington Member

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    I'm really new to the writing scene, a couple of months since I started on my project, so I don't know how helpful my advice is going to be.

    I have highlighted several bits to the quote above:

    Is there any need for the text in purple? It feels unnecessary in the fact that it's just a brief few sentences for what follows.

    In turquoise, I would like to know what Vicarion is supposed to do? Is he looking after the two men? If so, how and why? Or his purpose solely to report the actions of the two men? Or is he part of the team? If he is then isn't he failing in his job as an Official Observer?

    In burgundy, you mention that he's a brainwashed puppet agent? Why was he brainwashed or discarded? Was he a failure or did he know something? If he feels like he doesn't know what side he's on then why is he still acting with or observing the two men?

    In green, why does he want a clear head start so he feels further away from the planet his journey started on?

    Hope this helps improve your query, even in the slightest.
     
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  15. Nicoel
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    Nicoel Contributing Member

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    Woo! *claps hands*
    Now you're getting somewhere! I'm 10 times more likely to read a book based off of this description than by the other descriptions. I'm going to let the pros nitpick it so that it's perfect, but you've got my vote.
     
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  16. Deloctyte
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    Deloctyte Member

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    The first paragraph is supposed to be the entire query in a nutshell , like a tagline.

    It was also originally written to bring a name and face to the story before I dump the world into the readers lap in the following paragraphs.

    Nearly all your questions, Jack Kensington, are supposed to be there. The point of the query is to intice interest and want to know the answers by reading the transcript. At least, that's the point of queries. Right?

    Now then, here's what I got when I tried to condense it even tighter:

    -----
    A secret group is spreading across planets without any visible means to do so. The Emperor demands an investigation by those controlling space travel, and to ensure their loyalty, assigns an observer to oversee them.

    Enter the idealistic, young and suspiciously inexperienced Vicarion, who is revealed to be a secret brainwashed agent for the Empire. It comes as a shock, even to himself.

    However, the greatest surprise is how incomplete he appears to be: No past, no skills, only the orders to complete his mission of observation.

    Feeling abandoned and alienated, Vicarion must now overcome his self-doubt and the mistrust of his allies to realize his true self and save the empire!

    Cosmic Leap is a 50k word young adult (sci-)fantasy. It's the first book in a series, but can stand by itself.

    Thank you for your time and consideration!
    ----
     
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  17. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think it was probably a good idea to leave the other two characters out - they were a bit confusing. But I feel like this version is flat, with none of the voice your previous version had.

    Queries are fun, huh?
     
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  18. Phil Partington
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    Phil Partington Member

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    First, I should reiterate, I hate, HATE pitch writing. It's hard as hell, but I'm happy to give my two cents and you can take it for what it's worth. I still recommend reading and reading and reading the archives of www.queryshark.BlogSpot.com. With that said, here are my thoughts:

    1. MUCH better opening paragraph. Just a few small nitpicks there: I'd take out "cloaked" as it doesn't really add anything here--that they're bizarre is interesting enough; technically it should be written as "...five planets are in peril and, to top it all off, he has..." since "to top it all off" is a parenthetical aside. Only other thing: "His education has been halted...." Is there a specific reason for this? Has he been suspended? Has it been halted because of these other challenges? If it's the former or something specific like that, I'd say what it is (unless it's too detailed). If it's the latter, I'd write it as something like, "all of which has caused him to leave school (or university, or whatever)." "Has been halted" is kind of too vague for me.

    2. "and it's not even noon" is a nice touch.

    3. "Vicarion and the two men he was tasked with overseeing, Bartimaeus and Terim..." We don't need to know their names in the pitch. You don't even mention them again. Also, mind your tenses ("has been" = present perfect, as opposed to "was" = past progressive).

    4. I have some problems with this third paragraph (counting the one line of "and it's not even noon" as a paragraph).

    "must solve the mystery of a secret group that is spreading across planets without having any means to do so." So what if they are? Why's that bad? What's the conflict? Also, it's unclear as to how they're spreading. Spreading as in gaining members? Spreading as in stretching themselves out to cover more planets? Is this a religious group/cult? Political? A "group" is so generic and kind of dull, tbh. Need to liven this up by showing the conflict.

    "While the impossible nature of this is enough to pique the interest of those in control of normal space travel, the Emperor of mankind demanded an official observer to be present." These two clauses don't really relate, or aren't connected properly. "While" implies that you'll follow it up with something contradictory to the first clause here. Instead, you just say that the Emperor wants someone to observe (though you don't say what he's being present to observe? Are they doing something big?). Are you saying the Emperor wants him to observe for different reasons? It would seem so, though I don't think that's what you intend.

    Next you tell us that Vicarion is a brainwashed puppet, but this isn't from HIS perspective. Why is he a character I want to read about? You've already told me he's brainwashed. Since I know that, he just sounds annoying to me. If you really want to write this from the character's side of things, leave out the omniscient context and focus on HIS world, on HIS conflict at hand. What's he facing? What's he seeing? Then you can conclude the pitch with something like "when he discovers that he's been nothing more than a brainwashed puppet..." See the difference? In that context, we first are shown things from his side and can therefore sympathize/gain intrigue when 'his world gets turned upside" (not to be cliché).

    The last paragraph is a jumble.

    The premise DOES seem interesting, but this needs work. I don't mean that to sound harsh, but I've found that not being direct when editing/reviewing a pitch does the writer little good. Often, folks don't get how much work has to go into it. You're getting there, but focus more on the character's POV and tighten, tighten, tighten.

    Again,

    1) what the hero wants
    2) why the hero wants it
    3) what is standing in the hero's way

    As I see it:

    1) The hero wants to "figure out who he is and who truly deserves his allegiance." Yet, you bury that. It really should be more at the forefront.
    2) The hero wants it because he's just found out he's nothing more than a brainwashed puppet when he had thought his services meant so much more.
    3) This isn't fully conveyed in your current pitch, I suspect. It sounds like he's just too busy to figure it out, but I suspect there's a danger coming from the wrong side. What happens if the 'wrong side' finds out he knows something is up? what's the danger? If there is no danger, you don't have a story, really.
     
  19. Deloctyte
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    Deloctyte Member

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    Firstly, I'd like to say that I can empathize with your hatred. And yes, BayView, queries are more fun than a flaming cat full of houses.

    As I said in my very first post, I started out with reading Queryshark, even going so far as sending her a message once I was done and reworked my query into what was seen above.

    Then I got impatient, and off it went to agents.


    The first paragraph, to the point of "and it's not even noon" was trying to be a tagline. It seems to catch the eye, but confuses people. No tagline, no confusion. Done.

    Not shifting perspectives? Done.

    Sentences that (hopfefully) make sense? Done and done!

    Now, using all the amazing critique I got so far, I have a new monstrosity to show to you all! Behold, the ninth wonder of the world: Query Kong!

    -------

    Fifteen year old Vicarion, official observer to the Emperor of mankind, has just been told that until a few hours ago, he was being trained as a brainwashed puppet for His Majesty. Alas, the deadly skills and quick wit these special agents are known for is missing, along with any memories beyond the knowledge that he must complete his task.

    Now Vicarion must find out who he is, why he is, and what his future has in store once his task is done. The only problem is that this, his very first assignment might very well mean his death, and that's something he'd rather avoid.

    Bartimaeus and Terim, the men Vicarion was sent to observe and two of those with the gift of space travel wish to figure out how a sinister secret society is managing to spread to multiple worlds without any sign of having powers like theirs.

    They would also like to know why the Emperor burdened them with a fifteen year old kid and why, to top it all off, he had to be the world's most obvious and utterly useless spy.

    They would also like to avoid horrible and mysterious deaths, if possible. The more they discover of what is truly going on, however, the less avoidable that fate seems to appear.

    Cosmic Leap is a 50k word young adult medieval sci-fi. It's the first book in a series, but can stand by itself.

    Thank you for your time and consideration!
    -----

    The POV isn't squarely on Vicarion this time, but the pace is tight, the query is short, there is no world building beyond what is absolutely needed, it's quick, it's snappy, and I dearly hope a step in the right direction! :p
     
  20. Phil Partington
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    Not going to quote your new and improved version, because that's gonna make the thread even longer, but here are my initial thoughts/edits:

    1) "Fifteen year old" should be hyphenated, as they're words linked to make a singular adjective that precedes what they modify.
    2) This first line has too much info dump in it. It's too much of a mouthful and takes too much thinking to follow. I'd whittle it down a little and parse out some of these thoughts. Focus on hammer sentences (shorter with more impact) than in long ones that deliver all the details in one stretched breath). Something like: "Until just a few hours ago, Vicarion had always thought his work as the Emperor's official observer were helping mankind. Little did he know (which I admit, is kind of cliché, but you get the idea) he was nothing more than a brainwashed puppet."

    The rest of paragraph one reads much the same--more as a cramming of info than any sort of lure. The idea is all there, just needs to be smoothened out.

    3) "once his task is done" Now you've lost me. What task? This comes out of nowhere. Seems very out of place.
    4) "The only problem is that..." This sentence needs reworking. And you still haven't told us what this assignment is. You merely tap dance around it, which is a quick way to lose your reader.
    5) Again, "fifteen year old" should be hyphened here, like this: fifteen-year-old

    You're getting there, but honestly it's not there yet. I know I said before to focus on the character first, but now you're stripped too much context while sort of cramming in other details. You might consider opening with something like (note: what's in parenthesis are my personal comments): "Vicarion is an observer (we don't necessarily need to know it's for the Emperor at this point), assigned to police (monitor? track? whatever word's most appropriate) intergalactic space travel (again, whatever's accurate). Until just a few hours ago, he had thought he was one of the good guys."

    Keep at it!
     
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  21. Deloctyte
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    Deloctyte Member

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    Right.
    ---------

    Vicarion, a fifteen-year-old military student, was just sent on a mission by the Emperor of known space itself! Something sinister is brewing on the outer planets, and Vicarion will be unravelling the mystery with two mighty and fierce space travellers by his side!

    Well, they will be doing the actual unravelling, Vicarion will only be there to observe, but still! There will be honour, comradery, and in the end, they will stand gloriously above their defeated foes in the name of the Emperor!

    Or so Vicarion thought.

    The moment his assignment starts, Vicarion's naive little world is torn asunder. With him in it.

    The two travellers belittle him, disregard the empire and brutally reveal to Vicarion what he truly is:

    A sleeper agent, one of the youngest they've ever seen. These puppets are usually sent for espionage or assassination with an alibi hot-wired into their mind. This means Vicarion's life before the mission never existed.

    As soul-crushing as this realization is, the weirdest part of Vicarion's nature is that he has no secret mission, no ulterior motive. As far as anyone can tell, Vicarion is a pawn without a purpose, a puppet without strings.

    Now, crippled with self doubt, his faith in the Empire shaken and surrounded by suspicious allies, Vicarion must figure out who he is, what purpose he has in life, and who truly deserves his allegiance.


    Preferably before getting horribly killed.

    Cosmic Leap is a 50k word young adult medieval sci-fi. It's the first book in a series, but can stand by itself.

    Thank you for your time and consideration!


    ----
    Okay, only Vicarion is named, his emotions are brought up, so he's not fully stripped, every sentence talks about ONE thing (mostly), it's not TOO long and , as far as I know, there are no massive logical leaps. Right?
     
  22. B93
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    B93 Active Member

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    I would condense it slightly, simplify sentences, and use present tense where possible, as suggested below. It may still be a little too long?

    I’d probably capitalize all occurrences of Empire. Go very lightly on the series idea – don’t make them wonder whether it really does stand alone. It needed spell check, but I may have used some American spellings where you want British?

    ----

    Vicarion is a fifteen-year-old military student on a mission, sent by the Emperor of known space to unravel the mystery of something sinister brewing on the outer planets. He will observe and deduce while two mighty and fierce space travelers by his side do the work. There will be honor and camaraderie, and in the end, they will stand gloriously above their defeated foes in the name of the Emperor!

    Or so Vicarion thinks.


    The moment his assignment starts, Vicarion's naive little world is torn asunder. With him in it. The two travelers belittle him, disregard the Empire and brutally reveal to Vicarion what he truly is.

    He is a sleeper agent, one of the youngest they've ever seen. Such puppets are usually sent for espionage or assassination with an alibi hot-wired into their mind. This means the life Vicarion recalls before the mission never existed.

    As soul-crushing as this realization is, the weirdest part is that he knows of no secret mission, no ulterior motive. As far as anyone can tell, Vicarion is a pawn without a purpose, a puppet without strings.

    Now, crippled with self doubt, his faith in the Empire shaken and surrounded by suspicious allies, Vicarion must figure out who he is, what purpose he has in life, and who truly deserves his allegiance.

    Preferably before getting horribly killed.

    Cosmic Leap is a 50k word young adult medieval sci-fi. It stands alone, but has potential for a sequel or series.

    Thank you for your time and consideration!
     
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  23. Phil Partington
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    Phil Partington Member

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    OK, more brutally honest time...




    Yes, what B93 said. Needs to be simplified, but it’s more on track, I think.

    • Minimize the exclamation marks. You don’t need them.

    • You’re still not addressing what Vicarion wants—not really, anyway. Great, he’s sent on this mission. But who cares? This is plot, not character. How does he FEEL about it? What does it mean? That’s what’s going to lure your reader. At just fifteen years of age, Vicarion is tasked with a mission by the Emperor of known space. All he wants now is not to disappoint his leader. Or, better yet: The Emperor of known space has tasked Vicarion with an important mission. The only thing on Vicarion’s mind is not to screw it up. See how this focuses on Vicarion’s want/need/perspective?

    • “mighty and fierce” Careful not to overuse adjectives. You don’t need these. In fact, you shouldn’t have them. They dilute your writing here. Adding “mighty” and “fierce” makes me start to question what that means (you can be mighty and fierce in many ways) and why I should care. But the focus should be on Vicarion, so really we shouldn’t care about these travelers other than recognizing he has help with his quest.

    • “Well, they will be doing the actual unravelling, Vicarion will only be there to observe, but still!” Clunk and just too much for a pitch. Simplify and condense—you’re looking for hard-hitting. I’d just throw these details into that opening couple of lines, such as: The Emperor of known space has tasked Vicarion with an important mission—to observe the outer planets for possible sinister activity. Such an honor is not typically given to someone so young, and all his focus is on not screwing it up.
      Why do you feel the need to go into detail about his two comrades accompanying him? Doesn’t seem necessary in the pitch. Those kinds of details are best reserved for the story. For our purposes, all we need to know is the stuff directly related to the MC’s wants and conflicts—HIS personal story. That there are two travelling with him is just noise here.
    • Get rid of the “wells” and that kind of chatter. I get that you’re trying to add voice, but it doesn’t fit the scenario you’re painting.
    • Again, I’d dump (in the pitch, that is) the details about the two co-travelers. The reader doesn’t need to know here HOW he finds out the truth, only that he does. With dreams of grandeur, Vicarion’s life hits an unsettling turn when he discovers he’s nothing more than a puppet to do the Emperor’s devious errands. What’s worse, his mind has been hot-wired with a false alibi and his memories of life before this mission were never real.
    • “As soul crushing…” This whole sentence doesn’t seem to fit, and is a bit patronizing to the reader. These are traits you’ll want to show in your novel, not tell…and certainly not here.
    • “Now, crippled with self doubt…” This sentence is a run-on, for starters. Too many independent clauses improperly linked. But more than that, it’s riddled with fluff. Get to the point. What’s he facing? What’s the challenge? Remember, hard-hitting. Now Vicarion is faced with a world he doesn’t know and must uncover who he really is and who he can trust.
      As for his purpose in life? Eh, too fluffy and an unclear goal. His purpose, we know, is to be the emperor’s pawn. Now, perhaps he needs to find a new purpose, but that’s different than what you say here.
    • “Preferably before getting horribly killed.” You’re trying to be cute again, but this storyline screams of anything but cute. This is an intense situation for Vicarion. Would this really be his voice? Sarcasm in the face of such a life-altering event? Very out of place. And “horribly”…why do you need that? It detracts from the impact.
    • If the book can stand by itself, I probably wouldn’t mention that it’s for an intended series. Get this one repped first and foremost, then talk to them about the possibility of a series.
     
  24. Nicoel
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    Nicoel Contributing Member

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    I wish I had you on my snap chat so I could read to you what the first opening couple of paragraphs sounded like in my head. Maybe it'd make you smile, haha. :D My two cents: take out all of those exclamation marks. You don't need them.
    Good luck!
     
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2015
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  25. Phil Partington
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    Phil Partington Member

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    "Just because someone on the forum tells you to jump, doesn't mean you have to."

    Of course not. That's true of any feedback. Every author must learn how to sift through feedback to differentiate the garbage advice from the sound advice, the advice that's more subjective and based on taste from that of objective observation. And believe me, there's a gray area to that.

    And certainly I'm no expert, but I will say this: when it comes to pitches, going off what feels right when you're new at it is usually not going to cut it. That's because it's SUCH a different kind of writing, and I promise you a poorly written pitch will fail you even if the story seems sound.

    Case in point. In my first go at querying agents, I used query tracker and made a list of agents who repped known/successful authors (I figured why not start by shooting for the moon?). Query tracker allows you to see who reps the likes of JK Rowling, Stephen King, etc. Out of 30, I got only five non-form rejections (which is the standard). All five were only partial requests. Needless to say, I was discouraged, so I stepped away for a few months, dedicating that time to reading and reading and reading and studying about pitch writing to see what I was doing wrong. Sought help from some folks in the biz I've run across (mostly literary agencies over pubbers), as well as picking anyone's brain who'd had success with it.

    After those three months, I queried 15 of those agents again--same story with a new and better pitch. Also, I did not resend to the ones who'd received a partial from me, figuring they'd already seen more and said no.

    Of the 15, I got 11 partial requests this time and two full ones.

    I want to make it clear, I don't say all this to make you think I'm any kind of expert on pitch writing. Believe me, it's still a rough and arduous task when I write my pitches, and frequently I make dumb, dumb mistakes. However, I want to instill the understanding that a pitch is critical. If you want to sit on your pitch that reads like an early draft, that's fine, but don't be surprised by failure. It's unfortunate, but it's how it works. The feedback I'm sharing are just some things to recognize--things that an agent may or may not like, and may or may not look for in a pitch. After all, they're all different. While they're all different, there are some good rules of thumbs to watch out for as well as common traps to avoid.

    And yes, Deloctyte shouldn't just make changes because we tell him he should, but no should he dismiss them without doing some looking into. Ultimately, he has to own it. I just want to make sure he and folks new to writing pitches understand what it really means to write a pitch in hopes to save them some serious headache like I had to go through by not understanding the challenge up front.
     
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