1. samthehyena

    samthehyena New Member

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    Query Letter Sapphic Superhero YA

    Discussion in 'Query & Cover Letter Critique' started by samthehyena, Aug 11, 2022.

    Any thoughts on the following query letter are much appreciated :)

    Dear [Agent Name],

    I am seeking representation and hope you will consider my YA novel, CHIPS, HYENAS AND WORLD DOMINATION.

    Trillian wants to take over the world – and that is a tall order for a fifteen-year-old. Her spider accomplice and mind-control through chips are not much help. Heck, her sworn enemy refuses to acknowledge her as a nemesis.

    When an evil society boots Trillian out, she wants to give up. Until a talking antique store gives her a vacuum mirror. Instead of becoming the failure her mother had always expected, she has a shot at being good at something – even if it is being bad.

    As Trillian reaches new heights, superheroine Billie has to decide between her feelings and team. If she does not stop Trillian, the Pantheon will hurt the girl Billie loves. To make matters worse, she struggles with socializing. After all, awkwardness is a sucky superpower.

    Even though Trillian and Billie butt heads, they reconnect over a carnival and stolen hyena. While Billie wants the relationship they once had, Trillian keeps her at arm’s length. The lines between heroes and villains blur as their lives intersect through school and a pyramid scheme. Yet as their past resurfaces, the girls revert to old patterns. One thing is clear: they have to choose whether or not to stay in their roles.

    CHIPS, HYENAS AND WORLD DOMINATION is a goofy and angsty action-adventure YA novel with middle-grade crossover potential. Complete at 55,750 words, it appeals to fans of Marissa Meyer and Noelle Stevenson.

    [Bio]

    Thank you for taking the time to consider this project.

    Best regards,

    [Author Name]
     
  2. Bruce Johnson

    Bruce Johnson Contributor Contributor

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    The first thing I noticed very quickly was this sentence. It seems unclear to me what it means. Should it be 'mind control throughchips' or are you referring to mind control she is subjective through chips planted within her?

    If it's the latter, I'd probably remove 'through' and word it something like 'Mind control chips and a clumsy spider accomplice aren't much help'. Not sure if 'clumsy' is an appropriate adjective, and obviously you want to limit unnecessary adjectives, but I think here it my be OK.
     
  3. evild4ve

    evild4ve Senior Member

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    I'm like a stuck record with this, but what's the logline?

    With some pitches the logline's either used in them, or it's possible to guess, and we can use that to tighten up the letter.
    But not this one. (At least not for me.)
    The OP has a completed draft but only 1 post, so I'll labour what I mean by a logline:-

    It's the whole story summed up in a single sentence that must contain an irony.

    Dorothy thought that the Lion's military, the Scarecrow's agricultural base and the Tinman's industrial complex would be sufficient for economic prosperity, but when she gets to the end of the yellow brick road she wishes she'd followed the Gold Standard instead.

    Vader would do anything for his boss, but when a workplace personnel issue Forces him to cut his son's hand off, he realizes he needs to start looking at things with his own eyes.


    Some stories can produce multiple loglines, but if a work of genre fiction can't produce any that's usually a sign of a structural problem serious enough to need a full rewrite. The OP looks like it might be somewhat experimental or parodic, but I get the sense it's going to be ticking the genre boxes along the way - so I'd be confident that loglining it will be a useful step. Good job if the OP has already done a logline - most visitors reaching this stage haven't. Also I do like the sound of the experiment - 55k words of goofy is bold, and I get a sense that the goofiness might be helping show the underlying importance of character to the genre, after the usual clutter like vampire martial art teams and MMORPG world-merges have fallen away.

    Blurb loglines are subtly different from structural loglines (the irony pushes it to the latter).
    And I find that blurb loglines often split out into three sentences when we start making them salesy.

    Without the logline, the problem I find in the OP is that it jumps about: few of these sentences link up to each other:-

    When an evil society boots Trillian out, she wants to give up.
    Until a talking antique store gives her a vacuum mirror.
    Instead of becoming the failure her mother had always expected, she has a shot at being good at something – even if it is being bad.


    That's disjointed and confusing (imo) - although after 3 read-throughs I'll grant that her being in an evil society links up to being good at being bad (Will YAs get the Bugsy Malone reference?). With the logline, hopefully it will be possible to link more of the ideas up.
     
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2022
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  4. samthehyena

    samthehyena New Member

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    Thank you for your feedback! I can see why the sentence is confusing. Trillian mind-controls others when she eats chips.
    What do you think of "Her spider accomplice and mind-control power that activates when she eats chips aren't much help"? By the way, the spider accomplice is in fact clumsy.
     
  5. samthehyena

    samthehyena New Member

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    Thank you for the input! I'll research good examples of loglines and try to implement it into the letter.
     
  6. Bruce Johnson

    Bruce Johnson Contributor Contributor

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    The original sentence makes more sense now with the context, but I don't think the above rewrite is better. I just don't think it flows well.

    I must caution you that I have no experience with query letters, my original feedback was because that sentence stuck out for me quickly.

    That being said, I'd try and construct the sentence differently, maybe something like:

    Trillian wants to take over the world – a tall order for a fifteen-year-old with an inept arachnid sidekick and a constant craving for chips to fuel her mind control superpowers.

    or maybe

    Trillian wants to take over the world – a tall order for a fifteen-year-old with an inept arachnid sidekick and a constant craving for chips to fuel her mind control unstable superpowers.

    Maybe that should be broken back into two sentences. I don't know, just some ideas.

    Keep in mind that in the U.S. 'chips' always refers to potato chips or tortilla chips while in the U.K. it refers to french fries.
     
  7. samthehyena

    samthehyena New Member

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    Those sound like decent suggestions and also make for a more interesting opening line -- though I might also go with a logline approach.
     
  8. samthehyena

    samthehyena New Member

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    Those sound like decent suggestions and also make for a more interesting opening line -- though I might also go with a logline approach.
     
  9. samthehyena

    samthehyena New Member

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    Thank you once again for your detailed advice on how to streamline my query. I tried to redraft my letter with a logline approach. I'll probably need to let it sit for a day or two before I can tweak it some more with fresh eyes. What do you think of the following revisions?

    Dear [Agent Name],

    I am seeking representation and hope you will consider my YA novel, CHIPS, HYENAS AND WORLD DOMINATION.

    Fifteen-year-old Trillian wants to give up on world domination, but after a run-in with a talking antique store, she realizes that supervillainy is possible, if she takes baby steps toward it.

    With a constant craving for chips to fuel her mind control powers, Trillian starts off by trying to take over a suburb. Even though that fails she’s reluctant to accept help and keeps everyone at arm’s length, including her perpetually upbeat spider sidekick. She has to control the world that broke her and can’t afford any distractions.

    Unfortunately, Trillian’s ex-girlfriend constantly interferes. To Trillian’s dismay, Billie attempts to get on good terms again and refuses her demand to become nemeses. Yet as a superhero, Billie is torn between her feelings and her team’s reputation. If she doesn’t stop Trillian’s schemes and crumbles under the pressure of fame, the Pantheon will make both of them pay.

    Despite Trillian and Billie’s reservations, they reconnect over a stolen hyena and a pyramid scheme. But just when they are on the verge of reconciling, Billie betrays Trillian. In the aftermath, the girls revert to old patterns and one thing becomes clear: they have to choose whether or not to stay in their roles.

    CHIPS, HYENAS AND WORLD DOMINATION is a goofy and angsty action-adventure YA novel with middle-grade crossover potential. Complete at 55,750 words, it appeals to fans of Marissa Meyer and Noelle Stevenson.

    [Bio]

    Thank you for taking the time to consider this project.

    Best regards,

    [Author Name]
     
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  10. Mogador

    Mogador Senior Member

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    I'm late to the party so most of the questions I stored up from the original post have been addressed in your revised version.

    But I'm still not sure what the Pantheon is or why its only introduced over half way down. I don't read young adult fiction so maybe its a common phrase.
     
  11. evild4ve

    evild4ve Senior Member

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    I've attempted some edits to show an approach, but there's still slightly too much missing context for me to feel I understand what the letter's to sell:-

    Logline can be removed from the body of the letter and I think this improves this one
    Fifteen-year-old Trillian wants to give up on world domination, but after a run-in with a talking antique store, she realizes that supervillainy is possible, if she takes baby steps toward it.

    |->Trillian thinks supervillainy is for old people, but after a run-in with a talking antique store, she realizes world domination could be like taking candy from a baby.



    Notes
    grateful - might be more positive/presumptive than 'I hope you will'
    antique store - the antique store I had difficulty linking to anything. I think the irony of the logline currently is lost on the reader, but maybe there is something around age vs. youth. If the logline can be improved by making the irony more self-explanatory, that might feed through into the 'AIDA' sales structure that follows.
    chips - they are in the title, and goofy. If they're structural and belong in the pitch, they might need more explaining. If they're more like a symbol or window-dressing, the spider sidekick is enough to set the tone (imo)
    the spider really has the same issue as the chips, but unlike the chips it's a character (so more important than a symbol or a plot device)
    pyramid and hyena have the same issue again - these are better than the spider though as (I think) they show the terms of a character relationship, and there's some scope for wordplay
    going through the motions - I've had to make assumptions about the relationship dynamic between Trillian and Billie. Ideally I think the language should use some double-entendre to describe superhero conflict like a teenage relationship. Teenspeak might be useful, but I don't know any!
    bygones be bygones - I didn't feel I could link this adequately with the talking antique shop. I've only grasped the character conflict at a level of "munch carpet vs do job".

    The logline I think can come out now.
    This AIDA structure has 5 sentences. Experience tells me it could probably become 3 if an ironic logline is found.
     
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2022
  12. samthehyena

    samthehyena New Member

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    Good point. It's the name of a superhero team in the story, so I'll try phrasing it in a more general way.
     
  13. samthehyena

    samthehyena New Member

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    Thank you for the notes, I'll work on polishing up the query some more.
     
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