1. Lunablue09

    Lunablue09 New Member

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    Query Letter YA Urban Fantasy

    Discussion in 'Query & Cover Letter Critique' started by Lunablue09, Oct 29, 2019.

    Hello all! I would love any help bringing out the voice and trimming the word count.
    Thank you for the time and the help, have a great day!
    ___________________________
    Dear Ms/Mr. [Surname of Literary Agent],

    Sixteen-year-old Aria Zane—straight A-student, devoted big sister, and total goofball—always felt a little out of place in her family. People take one look at Aria playing with her lighter-skinned half-sister and assume she’s the babysitter. Aria’s dad cares more about work than bonding with his daughter. As for her mom, Aria never knew her. She died when Aria was born.

    But when Aria accidentally kills an armed robber with a handful of lightning, she discovers she inherited more traits from her mysterious mother than she had realized.

    Aria finds out she’s the last of the tempest elementals, supernaturals who can control the powers of a storm, making her a target for the Circle. The Circle plans to use people like Aria to control the human world, recruiting new members through any means necessary.

    To keep her family safe, Aria is invited to join the Institute, a school and haven for supernatural youth. But at the Institute, Aria’s rare and volatile abilities make her (yet again) out of place. Luckily, she is befriended by other oddballs: a gloomy greenthumb, a straight-shooting shape-shifter, a tactless empath, and an overly theatrical psychic librarian. But the Circle hasn’t given up their efforts to forcibly recruit Aria, whose supernatural gifts are growing more unpredictable.

    The only one who might be able to help Aria control her power is Mateo Sandoval. Mateo is a fellow student with a penchant for fire and irritating the bejeezus out of Aria. But in order to master her abilities, Aria will have to come to terms with who she is, and face the people who would do anything to control her.

    SPARKS AND EMBERS (96,000 words) is an urban fantasy YA novel with series potential. It is rife with weird and wonderful friendships, the complexities of family and identity, and lots of pizza. Similar to Susan Dennard’s Witchland series, SPARKS AND EMBERS is driven by a lively and heart-felt female protagonist. Additionally, this novel’s cast of irreverent and diverse characters will appeal to fans of Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows duology.

    I was born in A PLACE where I grew up eating my American mother’s fried bologna sandwiches and my Iranian father’s kubideh kebab wraps with torshi. After completing my Bachelor’s in English from A COLLEGE, I earned my Master’s in English Literature: Creative Writing from A UNIVERSITY. I also received fire-safety certification from the local Fire Brigade (unrelated to the degree). I worked as a high school English teacher, then became a content creator for a museum app company in A CITY. I have written audio tours for museums, science centers, and zoos. I love comics, cartoons, cooking, and summertime produce.

    Thank you for your time and consideration,

    LUNABLUE09
     
  2. Mckk

    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    It sounds entertaining, but I am not sure what the stakes are per se. Ok a few questions:

    1. It's obviously implied that the stakes are Aria's loss of freedom by being forced into the Circle - but why should I worry about the Circle?

    2. How does her joining the institute "keep her family safe"? (and is it relevant anyway?)

    3. Why is the Circle only interested in Aria when it seems the Institute is filled with other powerful, supernatural people like her? Why aren't they targeting the entire Institute?

    4. The goal seems to be "master her abilities" but what does not mastering them do, exactly? (it's implied she can cause death, through the killing of the robber - but again it isn't exactly clear)

    I think overall it's a nice query but just some things could be a little clearer.

    Your bio paragraph is overly long. I think you can delete everything from the fire brigade line onwards. The rest can be considered interesting so it's up to you, but none of those university credentials are important to be honest, so they can be cut too. Your cultural heritage is interesting so that's the only part I'd really keep.

    Also, what's the difference between college and university? I mean, in the UK the two are obviously different, but since you got your bachelor's from a college, I assume you meant college in the American sense, which is, I'd always thought, the same as university? (I'm British, not American) I don't think you could earn a degree from an actual college in the British sense (which is basically a place for post-16s and general adults who are missing qualifications or wish to retrain to study again, usually in the evenings, or for A-Level students to take additional A-Levels and GCSEs).

    Wanted to say, I enjoyed your list of eccentric characters in the Institute :)
     
  3. Lunablue09

    Lunablue09 New Member

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    Hey Mckk! Thank you so much, I really appreciate your edits. Your comments are exactly what I needed to get this baby one step closer to polished and ready. I am also glad you enjoyed the description of my supporting characters and found the premise entertaining!

    To answer your question, college/university in the US are essentially synonymous-- both are higher institutions of learning but universities tend to be much bigger in population (so you could get the same degree at Harvard University as you could at Whittier College for example. I also think "colleges" tend to be more liberal artsy? Who knows). It's funny you ask that question because I actually got my Master's at a UK university so I had to explain the difference between colleges and universities all the time back in my post-grad days. In the case of the bio, I swapped out the names of the institutions for parts of their titles to maintain my very mysterious mystique *insert mysterious noises here*

    Thank you again!
     
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  4. Zachary Phoenix

    Zachary Phoenix Member

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    Hiya Luna,
    So, the first thing I notice is length. I know that query length is one of those things where the rules change depending on the agent, but even so, this is 450 words. I believe the standard is 250. So you could probably benefit from some strategic cuts.
    I think your second paragraph (about her killing with lightning) should probably be where you start the letter. It's much more interesting, and the preceding paragraph is just backstory, which you don't really even need, to be honest. The query letter should start where the story's main drama starts, and it looks like her finding out she has powers is that moment.
    This isn't a critique - more of a heads up - but, the industry is pretty saturated with elemental magic at this point. I don't think it's OVERsaturated yet, but it might be for that simple reason an agent passes. You'll want to make sure that you're doing something new and fresh with the idea in your book.
    You can probably cut almost all of your bio paragraph, which will help cut down on word count. All you need is your Bachelor's in English and your Masters in English Lit. I know it shows your personality and spunk, but I think agent's all agree that they care more if you have an interesting book than if you yourself are an interesting person. They just want to find something they can sell.
    I'm not sure you need to put that the book is driven by a lively and heart-felt female protagonist. We can already tell from what we read of the story that she is lively, and a female. Also, I'm not sure "heart-felt" the way you're using it is correct. I as a person can't BE heart-felt. I can DO something heart-felt.
    As to the actual story, it sounds pretty cool. I don't know if I'm the most well-versed in YA Urban Fantasy, but I would definitely give it a read.
    If the school is specifically for those with superhuman powers, why are the Circle only after her? Wouldn't they go after everyone there? It says her abilities make her out of place yet again, but why would that be, since she's literally at a school for people who all have abilities?
    I really like your description of the friends she makes at the school, but they don't add anything to the story (In this query letter) So I wonder if all that detail is necessary. The query letter should stay on the main points and characters that move the story along. It sounds like all you would need is Aria and Mateo.
    Any opportunity to use the word "bejeezus" must be taken ;)
    And what are the overall consequences if she doesn't master her abilities, or if the Circle gets her? What exactly would happen that would make we as the reader root for her to succeed?
    I must say, Aria Zane is a pretty bad-ass sounding name...

    Hope this helps some!
    I saw one of your reviews from a different thread. You seem to have a pretty good "objective eye." I'd love if you could critique my query that I posted today. Thanks!

    Edit: P.S. I just noticed what you wrote above the query letter. You are already aware that it needs to be trimmed. So go ahead and just ignore me on that note... Lol
     
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  5. Lunablue09

    Lunablue09 New Member

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    Thanks ZP! I appreciate the critique and I'll definitely do a read-through of your query. Things are a bit hectic for me this week but you'll have it by Friday (PST)!


     
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  6. Knightmare

    Knightmare New Member

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    While the similarities to X-Men could be noticed by others, the story sounds interesting but I'm a sucker for superpowers. Problem is that there's a lot of confusing aspects of what is going on. Like is the school hidden from the Circle? What about her family? How will they be safe if the Circle is after her? She was invited to the institute right? Did this happen before or after the Circle gave her a visit? And again, the X-Men feel of it and the unclear differences between her and her fellow students. I mean superpowers among superpowers? You can only feel out of place if you LOOK different in that case right?

    Overall, I suggest reworking the letter and making some revisions to the story but that's just my opinion. And what makes this story unique? Cuz with the X-Men-vibe I'm getting, how does this stick out? Make that your focus.
     

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