Friday, February 24, 2012

QUERY HELP!

Okay everyone, I'd like your help! Over the Summer I posted my query so that my blogger friends could help me revise it. They were AMAZING! Then, I read From the Query to the Call by Elana Johnson and got this letter:

CUTLASS is a 117,201 word young adult fantasy novel.
Barren Reed, a pirate and notorious enemy of the government, never thought searching The Orient for his father's treasure could kill him.


For Barren, it isn’t greed that motivates his search for the treasure, but his nightmares, which seem to be telling him something vicious lies in place of Jess’s so-called “treasure”. His fears turn out to be correct when he discovers the treasure is cursed and may kill, not only his wife and closest friend, but his entire Elvish race. Barren must destroy the treasure before everyone dies, but there is one problem—the device cannot be destroyed without killing its assailant. Barren must make a choice—cease to exist himself, or watch his world waste away.

Please notify me if you are interested in reviewing my complete text. Thank you for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you.
 It has been my favorite so far, but I'm afraid it isn't captivating enough. My goal is to move from no responses to at least requests for partials.

I am frightened. I fear that because my book does not fit this very paranormal-romance themed YA trend, it will not be appealing to anyone.

I think those books, however, are marketed to girls, and that mine should be directed to boys--initially.I had a thought last night that it might be a more....plausible read for middle-grade (I'm not sure if it's entirely market- focused?). I don't study that market, however, so I don't know. Also, I don't feel like my book quite fits. Perhaps it is right in the middle of YA and MG?!

I don't know. :( But yesterday half of me lost hope entirely and the other half just wants to keep fighting.

So here is me fighting.

Critique? Please!

33 comments:

  1. I like that your query is concise as the general rule of thumb is not to ramble in your query and that you should give only the necessary information, but I think your query can be expanded some. I definitely like the premise and I think if you want it to be more captivating, you should try to go a little more in depth. Let's break it down and say you want 3 paragraphs and you want the word count of your query to be around 250 words. The first paragraph should set up your protagonist and give a little insight to him, not his whole life story but enough to convey what type of character he is and what his motivation in the story is. That brings you to the second paragraph which should expand on what Barren is after and why; always make sure it's clear why your MC is doing what he's doing. Third paragraph can talk about what the consequences are if the stakes you set up are or are not dealt with. Your last sentence about the device killing its assailant is a great note to end the query on in my opinion. I once heard that you should try to write your query as though your MC is writing it, that way you can capture his voice and it will sound more enticing.

    (I've gotten to the partial stage and develop my queries like this so I hope it helps!)

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    1. That's very helpful. I did feel like this needed something more, but sometimes I'm not sure exactly how to say it because I'm afraid I'm just going to ramble. lol. And I don't want that! :/ Thank you so much. I'll take this into account and try and rewrite soon!

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  2. How are you determining that it's a YA book? YA is different from MG and very few (read: Rowling) get to market to both simultaneously. You need to know your market, and worry about cross-over appeal later.

    Here's a link from a YA/MG agent talking about word counts: http://literaticat.blogspot.com/2011/05/wordcount-dracula.html that you might find helpful, too.

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    1. Well, I've always felt like it was YA, and I've felt that the length would not be suitable for MG, (looks like I was right! :) ). Also, the content, I felt, is more mature than MG books I've read. Part of me just feels like it's hard to market my book in a market that's so trend-focused. I know someone has to make those trends, you know?

      But I don't know the MG market because I haven't ever felt like I have written for it. I just has a thought last night that IF I wrote MG, my book might be more appealing...does that make sense?

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  3. David Powers King is doing a query giveaway TODAY only. I don't know if you follow his blog or not, but here's the link. http://davidpowersking.blogspot.com/2012/02/600-blogoversary-and-query-doctor.html

    I'm no expert, but here are my thoughts, take em or leave em. Your hook sentence is a little long for me. I think it might have more punch if you make it short and sweet. "Sixteen year old Barren Reed never thought searching The Orient for his father's treasure could kill him." Shazam. We can learn he's a pirate in the next paragraph.

    I agree with A.E.--you could expand on things a bit more. Slow down and let us know who he is. Mary Kole has a great post for writing queries on her blog.
    http://kidlit.com/2009/08/05/writing-a-simple-compelling-query/
    She points out exactly what she as an agent wants to know.
    I got lost early on because I didn't know who Jess was (I'm assuming the father), and whose wife are you talking about, Barren's? If this is YA, how old is he that he has a wife? I'd definitely give Barren's age right away. Sixteen y/o Barren etc. Also, your first sentence of the next paragraph is long, and I'm not quite grounded with who Barren is, and I've heard agents say, "Make me care about the character." What if you start with a sentence about what Barren wants, what's his goal, what makes him different? "Sixteen y/o Barren Reed's wants to find his father's long lost treasure." Or whatever it is. Then give whatever sets him back.
    I also wonder if you shouldn't go into the treasure a bit. Does Barren think it's haunted at first? The phrasing "in place of Jess' so-called treasure" is confusing because I'm not grounded with what treasure you're referring to. Sounds like you've got a great story; queries are definitely so hard! Hope this helps. Good luck! :D

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    1. Wow! I've never thought about the questions you raised. I guess because I can't really see what questions anyone would have because I know the story! I'll definitely revise and see what I can do. Ugh...queries are so hard. :/

      Barren isn't sixteen, he's 22...is that too old for YA, you think?

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    2. Definitely too old for YA. Some agencies and editors are talking about the "New Adult" category, but that's an emerging trend and isn't widely accepted yet. Can I ask why you aren't just selling this as an adult fantasy novel?

      MG is usually about a character determining who he is, intrinsically.

      YA is usually about a character figuring out how he fits into the world around him, what sort of difference he can make, what kind of person he is going to be.

      At 22, you've done that (theoretically!). You might want to consider marketing this as an adult novel...

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    3. I just felt like my writing style didn't fit the Adult Fantasy Market, I suppose. I'm not sure what I was thinking, really. I think part of my reasoning was that adults don't want to read about pirates...

      ugh. I'm so confused.

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    4. Though, come to think of it, my MC is probably so old because all I read was Adult Fantasy...

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    5. I think you might be underestimating the coolness of pirates. Johnny Depp has made pirates acceptable fare for fans of all ages. I love fantasy, and I read a lot in YA because it's hard to come by really, really good adult fantasy. It might be worth reconsidering.

      I don't want to throw a huge wrench in your plans, but it sounds like you might have a bigger market on your hands :)

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    6. I think it's exciting to think of it as a more adult book! I have more work to do then! I'm so happy you brought this up. Thank you!

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  4. That's funny that you say you fear that your book isn't paranormal and won't be wanted. Because my book is paranormal and I worry I missed the bus. :)

    So many agents are saying they want more stuff from a male MC in YA and MG.

    I'm querying too and would love some feedback on my stuff. Can you email me your query and I email you mine and we can critique each others?

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  5. I don't think you should worry about the paranormal trend or any trend in YA right now. I've read a lot of agents saying that you shouldn't write to the trends because by the time you write it, query it and publish it, the trends will be different. Also if you write a really good story it won't matter that it's not paranormal or dystopian or whatever, because it will be able to attract an audience on its own. And then maybe the trend will turn to pirates! I do think it sounds too long, and that might put agents off because they think you haven't researched your audience or you can't edit down your work very well (again, things I have read from agents). Don't lose hope! :)

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    1. Yeah, I feel like the paranormal trend is dying, but I've been frightened that my book might not fit there. :/ I hope I don't lose hope! lol.

      Thank you for your help!!

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  6. Hi Ashley! I'm a new follower, and I must say, you have me wanting to read your book already. :D Your premise sounds awesome. I like pirates, and Barren sounds like an interesting character.

    The only thing is, I immediately classified this as an adult novel in my head. I read the other comments and agree that it wouldn't fit as a MG novel, (I write MG, and can't really see this in that genre) and might be a stretch as a YA. If you make Barren a few years younger, perhaps it could fit. I noticed that he has a wife, if I read that correctly, and I think some teens might not relate with someone who's already married. A girlfriend instead, maybe?

    Not to sound too negative, because your story really did grab me as soon as I read that letter -- which is not easy to do! So congrats on that! :)

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    1. Hi Shelley! Thank you for following! <3

      I'm very, very happy to hear that! I'm really taking into consideration this adult novel premise. I think it wouldn't take much to make it an adult novel, honestly. I think it's already there. I have just thought for so long I write YA. Then, I went to the bookstore and looked at ALL the books I read as a child...they were all adult fantasy.

      You weren't negative at all! I just never thought about age, I suppose. I think I might lower some peoples ages, just because...but to make the characters below 20, is making them way too mature for their age, I think. And to make Kiera Barren's girlfriend does not do their relationship justice.

      I'm really excited to research this new genre, however, and I feel very good about marketing this to adults. It's not like YA readers won't read it..you know?

      Again, thank you so much!! I have a lot of work to do! :)

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  7. Just a thought and I might be repeating bc I didn't read comments, is I would mention that he's an elf in the first paragraph. I think that would better set the tone of fantasy faster.

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    1. Ohh. I agree. I didn't think about that. I was afraid to be too overwhelming. It's hard, I think, when you create a world to stay...subtle, and to not overwhelm. Thank you!! :)

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    2. I second Elizabeth on this. I was thrown for a loop when you suddenly mention the Elvish race. Is he elvish? Or is he worried about another race? The mention of a wife also threw me for a loop. Is he older than I originally thought? Or did he marry young?

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  8. As a reader, I just want to tell you that, by reading the sypnosis, it actually caught my attention. I would probably pick it off the shelf(assuming it is)to read. It would definitely my choice.
    I couldn't give you any advice regarding critiques/what's the genre/if there's market in it, but hey, I'm that one person! I usually pick these kind of books over romance...
    So don't worry too much!

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    1. Thank you so much for your comment! I'm so happy to hear this! :)

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  9. HI Ashley, I

    I started off reading everyone's comments before I left one so I wouldn't repeat what had been said, but that got confusing. So here's my two cents (and maybe someone else's, too!)

    I think this sounds YA. And I think writing from a male POV is a great thing! Girls love to read male POV, so that's not a negative.

    117,000 is too long for most agents. If you can't cut it down to 99,000, then I would NOT lead with the word count. Put it in the end in the hopes that the agent is so intrigued by the story that they don't mind the word count when they reach it at the end.

    I agree with the very first poster that this needs to be expanded. Don't ramble, but give details.

    Start with your hook

    Then talk about who Barren is, how old he is, what kind of world he lives in, etc.

    Then get into the plot. I don't mind that he has a wife, if that's the world he lives in (teen pirate with a wife sounds interesting, especially if that's the norm). But he should be a teenager. If he's over 18, agents will either reject or insist you make him younger.

    Also, make it clear that Jess is the father (he is, right?). I'd also like to know his original motivation for going after the treasure. And when you say he'll have to die to save his race, give details. Is there a certain way he must die?

    And show us some emotional development. By the end of the query, or in your third paragraph, tell us how Barren is (or could) grow.

    Hope this helps! You've got an awesome premise! I think Pirates are very marketable. But I do suggest you do market research. It's very important to know what's out there and where your book will fit in (and how it will stand out!)

    Daisy

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    1. I think I decided I'd go with Adult Fantasy because I really can't make him 18...that just seems to young to me. It's strange, lol.

      Thank you for your suggestions! I'll definitely take them into consideration and do more market research, especially now that I'm looking at a different market!

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  10. Hi,

    I just discovered your blog and am now following. I write MG and definitely think yours sounds like a YA. I think your MS sounds interesting! I know how frustrating it is not to 'fit' what everyone seems to be looking for, but I don't think that's really important. The trend changes so fast! And Harry Potter and Co. didn't follow a trend - they started it.
    As to the query - I'm missing the voice. What kind of person is your MC - is he arrogant? impatient? Brave? Let that come through. Its so easy to get stuck in getting the query 'just right' that it no longer brings over the feel of the story itself. Write a query just for fun which totally brings out the attitude of your MC -something you wouldn't necessarily send out. Even if you don't use it, it might bring out a new idea.

    Good luck!

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    1. I definitely agree. I'll have to figure out how to portray the character now through the query. Thank you for your help! I'll definitely try the 'fun query' although, it might be hard for me to combined those two words. lol. Thank you!

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  11. One critique would be to put the 'book keeping' at the end, word count, genre, title. Start with the story. Have you checked out QueryShark? It's crazy helpful.

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    1. I've heard of QueryShark. I think I was too afraid of it previously. Now I don't care. LOL. Thank you for your help! I will definitely move the book keeping to the end! :)

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  12. I didn't read through all the responses, so I don't know if this has been asked/answered. In the query you talk about 'his wife'. Is this Barren's wife? If so, that might be a bit of an issue for YA and certainly for MG. Most of the time, the characters for these genres are a year or two above the age of the reader. I think an older/married character might be a bit of a hard sell for those age categories.

    On the other hand - I like the sound of your story - it sounds like you've got a great adventure on your hands!

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    1. Yes. I wasn't seriously considering MG, it was a thought that pirates might sell better to them. But I did think I was writing YA, until I've had such insightful comments. I think I'm going to pursue Adult Fantasy, now! :) Thank you for your help! I'm glad you liked it!

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  13. I agree with most what everyone has said so far. It definitely sounds like you have an adult fantasy book here (and yes, adults love pirates and fantasy). I would move the bookkeeping part toward the end, but different agents want different things, so of course, you'll have to check. :) It sounds like a good book.

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  14. I read your query and the first thing that pops out is 117,201 words. That is a massive book for YA. If you're thinking MG, it's way over the average. Maybe consider splitting the book up into two parts or edit it more? I'm throwing the idea out because agents may see the wordcount and immediately wonder how to sell the title. Perhaps, this is a book that classifies as YA/Adult? I'm not sure, but think about it. :)

    Regardless, I LOVE the whole concept of your idea. It demonstrates creativity, ingenuity and a flare for fiction you wouldn't find anywhere else. Good luck!

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  15. Hello! My first visit, will visit you again. Seriously, I thoroughly enjoyed your posts. Congrats for your work. If you wish to follow back that would be great I'm at http://nelsonsouzza.blogspot.com
    Thanks for sharing!

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