Please keep in mind that I'm no query guru, but I have read a considerable amount of query slush thanks to Query Kombat. (And that is a lot of repeating of the word query.) I might have an edge on what works and what doesn't. But as in all such critiquing, the suggestions are mainly subjective. Or in other words, take it with a grain of salt and see if others agree with me.
Here we go with Mambo #5:
Mr./Ms. Dream Agent: I use 'my future agent' myself.
I would like to offer for consideration, my YA fantasy novel, complete at 63,000 words. WHEN A ME-OK SINGS was a quarterfinalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award in 2010, and a finalist in the National Association of Elementary School Principals’, Children’s Book of the Year Award in 2011. I hope you enjoy the magical world of Me-oks as much as I enjoyed creating it. A little too much beat but nice credentials. I would probably go straight for: WHEN A ME-OK SINGS is a YA fantasy novel, complete at 63,000 words... Also maybe leave out mentioning enjoyment until they issue a request.
Fifteen-year-old Rayanna’s mother and teachers think she’s too old to be living in a fantasy world. But not all troubled teens act out. Her reality sucks, mostly because of a group of girls who have been bullying her for years. Rayanna’s not sure if her two new companions are real, but only she can see them and they have tails! Hmm. A 'woe-is-me' character opening. I've been there and done that. This means your character seems to be focusing on the bad side of things. An Eeyore. Nobody wants to spend time with an Eeyore. Consider trying to keep things positive. Don't change the situation, just change the way you present it. Positive but with conflict, if you know what I mean. Also the last sentence is abrupt. 'New companions' are throw at us without any setup. To me, they are still associated with the bullies of the preceding sentence.
Coming-of-age Me-oks Chet-ok and Stew-ok are as surprised as Rayanna about the awakening (when a human can see Me-oks). Centuries before, a teenage boy named Byron enslaved Me-oks and forced them to do his bidding using their magic—which ages Me-oks faster. After Byron was overthrown and imprisoned, the old Me-ok purpose of helping young people was abandoned and their magical abilities hidden. … until now. A little bit of Me-oks in my life. I like this except for the 'coming of age' part, which makes that sentence loaded down. Try something like 'young.' I'd suggest you lead with this, except agents appear to want a human main character so you better start with Rayanna.
After a tense meeting with the Me-ok elders, it is decided that the young Me-oks will become the first of the next generation of awakeners. Many do not support the decision, and an adventure involving kidnappings and the escape and recapture of Byron follow. During Byron’s escape, a serendipitous meeting with Rayanna results in Chet-ok and Stew-ok having to convince the Me-ok elders that Byron is their best bet for helping Rayanna. It could also lead to redemption for Byron. This spins off the dance floor for me. It is more like a synopsis and doesn't focus on Rayanna. WHAT DOES RAYANNA WANT? Keep this paragraph about her and make it specific.
WHEN A ME-OK SINGS was highly influenced by some of my favorite characters from my childhood—The Littles and Pippi Longstockings; my own childhood; and my belief that we too often leave young people to deal with bullying and need to support them more. I also believe in redemption. It is a gentle, humorous, and playful telling of a story about a girl having to cope with severe bullying at her school. It is up to the new apprentice awakeners to help Rayanna to reach the adults in her life. I'm no expert, but spelling out your agenda might make agents fear this is a preachy story. Entertainment first, preachy undercover. Feel free to disagree. Also you've overcharged your limits. One bio/genre/word count/comparables paragraph.
Thank you for your time and consideration. Same to you!
Specifics! Specifics! Specifics! That's your chorus! Make Rayanna positive and be specific in the first paragraph. Just saying bullies is boring. It might look something like this:
Fifteen-year-old Rayanna prefers her daydreams of talking trees to the reality of her head in the school toilet bowl. When the girls throw mashed potatoes down her dress at lunch, she focuses on visiting her version of a fairy woods. She agrees with her mother and teachers that it's all a fantasy, until two new companions appear and these have tails and like to steal her pudding.
Give the fourth paragraph a make-over so that it focus on Rayanna and her stakes. It's okay to include Byron, but make him fit into what Rayanna wants and what she has to do to get it. Good luck and dance on!
Interesting feedback and query combination. The OK stuff kind of threw me personally.ReplyDelete
You are right, though. Nobody wants to spend time with Eeyore. Except co-dependent Piglet.
Did you ever hear the idea that everyone can be reduced down to one character from "Winnie the Pooh"?
I always thought I was Tigger until all my Piglet friends told me I was (sigh) Rabbit.