Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Holiday Query Hop Critique 14

The creator of #SFFpit is here with a critique today. Thanks to Dan Koboldt for helping out during the busy holiday season! 
Keep in mind that feedback is subjective by nature. What does and does not catch the eye is going to vary by person. Each writer must weigh the comments they get against their own judgement and make the changes that resonate with them.

The Holiday Query hop is closed. Please make sure you get your 10 critiques done.  
The random number generator picks 47!
Dear Awesome Agent,

Melissa Cihlar is afraid. [I found this too general and without enough detail to grab me as an opening line.] Not of the regular thirteen-year-old girl fears, like moving in her with mom and new stepdad, starting a new school, or making friends. [These are everyday things. I don’t think you need them here; all it does is make this an everyday story.] She has more important things to worry about–like pretending she’s normal by concealing her glowing birthmarks, claiming she didn’t cause the exploding scoreboard, and fighting against her memory blackouts. [OK, now I’m excited: Thirteen-year-old girl with glowing birthmarks, possibly telekinetic powers, and strange memory blackouts. This is unique and compelling enough that I think it should be your query’s opening.]

Isolated at school, misunderstood by her parents [starting to feel cliche], and plagued by hallucinations and nightmares [This is interesting but I want specifics. What do they show? Are they worsening?], Meli begs her beloved grandmother to let her move back. When her grandmother mysteriously vanishes–just as her sister did years ago–she’s left on her own to figure out why she can push objects around without touching them. [OK, so there’s a lot going on here and I’m confused. Due to the vague pronoun, I don’t know if it’s your MC’s sister or her grandmother’s sister who’s disappeared. I’m not certain it’s relevant that she wants to move back with grandma.  also feel like you’re hitting us over the head with the telekinetic powers, now. I liked the hint in the last paragraph better]

After doctors diagnose her as bipolar, and maybe schizophrenic, a new student, Rachel, arrives and reveals Meli isn’t alone. [The diagnosis and the new friend are presented like they’re cause-and-effect events, though I suspect they’re not. Also, I’m worried about the number of characters mentioned in the query]. Hiding in plain sight are the Salani, an ancient race gifted with paranormal abilities. Meli’s nightmares are actually memories from her past of the war that wiped out their people. [Love this detail!] When Rachel divulges that Meli is the key to ending the persisting civil war, she must choose a side. [So, is Meli one of the Salani? Or just the key to saving them?] 

To save others, Meli will do whatever she can to control her power–even if it means joining the enemy. [I like that you show us your character’s dilemma here, though the presentation is a bit busy. Does she care more about controlling her powers, or saving people? And who would she save? If I ignore “To save others” and just read the rest, I simply love this sentence and think it’s a great end-hook]

THE SECRET INSIDE is a young adult urban fantasy that will appeal to fans of A Beautiful Dark, Beautiful Creatures, and Evermore. It is completed with 72,000 words [I would just put the word count in parentheses after the title and delete this sentence].

I have included below the first ten pages. [Obviously you’ll follow each agent’s specific guidelines]. Should you be interested in more pages, I would be happy to send you more upon your request. [This is assumed; you can probably cut it.]

Thank you for your time and consideration.


write novels in the fantasy & science fiction genres of speculative fiction. My agent and I are currently seeking publication for THE ROGUE RETRIEVAL, an adult science fiction novel about a Vegas stage magician who takes high-tech illusions of magic into a medieval world that has the real thing.
I’m lucky to be a Codexian and a Pitch Wars mentor. I’m also the host of #SFFpit, a twice-yearly Twitter pitching party for authors of sci-fi/fantasy who are seeking representation or publication.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Holiday Query Hop Critique 13

I'm glad to have Laura Heffernan help out today. Laura was my first Query Kombat pick to get an agent this year and it seems right to have her back at the end of the year.
Keep in mind that feedback is subjective by nature. What does and does not catch the eye is going to vary by person. Each writer must weigh the comments they get against their own judgement and make the changes that resonate with them.

The Holiday Query hop is closed. Please make sure you get your 10 critiques done.  
The random number generator picks 24!
Dear Agent Awesome,
[First, a note: Yay! I love Beauty and the Beast re-tellings!] Sixteen-year-old George Sumerlin has never seen the world outside of the plantation, but he can peek peeks at it through the slits in the fence. Mama says the islanders would not wouldn't understand his bat wings, bull horns, cat’s eyes, or lizard’s tail—the manifestations of a curse laid on his great-great-great grandfather for swindling land away from the island’s locals. They would kill him. [I feel like this last sentence doesn't work for me, considering how strong the line before it is. It's completely subjective, but I'd cut that line. The first paragraph of a query is usually for your hook, and I think the hook is stronger with just the first two sentences.]
Yet even as Mama keeps George locked away from the world, she cant protect him from himself. [I'm confused, because nothing you mention after this suggests that George is a danger to himself. The danger appears to be Grace sneaking onto the plantation. I would cut this sentence, because it doesn't seem to add anything, and it's confusing.] One day, a hoodoo priestess in-training, Grace, sneaks onto the plantation. She hopes to kill the beast she thinks is attacking her village, but instead of a beast, she finds a scared teenager. George promises to help Grace track down the real monster—something she calls a Boo Hag, a skin-changer, who haunts the marshes—if she helps him escape the plantation. [Why does he need help to escape? It sounds like the only thing keeping him on the plantation is the fear his mother instilled in him - does Grace have to help him overcome his fears and face the outside world? A few details might help grab the agent's interest in reading more about your world. The meat of your query is only 213 words even before the sentences I suggested deleting, so there's some room to add more details about the monster and the conflict.]
When George flies the coop, he learns Mama isn’t wrong about the world; it’s dangerous for a creature like him. [Why? How? What happens?] The longer he lingers, the more his fledgling feelings for Grace magnify his shame over his monstrosities. [What does this have to do with a dangerous world?] But she knows something about the Boo Hag that not only will unlock the mysteries of the Sumerlin Curse… it may even present a way to break it. [I'm torn here, because I really like this sentence, but I want more concrete stakes. What happens if the curse isn't broken? Will the townspeople kill him? Will he just go back to his old life? And if so, what's so bad about that (other than it being lonely)? Giving the reader an idea of what George has to lose can help make an agent desperate to move on to the pages.]
Complete at x, [Take out the comma] words [Add comma] THE SUMERLIN CURSE is a YA Southern Gothic steeped in the Gullah/ Geechee folklore of the Georgia Sea Islands. Beauty and the Beast meets The Brother’s Grimm [No apostrophe] told from the viewpoint of the monster as a teenage boy. It should appeal to readers of Half Bad and Beware the Wild. [I see some mixed fonts in this paragraph, but that might be from the PC to Mac conversion. I'm throwing it out there in case it's in the original.]

Happy Holidays,Thank you for your time and consideration. [Always end with this. It's a business letter.]
I hope you find these comments helpful. Good luck!
Laura writes women’s fiction, represented by Jen Karsbaek at Foreword Literary. She wrote her first "short story" when she was five years old, detailing a family's Saturday morning on their Commodore 64 (it may have somewhat auto-biographical). She’s been writing ever since. In her spare time, she loves playing board games, baking, and binge watching anything by Joss Whedon. She also really likes parenthetical phrases (but not in fiction) and the Oxford comma.

Follow her on Twitter: @LH_Writes 

Monday, December 29, 2014

Holiday Query Hop Critique 12

The last week of 2014 starts out with help from Tracy Townsend! Tracy Townsend took a roundabout way to getting her agent but the original request came from one of my contests! 
Keep in mind that feedback is subjective by nature. What does and does not catch the eye is going to vary by person. Each writer must weigh the comments they get against their own judgement and make the changes that resonate with them.

The Holiday Query hop is closed. Please make sure you get your 10 critiques done.  
The random number generator picks 48!
Dear {Agent},

{personalization as to why querying agent, if applicable}
[I’m glad you note “if applicable” here… In my experience, personalization only seemed to pay off when it was very specific and important (“You favorited my pitch in #adpit” or “I saw your #MSWL tweet about wanting to represent a zombie gnome plague memoir and thought you might be interested in this project.”) Recently, Her Sharkness Janet Reid weighed in on the issue, too.  Bottom line, I think in most cases, personalization is best left undone.)

Viking lord Skrizgaard's got it made in the shade: loads of quests, big bad boss battles, and plenty of pillage to plunder. [While “pillage” can be used as a noun (“the raider horded up his pillage”), it’s more commonly recognized as a verb – ie., “to pillage.”  Given that, I stumbled a bit on this phrase and found myself trying to reframe it as “plenty of pillaging to pursue” in order to keep your alliterative bounce.  Think that one over – you have a kind of playful tone here that’s fun and interesting, but any nonstandard language use could slow down the agent reading your query, and not necessarily in a good way.] The noble warrior's been the world's greatest hero for over 1,000 years and he plans to keep it that way until forever finally ends. [I struggled with this idea of forever ending: it could be a specific usage that references something about the nature of your world and its rules.  Mostly, though, it flies in the face of “he plans to keep it that way.”  If he’s going to keep it that way, that’s his motivation, and we don’t want to qualify it, thereby muddying the waters of Skrizgaard’s M.O. and persona.] A fetch quest to nab a cursed flute for the queen of the Eternal City is easy-peasy for a champion like Skrizgaard. Until the flute strips away his immortality and makes evil, people-dissolving spirits pour into the world. [This is a sentence fragment – you can use them artfully in a query, but in my opinion, they read as artful and intentional when they are short.  This might be long enough to come off seeming like a grammar fluke rather than rhetorical strategy.] After that, the last thing he needs is some pre-teen following him around saying she needs his protection.  [We need something that transitions into the arrival of this other character in Skrizgaard’s life – something that clearly shows we’re in a bad-to-worse situation for him.  Opening the sentence with “after that” didn’t quite achieve that for me.]

To twelve-year-old Medolie Perker, better known as Meddy, [Limit the names you provide.  In this case, I’d call her Meddy Perker and worry about introducing her proper name in your actual pages, where you have room to set that up.] the great and noble Skrizgaard is like a knight in shining armor [But, umm.. he’s a pillaging Viking, right?  So, is the point that Meddy is totally mistaken about him or are we getting conflicting images of your main character?]. She just knows he'll make a great bodyguard. Until her Glitch powers activate, that is. Then bending space’ll be child’s play and she'll be the most powerful being in the world. Till then she might as well be a regular kid, a sitting duck for the cyborgs from the Land of the Technomancers to kidnap and use in their dastardly devices. [I’ve read this paragraph several times – which is probably more than most agents would do – and I’m afraid I get lost in the weeds somewhere in this section.  Is Meddy supposed to have powers?  And what are Glitch powers?  She seems to be anticipating their arrival, but until then, she needs a bodyguard?  Why is she someone these Technomancers want to kidnap and use?  I’m assuming it’s because of these Glitch powers, but without knowing what they are or why they would be both valuable and dangerous, I’m more confused than intrigued.] .  And her powers show no sign of kicking in anytime soon. But as the world fills up with evil spirits and more and more people get dissolved, those cyborgs might be the least of Meddy's problems.

Now with a devil on his trail [Are you being literal or metaphorical?  In this kind of a story concept, could be either or even both.  This only adds to my feeling of uncertainty about the stakes all around.] and zero health potions left, Skrizgaard's got his hands full enough trying to complete his quest [That snatch-quest, right?  Agents reading fast and furious probably have a brief brain buffer. Don’t strain it. Try to clarify by reminding us he’s got his hands full of everything but the flute he’s meant to grab.] without having to look after Meddy. Luckily, the queen of the Eternal City knows a cure that'll let him reverse the flute's curse [Ahh, here’s the flute – can we bump up mentioning it to the sentence before to eliminate the confusion buffer?] and send the evil spirits back to the otherspace. But he'll need an all-powerful Glitch to pull it off. [Okay: bring it home now.  Remind us here that all of a sudden, Meddy might be just the baggage he needs.  Make the pieces come together clearly.]

At 51,000 words, THE GREAT AND NOBLE SKRIZGAARD is a stand-alone middle grade fantasy adventure with video game elements. [I like the idea of this, but I’m not sure what it means.  As in, the characters are actually in a video game, and you’re going for something super-meta, or this fantasy world is based off tropes drawn from video games, or something else?  Would a slightly different description be clearer and livelier? A middle grade READY PLAYER ONE?  A middle grade fantasy with the spirit of Golden Axe and the sparkle of League of Legends?  Can you make this pop?] It is available in part or in full upon request. [That’s why you’re querying. You don’t have to say this; it’s assumed.]

I have a degree in Film from Wayne State University with a special interest in screenwriting. [I know this detail helps link a Film degree with writing, but what does “special interest” mean?  That you’ve written screenplays?  That you’ve had some of your work produced?  If you can’t get concrete about what your interest means, it probably won’t help you more than my special interest in ice cream helps my body fat percentage.]

Thank you for your time and consideration! [Random personal bias here:  I hate exclamation points.  They strike me as chirpy.  I’d rather be not muddy this good social grace with whatever the reader will or won’t read into punctuation.]


The strengths of this query – at least in the first paragraph – are its voice and the way it leans hard into the language and imagery of quest-oriented MMORPG video games.  I couldn’t quite tell if we’re meant to accept this as a fully developed secondary world fantasy, as in “there is no real world, only Skrizgaard’s world,” or if this is some kind of meta-text, where the reader is analogous to a player of the game in which Meddy and Skrizgaard are characters, a kind of portal-fantasy variant.  I’m still puzzled about that, actually.

Sf/f queries face a real uphill climb in terms of making unreal worlds feel real, alive, and full of meaningful stakes that don’t devolve into predictable plots. I can empathize with the struggle to make this very brief document clear and yet representative of your text.  Because I feel I don’t quite understand the nature of the project, I’ll leave it at that and hope you can brainstorm a slightly different approach.

I like that both your characters have stakes (Skrizgaard has lost some measure of his power to a curse, and he can’t complete his quest, and the world is going to hell in a hand-basket because of how that curse was released; Meddy will be powerful one day – presumably – but she isn’t yet and has to stay alive long enough to protect herself from being hunted down.).  What I don’t get is the threat that faces Meddy in the first place, before folks start dissolving. 

If you can help your reader grapple with what this world is and help them appreciate Meddy’s initial situation, you’ll have a much stronger query.  Good luck in the trenches!  (She said, using an exclamation point.)

Tracy Townsend lives in Bolingbrook, Illinois and teaches English at the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy.  She has studied at DePauw University, the National University of Ireland (Galway), and DePaul University, where she obtained degrees in English, Creative Writing, and Rhetoric.  She is a member of the Science Fiction Research Association and other academic organizations, which allows her to write very long things and read them aloud to people who are obliged to behave politely.  Her sf/f writing draws on her experience as a lapsed Catholic, an assistant martial arts instructor, a comic book fangirl (Make Mine Marvel!), a tabletop role-player, and an obsessive hound for obscure mythologies.  Inexplicably, other uses for that resume have yet to present themselves.  She is represented by the strikingly elegant and classy Bridget Smith of Dunham Lit. 
Tracy devotes time she doesn’t have to cooking, gardening, writing, and seriously pondering the treadmill in her basement.  She is married to her high school sweetheart, with whom she shares two remarkable children.  They are – naturally – named after characters from books.
You can find Tracy on Twitter (@TheStorymatic) more often than she really ought to be.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Meeting Fear and Overcoming

Fear. It can stop us in our tracks. We were talking about it over on the Writer Diaries this week. How to move face the fear.

I've known some writers that let pressures keep them from moving forward. Whether that is the inside pressure of trying to make everything absolutely perfect so that they never finish editing, or the fear of rejection that keeps someone from querying. Sometimes fear can bring dreams to a halt. And that's just a shame.

Time to go into the personal and say I know a little something about sheer fear. When I first started writing, like many people, I was anxious about sharing my work with others. I worried someone could steal  my words or that they would find it terrible. They did in fact find it terrible in those days and justifiably so. But that is not where my fear came from. Nor is it the terror I meet every morning when my alarm goes off.

It started about six years ago. My beautiful daughter went off to her first day of high school. It seemed to go fine. The next morning she woke with a panic attack and an absolute refusal to go to school. Her whole body shut down. She couldn't talk. She couldn't tell us what was wrong or what was scaring her. She curled into a ball and cried. We were mystified. Nothing started it. No bullies. There was no reason behind it. She was just filled with overwhelming anxiety and it center on school. 

So began weeks of visits to doctors and discussions with school officials. Various medications and therapy sessions. Nothing worked. Hubs and I were very concerned that we couldn't let Daughter give into this anxiety. That she go to school as much as possible. The school and her doctors agreed. The medicine wasn't working.  Though her brain understood there was nothing to fear about school, her body was flooded with panic and it couldn't be shut off. The only way for her to move forward was to face it.

But she couldn't face it. And so the battle for our daughter began. It was up to her family to help her through this and that meant forcing her to go to school. Every morning we begged, reasoned, and downright fought her to get her out the door. Often she had to be carried by Hubs into the building kicking and fighting with help from guidance counselors and attendance officers. Other days she threw up from the anxiety. Most days she spent ninety percent of her time in the nurse's office, physically sick. Many times I had to leave work or send her grandmother to pick her up early.

Then my father helped out. She responded best to her grandfather's relentless insistence. Dad come over early every morning and gradually she began walking into the building on her own--somewhat better but still not good.  Hubs was able to go to work on time, which was important as he is our main source of income. Still she argued and begged not to go, crying in a way that tore our hearts. It was hard. Impossibly hard, but it was about to get harder for me.

My father spends his winters in Arizona. Months had passed and it was time for him to go. He was reluctant and delayed a few weeks, but it was unfair to keep him. I had to take over the struggle so Hubs no longer missed work. With daughter somewhat better, it all fell on me to not only get her to school, but also her younger brother, and still make it to my own work on time.

The toughest days of my life thus far began. I woke every morning terrified I'd let Daughter down and not be strong enough to get her into the school. I was destroyed by our family being in such turmoil and it was hard to be so cruel and insistent. She had good days and bad days. Sometimes she'd step right out of the car. Sometimes I'd have to coax and coax and call the counselors for help. We argued. We yelled. We hugged. We reassured. She still struggled. 

I feared my shoulders weren't strong enough. As spring grew closer, the routine gave her some comfort. Whatever panic switch had been turned on in her body dulled. She stayed in class longer. Spent less time with the nurse. Her grades went from Fs to Cs. But the fear over months of never knowing each morning whether she'd have a good day or a bad day stayed.   

Daughter gradually got better. She held on hard to her boyfriend's support. He lived close to school and I started dropping her there so she could walk in with him. It helped. She took interest in friends and life again. She got through high school, though with difficulty (such as she couldn't face taking her SAT test.) On the positive side, she even went to Japan with her language group. Six years later, she has managed to start at community college so she can live at home, and she has a job. We're so proud of her. But...

Every morning when my alarm goes off at six am, the terror is in my gut. For me, the fear remains. Every day I face it again, even though there is no longer any need. The cause is gone, but physical dread remains. SIX YEARS LATER. It vanishes once I get up and moving, but no amount of reasoning does away with it completely. It greets me each day. The fear that I won't get her to school. That I'll fail. 

With God's help and love, Daughter beat it and won. I beat it and won. With more time, it will end entirely. But for now I understand sheer fear. I couldn't be happier that we faced it down. Maybe that's why I have little hesitation with my writing career and where my willingness to try new things comes from. Doubts remain but moving forward is a breeze compared to that year.

Everyone has their own brand of fear to face. You can do it, too. Don't let it stop your dreams. 

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! I look forward to seeing you all for Sun versus Snow in January!


Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Holiday Query Hop Critique 11

The query critiques continue to finish out the old year. Today's special guest is Christina Ketchem! Christina is my go-to source for all things regarding college applications! She also was a success story from one of my contests.
Keep in mind that feedback is subjective by nature. What does and does not catch the eye is going to vary by person. Each writer must weigh the comments they get against their own judgement and make the changes that resonate with them.

The Holiday Query hop is closed. Please make sure you get your 10 critiques done.  
The random number generator picks 46!
Dear Agent,

On Daniella Montgomery’s twenty-fifth birthday, she winds up in jail. And not just because she mistook an officer for a hired stripper.
This is a good hook and definitely grabs my attention.  BUT I think it could be phrased in a snappier way.  That said, the second paragraph is like a rewind, so I’m not sure if you even need this hook at all.

When Daniella learns her best friend sent over a stripper to help spice up what should’ve been a relaxing, stress-free birthday, she freaks.
Here’s where the query should begin.  You could probably tweak the original beginning with this sentence.  Also, why did she freak?  In a desperate attempt to keep this event a secret from her next door neighbor –the sophisticated, uptight boss at her law firm–Daniella drags the wrong man inside.  She was afraid of what her boss would think of her having a stripper?  Most strippers perform inside, right?  I’m not sure how the boss would find out.  This just doesn’t make sense to me.  I’d clarify.  Or, don’t mention the boss at all.  He’s not relevant to the rest of the query, as it currently reads.

Despite the circumstances, the attraction is obvious before her forward actions land her in handcuffs by Atlanta PD’s Detective Malcolm Jones for inappropriate behavior. But her special day isn’t done with its surprises as evidence points Daniella as the main suspect in a serial homicide. 
Major leap between topics here – I feel like I’ve missed something here.  How did we go from inappropriate behavior to homicide? 

Detective Jones is caught between his duty and desire for the mesmerizing woman who may be more trouble than she looks. Though he tries to deny it –set on putting the law before all else –he ultimately finds himself breaking all the rules to save the woman he’s fallen for. 
Another big jump, and this one almost feels spoilery.  We go from desire to fallen for in 2 sentences.  I’d slow that down a little.  I do really like his stakes though – it’s very clear that he’s choosing between duty and himself.

Determined to fight for their future after being scorned by the law they both
service,  serve, the two searches for the true killer before Daniella is sentenced to a lifetime of birthdays in jail.  I love this last phrase.  It really brings the whole query full circle. 

BIRTHDAY DISASTER is an adult romantic suspense novel complete at 56,000 words. It is told in a dual third person point of view. 
This is where you might put a comp title or two, but be very selective and don’t choose super-famous titles just to name drop.  Make sure they really match the tone of your book in some way. 

Also, here you might add a short paragraph with any credentials you might have – organizations you’re a member of, awards won, relevant degrees earned, etc.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Just wanted to add that I think this sounds like a fun, sexy page-turner.  I would totally read it.  It would be even stronger if we got more of Daniella’s voice, though.  Changing up the word choice here and there can help with that.  Good luck to you – can’t wait to see this in print!

CZ Ketchem writes young adult contemporary fiction when she’s not writing college recommendation letters during her day job as a high school counselor.  She loves the little moments in life that help someone discover who they’re meant to become – whether it’s her students or her characters.   
CZ holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology and a Master of Education degree in Counseling.  She is a voracious reader, loves to travel, and hopes to one day be bicoastal – the east coast of the US and the east coast of Scotland.  She lives just outside Washington DC with her husband and the world’s most rambunctious four-year-old. She's represented by Kevan Lyon. Find her out on twitter at @czketchem or on her website.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Holiday Query Hop Critique 10

Another wonderful agent has donated her time. Today we're helped out from Clelia Gore from Martin Literary Management
Keep in mind that feedback is subjective by nature. What does and does not catch the eye is going to vary by person. Each writer must weigh the comments they get against their own judgement and make the changes that resonate with them.

The Holiday Query hop is closed. Please make sure you get your 10 critiques done.  
The random number generator picks 12!
Dear Blog Hoppers,

If Phoebe has to hear her friends squeal over one more fictional vampire, she’s going to write another expose about it, preferably one that gets more notice than…. So when she’s attacked by a vampire one night, she’s shaken but vindicated (I don’t think vindicated it quite the right word—how about “thrilled”); she has the story of the century and proof that vampires really do suck. Unfortunately, it’s the one story she can’t tell according to Benjy, the cute vampire hunter that saved her life.

Phoebe is determined to fight back (against? For what?), and she’s willing to do it with or without Benjy’s help. Luckily, he agrees to give her the full Buffy experience. Balancing vampire hunting lessons, cross-country practice and her campaign to snag the prime fall article for the paper are hard enough. It becomes almost impossible when Emlen, the vampire that attacked her, reappears.

When he Emlen? entangles himself romantically with her best friend, Phoebe is terrified that her friend will become his next victim. With Phoebe under hunter protection, Emlen turns his attention to the people Phoebe loves, smashing cars and locking them in coffins. Phoebe and Benjy work together to smoke him out and reduce him to dust, all while attempting to keep her friends in the dark about her newest extracurricular.

But secrets don’t always work out so well, and vampires are crafty bastards. Phoebe must make her moves carefully, or risk sacrificing everything and everyone she loves, including her own existence.

HIGH-STAKES, a YA paranormal novel, is complete at 85,000 words. Thank you for your time and consideration.

This was good query. It was told in a pitch-y style that kept me interested as I read through. The tone and style were appropriate for the book and the book’s audience. I could tell this query was diligently crafted by a writer exhibiting professionalism. As I point out above, there are a couple of little holes that prevent the query-reader from getting a full understanding of the plot, but that is resolved with some easy fixes.

Vampire novels have a sort of stigma to them in the post-Twilight and its progeny world. I think you should address that stigma head on, and explain why this particular novel will resonate with today’s YA readers, who may be suffering from vampire fatigue. 

Unfortunately, there is a high burden of proof on the writer of vampire novels these days to show that vampire books are still relevant in today’s YA market. I think it’s actually pretty funny that this book plays with the cultural phenomenon of vampire books and pokes fun at it – I think that’s your angle and you should lead with that. Agents are reading queries quickly and don’t assume that they will infer things from your query – lay it all out there for them and address things head on.

I would top this query off with a few lines re: the author’s writing credentials and any kind of publishing history and you have yourself a solid query!


Clelia Gore is an agent specializing in children's and young adult books at Martin Literary Management. She doles out observations, industry news, and writer tips on Twitter at @MadmoiselleClel. You can read more about her and the agency at