Friday, December 19, 2014

Holiday Query Hop Critique 8

The special guest today is awesome agent Cate Hart from The Corvisiero Literary Agency. Thanks, Cate, for taking time in your busy holiday schedule. (Note: Corvisiero is currently closed to queries, but catch Cate in January.)
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 33!
Dear Lovely Agent of Awesomeness:

(a personalized blip about why I’ve chosen this agent….this may move to the end if that seems to be more the agent’s preference)

Seventeen-year-old Anna Holloway is determined to have the best summer ever—her sister’s dream summer.

[I’m of the mind that one or two word characteristics should be included right here to give the reader a sense of who Anna is. That’s something I realized is missing. A good sense of who Anna is outside the context of her sister. Even if that is part of Anna’s inner journey/character arc, she still has some of her own characteristics. Something like bookworm, nerdy, prudent, cautious, quiet. Whatever it is that describes your character in a single word insert it somehow] Anna has spent her life looking up to her older sister, Storm. With her ever-present lists and a personality too big for Muscatine, Iowa, Storm’s always the leader of the pack—and Anna’s happy to follow. Until Storm dies suddenly, leaving Anna without direction. [One way to make this more unique is explain a little better the dynamic of this relationship. Looking up to the big sister is almost cliché or a given, so show us how their relationship is different from others]

When Anna finds Storm’s last list—fifteen things to do this summer—it’s like her sister is back, taking charge one last time. Armed with a 1971 Monte Carlo (that she doesn’t know how to drive) [This phrase feels off – Armed with – And how is that particular car important? If it’s not that important I’d cut the line, or make it connect – Like loading up her sister’s 1971 Monte Carlo…]and joined by Storm’s best friend, Cameron (who may be the answer to #5: Fall in love), Anna sets off on a cross-country journey (#9: Road trip!), marking off as many list items as she can along the way. [I think conveying why it’s so important to Anna to fulfill her sister’s list is another way to show how this story is unique. And Conflict. What’s the conflict? What’s going to prevent her from reaching her goals? Her parents? Giving up her own summer plans? We need some hints as to what the conflicts are.]

But the further Anna gets on the list, the more she discovers she didn’t really know her sister. Storm’s been keeping[since her sister has passed, I’m assuming either prior to the start of the story or right at the beginning as the inciting incident, in my opinion I’d make all sentences about Storm past tense. The rest should be present as queries should be.] a devastating secret from Anna—a secret Cameron has known all along. As Anna learns the truth about Storm’s last days, she realizes she needs to let go of the future her sister created [I don’t really get this line. Either a bit more explanation or rephrase. Because really has her sister created a future? I feel this needs to be that line about Anna’s character arc – what she must learn by the end of the story to fulfill her need as opposed to her want/goal. I think you’re getting there but right now this line is more about Storm than Anna. Make it about Anna.]and figure out her own path in life. [This may just be my opinion, but I think we need a little bit more as to the secret and how learning it has upped the stakes for Anna. I feel like it could be another thing that makes the query more unique.]

And none of Storm’s lists can help her now.

It’s The Bucket List meets Elizabethtown in SOMEONE ELSE’S SUMMER, a YA contemporary novel complete at 72,000 words. The full novel is available upon your request.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


So I thought first I would point out what I think works for your query. It’s tight and concise. I immediately know what Anna’s goal is and her motivations. I get just enough to emotionally connect with her.

Now for the things that I think need work. For me, your voice is missing – the voice of the story, of Anna. As I pointed out, we need a better sense of who Anna is at the start of her character journey and I think focusing on that will lend to the voice. I think there are places where we need a little bit more, another line to show the relationship. A line about Anna’s conflict to her goals and even a bit more revelation as to her sister’s secret. We also need more specific stakes. What’s really at stake for Anna if she does or doesn’t accomplish her goal of completing her sister’s list? I think adding these bits of information will help with the other big thing I noticed about the query. I don’t get a sense of what makes this story unique beyond a “coming-of-age” road trip. As it reads, it feels plain, nothing really grabbed my attention.

Cate is all about guilty pleasures. She loves salted caramel mochas, Justin Timberlake, Fox’s Sleepy Hollow, and Steampunk. As a native Nashvillian, Cate’s biggest guilty pleasure is watching Nashville.

When she’s reading, Cate looks for character-driven stories, a distinguished voice, and intriguing plots.She loves characters that surprise her, like the pirate with a heart of gold, and plots that keep her guessing until the very last page.

When she’s not reading queries, Cate works with clients to build their platform, works on PR projects to help promote clients’ books, and reads manuscripts with an editorial eye. 


  1. Great comments and help . . . I have some similar challenges in one of my queries that deals with two brothers. It's hard to know who to focus on. Thank you to Cate!

  2. Really great feedback...Interesting to see every place that the query could be improved to really get to the heart of the conflict. Sounds like a great story, too.