Monday, April 18, 2011

Query Letter Blogfest

Yay for another blogfest. I know we haven't had many lately and the A to Z challenge means it's a slow month on this blog but no worries. Today we get to do a blogfest and the topic this time is the Query Letter.



About the blogfest: 
The blogfest is pretty simple. The idea is to have a query letter posted and to get feedback on ways to make it better. The exact two rules are: "post your query letter and visit at least 5 other bloggers and critique their queries."

Check out the blogfest over at Slice of the Blog Pie.

So, I was totally going to write a brand new query letter for this. Except work, A to Z blog challenge, sleep and writing got in the way so that I never got around to working on it until the night before the blogfest. That doesn't work very well for a query letter. I'm also curious for anyone who reads this part: Does the novel sound more like a middle grade one or YA?

Note: I don't have an agent list yet. So, it's a general query letter and there is no agent personalization to it for that reason. Those will come into play when I actually have novels ready to submit cause yeah, I don't have anything ready. Order of hook, novel details and such will vary a little as well.


My entry:



Dear Agent:

Not all genetic mutations are fun or even useful. For 14 year-old mutant, Ephram Gray, having a temperature that can't be detected only means he will never miss school due to a fever. Working for a government agency as a spy, telling on anyone who might be a mutant, is a whole different story.  

Ephram should be worrying about finding friends and passing the next test at school. Instead he has to  panic over each time the men in suits from the government agency will show up at his parents' house demanding he tell on other mutants. Being different isn't easy, keeping it a secret even harder and the worse part: one of his only friends might be a mutant. Stuck between his role as a tattle tale, the unspoken rules of friendship, and his own secrets, he must decide. Either lose a friend or disobey and face the consequences.

TATTLE TELL, a fantasy/sci-fi young adult tale, is complete at 53,000 words. Thank you for your time and consideration.


Sincerely,
Dawn Embers

16 comments:

Escape Artist said...

I think you have to simplify this so that I'm getting the conflict straight off. The fever thing distracts me from the storyline. What's important is that he's a spy.
Think of another way of saying 'telling on anyone'. I know you're linking to the title here, but perhaps you could say it another way so it's a bit stronger.
And I'm a bit confused. Is he a hiding mutant himself who is also a spy, 'cause if that's the case then that needs to be accentuated 'cause that's the interesting bit.
Definitely YA from what I'm seeing here. Good luck!
Sounds like a bit of fun!

LoriTinkey said...

Hi Dawn, love the premise! Sounds like a fun story. Hope this is helpful to you:

Dear Agent:

Not all genetic mutations are fun or even useful GOES WITHOUT SAYING. For 14 year-old mutant, NO COMMA Ephram Gray, having a temperature that can't be detected only means he will never miss school due to a fever LIKE THE IDEA; WOULD PUT IN HIS VOICE (WHAT DOES HE THINK OF THAT?). Working for a government agency as a spy, telling on anyone who might be a mutant, is a whole different story (AND THEN WHAT DOES HE THINK OF THIS? AND HOW DID NOT REGISTERING A FEVER TURN INTO ALL THESE OTHER WONDERFUL ABILITIES?).

Ephram should be worrying about finding friends and passing the next test at school WOULD HE BE? WOULD LOVE TO KNOW HIS PERSONALITY. Instead WOULD PUT COMMA he has to EXTRA SPACE panic over WOULD SKIP 'OVER' each time the men in suits from the government agency will show up at his parents' house demanding he tell on other mutants I WOULD MASH THIS WITH THE ABOVE REFERENCE TO IT. Being different isn't easy THIS SPEAKS TO HIS ATTITUDE, WHICH WOULD BE EASIER TO INCORPORATE ABOVE, PERHAPS, keeping it a secret even harder BECAUSE... (HIS PERSONALITY, OR THE MEN IN SUITS KNOCKING ON HIS SUBDIVISION DOOR, MAKING HIS DOG BARK AND BOSSY MRS. SMITH NEXT DOOR PEAK OUT HER FRONT WINDOW?) and the worse WORST part: one of his only friends might be a mutant HE KNOWS THIS BECAUSE... HE CAN'T ASK BECAUSE.... Stuck between his role as a tattle tale, the unspoken rules of friendship, and his own secrets, he must decide. Either lose a friend or disobey and face the consequences.

TATTLE TELL, a fantasy/sci-fi young adult tale, is complete at 53,000 words. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Holly Dodson said...

I think we need a little more detail here. You give us a vague idea of what being a mutant means, but I'm still not sure. Is hiding his temp the only thing it does? Why is that a big enough deal for the Gov. to want him as a spy?

And you need to add some of Ephram's voice in here. Show us just a tiny bit of his reaction to this whole situation.

I think if you do that, you'll definitely have a winner. :) Good luck!

mooderino said...

I would reword the first para. the premise is strong but the second sentence in particular is awkwardly phrased.

I feel like i need more info on what constitutes mutants here, super powers? If so you're treading on well worn ground and need to show why your story is different to umpteen comic books/movies.

Instead he has to panic... this sentence was very awkwardly phrased and hard to get through for me.

Why is he the spy? What's at stake if he refuses (specifically)? not enough info, i think.

Hope that helps.
Regards,
mood

Brandileigh2003 (Blkosiner's Book Blog) said...

I'm hooked and would request pages.

Though, I would do a little tightening, cleaning.

Not all genetic mutations are fun or even useful.

changes a bit, so I would seperate
For SPELL OUT 14 year-old mutant, Ephram Gray, having a temperature that can't be detected only means he will HE'LL never miss school FOR a fever. Working for a government agency TELL ME WHICH ONE as a spy, telling on anyone who might be a mutant, is a whole different story.

Ephram should be worrying about finding friends and passing the next test at school. Instead he panicS (over TAKE OUT)each time (the TAKE OUT) men in suits (from the government agency will TAKE OUT) show up at his parents' house demanding he tell on other mutants. Being different isn't easy, keeping it a secret'S even harder and the worse part: one of his only friends might be a mutant (WHAT MAKES HIM THINK THAT?). Stuck between his role as a (tattle-tale I THINK IT'S HYPENATED), the unspoken rules of friendship, and his own secrets, he must decide. (Either TAKE OUT) lose a friend or disobey and face the consequences. (WHAT CONSEQUENCES?)

Brandi from Blkosiner’s Book Blog

Loralie Hall said...

First of all - I do think it sounds like a YA story. The concept of being a government spy and having to make that type of ethical and moral decision is pretty complex.

The biggest thing I want to know is why his mutation makes him a viable spy. but I love the conflict you have. To rat out a friend or not has to be a tough choice. And I'd read more (but you already know that ;))

great job ^_^

Dawn Embers said...

Thanks everyone for commenting on my little query attempt. They are all very helpful and once I have the novel ready I will be using them to help me write the query for it. Voice is something I still have to figure out and how to answer some of the questions that the main character doesn't know the answer to without losing it but that's all part of the fun in query writing right?

Loralie - If you really wanna know I can message you the answers. *winks*

Abby Stevens said...

This is such an interesting premise!! Here are my suggestions:

In a world where genetic mutations are possible [or some other descriptor to let us know how the genetic mutations fit into society], 14 year-old Ephram Gray's mutation is pretty boring. While some mutants can [list mutation] or [list mutation], having an undetectable body temperature only means he'll never miss school because of a fever. Working for a [name the government agency], a secret government agency, as a spy, Ephram's mission is to expose closeted mutants.

Ephram should be worrying about finding friends and passing the [##]th grade; instead he panicks each time the men in suits show up demanding more names. Being different isn't easy, but keeping it a secret is even harder.

The worse part? One of his only friends might be a mutant. Stuck between his role as a tattle tale, the unspoken rules of friendship, and his own secrets, Ephram must decide: lose a friend or face the consequences.

TATTLE TELL [just wanted to make sure you intentionally spelled the phrase TELL instead of TALE ;)), a fantasy/sci-fi [I think you need to pick one genre here - sounds much more sci-fi than fantasy to me] young adult novel, is complete at 53,000 words. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Alicia Gregoire said...

I'm getting what Ephram has to go through on a daily basis, but not a real sense of the story. Is the conflict whether he snitches on his friend or not? What are the stakes if he doesn't

My brain is telling me that this would be closer to MG than YA, but that might just be because I'm more used to dealing with slightly older YA protagonists.

I think the premise is interesting and would probably request pages.

Charmaine Clancy said...

I like your story idea but feel your pitch is clumsy. I had a go at an opening (in my own, unqualified way):

14 year-old Ephram Gray should be worrying about finding friends and passing the next algebra test. Instead, he's keeping a constant eye out for the men in suits from the government agency. They'll show up at his house again, demanding he rat-out any mutant students. And, they'll make him tell, they always do. Problem is, Ephram's a mutant too. Nothing fun or useful, he just has a temperature that can't be detected, all this means is he'll never miss school due to fever.

Being different isn't easy, keeping it a secret is even harder when your only friend might be a mutant too. Stuck between.....

My only other comment is I think this story could work well with the protagonist a bit younger? Maybe 12, that age on the brink of childhood/adolescence.

Sounds like a fun story.

Dawn Embers said...

Wow. Thanks everyone. Two in particular hit issues right on the bullseye mark and I may email you if I can. I appreciate every comment on my midnight attempt of a query letter and have much to think about.

Kate Larkindale said...

Sounds like a fascinating character, but from this, I'm really not sure what the story is about. I think you need to focus more on the plot and Ephram's role in it, rather than filling us in on his background.

I love the line about the fever though. Maybe just add a little comment in his voice about how that's a drag or something.

Just find the central conflict in the book and focus the query around that. Ephram sounds like a fun guy to spend time with. I just want to know a little about what he's up against.

Kalen O'Donnell said...

First off, interesting concept. I love comics, superheroes and all iterations of mutants, superpowers and more, and your first line got me intrigued right off the bat. Don't mess with that first line. I honestly would keep the fever line too, as its cute, gives a hint of voice, and speaks to the age range of the book.

Which is I think the biggest problem with your query letter. Like Alicia, I think this feels more MG than YA. While fourteen years old is technically old enough for a YA protagonist, the story here FEELS younger. Now I haven't read your MS clearly, and you know your story best, but know your market too, and as you develop a query list, make sure you're targeting the right market for your book. And if you decide this is in fact YA and not MG, then something about your query letter needs to come off as a little bit older.

Also, calling it fantasy/sci fi contributes to the idea that you don't fully know your own story, because its one or the other. Is your story fantasy, or is it scifi? It sounds scifi to me, what with mutations and all, so be confident and definitive about that. To an agent, if you're not sure what your story is, how are they supposed to pitch it to editors?

But you do have an interesting story here, you just need to unearth it a little more.

Sophia Richardson said...

I like the first line, it's snappy and right away we get an idea of the story-- a genetic mutation causing problems. I'd add more voice to the second line, something like he never gets to skip school with a fever (implies more judgement from him, not missing school is lame).

The third line came out of nowhere for me so a little transition might help and clear up some confusion. Is his mutation the reason the agency uses him, and how does it help? I'd put the third line (the antagonistic agency) with the fun bit about men coming to his house for him to snitch along the lines of 'His mutation is also the reason [named agency] sends men in suits to his house demanding he tell on other mutants.'

I'd cut the line about what Ephram should be worrying about, we know the normal life he's missing out on. Get to the conflict: being different, keeping it secret, and the story catalyst, his friend possibly being a mutant. Like Brandi suggests, what makes Ephram think his friend's a mutant? 'When he sees [named friend] do [something special], he panics, believing his one friend might be a mutant.'

I'd use a colon after he must decide, because you're showing what it is he has to choose between. And replace 'face the consequences' with the consequences. Will the agency lock him up for life, kill him, use his family to get him to comply?
- Sophia.

Sari Webb said...

Hi Dawn, I love your premise! This sounds like a fun read :)

I think that you need to get more of the plot into the query. Most of what's here is set-up.

Also, I found the first line a tad confusing:
Not all genetic mutations are fun or even useful.

At first I read this as Ephram's mutation not being fun or useful, but reading on it seems his ability is useful, even if not to him. I think this story could have a stronger tag line.

The last thing, reading the premise it seemed more MG than YA to me, especially for 53k words.

Good luck!

Dawn Embers said...

Wow. Thanks everyone. I can't believe so many commented on my little attempt. There are some great issues discussed. The MG versus YA is a big issue for me that I'm trying to figure out. I appreciate everyone's comments.

Fun

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