My query for Smolder :)

Queries are one of the scariest things for a new author to think about--and also one of the most important.  Agents judge your writing ability, voice, characterization all from one short letter.  Eep! 

Deana Barnhart is hosting a Get-an-Agent-Blogfest!  This is week three, "query week."  I think it's a great opportunity to pull out my query and get some much needed feedback.  I'm thinking mine is a little long, but it still hits the 1 page guideline that most agents have.  I dunno, tell me what you think. 

Without further ado, here is my query for Smolder:



Dear Agent,

A treatment designed to cure Lymphoma has created teens with talents beyond the realm of possibility.  Unfortunately, the talents are accompanied by a horrific side-effect that forces them to live in shadow. 

Seventeen year old Bernadette “Brett” Davenport, a prominent Senator’s daughter, is devastated when she’s diagnosed with cancer.  Due to a complication arising from her treatment, she is sent to a subterranean facility in the Rocky Mountains.  The New Harmony Academy harbors dark secrets—mysterious benefactors called The Directors, and dangerous abilities enhanced by the “cure.”

With the manifestation of Brett’s latent psychic abilities, a new set of difficulties arise.  In time to prevent disaster, she receives a powerful talisman that helps her control her new talent from a grandmother she believed to be long dead.

Soon she discovers the talents are more than an accidental side-effect; they are part of a decades-old conspiracy and her father’s involvement runs deep.  Jagger Robinson, an undercover CIA agent posing as the talent instructor at the Academy, reluctantly enlists Brett’s aid in his mission to expose the conspiracy and bring down the New Harmony Order.

Each chapter begins with a brief log entry from the creator of the treatment, Dr. Knight, an ally of Brett and her friends.  The entries give the reader unique insight into the mysteries surrounding the Academy, while still maintaining the integrity of Brett’s experiences.

Brett and a quirky group of talented friends sprint through the pages of SMOLDER: A KNIGHT’S CHILDREN NOVEL in a supernatural thriller that will leave teens breathless.  SMOLDER, a stand-alone novel with series potential, is complete at 100,000 words.  Full manuscript is available upon request.

Thank you for your consideration,

K.V. Briar

Comments

  1. Hi, K.V.,

    My suggestions are in parentheses/all caps:

    A treatment designed to cure (Lymphoma=LOWERCASE) has created teens with talents beyond the realm of possibility. (JUST ONE SPACE AFTER PERIODS.) Unfortunately, the talents are accompanied by a horrific side(- NO HYPHEN)effect that forces them to live in (shadow=THIS WORD JARRED ME ... IN THE SHADOWS?). (EXCEPT FOR THE ONE JARRING WORD, YOU HAVE ME VERY WELL HOOKED.)

    Seventeen(HYPHEN)year(HYPHEN)old Bernadette “Brett” Davenport, a prominent Senator’s daughter, is devastated when she’s diagnosed with cancer. Due to a complication arising from her treatment, she is sent to a subterranean facility in the Rocky Mountains. The New Harmony Academy harbors dark secrets(— NEEDS A COMMA INSTEAD.)mysterious benefactors called The Directors, and dangerous abilities enhanced by the “cure.” (GREAT!)

    With the manifestation of Brett’s latent psychic abilities, a new set of difficulties arise(S)(. In time to prevent disaster,=DELETE) (WHEN) she receives a powerful talisman (that helps her control her new talent=DELETE) from a grandmother she believed to be long dead. (GOOD, WITH SOME TRIMMING.)

    Soon she discovers the talents are more than an accidental side(- NO HYPHEN)effect; they are part of a decades-old conspiracy(COMMA) and her father’s involvement runs deep. (YOUR QUERY IS GETTING LONG, BUT THIS POINT IS TOO AWESOME TO LEAVE OUT!) (Jagger Robinson, an undercover CIA agent posing as the talent instructor at the Academy, reluctantly enlists Brett’s aid in his mission to expose the conspiracy and bring down the New Harmony Order.=COULD LEAVE THIS OUT TO KEEP THE QUERY SHORTER.)

    (Each chapter begins with a brief log entry from the creator of the treatment, Dr. Knight, an ally of Brett and her friends. The entries give the reader unique insight into the mysteries surrounding the Academy, while still maintaining the integrity of Brett’s experiences.=COULD LEAVE THIS GRAPH OUT.)

    (Brett and a quirky group of talented friends sprint through the pages of=DELETE) SMOLDER: A KNIGHT’S CHILDREN NOVEL (in=IS) a (STAND-ALONE) supernatural thriller (that will leave teens breathless. SMOLDER, a stand-alone novel=DELETE) with series potential(, is=REPLACE WITH ". IT IS) complete at 100,000 words. (Full manuscript is available upon request. CHECK TO SEE; USUALLY IT'S A PARTIAL PLUS A SYNOPSIS.)

    I'm hooked! It's bad enough to have a medical condition, but to have such complications on top of that is almost beyond belief. Good luck with this!

    Michelle

    P.S. I'm a new follower!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi K.V.,
    This sounds fascinating! I love the premise of it.

    I think I would take out the first sentence, especially since you state later there was a complication with her treatment in the 3rd sentence. It seems a bit redundant and not as big of a hook as your 3rd sentence is. Maybe you could put the complication within that 2nd paragraph?
    Also, I would take out these sentences:
    Each chapter begins with a brief log entry from the creator of the treatment, Dr. Knight, an ally of Brett and her friends. The entries give the reader unique insight into the mysteries surrounding the Academy, while still maintaining the integrity of Brett’s experiences.

    I would change the last paragraph to look like this:
    SMOLDER: A KNIGHT’S CHILDREN NOVEL is a supernatural thriller that will leave teens breathless. A stand-alone novel with series potential, SMOLDER is complete at 100,000 words. Manuscript is available upon request.

    I hope this helps! It looks like Michelle tackled the grammar & punctuation in the comment above. Like I said, it sounds fascinating! I really hope it gets picked up and published because I want to read it! :)
    KP

    ReplyDelete
  3. The phrases 'beyond the relm of possibility' and 'horrific side effect' felt a bit cliched to me and made me wonder why you couldn't specify. I assume this is to keep the agent interested, but it might pack more of a punch if you'd actually say what the side effect is.

    I agree that the paragraph about Dr. Knight can come out. While I think that's awesome and probably very impotant in the story, it's not integral to the plot line- at least for your query.

    I agree with Michelle- cancer and bad side-effects?? Great hook!

    ReplyDelete
  4. I love the idea of something as devastating as cancer linked with something as exciting at special powers. It’s a very interesting juxtaposition.

    I moved it around a bit and cut a lot out. Try this:

    Seventeen year old Bernadette “Brett” Davenport is devastated when she’s diagnosed with cancer and now due to a complication arising from her treatment, she develops psychic abilities.

    Because of her new skills she is sent to a subterranean facility in the Rocky Mountains. The New Harmony Academy harbors dark secrets, mysterious benefactors called The Directors, and others with dangerous abilities enhanced by the “cure.”

    Soon she discovers the talents are more than an accidental side-effect; they are part of a decades-old conspiracy.

    Jagger Robinson, an undercover CIA agent posing as the talent instructor at the Academy, reluctantly enlists Brett’s aid in his mission to expose the conspiracy and bring down the New Harmony Order.

    Here I would write what will happen if Brett and Jagger don’t succeed.

    SMOLDER is a YA supernatural thriller complete at 100,000 words.

    This is cut up a lot, but I think it reads tighter. You don’t need all the backstory stuff, it bogs down the flow. You can also add personal stuff if you want. 100K is a bit long for YA you might want to cut the story back too.

    Elana Johnson is one of the followers on your blog. Have you ever been to her site and read what she has posted about queries? It helps me tons.

    Good luck. It is a story I would love to read :)

    ReplyDelete
  5. I like your query. I think you have a solid story and a good effort. I can't add anything beyond what the other's have. Now incorporate the suggested changes you agree with and make it yours again. Good luck!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Hi, K.V.,

    I've posted a response to your comment on Bird's-eye View, http://michellefayard.blogspot.com/2011/07/blogfest-week-three-query-contest.html.

    Thank you very much for your comment!

    Michelle

    ReplyDelete
  7. Wow -- cool idea!
    1.) 'her new talent from a grandmother she believed to be long dead' -- is the talisman or the talent from her grandma? Because how you have it written, it's the talent.
    2.) The title doesn't seem to have anything to do with the book, as you've presented it to us. It honestly comes out of the blue a bit and left me confused.
    Definitely a cool premise -- I'd be intrigued to read it. Love the idea that a cure for cancer could lead to a change in genetics that creates powers. Good call!

    ReplyDelete
  8. I love the idea and the query is solid. I'd take out the part about the journal entries bc I dont think it buys you enough to muddy the waters w it. And I wouldn't put anything about teens loving your book in the final paragraph. Nice job otherwise and great premise.

    ReplyDelete
  9. ^ I agree with taking about the journal enteries part; it doesn't belong in the query, but I can imagine it definitely adds to your story. The agent would be able to see that when you send a partial/full. I agree also to take out the "leaving teens breathless" b/c it's a little awkward and also you don't know how they will react. A few other suggestions are great. Nice work!

    ReplyDelete
  10. Love the story idea! I too would cut the first paragraph. You repeat most of that information in your second paragraph. Overall the query is a little long. Keep it concise. Agents are getting tons of letters every day. They want your story in as few words as possible.

    Good job and glad to join your blog followers!

    ReplyDelete
  11. Wow, love the premise! You've already received some great feedback, I don't have anything else to add.

    ReplyDelete
  12. That's a very cool premise. Other people have made good suggestions. I would like a little more specifics about what the powers or side effects are. You can remove these sections:

    Each chapter begins with a brief log entry from the creator of the treatment, Dr. Knight, an ally of Brett and her friends. The entries give the reader unique insight into the mysteries surrounding the Academy, while still maintaining the integrity of Brett’s experiences.

    that will leave teens breathless

    Good luck!

    ReplyDelete
  13. Hi KV!

    I just joined your growing legion of followers. And as a fellow participant of Deana's blogfest, I've come to share my (ahem) limited wisdom on queries. Yeah, very limited, but here it goes:

    First, your premise is quite interesting and I am absolutely hooked by the idea of it. That in itself might garner you some requests, so good for you!! Wahoo!

    But overall, the query is too long and full of unnecessary details that bury the reader. Your commenter, Angie Cothran, has shown an uncanny ability to boil your query down to its very essence, so I would advise looking hard at her suggestions.

    You have all the info there, just too much of it. But it is very well written, so I'm sure once you get all the unnecessary stuff out of there, it will read wonderfully.

    For the book's intro at the end, just say the title, genre and word count and call it a day. Don't try to sell it. That never comes off looking good. Let your query sell the idea. And frankly, I think the idea is awesome. Good luck!

    ReplyDelete
  14. A fresh idea and a great query in my opinion:)

    If you are planning on submitting your query for the contest please email it to me by 12PM ET Tuesday.

    Good Luck!
    D

    ReplyDelete
  15. Really love your story idea . . . wrote a story dealing w/ a teen diagnosed with cancer, too (minus the paranormal elements but kuddos to you for this interesting twist). I'd echo what Angie and Christa wrote. Also, was confused as to how the g'ma played a part. Otherwise, you have a winner:) Good luck!

    ReplyDelete
  16. Wow. Just WOW. Thank you all so much! Your advice is invaluable. I love all the suggestions and sweet comments. I'm already feeling more optimistic :)

    ReplyDelete
  17. What a cool premise! I really like this query, so I don't have much to critique.

    I would suggest completely removing the paragraph about the log entries by Dr. Knight.

    Also, I would trim the final paragraph to: SMOLDER is a 100,000 word YA supernatural thriller. Thank you for your consideration.

    If you mention it will leave readers breathless, this may seem a bit arrogant to agents. Also, the agents assume the full is available, so you don't need to mention this.

    Awesome job!

    ReplyDelete

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