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Ask Daphne! About My Query VI

softballSoftball shoes for Steven, who’s our next “About My Query” participant. To recap how this works, I’ll post below an author’s complete query, minus a few identifying details. Following the query, I’ll add my comments on the letter itself, along with a summation. Then, we turn things over to you, the readers! Please chime in with your own reactions to the query, and your own helpful suggestions for improvement. Let it begin!

Dear Daphne,

Reece is a novice at hitting, catching, and throwing a ball, but her inexperience won’t stop her trying out for the softball team any more than her rapid discovery that she has no ability, either.

Adrift on the field, Reece is equally at sea when it comes to her school project. What does she know about Gettysburg besides the smelly bus trip she once took with her family? What can Reece contribute to the team besides a silly nickname, her fear at bat, and her clumsiness in right field?

She has few real friends and come-and-go parental support. Her quick wits and tart tongue serve only to keep classmates, teammates, and assorted adults at bay. But during a season of please-don’t-hit-it-to-me misadventures, Reece discovers that she does have strengths – at least when she isn’t face to face with a softball.

When the Pickles squeak by into the league playoffs, the team falls apart under the pressure, just as Reece’s three-month project literally falls apart in front of her class. Suddenly, Reece’s glimmer of confidence is on the line, along with the tantalizing possibility of softball success and a project that may teach her more than she ever expected. Reece can’t make a difference with her bat or her glove. How can she hope to pull both the team and the project together?

Join the Mighty Pickles on their improbable march toward the championship game – and Reece on her own journey toward poise and confidence.

The completed manuscript is about 43,000 words, the first 1500 of which are available at http://TheMightyPickles.com. Thank you in advance for considering this proposal.

Steven L. (writing as Steven B.)

Thanks for sharing, Steven! I think this is a strongly written query, with a few minor caveats. There’s a bit of awkwardness in the phrasing of “her inexperience won’t stop her trying out for the softball team any more than her rapid discovery that she has no ability, either” and “When the Pickles squeak by into the league playoffs.”

However, though your book’s title was in the subject line of your email, it’s not mentioned in the query itself, except in the link. Also, though we’re not talking here about sample pages, please note that 99% of agents will not bother to go click on a link to read more — we have to make our decision based on what’s in front of us. It’s fine to include in your query that you have a website, but I would focus more on a personal author page than one for a book. To some, that’s seen a bit as putting the cart before the horse.

As to the story, what I want to know is WHY Reece wants to be on the team in the first place. That’s the most important thing you’re missing here. It’s not like she’s a natural talent, right? She’s never played before. But you don’t give any insight as to why she wants to join — is there someone on the team that she admires, that she wants to be better friends with? Does she have to join some sports team to fulfill a requirement, either academic or parental? What’s the impetus?

And what does her bat or her glove have to do with her project on Gettysburg? You write “Reece can’t make a difference with her bat or her glove. How can she hope to pull both the team and the project together?” I don’t have any indication that the bat or the glove have a thing to do with the project. If they do, mention it. Otherwise, the wording is awkward.

I’m also assuming this is a middle grade novel, based on the word count, but you could save an agent some guess work and include Reece’s age or the target audience for the book.

Ok, readers, what do you think?

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