Ask Daphne! About My Query XXIV

Fairy-TULIPThanks to all for your comments and thoughts on my now weekly “About My Query” posts. I’ve decided to go with Friday, which gives my readers all weekend to add their helpful suggestions to the query. So, moving right along, fairy shoes for L.A.B., who writes:

Dear Ms Unfeasible,

Sometimes I wish I could use fairy dust to make the woes of finding an agent disappear…but I can’t. So here I am, searching for representation for my 58,000 word young adult novel FAIRY DUST. It is the first book of a trilogy.

Have you ever wanted something and with a wave of a wand or a sprinkle of magical powder it’s yours? In FAIRY DUST, life is just like that for sixteen year old Stevie White. As a fairy, all she needs to do is fling fairy dust and problem solved. Fairies, like Stevie, are all around us. They look like us, talk like us and even act like us, but if a fairy gets embarrassed or scared, their skin changes color, wings grow from their back and they shrink down to the size of a football.

Stevie has always been shy. Her fear of shrinking in public made her cast herself out of the social standers in her old city. Any exposure as magical creatures would lead to fleeing the state. That was a risk Stevie wasn’t willing to take. Who would have thought her picture perfect sister, Suzie, would be the one to cause the family to move to Willows Peak, Illinois. Now at a new school, Stevie decides to shed the shy girl shell and start over.

Cody Green, the gorgeous, yet secretive class president, brings out Stevie’s confidence with his heart melting eyes and sweet smile. He shows Stevie what it’s actually like to have a social life by introducing her to his friends and Saturday movie night. Only a few days in Willows Peak and Stevie has transformed from shy girl to someone that she never expected: normal. Strangely, Suzie aka “Little Miss Perfect” has taken the opposite route. Suzie went from popular to social outcast. Stevie knows she’s up to no good. Her suspicions lead her to discover Suzie‘s deadly secret that has lethal consequences for the whole family.

If things aren’t bad enough already, every night Stevie has the same nightmare about Cody. As time passes, pieces of it start showing up into reality. Now Stevie’s life is turned inside out when days tick by until her nightmare comes true and Suzie’s past back comes to haunt them.

Thank you for taking your time to read this query letter. If are interested I have sample pages ready for you.

Sincerely,
L.A.B

I think there’s an interesting story in here somewhere, but I’ll admit it’s hard to see it from here. From the top, I’m afraid your opening line “Sometimes I wish I could use fairy dust to make the woes of finding an agent disappear…but I can’t” comes off as a little twee, a little juvenile. Yes, you want your query letter to stand out from the crowd, but not in this way. Always remember that a query is a piece of professional correspondence, and act accordingly. You wouldn’t show up for a job interview in a fairy costume, would you? Then don’t do the literary equivalent.

Try opening with something about the agent in question, and then give them the details about your book. At this point, again, I would also steer clear of describing your book as the first in a trilogy. If it can’t stand on it’s own, it may never get published, and then it won’t be the first of anything.

Moving onto the next paragraph, I’m not a fan of rhetorical questions. Try to put Stevie up front and center as a character — something like, “For sixteen-year-old Stevie White, solving problems has always involved flinging fairy dust. It’s not just wishful thinking — Stevie has been a fairy her whole life.” And then you get into how the embarrassments of adolescence make being a fairy problematic — the shrinking, the wings, etc.

After that, I feel like the emphasis in the query should be in the “Freaky Friday”-esque switch in personalities between Stevie and her sister. What causes Stevie to shed her shy girl image? What’s behind Suzie’s sudden dive into outcast status? That seems to be the big question, since it seems that it was something Suzie did that set up the story in the first place.

Which makes me ask — whose story is this, really? Is it Stevie’s or is it Suzie’s? Maybe you could play with dual narrators, but in any case, I think you want to focus more on the sisters’ relationship than Stevie’s with a boy. You seem to know that the plot with Cody adds an extra layer to the story — you say, “If things aren’t bad enough already” — is it a necessary extra layer, or something that can be jettisoned, or played down?

There’s a ton of fairy stories making the rounds. It’s impossible for all of them to stand out, but I think you can make yours sit up and take notice a little better. Good luck!

Readers, did I miss anything, big picture or small? What do you think about this query?

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