Ask Daphne: About My Query 3

September 20th, 2016 • Renee Nyen

AboutMyQueryRenee’s turn for an About My Query post:

Dear Agent,

Over 300 years into the future, 16-years-old Haven Williams is supposed to have only one mission in life: get married to a nice boy and be the good German woman she has never been able to be. Betrothed to the son of the richest man in New Germany, she thinks she’s well on her way to making her nation proud. That is until she leaves him at the altar and tries to leave her city, an offense punishable by death. But she gets lucky, or so she thinks.

To repay her debts, Haven becomes Stag, a confidential division of the army given the task of controlling Rebel activities out in the wilds of New Germany. However, unbeknownst to Haven, part of becoming a Stag is taking D-IX, a serum that turns ordinary people into super humans. Her ex-fiancé administers enough D-IX to intentionally kill her, but she lives, becoming the strongest human ever created and the key to New Germany ridding themselves of the Rebels forever. Haven has to learn how to control the power she never wanted, keep 300 people alive in a suicide mission, and avoid the ex-fiancé that is trying to kill her. All while fighting off feelings for a boy she can’t have and discovering the ugly truth about the nation she calls home.

THE FOURTH REICH, a young adult dystopian novel with touches of romance and historical retelling, comes in at 66,000 words. I cannot thank you enough for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,
XXXX

Your query gets down to business and I love that! We both know why we’re here and there isn’t any preamble. Two thumbs up from me.

To begin, I think the framing “300 years into the future” isn’t grounding me in the time of your book. Try something to the effect of “350 years after the downfall of the Original Third Reich…”. That places a precise pin in the timeline, and it uses much more evocative language than “into the future.” That’s a good rule of thumb throughout all queries. Be as specific with your language as possible!

There is a lot of information in your opening sentence and it gets a little bit convoluted. I would recommend breaking it up a little bit. That said, I really like the set up of Haven being forced into a patriotic marriage. It gives her a great thing to run away from. Unfortunately, with the “punishable by death” looming over her, I don’t understand her motivation. Why is marrying a wealthy fiancé worse than death? The emotional stakes don’t connect for me. No need to belabor this with backstory, but I would like to have a sense of why she’s willing to abandon everything when she’s on the cusp of making her nation proud like she seemingly always wanted.

In your second paragraph, you mention her debts, but I have no idea what these debts are or who they impact. Or how she intends to repay them through her work at Stag. Stag is a cool name! At first, the wording in the first sentence made me wonder if she had changed her name to Stag, so clarification that it is actually a military outfit would be helpful. And if Stag is a confidential division of the army, how is she able to join up so easily? Does she know someone on the inside? Wouldn’t she have to qualify? If she’s a fugitive, how is she able to enlist? And how does her fiancé get access to enough D-IX to almost kill her? Is he a part of Stag? Seems foolish for her to run away from a man and then join his division of the military.

The feelings for “a boy she can’t have” is perfect for YA, but you haven’t mentioned him before. Unless he’s the murderous ex-fiancé. Which, wowee, that would be interesting. Maybe make brief mention of the cast of characters she meets. (Presumably a boy from Stag?)

Your word count on the manuscript is great, (though, you could add 10 or 20k more and still be just fine) but I would like to see some comp titles. Is this LEGEND meets XMen? WOLF BY WOLF meets ENDER’S GAME?

Most of these comments are regarding the framing of Haven and her decisions. For me, connecting with your character in the query is essential. You give some nice plot points, but I would like to know a little more about what is at stake for Haven and why she makes the choices she does. Your concept is an interesting one! And right up my alley. Your query letter is short, so it will be easy for you can rework to include some of these points without adding bulk to the letter. Thank you for letting me read. I hope this helps!

–Renee

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