Ask Daphne! About My Query 14

February 16th, 2017 • Hilary Harwell

Today’s About My Query brought to you by Hilary Harwell!

Dear [Agent]:

I found your interview on […] and think you’ll enjoy my 63,000 word YA novel, Invisible Me. I did a developmental edit with agent Elizabeth Kracht from Kimberley Cameron and Associates to be sure it’s up to snuff. It’s about a girl who feels invisible in high school. Then her feeling becomes reality.

Ana loses her genius best friend, Isaac, to masked men who want the invisibility pill that he invented—and she just swallowed. She escapes but now must rescue Isaac. Getting help from the police is tricky since they’re after her, thinking she’s responsible for his disappearance. Her only hope for clearing her name is to find clues and track down Isaac herself. This gets complicated when she discovers a hidden love note from him. Her own feelings are unclear and become murkier by Ben Cody, a young police rookie she’s had a crush on for years. Why is he always the one to come looking for her? Is what she deciphered true—that she’ll become visible to those who fall in love with her? And if so, will Ben arrest her? Or will he help her in her mission, even if it means reuniting her with a romantic rival?

Invisible Me is the first in a planned trilogy with subsequent titles Invisible Us (in progress) and Invisible Them. The style of this book is similar to the Of Poseiden trilogy by Anna Banks but with a love triangle a lá The Hunger Games.

I’ve traditionally published two non-fiction books: 101 Tips for a Happier Marriage in 2013, which has three foreign translations, and 101 Tips for Marrying the Right Person, published this past October. I’ve done public speaking and twenty radio interviews nationwide. I’ve also written numerous articles, and I blog at parenting is funny.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

Author

 

Dear Author,

First of all, thanks so much for volunteering your query for critique! I think you have a strong, nicely personalized opening here. It shows you’ve done your homework and are approaching the agent specifically, which always gets a closer look. My only suggestion here might be to perhaps include a quick line about why you felt your project might resonate based on the interview you read to take it one step further.

While it’s great that you’ve done a revision with a particular agent, I’d suggest leaving it out of your query. Agents are functioning under the assumption that you’ve edited and polished the project. Seeing this might also make me wonder why Elizabeth herself hasn’t scooped it up if you were working with her on a specific revision.

The opening line of the actual pitch has a bit too much going on, I’m afraid, and could use some paring down for the sake of clarity. Start with something clear and punchy to catch the agent’s attention. Moving on to the remainder of the pitch – I think overall your line-level writing here could use some tightening. For example, instead of ‘Getting help from the police is tricky…’, why not ‘She can’t go to the police’? It’s a stronger sentence and also creates a question in the reader’s mind, thus pulling them in.

The complications you introduce at the end of your pitch leave me feeling confused as to what the story is truly about. The pitch starts out with her friend getting kidnapped, leaving the reader assuming the story is about his rescue. Then it shifts gears to a possible love triangle and strong romantic element but doesn’t give us any idea about Isaac and his role throughout. My biggest suggestion overall is to nail down your plot here so it’s clear and easy to follow. What is the protagonist’s main goal, what is the main conflict, what are the stakes if she doesn’t succeed.

Just a couple final thoughts about your second to last paragraph that includes comps and trilogy information. It’s important for a debut author to be sure the first book in their planned series can stand alone. I’d suggest stating this outright in your query letter. Also, as far as comps go, I think one more strong comp that illustrates a world similar to yours or a plot similar to yours would really help paint a stronger picture in the agent’s mind of how the project can be pitched. The love triangle element as compared to the Hunger Games actually kind of reaffirmed my confusion about what the story is about, and comps should really help the agent gain clarity, not the opposite. 😉

Again, thank you so much for sharing your query with us. I hope you find my feedback useful!

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One Response to “Ask Daphne! About My Query 14”

  1. Query Tip – Clarity | Hilary Harwell | A Life Inspired Says:

    […] Once again I’m sharing some insights on constructing successful query letters. This week the focus is on clarity in your query, both in terms of your line-level writing and also in terms of conveying the meat of your story in a clear, concise way. Too often the important plot elements get bogged down in explanation, backstory, too much world-building, etc., so it’s important to really hone the focus of your pitch before querying. The most important things to convey in your query are the protagonist’s main goal, what’s keeping him/her from achieving it, and what’s at stake if he or she doesn’t succeed. If an agent can’t see this clearly, it will likely lead to a pass. To review the actual query letter and my critique, please visit the KT Literary blog! […]