Ask Daphne! About My Query V

May 18th, 2009 • Kate

zebra2Some wild shoes for H.P. (Harry? Is that YOU?), who inaugurates our 2009 series of “About My Query” reviews. To refresh your memory of 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. Ready?

Dear Ms. Agent,

I am seeking representation for my YA urban fantasy novel, CAMP WYLDE, where Faeries and monsters are real, and coming out the forest surrounding Wylde Lake summer camp.

17-year-old Drew Donovan had an absolutely perfect, not-at-all-dangerous plan for her last real summer vacation: library job, reality show marathons, rinse, repeat. Her plan did not include working at Wylde Lake (as Drew’s pretty sure the forest gives her hives), nor did it include getting caught in the boys’ bathroom on her very first day by the hot-camp-boy-perfection that is Liam Walsh. And in no way did her plan include being chased across camp by a giant black dog that can make people disappear.

…or kidnapped by a Kelpie intent on drowning her in the lake. And, really, by the time a goblin tries to off her in the communal bathroom just days after the moon disappears from the sky, she’s pretty much had enough.

Drew could deal with the fact that fairies and monsters are true. And that Liam was one of them? Well, it’s not like he blended into the crowd. But how in the world was she supposed to believe that dark and beautiful Liam could fall for her with Charlie’s Angels: Lifeguard Edition on duty? Of course, she isnt left to ponder that mystery for long. When Drew discovers that the camp’s waking creatures, monster attacks, and bizarre happenings are actually the omens that brought Liam’s family to Wylde Lake in the first place, Drew must follow the clues of an ancient prophecy to save Liam from succumbing to his darker self, even if, as the prophecy predicts, she’ll have to give her life for his.

I am an active member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. I received an English degree with a writing emphasis and Journalism minor from X. I was also mentored by XXX, a young adult fantasy author and professor at X. For the past nine years, I have worked as a Technical Writer and Editor for X.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Ok, so what do I think? Well, it’s a little over-stuffed. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with there being a lot of plot threads in a novel, of course, so long as they’re handled well and eventually come together somehow. But in a query, I think you need to focus on the most salient points for greatest emphasis. The author lists five events that each try to top each other in Drew’s list of “things she didn’t expect,” all of which are then topped by a sixth: that Liam is a fairie/monster himself. And speaking of “fairies” — the word is spelled differently the two times it appears in the query. Sure, there’s lots of different ways to spell the word, but you should be consistent without your work. Also, be consistent with capitalization of these terms — does Kelpie need a capital?

A few other minor points: there’s a word missing in the very first line, the all important “hook” of the story. I think the phrase “where Faeries and monsters are real, and coming out the forest surrounding Wylde Lake summer camp” needs an “of” after “coming out.” And the correct word in the phrase “Drew could deal with the fact that fairies and monsters are true” is “real”, not “true.” Or something more like “real” — as in, not make believe, as opposed to “true,” where the antonym is false, not fake. And you left out the apostrophe in “isn’t” in the penultimate paragraph.

So how does it read in general? Kinda generally. Another magical boy and normal girl story with a prophecy. There’s definite hints of some great humor in the voice. For instance, I love “Charlie’s Angels: Lifeguard Edition”, as well as the parenthetical “Drew’s pretty sure the forest gives her hives”, but I’d what to know more about what sets her to take the job in the first place then.

Ok, readers, what do you think?

Filed Under: About My Query, Ask Daphne!

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11 Responses to “Ask Daphne! About My Query V”

  1. Jamie Says:

    I agree that the query is kind of trying to top itself. But after getting past that, I actually REALLY want to read the novel.

    If this is your query please email me, I am dying to hear what happens.

    Sure it's a normal girl meets magical boy story, but when you're a teenage girl, what sexy hunk that instantly falls for you ISN'T magical? Hmmm?

    I say find the plot points that are the most important and quit trying to top yourself, but other than that I want to read this book, and it would be a shame to let the query get in the way of that. 🙂

  2. Scott Says:

    Too much! By the end of the query letter I'm overwhelmed, and have the distinct impression of a series of books, rather than just one book.

    Also, what makes this story different than the glut of similar stories currently in the market? Show 'that' difference in the query letter. Hook, for lack of a better word right now, me with that difference.

    Oh, and where's the word count? Isn't that an important aspect of any query?


  3. sally apokedak Says:

    I don't like fairy stories, but I thought this story sounded interesting. What I really liked was the sense of humor the author has. If I had the first five pages with the query I would definitely give them a read. (Were I an agent, which I'm not. But I play one on blogs.)

    Sorry, HP, that I'm not more help. I'm lame at queries myself. I was impressed that XXX had mentored you since she's one of my favorite authors. 🙂 So I think you should keep that part of the query.

    I'm such a bad editor that I didn't notice any of the mistakes that the real agent caught. I usually see those in my own queries, a second after I hit the "send" button.

  4. dust Says:

    Yep, I agree with the too much. I'd cut most of the details except Liam, dog, and some suggestion of how the two relate.

    The writing drifts into verbiage due to excessive cuteness. Cut and replace with a brief explanation of how the MC's plans went amuck.

    Any other publications?

  5. Ashley Says:

    Ooh, I wish I could've gotten in on this. Would've been interesting.

    Is it ever actually okay to write "Dear Ms. Agent?" Or is that just, you know, for the sake of the blog? I mean, I know it's not okay to write "Yo, peeps! I gotz a book for yous!"

  6. B.E. Sanderson Says:

    Right now it sounds like a cross between the Percy Jackson series and the Fablehaven series (which is a good thing for me, and both series seem to be selling well). I think you need to stress what makes this book stand out from those, though.

    And I agree that you've got too much going on in the query letter. I know how hard it is to trim away what you think are crucial plot points, but find the main hook and run with it. The purpose here is to get the agent to request pages so they can see your twists for themselves.

    Hope this helps. I'd love to see this book in print so I can buy it. =o)

  7. Kiersten White Says:

    "Harry? Is that YOU?"

    Tee hee hee…

    I'd be more helpful but Daphne already covered everything. I just couldn't hold back my giggle over that parenthetical ; )

  8. Kate Says:

    Ashley, to answer your question, no, you shouldn't write "Dear Ms. Agent" in your real query. Always do your best to personalize your letters! And double check the spelling of the agent's name.

    And in general, thanks to all of you for commenting! Please keep 'em coming!

  9. AudryT Says:

    I'd tighten the heck out of it, do an out-loud read-through to catch typos, cut out two paragraphs, and move Liam's secret up to the second paragraph.

  10. Rebecca (Fie Eoin) Says:

    Just the fact that it has a Kelpie and a Phooka in it has me interested, but I did get a little overloaded in the description. And the typos. I agree with AudryT that a good out-loud reading would have gone a long way.

  11. Jamie Says:

    Okay, so I got in contact with the author and read this story… and can I just say that I am in love with it?

    It was so much fun!