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Ask Daphne! About My Query XVI

gladiator-sandalsGrecian/gladiator sandals for Christine, who’s sent us today’s About My Query. You know how this goes, right? Then let’s have at it!

Dear Ms. Daphne Unfeasible,

THE UNICORN TAMER is Greek mythology meets Pokémon, a middle-grade fantasy that will appeal to fans of Carl Hiaasen’s HOOT and Brandon Mull’s FABLEHAVEN.

13-year-old Emma Brown knows that sphinxes like to eat people.

She knows that leprechauns live in a city made of gold, that a selkie is a girl in seal’s clothing, and that you can fall in love with a pixie even if he just looks at you. Emma knows all this because her mom read to her when she was a little girl.

What Emma didn’t know is that the stories her mom told her weren’t make-believe.

When her parents mysteriously disappear, Emma is catapulted back to her birthplace – an older, steampunk version of our dimension. In the wonderland called Drualtys, teenagers study to become Tamers – people who form unique bonds with legendary creatures to protect them from extinction. Through this bond, Tamers absorb the creatures’ majick, special powers ranging from the ability to control lightening, run on water, or see through skin.

Emma embraces her taming lessons to rescue her parents from the Hunters, a ruthless clan of humans determined to prove that man is the most powerful beast of all. Their mission: murder the creatures of Drualtys and steal their majickal abilities. The prize: a unicorn’s cloak of invisibility. Together with her newfound friends, including a half-pixie who’s too pretty for his own good and a whimsical boy who can talk to animals, Emma must stay one step ahead of the Hunters, save her parents, and the unicorns – before she is hunted herself.

THE UNICORN TAMER is complete at approximately 96,000 words and is the first in a trilogy. Upon your request, I’d be more than happy to send you the manuscript.

I graduated from [X] University with a Major in Communications and a Minor in Creative Writing. I worked on my university’s literary magazine as well as a Children’s Storyteller at Barnes and Noble. I also used to contribute to the Google Video Blog.

Thank you for taking the time to consider representing my work.


Honestly, once I get into this, it sounds intriguing, but I’m put off at the beginning by having SO MUCH thrown at me at once. Your first paragraph has not one but TWO types of x-meets-y comparisons, followed by three relatively short pitchy lines that feel very staccato.

Once we get past those, the query suddenly becomes overly full of information and new words — Hunters, Tamers, Drualtys, “majick” — yet through it all, I have no sense of Emma, of who she is.

I think you need to pitch the story once in the opening, and save the comparison for the closer. Tell me more about Emma, about how she copes when she realizes she’s from another world. Tell me how this book about the “one girl from another world who can save everyone she’s just met” is different from all the other books that might fall into that vague description.

Once you’ve done that, I would excise the bit about it being the first in a trilogy — as I’ve said before, your first book needs to stand along to catch an agent’s attention. Too many authors depend on the safety net of a trilogy to not tie up the loose ends in their first manuscript, and that’s just lazy. Tell the whole story, and if someone likes it, and wants more, than feel free to reveal the possibility of a sequel or a series.

And finally, I think you could find a way to restate your experience. I keep looking at the sentence “I worked on my university’s literary magazine as well as a Children’s Storyteller at Barnes and Noble” looking for another word that’s missing. What about “I wrote for (or edited) my university’s literary magazine and performed as a Children’s Storyteller at a local B&N”?

What do you guys think? Would you read more? How would you improve this query?

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