Ask Daphne! About My Query LXXXVIII

November 17th, 2011 • Kate

blueshoe_punamWe’re coming up towards the end of our two-week palooza of About My Query posts! Here’s today’s, and remember, please keep those comments coming!

Dear (Agent),

One day, thirteen-year-old Elena decides not to write stories during class like she normally does and instead writes that the class bully gets detention. He does a minute later. It’s got to be her new pen – everything she writes with it comes true.

But then the pen writes of its own accord about a mystical fantasy land being overrun by demons. After a demon kidnaps her family and hides them in the land, Elena will do whatever she can to save them. Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as writing a happy ending – whenever Elena uses the pen, someone turns into a demon, and she could be next.

ELENA’S PEN is a 66,000-word fantasy upper MG standalone novel with series potential. I believe readers of The Neverending Story and Graceling will enjoy my book.

I am the author of a fantasy romance trilogy, [Series] – [Title1] (2009), [Title2] (2010), and [Title3] (2011) published with [Small Press]. I have also published nine short stories for anthologies, including [Anthology Title] by [Other Small Press], and many collections by [Another Small Press], with four more being published before the end of the year.

Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.

Best regards,


In the spirit of complete honesty, this is a query for a novel I’ve seen before, although this is a revised version of the query. Right off the bat, though, I still have questions that could be addressed. Who is Elena? What can you tell the reader about her? Right now, it’s all about the pen, which, given the name of the book is somewhat understandable, but I still think you want to describe or at least introduce your main character a little better. All I know is that she’s 13, and she normally writes stories in class. It is story-writing class? Is she doing it to avoid math, or science, or something like that? How did she come by the pen?

The next paragraph adds a further layer to the story — it’s not just about whatever Elena writes with the pen coming true. The demons that are created — do they appear in the real world, or in the mystical fantasy land the pen writes about?

I’d also love to know a little more about her relationship with her family. There’s so much drama in that in kids’ books, it seems well worth mentioning.

Your criedts are very good, and nicely played. Everything else sounds good. Readers, what do you think?

Filed Under: About My Query, Ask Daphne!

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6 Responses to “Ask Daphne! About My Query LXXXVIII”

  1. @lizwrites Says:

    I'm curious how she got the pen. Also, you say Elena will do whatever she can to save her family – but what does that mean? Does she need to take control of the pen? Go on a journey after them?

    Also, I'm not sure about your comp books. Graceling is YA not MG, and the Neverending Story is not very recent. Maybe use some more recent MG fantasy titles?

  2. Nicola Says:

    I had the same questions as Kate, but it's a short query so there's plenty of room to answer them. Having said that, I found the premise intriguing enough that I would definitely start reading this book.

  3. Teri Willis Says:

    If you are already a published author, I assume that you already have an agent. With that said, why are you sending out queries? Wouldn't the agent you already have help you publish this one?

  4. Deserae Says:

    Teri- Sometimes things happen where an author and an agent part ways and sometimes authors are able to make deals with small publishing houses directly. There are a number of reasons someone who's previously been published might be seeking out a new agent.

  5. Deserae Says:

    Author- I've been trying to collect my thoughts about this query for the past day and a half, and still can't find words to articulate what I think about it. I feel like, this is a good query, as is, and even though I personally might reword some sentences or reconsider the order/ way the plot is revealed here, I sense that this query is a reflection of your writing style and I don't think I could offer any constructive criticism that would ADD to this piece rather than take away from it.

    I think the fact that I can't think objectively about this query is because I'm too busy thinking about the story it's pitching subjectively. While half of me is intrigued, another half is iffy on if I would want to read a book about a pen. This query (and the title) started off leading me to believe this would just be a book about a pen that could write things into existence, but the second paragraph (which I feel is strong and well worded) adds this layer of interest and mystery that makes me WANT to look past the fact that I'd be reading a book mainly about an inanimate object. But… I don't know… In that same paragraph, there is a lot going on that's thrown on me little bit by little bit. STRUCTURALLY, it's a well thought out paragraph that reveals almost everything I'd need to know about the plot. But CONCEPTUALLY, I can't help but wonder how this is going to be pulled off. My mind is at a tug of war within itself, and it's preventing me from giving any advice on what to do with your query.

    So I'd say listen to the things Daphne and the others have suggested and then go for it. If this manuscript is polished and ready to go (which I'm assuming it is), then… I'd say to just trust this query. It's not bad at all— in fact, it's quite good. I can see, though, that the thing that will either win over the agent or not is their inclination to the story itself. This is always the case, I know, but what I'm saying is, there is no doubt in my mind that your query is fine, but you've got yourself a quirky story in your hands.

    I hope with all my heart that someone falls head over heels for it. I'm very interested to see what becomes of Elena, her family, and this pen.

    Wishing you all the best,

  6. Anne C Says:

    Wow. I want to submit my query to Deserae!