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Query Workshop: Day 3

Firstly,  Kristin Miller is giving away a copy of YOU WISHGo enter to win

Secondly, Thank you to everyone for providing such great feedback to our queriers. I think it is VERY helpful to get multiple perspectives, and I really appreciate those of you who have taken time to critique the queries on day 1 and day 2.

Okay, here is today's query:

Dear Mandy Hubbard:

I've been following your blog ever since I saw the title Prada and Prejudice. That's the sort of playful tone I've brought to my latest project.
[Excellent! I'm immediately oriented as to the style of the book, and the opening proves this person has queried me for a reason. Although most agents don't write books, they've probably SOLD books, and perhaps your novel has some theme or tone that can tie in with one of their client's books? Always good to check.]

Robert’s parents only want him to choose a career. Any career path at Dark Academy will do, whether Environmental Waste, Continuing World Hunger, War & Division, or the most prestigious: Power, Money & Glory.
[HA. Love it. I might delete "only" from the first line but aside from that? Awesome. Also clearly relates back to your "playful tone" comment.]

But Robert “Repairman” Gilbrinkle isn’t cut out for the world’s most elite super villain academy. No matter how he tries, Robert just can’t be as bad as he is supposed to be—and his evil twin, Rupert, won’t let him forget it for a minute.

[I'm not totally clear what "repairman" as a nickname really conveys, but aside from that, you're 'growing' your plot nicely, with each paragraph building on the last. And I love the name rupert for an evil twin. ]

When he uncovers Rupert’s explosive plot for revenge that threatens to destroy a by-standing town, Robert must choose at last between being loyal to his family, and being true to the hero within.


[Title Redacted] is a middle grade superhero tale of labels, misfits, and self-discovery, complete at 40,000 words. I'm submitting it exclusively for your consideration.

[Two things: 
A: Excellent. I'm glad its middle grade and not YA, as I think this could do well in the MG category.
B: I would not reccomend exclusive queries. I actually read/respond to queries, generally, in less than a week. But many agents can take 4-6 weeks. And the fact is, they dont even KNOW your query is an exclusive until they're already reading it. But queries are usually read in the order received-- so, it hasn't moved up in the pile at all. Query in rounds/batches. Otherwise you'll be waiting. A lot. And publishing is slow enough as it is. ]

Best Regards,

So... overall? A very strong query. It's nicely personalized for me, introduces a character with a strong internal conflict, and showcases a plot in which there's plenty at stake. The word count and age range is right on target.

It might be a teeny bit brief-- perhaps we could get a little more of a sense of the character beyond his desire to be a do-gooder, but at the end of the day, this will probably still garner requests.

It's slightly more boy-oriented than I typically gravitate toward, but I would probably still request it to see if the voice would win me over to the dark side. :-)

So how about you, readers? Would you guys request this?


( 21 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 26th, 2010 03:48 pm (UTC)
I liked the query, and I love whimsical stuff like Super Villian Academies, but I was wondering why he cared about the town so much? Not mentioning why made me wonder if perhaps the writer didn't really have a reason, which would be an indication of a poor story, despite the high quality of the query. Does he have a pesky sense of moral obligation, did he spend his boyhood summers there, or visit a secret treehouse on its outskirts, etc.?
May. 26th, 2010 03:50 pm (UTC)
I assumed the line about "being true to the hero within" implies he has a hero-like mentality, and thus saving a town (any town, really) is in his nature.
May. 26th, 2010 03:55 pm (UTC)
Good point. Maybe he transfers schools to the Hero Academy in the end. That would be totally rad :D
May. 26th, 2010 04:48 pm (UTC)
Query #3
Personally, I like this query very much. It's short, to the point and well-written (though I am far from a query expert). If I was an agent, I would definitely request it because it's MG (seems a little less saturated right now - am I right?) and offers the interesting twist of a school oriented to "the dark side". Sounds like good fun to me:-) Nice work.
May. 26th, 2010 05:32 pm (UTC)
So fun! The best thing about it is the BIG HOOK. I think a lot of writers overlook the fact that the idea is just as important as the writing itself.

When I first started querying many moons ago, my first novel had a BIG HOOK. The writing was TERRIBLE, but it's still to this day, the most requested project I've queried.

Great job on this query, BTW. :o)
May. 26th, 2010 06:56 pm (UTC)
Oops, forgot to sign in. That was me *blush*
May. 26th, 2010 06:29 pm (UTC)
Thank you!!
To Mandy and everyone who commented, THANK YOU! I'm glad it was fun to read, and I hope I do get some requests on this one. It's not my first project (4th), but it's been the most fun to write, by far.

Mandy, I will take the "only" out of the first line of the pitch. Thank you for the suggestion.

I'm not sure how to bring his non-villainy super power into the pitch other than hinting that his nickname "Repairman" implies he's a good guy to the core. His actual power is that when he winks, things around him are either repaired or organized. Should I include this somehow?

I have hope again. Thank you!
May. 26th, 2010 06:53 pm (UTC)
Re: Thank you!!
I associate "repairman" with a mechanic. Or a maytag repair guy. Not someone who is "good to the core."

I dont know if you neccessarily need to include his super power as it may muddle-up your already laser-focused pitch, but maybe after "his brother rupert wont let him forget it for a minute", you could add something like, "It's not Robert's fault he'd rather rescue kittens from trees then toss them up there." or just, one tiny, humorous line that illustrates a way he is different.... I dont want you to do too much because like I said, I think the query as it stands is so strong, and if it aint broke, don't fix it. ;-)
May. 26th, 2010 07:02 pm (UTC)
Re: Thank you!!
As another example, IF you do want to include it, perhaps something like "But Robert Gilbrinkle isn’t cut out for the world’s most elite super villain academy, I mean, who ever heard of a bad guy whose power is 'fixing things.'

Or something like that.
May. 26th, 2010 08:45 pm (UTC)
Re: Thank you!!
Sachaw, that is a brilliant idea. It isn't overly wordy, and keeps my playful tone. I wish I could put you guys in my pocket and take you out for advice while I'm writing. :-) But it's REALLY cramped in there. You would hate it.

Thank you!
May. 26th, 2010 08:43 pm (UTC)
Re: Thank you!!
I will brainstorm ideas for that one-line description of what makes him different.

This has seriously made my day! Thank you so much.
May. 26th, 2010 08:52 pm (UTC)
I love this query. I`m not an agent or an expert, but I`d definitely request for it.

I may sound weird, but I think that the story sounds really cute O.o Like when I read about his evil twin, Rupert, I was going "awwww. He has an evil twin."

Don`t mind me. I think I`m twisted or something. lol
May. 26th, 2010 09:11 pm (UTC)
This is perfect and I am totally jealous! I personally find that writing query letters are about as much fun as a trip to the dentist. However, I must admit that I make both experiences much harder than they have to be. It's hard as a writer to find the balance between trying to show your writing abilities, versus trying to show your story. More and more, I am finding that query letters are just brief, almost elementary little snippets of information that just show what the story is about and that's it. This one does exactly that and it sounds like an awesome book ( I hope it's still cool to say Awesome). I especially loved the "Dark Academy". I would definitely request it. Now I'm off to rewrite my own query letter and then, I might just floss in the middle of the afternoon.
May. 26th, 2010 10:03 pm (UTC)
Ya know, MG's not really my thing, especially boy MG books, but I was grinning from the first paragraph with this one. I love how short and punchy the query is. I'd definitely pick it off the shelf and read a few pages, to see if I connected with the writing, and if the humor carried over into the writing.

The only thing I'm not crazy about is that I feel like I already know how this is going to end: Good guy will end up being a good guy, because he sucks at being bad, anyway, and his family will either come around or they won't. I get this feeling like his family (and probably everyone else) already knows he's not a very bad Bad Guy, and the only person left to accept it is the MC. I'm left wondering whether there will be enough inner turmoil (family vs. good) to pull off a well-conceived plot.

But hey, maybe that's the YA girl in me, always wanting something gritty. :) Plus, I could be completely off-based, and there is probably loads of conflict in the story.

All in all, very solid query, and definitely the right length to get an agent's attention.

Okay. I think I'm through talking now. Best of luck!
May. 27th, 2010 12:15 am (UTC)
One word: Wow.

This is such a great query to read! Everything about it is smooth and the fun voice shines through.

Aside from seconding the suggestion to drop the nickname, the only thing that tripped me was the brother's "revenge" -- that word came out of the blue to me, as I hadn't seen anything about what the revenge is for, etc. Maybe just say something like "When he uncovers Rupert’s explosive plot to take out an entire town of innocents..."

Just my 2 cents. Again, fabulous job.
May. 27th, 2010 03:38 am (UTC)
Would definitely request. While I would have liked one more line regarding the plot, this query shows me the author knows how to write a tight pitch and that bodes well for the rest of the manuscript. Plus, it's funny and clever. If the rest of the story lives up to the query - and has an original ending - it will be a sure winner. :)

Thanks for the shout-out, Mandy!
May. 27th, 2010 03:45 pm (UTC)
I love this query! It's a quick read, but still has enough information to make me curious. It's fun and seems promising.
May. 27th, 2010 04:15 pm (UTC)
I don't know if this is allowed, but...
If it's okay with Mandy, and if any of you really are interested in reading this, it's almost ready for beta readers.

Please let me know via email. katrina (dot) lantz (at) gmail (dot) com

Mandy, if you don't like this idea, feel free to delete this comment. I'm still just beaming from your feedback. Thank you!
May. 28th, 2010 07:01 pm (UTC)
Definitely. I love this query because it's brief. But then again, I'm not an agent so what I think doesn't matter. I've read long queries that an agent loved, but I grew bored of it before the end of the first paragraph. Oh, wow! It really is subjective. ;)
May. 29th, 2010 05:06 pm (UTC)
I'm also very glad this is MG because #1 I feel like there are so many great things happening in MG lately, whereas it seemed more like YA's neglected cousin when I was actually the target age range and #2 this query reminds me ever so slightly of The Rise of Renegade X which was recently published as a YA.

It sounds awesome, and I think aside from appealing to boys with something other than sports, you'd also get some of the girls like me who grew up reading comics and video game magazines with their brother.
May. 29th, 2010 05:11 pm (UTC)
I'm also very glad this is MG because #1 I feel like there are so many great things happening in MG lately, whereas it seemed more like YA's neglected cousin when I was actually the target age range and #2 this query reminds me ever so slightly of The Rise of Renegade X which was recently published as a YA.

It sounds awesome, and I think aside from appealing to boys with something other than sports, you'd also get some of the girls like me who grew up reading comics and video game magazines with their brother.

I forgot to sign in the first time I wrote this so if you could disregard/delete that earlier comment I would be grateful
( 21 comments — Leave a comment )
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