Morgan’s Query Corner:
Answering Your Query Quandaries
NOTE: If you submit your query to me (email@example.com), and you are selected for inclusion, I will give you a high-level review, in-line feedback, and my own draft of your query. If this is your query, feel free to use or ignore as much of the advice and suggestions as you wish.
[Disclaimer: Any query selected for the page will be posted on this website for perpetuity. I am an amateur with no actual accepted queries and a good number of form rejections. This does not guarantee an agent or even an amazing query, just a new take by someone who’s read The Query Shark archives twice and enjoys playing with queries.]
“Shards” is a fantasy novel about a feathered dragon herbalist, desperately searching for a potion recipe to save her dying husband, and a wanted airship smuggler, hunting for treasure.
What an exciting adventure! The story sounds right up my alley. And… I could definitely picture an anime or adventure video game with this very plot.
As a note, 115,000 words is within the recommended 80,000-120,000 word count range for adult SF/F. But, for a debut author, you may find your book an easier sell if you could trim it under 110,000, or even 100,000. I write long and I personally find that being forced to tighten my writing is very beneficial for my story.
There are a few things I would change in your query:
- the length. 394 words are FAR past the suggested 200-250 words
- the tone. A query letter is a business letter and should be formatted that way, with the story portion shown, not explained
- infodumps. Your query has them, which might make agents fear that your novel will have them
Good afternoon Morgan! [too informal]
My name is James [don’t introduce yourself, just have the bio at the end and your signature] and I am submitting this to you because you suggested I give it a try on the Fantasy and SF Writers group on Facebook. This is the part of the query where I usually introduce myself and say a little about how I found the agent and why I submitted to them.
Shards is a dragon story, with a unique style of dragon. When people think of dragons lurking in old ruins there is a certain image that comes to mind. It is not the image of a small, feather-winged creature with a satchel full of books and a simmering cauldron of medicinal herbs. Sapphire Nightsong is this sort of dragon. [info-dump] On a quest to cure her mate’s wasting illness, Sapphire has journeyed to an island on the edge of the world. At the site of an ancient tragedy she sifts through the ruins in search of a potion recipe that might not even exist. Along the way she’ll come across legendary creatures she never dreamed truly existed and savvy treasure hunters eager to get their hands on the book she stole from them. [telling, not showing and switching tenses.]
Timothy Binks is an airship captain and wanted smuggler looking to turn his life around by unraveling the secrets of an old book that promises a treasure still hidden on the island. With the book comes a young gryphon, former companion to a disgraced royal mage. His first night at port, Timothy is ambushed by the mage and comes up victorious. With a dead mage’s gryphon at his side, Timothy has no choice but to assume the role of royal mage, lest he be implicated in the man’s death.
A rival mage, Donovan Skalde, and his ruthless gryphon stand in Timothy’s way. Skalde has aims at the island’s lost treasure and is willing to do whatever is necessary to ensure it ends up in his hands. Eventually Timothy must also contend with Aaron Kanes, a detective of Fletcher Street, come to find the missing mage and bring him, or whoever killed him, to justice.
Shards is split roughly evenly between Sapphire’s perspective and Timothy’s perspective. The two have come to the island for different reasons but ultimately become entangled with Donovan Skalde and the treasure hidden on the island, culminating in a concerted conclusion. Thanks for taking a look at Shards!
[Where are your stats and bio?]
The Revised Query:
Dear [Agent Name],
When Sapphire Nightsong, a feathered dragon and herbalist, finds her husband stricken ill by a wasting disease, she wastes no time. Following the legends of a potion recipe [East], Sapphire sets out for the ruins of a city on the island at the edge of the world. Faced with [creatures from lore/maybe be more specific?], and followed by ruthless treasure hunters, Sapphire must push on, if she’s to find the potion before her husband succumbs to his illness.
Timothy Binks, an airship captain and wanted smuggler, just wants a fresh start. But, after he kills a disgraced royal mage in self-defense, Timothy inherits the mage’s gryphon companion, leaving him no choice but to assume the role of a royal mage, lest he be implicated in the man’s death. The promise of treasure on a distant island, described in one of the dead mage’s books, provides both direction and added incentive to the fleeing Timothy. Now, Timothy races to find the treasure and keep one step ahead of a rival mage, the rival’s ruthless gryphon, and a detective, searching to bring the mage’s killer to justice.
Shards is an 115,000 word fantasy, split roughly evenly between Sapphire’s perspective and Timothy’s perspective. [SHARDS should appeal to fans of X and Y if you have any novels/video games published in the last 5 years you could compare it to?].
I write from my home in [location]. When not writing, I [dayjob] and [hobby].[My default bio for anyone without publishing credentials.]
Thank you for your time and consideration.
As always with editing suggestions, remember, all an editor’s suggestions are just that: suggestions. Where we suggest edits are often places that need some work, but you don’t have to fix it the way we suggest. Take the suggestions and make them your own.
A query in your own voice is going to sell your book better than a query in my voice.
Best of luck to Q8!
And for the rest of you out there?
Best of luck in the query trenches!