#33 Query Corner – THE WITCH IN THE ENVELOPE

Welcome to:

Morgan’s Query Corner:

Fresh eyes for your query quandaries.

THE WITCH IN THE ENVELOPE, is a dark twist on the legend of St. Nick, Nick and his Watchers aren’t here to leave toys — they’re here to keep Mara, the vengeful witch, from kidnapping children to fuel her magic.

NOTE: If you submit your query to me (morgan.s.hazelwood@gmail.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.]

Overall Impression:

In keeping with my love of retold fairy-tales, this one hits the mark for me. The story sounds like a lovely festive romp – with dark vibes. The origin story comes through strongly, but there are some things we can do to make Q33’s query stronger.

  1. Queries should fit onto one page. Your query is about two pages long so we need to trim it down.
  2. The query needs to introduce the Main Character and their Goals and Stakes. It’s tempting to give all the context in the query letter, but this isn’t the place for backstory.
  3. ALWAYS, always, always sell one book at a time. This book NEEDS to have been written to stand alone, but it’s fine to say that it has “series potential.”
  4. Be specific. Stories have patterns and themes — that’s how the marketers can make a business case. But? When querying agents? Specificity is how you stand out.
  5. The query should not talk about the process or why you wrote the book. (NOTE: Unless your chronic illness is part of an #ownVoices thing, I would leave it out until I’ve enticed an agent, and then bring it up.)

Queryist’s Original:



Dear Agent,

The Witch in the Envelope is a not so Always Merry and Bright twist on the legend of St. Nick, his elves, and the North Pole. With hints of dark, paranormal fantasy and notes of swoon-worthy romance, Watchers aren’t here to leave toys, but to save children from the vengeful witch, Mara, and restore their home, Cristes Adventus.

Liddy Erickson has had a very special bond, that might seem strange on a human level, with Will Jamison from the moment they met. Soon after he moved in down the street, Liddy was plagued by vicious nightmares. She stopped believing they were just dreams when one morning she fought to wake. Dripping in sweat, a scratch on her chest from the witch’s claws barely missing in their attempt to rip her heart out, was raw and very much real. The only person she ever told was her best friend Will who disappeared along with his family shortly after. Her nightmares immediately vanished, but so too did her memories of Will.

Eight years later, it’s now 1998 and seventeen-year-old Liddy is self-conscious about the radical changes her body went through over the summer. Previously, she enjoyed blending in. Now, she garners the attention of just about everyone. Luckily, no one has mentioned the transformation of her eye color from blue to bright violet. Thankfully her great group of girl friends help her to feel more like she belongs instead of the outsider she feels she is. Dedicated to her education and future career, nothing will stop her from moving out of the Chicago suburbs; something she has always felt called to do. However, the new transfer student is stirring up past heartbreak and strong desires, a palpable and familiar connection tempting Liddy to rethink her plans.

As her memories begin to resurface, Nick, a mysterious stranger with a distinct melodic chime to his walk, approaches Liddy with an outrageous notion that she is a Watcher and, hopefully, the Princess of the realm Cristes Adventus. His claims of secretly protecting Liddy from a witch—who seeks to kidnap children to strengthen her magic and torture Watchers— are suspect when evidence implicates him as the enemy. Can Nick be trusted or is he actually the one behind the disappearances and threats to her life? When Liddy finds a loved one in mortal danger at the hands of her nemesis, she must decide if she will disobey a direct order and trust her gut if she is to save them from a fate far worse than death.

Currently I am a disabled stay at home mom. Previously, I was a high school teacher and diagnostic cardiac sonographer. I have an invisible, chronic illness that came on suddenly in 2017. Reading (and any other visual motion stimulation) causes me great pain amongst other debilitating vestibular dysfunction symptoms. However, with the encouragement of my husband, family, and friends, I have not let that get in the way of pursuing my dreams of becoming a traditionally published author. I work hard and I am looking forward to partnering with you.

The Witch in the Envelope is a YA, historical (1990s), low fantasy novel complete at 112,180 words. This is the first in an intended series and will appeal to fans of: a literary version of the high school melodrama Dawson’s Creek, the paranormal adventures of Keeper and Seeker by Kim Chance, and a splash of nostalgic childhood dark fantasy, The Witches by Roald Dahl.

I am so thankful for this opportunity,

Q33

000.000.0000
IG, FB, Twitter: @[q33Handle]

My Revision:


         Dear Agent,

The Witch in the Envelope is a not so Always Merry and Bright twist on the legend of St. Nick, his elves, and the North Pole. With hints of dark, paranormal fantasy and notes of swoon-worthy romance, Watchers aren’t here to leave toys, but to save children from the vengeful witch, Mara, and restore their home, Cristes Adventus. [This should be combined with the stats paragraph.]

Liddy Erickson has had a very special bond, that might seem strange on a human level, with Will Jamison from the moment they met. Soon after he moved in down the street, Liddy was plagued by vicious nightmares. She stopped believing they were just dreams when one morning she fought to wake. Dripping in sweat, a scratch on her chest from the witch’s claws barely missing in their attempt to rip her heart out, was raw and very much real. The only person she ever told was her best friend Will who disappeared along with his family shortly after. Her nightmares immediately vanished, but so too did her memories of Will. [Backstory? Or phase 1 of the novel?]

Eight years later, it’s now 1998 and seventeen-year-old Liddy is self-conscious about the radical changes her body went through over the summer. Previously, she enjoyed blending in. Now, she garners the attention of just about everyone. Luckily, no one has mentioned the transformation of her eye color from blue to bright violet. Thankfully her great group of girl friends help her to feel more like she belongs instead of the outsider she feels she is. Dedicated to her education and future career, nothing will stop her from moving out of the Chicago suburbs; something she has always felt called to do. However, the new transfer student is stirring up past heartbreak and strong desires, a palpable and familiar connection tempting Liddy to rethink her plans. [Is this the real start?]

As her memories begin to resurface, Nick, a mysterious stranger with a distinct melodic chime to his walk, approaches Liddy with an outrageous notion that she is a Watcher and, hopefully, the Princess of the realm Cristes Adventus. His claims of secretly protecting Liddy from a witch—who seeks to kidnap children to strengthen her magic and torture Watchers— are suspect when evidence implicates him as the enemy. Can Nick be trusted or is he actually the one behind the disappearances and threats to her life? When Liddy finds a loved one in mortal danger at the hands of her nemesis, she must decide if she will disobey a direct order and trust her gut if she is to save them from a fate far worse than death. [Solid tale, but so much detail, it reads closer to a synopsis.]

Currently I am a disabled stay at home mom. Previously, I was a high school teacher and diagnostic cardiac sonographer. I have an invisible, chronic illness that came on suddenly in 2017. Reading (and any other visual motion stimulation) causes me great pain amongst other debilitating vestibular dysfunction symptoms. However, with the encouragement of my husband, family, and friends, I have not let that get in the way of pursuing my dreams of becoming a traditionally published author. I work hard and I am looking forward to partnering with you. [Chronic illness is rough and you’ve clearly worked hard to get where you are. However, unless this is #ownvoices, you may want to wait for agent interest before disclosing this.]

The Witch in the Envelope is a YA, historical (1990s), low fantasy novel complete at 112,180 words. [Round to nearest 1,000] This is the first in an intended series and will appeal to fans of: a literary version of the high school melodrama Dawson’s Creek, the paranormal adventures of Keeper and Seeker by Kim Chance, and a splash of nostalgic childhood dark fantasy, The Witches by Roald Dahl. [Good job having a recent comp mixed in here.]

I am so thankful for this opportunity, [This sounds like you don’t think you’re deserving, and you are!]

Q33

XXX.XXX.XXXX
IG, FB, Twitter: @[Q33_handle]


There was a lot to unpack. The query showed there was a great story — but had a lot of synopsis and background that could be trimmed to let the story shine. I trimmed it down a lot, just to show Q33 what it might look like. To give Q33 a framework to flesh out.


My Re-write:


Dear [Agent],

17-year-old Liddy Erickson plans to keep her head down and escape the Chicago suburbs gets sidetracked with the arrival of a cute, new transfer student — who reminds her of a childhood friend. That’s when Nick, a stranger with a distinct melodic chime to his walk, approaches Liddy with an outrageous notion that she is a Watcher and, hopefully, the Princess of the realm Cristes Adventus.

Nick claims he’s secretly protecting Liddy from a witch—who kidnaps children to strengthen her magic and torture Watchers— but evidence implicates him as the enemy. As Christmas draws near [a hint at the santa theme], Liddy finds [her brother/new crush/whatever] in mortal danger at the hands of [the witch]. Faced with a fate far worse than death, Liddy must decide if she can trust [Nick]’s orders to save [whoever] or disobey [Nick’s] a direct order and trust her gut.

Currently I am a disabled stay at home mom. Previously, I was a high school teacher and diagnostic cardiac sonographer.

In this dark and witchy twist on the myth of Santa Claus, The Witch in the Envelope is a YA low fantasy novel complete at 112,000 words. With series potential, this should appeal to fans of the high school melodrama Dawson’s Creek, the paranormal adventures of Keeper and Seeker by Kim Chance, with a splash of nostalgic childhood dark fantasy, The Witches by Roald Dahl.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,
Q33


And then, after a few rounds of revisions, Q33’s final (for now) query draft.


Dear [Agent],

A not so Merry and Bright twist on the legend of St. Nick, Nick and his Watchers aren’t here to leave toys — they’re here to keep Mara, the vengeful witch, from kidnapping children to fuel her magic.

Seventeen-year-old Liddy is self-conscious about how much she changed over the summer, but at least no one mentioned the transformation of her eyes to glowing violet. Dedicated to her education, nothing will stop Liddy from moving out of Chicago’s suburbs, except maybe the cute new transfer student, who rouses a familiar sense of connection in Liddy.

That’s when Nick, a stranger with a distinct melodic chime to his walk, approaches Liddy with an outrageous notion that she is a Watcher that can help save Cristes. As Christmas draws near, Liddy finds her friend near death at the hands of Mara. Liddy must decide if she can trust Nick’s order or risk it all by trusting her gut to save her friend.

The Witch in the Envelope is a YA, fantasy romance novel complete at 112,000 words. With series potential, this should appeal to fans of the high school melodrama Dawson’s Creek, the paranormal adventures of Keeper by Kim Chance, and the childhood dark fantasy, The Witches by Roald Dahl.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,
Q33


We’re almost there, and hopefully, Q33 will find the right agent to take them all the way to publication.


And for the rest of you out there?
Best of luck in the query trenches!

3 thoughts on “#33 Query Corner – THE WITCH IN THE ENVELOPE

  1. Nice work, Morgan – and the querier! I’m taking the liberty of giving you some corrections.
    1. “not-so-merry-and-bright” (For a compound adjective like this, you need hyphens. You don’t need to capitalize.)
    2. “Dedicated to her education, nothing will stop Liddy…” (This is a dangling modifier. The modifying phrase “Dedicated to her education” is meant to modify LIDDY – not NOTHING. Therefore it must be moved closer to LIDDY. Needs rewording.)
    3. “that she is a Watcher that can…” (Not “that” – WHO, for a person. THAT is for a thing. …a Watcher who can…)
    4. “can help save Cristes.” (But who is Cristes? You haven’t said.)
    5. “at the hands of Mara” (Who’s Mara? You haven’t said.)
    6. “trust Nick’s order” (What was his order? You haven’t said.) This whole paragraph is confusing to me.
    7. “a YA, fantasy romance novel” (no comma needed after YA)
    8. “high-school melodrama” (needs a hyphen for high-school which is used here as a compound adjective.)
    9. Whenever you give a book title, you need to either put it in quotation marks or, even better, italics.

    I strongly suggest that if queriers are prone to errors such as the foregoing, they should have their letters proofread by a professional proofreader.

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