#34 Query Corner – Emilia Afloat

Welcome to:

Morgan’s Query Corner:

Fresh eyes for your query quandaries.

When a sorcerer steals her father away, Emilia cobbles together a crew from her siblings to escape her home island and rescue her papá.

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:

Your story definitely draws me in, and I love the world building is immediately evident. With Ownvoices being actively sought, hopefully your hard-earned perspective can help someone else know that they’re not alone.

  1. Try to start closer to the inciting incident, the query needs to show stakes — not background.
  2. The “I’m sure you have many submissions…” is a bit apologetic. Don’t be sorry for querying — it’s an expected part of the process. I suggest the more standard, but equally gracious. “Thank you for your time and consideration.”

Queryist’s Original:


Dear Mx. __

Fifteen-year-old Emilia Marcela Noble is known as the abuelita of the island. She dedicates her days to chores she hates: delivering magical plants, fixing shirts, and cooking meals for her siblings. At least she has sailing lessons with her papá and a plan to someday leave aboard the ship he wrecked against the Aolan shore seventeen years ago.

Then soldiers arrive from far-off lands, capture her papa, and set sail for the other end of the world. Emilia cobbles together a rescue crew from siblings who don’t know a binnacle from a barnacle and Milo, the biggest nuisance on the island. As she captains The Urchin across great oceans, stories exchanged on starry nights and kidnapped children from island ports paint a picture of the power-hungry sorcerer who took their papá and is after even more. Between navigating storms, negotiating with pirates, and knitting terrible sweaters, Emilia will have to decide just what she’s willing to give up to bring her papá home.

Emilia Afloat is a YA fantasy standalone with series potential. This 80,000 word story merges the fierce family ties of Natalie C. Parker’s Seafire with the magical twists of Tricia Levenseller’s The Daughter of the Pirate King Duology.

I attended [SCHOOL], where I completed a semester of research sailing on a tall ship. My own asexual identity and five years of teaching middle school students inspire me to tell stories with queer heroes.

I am sure you have many submissions to review, and I deeply appreciate you taking the time to consider Emilia Afloat.  

Best regards,

Q34


The query was clearly very close – it has all the component parts and the story was clear. My main mission was to streamline it a touch — lightening the backstory without losing the context.

My Revision:

Dear Mx…..

When foreign soldiers steal away her papa, fifteen-year-old Emilia Marcela Noble’s quiet life as the island abuelita ends. She hated delivering magical plants, fixing shirts, and cooking meals for her siblings, but had always planned to leave someday on her own terms — aboard the ship her papa wrecked against the Aolan shore seventeen years ago.

With a crew cobbled together from siblings who don’t know a binnacle from a barnacle and Milo, the biggest nuisance on the island, Emilia knows it’s up to them to rescue papa. As she captains The Urchin across great oceans, stories grow about the power-hungry sorcerer who took their papá and is after even more. Between navigating storms, negotiating with pirates, and knitting terrible sweaters, Emilia will have to decide just what she’s willing to give up to bring her papá home.

Emilia Afloat is a YA fantasy standalone with series potential. This 80,000-word story merges the fierce family ties of Natalie C. Parker’s Seafire with the magical twists of Tricia Levenseller’s The Daughter of the Pirate King Duology.

I attended [SCHOOL], where I completed a semester of research sailing on a tall ship. My own asexual identity and five years of teaching middle school students inspire me to tell stories with queer heroes.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Best regards,

Q34


While this tweaked query didn’t get Q34 the mentor they were querying, it did get them a request for more pages — which is exactly what a good query should do. The pages themselves have to get you the rest of the way there.

Best of luck to Q34! That mentor might have said “no”, because the story was already there.


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

#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!

#32 Query Corner – BENTLEY ONE

Welcome to:

Morgan’s Query Corner:

Fresh eyes for your query quandaries.

In BENTLEY ONE, a set of elementally-aligned college students set out to find what’s scaring off its ghosts.

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:

The story sounds like it might be interesting, but I can’t know from your query.

  1. The query needs to introduce the Main Character and their Goals and Stakes.
  2. The query should not talk about the process or why you wrote the book.
  3. Beta-readers and following the guidelines should be a given, thus don’t need to be discussed.

Queryist’s Original:


Dear Agent:

I am seeking representation for my supernatural YA novel, BENTLEY ONE. I think this novel may hit in a sweet spot for you since its supernatural elements tend to present more as fantastical. The finished novel is 63,000 words.

BENTLEY ONE explores the haunted campus of Bentley University located in Northern Pennsylvania. BU has several ghosts, one more prominent than others.  Someone or something is drafting the ghosts into servitude. The novel develops the friendship of the students who set out to right what is wrong about the campus.

While college was many years ago for me, the setting for BENTLEY ONE is inspired by a similar, real-life university, where I majored in mathematics and minored in writing, with an emphasis on creative writing. This is my first novel.

I have put BENTLEY ONE through multiple rounds of beta reading (including readers in the target demographic) to clean up plot points and address confusion. Most recently, I have had it professionally edited to prepare it for agent submissions.

According to your guidelines for submission, I am including the first 10 pages of BENTLEY ONE for your consideration in representing me.

All the best,

Q32

My Revision:

Dear Agent:

I am seeking representation for my supernatural YA novel, BENTLEY ONE. I think this novel may hit in a sweet spot for you since its supernatural elements tend to present more as fantastical. The finished novel is 63,000 words. [Pretty good intro. Although, trying to redefine something like ghosts as ‘fantastic’ instead of ‘supernatural’ may be stretching. Perhaps you should look at agents who are actively looking for or are open to Supernatural fantasy?]

BENTLEY ONE explores the haunted campus of Bentley University located in Northern Pennsylvania. BU has several ghosts, one more prominent than others.  Someone or something is drafting the ghosts into servitude. The novel develops the friendship of the students who set out to right what is wrong about the campus. [This is telling, not showing. I think we can pump it up.]

While college was many years ago for me, the setting for BENTLEY ONE is inspired by a similar, real-life university, where I majored in mathematics and minored in writing, with an emphasis on creative writing. This is my first novel. [You don’t want to emphasize inexperience, and unless it’s an #ownvoices novel or the plot involves a specialty of yours, this isn’t needed.]

I have put BENTLEY ONE through multiple rounds of beta reading (including readers in the target demographic) to clean up plot points and address confusion. Most recently, I have had it professionally edited to prepare it for agent submissions. [This is expected — except ‘professionally edited’. This suggests that you need a lot of work to polish drafts, and often agents (or the acquiring editors they’re selling to) will have you do revisions upon acceptance.]

According to your guidelines for submission, I am including the first 10 pages of BENTLEY ONE for your consideration in representing me. [Unnecessary.]

All the best,

Q32

The queriest took my advice, but admitted the trouble with illustrating the main character was that this was a multiple point-of-view tale! With a few more passes, we ended up with a query the queriest was happy to use.

The Final Query:

Dear [Agent],

I am seeking representation for my 61,000 word supernatural YA novel, BENTLEY ONE. I think this novel may hit in a sweet spot for you since its supernatural elements tend to present more as fantastical.

Miguel leaves campus at the end of his freshman year with all its friendly ghosts in place, haunting in their normal haunts. When he returns after the summer break, he knows something is definitely wrong – all the ghosts have disappeared!

Linda, CJ, and Frankie are elementally aligned students, looking for an earth-aligned person to complete their own investigation into the missing ghosts. Also investigating the disappearing ghosts, Miguel is easily convinced to join forces with them. When they discover an ancient, powerful spirit, calling herself ‘The Queen of Disks’ is not only taking out ghosts but controlling an army of grey-hoodied students, the foursome realize it’s not just the spirit world in danger. If they can’t stop the spirit, she just might end up controlling more than just a school.

Despite my own college’s severe lack of actual ghosts, I graduated from [SCHOOL], with a major in mathematics and a minor in writing.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,
Q32

With a little more focus on the meat of the story, and a little less on how the novel came together, it looks like Q32 is well on their way to finding an agent!


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

#31 Query Corner – LIFE FROM THE OPPOSITE SIDE

Welcome to:

Morgan’s Query Corner:

Fresh eyes for your query quandaries.

LIFE FROM THE OPPOSITE SIDE: FROM SOCCER MOM TO ADDICT AND HOME AGAIN is a memoir about a life torn apart, lost, then picking up the pieces.

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:

Life From The Opposite Side sounds like a very personal, but fascinating journey. The initial query read a lot like a blurb though — lots of trope phrases, few details. My suggestions:

  • For queries, plot matters! Avoid high level descriptions-instead, be specific when detailing decision points.
  • Make sure to vary your sentence structure
  • Personally, if I don’t have a personal connection to the agent, I don’t try and stretch for one, or state the obvious (i.e. My genre is on your wish list) and just skip that portion. But some agents really do like it, so that part is up to your discretion.

Queryist’s Original:

Dear AGENT,

When Glenna’s 15-year marriage crumbles in a single night (why?), she is forced to rebuild her life from scratch with her two young sons. When she meets Micah on a dating website, (don’t start 2 sentences in a row the same way) she becomes trapped in a world of drug addiction, mental illness, gaslighting, and domestic abuse. Will Glenna find the strength to get away before she loses everything she holds dear? (Very TV guide, little feel for the voice of the story)

Life From The Opposite Side: From Soccer Mom To Addict And Home Again is a memoir complete at 65k words. I’ve previously been published by
[PLACE A] as well as [PLACE B] and [PLACE C].

[Paragraph about why I picked this particular agent and how I know him/her.]

Thank you for your consideration. 

Sincerely,
Q31


My Revision:

Dear AGENT,

When Glenna catches her husband 
(cheating on her/discovers he’s gambled away their life savings/abusing her for the last time? Or is he the one who abandons her?), she finds herself at the end of a 15-year marriage, and is forced to rebuild her life from scratch with her two young sons. Wanting to feel wanted, she joins a dating website, where she meets Micah.

Glenna is swept away by Micah’s charm and in her eagerness to prove herself worthy, doesn’t walk away when he offers her drugs. As he drags her down into a world of drug addiction, mental illness, gaslighting, and domestic abuse, Glenna begins to lose herself. Glenna must find the strength to get away before she destroys her own life, and that of her sons
 (or lose them to CPS? her ex? to drugs themselves??).

Life From The Opposite Side: From Soccer Mom To Addict And Home Again is a memoir complete at 65k words. I’ve previously been published by [PLACE A] as well as [PLACE B] and [PLACE C].

[Paragraph about why I picked this particular agent and how I know him/her.]

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

Q3
1


The queryist was pleased with my suggestions and after another round of revisions, here’s the final (for now at least) draft.

The Final Query:

Dear AGENT,

When Glenna catches her husband cheating with a younger woman, she finds herself at the end of a 15-year marriage and is forced to rebuild her life from scratch with her two young sons. Wanting to feel loved again, she joins a dating website, where she meets Micah.

Glenna is swept away by Micah’s charm, and in her eagerness to prove herself worthy, doesn’t walk away when he offers her drugs. As he drags her down into a world of addiction, mental illness, gaslighting, and domestic abuse, Glenna loses her way and everything she holds dear. Glenna must find the strength to get away before she destroys her own life and the lives of her children.

Life From The Opposite Side: From Soccer Mom To Addict And Home Again is a memoir complete at 65k words. I’ve previously been published by [PLACE A] as well as [PLACE B] and [PLACE C].

[Paragraph about why I picked this particular agent and how I know him/her.]

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

Q31

It sounds like Queryist 31 has come a long way. Thanks to her for sharing her very personal story, of both her downfall and her growth. Best wishes in the query trenches!


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

#30 Query Corner – ALL THE GOOD PEOPLE

Welcome to:

Morgan’s Query Corner:

Fresh eyes for your query quandaries.

ALL THE GOOD PEOPLE is a Women’s Fiction novel about several generations of women in a single family – unlucky-in-love and dealing with the consequences.

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:

ALL THE GOOD PEOPLE sounds like a solid generational women’s fiction novel. I’m curious about what choices the main characters make and what the consequences are. My suggestions:

  • For multiple points of view, make sure each main character has a distinct voice. (Pick no more than 3)
  • Avoid cliche phrasing–instead, be specific when detailing decisions.
  • List your awards if you have them – but if you have many, make sure to cull to only the ones that would be broadly recognizable. (This queryist did so)
  • Personally, if I don’t have a personal connection to the agent, I don’t try and stretch for one, or state the obvious (i.e. My genre is on your wish list) and just skip that portion. But some agents really do like it, so that part is up to your discretion.

Queryist’s Original:

Dear Ms. AGENT,

On her wedding night, Annabelle beds a stranger. Not every bride feels beautiful. Unloved and ignored at her own wedding, Annabelle succumbs to the attention of an attractive older man. The next morning, her apologetic new husband explains he stupidly mixed booze and Benadryl. Now, Annabelle must decide to confess her own indiscretion or forever hold her peace.

Maybe she should have expected this. Annabelle hails from a long line of women saddled with bad circumstances and sunk by bad choices. Annabelle’s grandmother, pregnant at seventeen, married her domineering high school boyfriend, but ultimately fell in love with his younger brother, who fathered her second child. Annabelle’s mom struggles with manic depression but fights every day to be strong for her children and her marriage. And Annabelle’s aunt always chooses the man most likely to break her heart, until she finally picks the man who ruptures it, when he dies much too young.

Annabelle may have inherited bad relationship karma, but if she can learn lessons from the strong, but flawed women she loves, she may be able to alter fate and find happiness.

ALL THE GOOD PEOPLE is contemporary Women’s Fiction complete at 74,000 words. The story unfolds via multiple POVs.

Ms. Hazelwood, because you are willing to help with queries, I hope you will find this work a good fit.

My debut novel, TITLE, was published in MONTH YEAR by PUBLISHER. It was positively reviewed on PLACE and PLACE. I’ve had essays published by NEWSPAPER, WEBSITE, and WEBSITE. My novella, TITLE2, won the AWARD award in YEAR.

Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,
Q20


Before I even said anything, the queryist had second thoughts and revamped their query for me. The second attempt was paired down quite a bit, but detailed out too much.

The Queryist’s 2nd Attempt:


Lucy Gaines, a young mother, lives alone with her daughter while her husband recovers in the hospital from a manic-depressive episode. Isolated and frightened, she finds solace, stability, and love in the arms of her husband’s younger brother, Larry. The day she discovers she’s pregnant with Larry’s child is the day she learns her husband is coming home.

If she chooses loving Larry, the only true happiness she’s ever known, she could destroy her entire family and her husband’s fragile grasp on health. But if she stays with her husband and raises the child as his, she risks a web of lies that could haunt them all.

Years later, when Lucy’s granddaughter beds a stranger on her wedding night, it may be the bad relationship karma that Lucy sowed. Now the bride must determine why she made her crazy wedding-night choice and if she has the wherewithal to fight for her marriage. 

My Revision:

Dear AGENT,

Lucy Gaines, a young mother, lives alone with her daughter while her husband recovers in the hospital from a manic-depressive episode. Isolated and frightened, she finds solace, stability, and love in the arms of her husband’s younger brother, Larry. The day she discovers she’s pregnant with Larry’s child is the day she learns her husband is coming home.

Years later, unloved and ignored at her own wedding, Lucy’s granddaughter Annabelle succumbs to the attention of an attractive older man. The next morning, her apologetic new husband explains he stupidly mixed booze and Benadryl. Now, Annabelle must decide to confess her own indiscretion or forever hold her peace.

Lucy’s family may have inherited her bad relationship karma, but if Annabelle can learn lessons from the strong, but flawed women she loves, she may be able to alter fate and find her own happiness.

ALL THE GOOD PEOPLE is contemporary Women’s Fiction complete at 74,000 words. The story unfolds via multiple POVs. Ms. Hazelwood, because you’re willing to help with queries, I hope you will find this work a good fit.

My debut novel, TITLE, was published in MONTH YEAR by PUBLISHER. It was positively reviewed on PLACE and PLACE. I’ve had essays published by NEWSPAPER, WEBSITE, and WEBSITE. My novella, TITLE2, won the AWARD award in YEAR.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

Q3
0


The queryist was excited and we went a few rounds until we ended up with a query they were happy with.

The Final Query:

Dear AGENT,

When Lucy’s husband was committed to a mental hospital, she never expected to fall for his younger brother. But during those long, lonely months when her husband is away, Larry becomes first her handyman, then her best friend, and then more. The day Lucy discovers she’s pregnant with Larry’s child is the day she learns her husband is coming home. Lucy must choose between raising her daughter with the man she loves or rebuilding her life with the man she pledged to love a decade ago.

Forty years later, Lucy’s granddaughter, Annabelle makes her own reckless choice. Neglected by her inebriated husband on their wedding night, Annabelle succumbs to the attentions of an attractive older man. When her new husband apologizes the next morning, Annabelle must decide if she should confess her own indiscretion, abandon her hours-old vow or forever hold her peace.

Lucy, Annabelle, and the other women in the family may share the DNA of bad relationship karma, but their family bonds could prove to be the strength each needs to alter their fates and find lasting happiness.

ALL THE GOOD PEOPLE is contemporary Women’s Fiction complete at 74,000 words. The story unfolds via multiple POVs.

My debut novel, TITLE, was published in MONTH YEAR by PUBLISHER. It was positively reviewed on PLACE and PLACE. I’ve had essays published by NEWSPAPER, WEBSITE, and WEBSITE. My novella, TITLE2, won the AWARD award in YEAR.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

Q30


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