Welcome to the June Query Workshop with some of our past and present PitchWars mentors. From a Rafflecopter lottery drawing, we selected many wonderful writers to participate in the workshop. Each mentor has graciously critiqued a query letter for one lucky writer. The writers are anonymous. Follow along all month to view the query critiques. We welcome comments and further suggestions, but please keep them kind and respectful.
Here are the next two mentors and their critiques …
Natasha is a writer of contemporary romance that often has a touch of danger. She is also the founder and host of Whiskey, Wine, & Writing, and overall nerd. Take a look around and feel free to drop her a line. She’s represented by Laura Bradford of the Bradford Literary Agency.
Natasha’s query critique…
Dear Ms. NAME:
I hope you will consider my contemporary western suspense Longshot for representation. It is complete at 83,000 words. A year ago, out of nearly 800 entries, Longshot won the Authonomy First Line Contest. The title shouldn’t be bolded. It should be capitalized: LONGSHOT
Jamie English has sworn off all men because she was left by her teenage sweetheart to raise their daughter on her own.
This is a hundred women. Your hook should be detailed, engaging, and let me know right away why your story is unique. The rest of the query is about human trafficking so I would suggest using something along those lines. Think of it like a tagline for a movie. (Also I see nothing in the query about her single motherhood being pertinent to the plot. It’s okay to mention she’s a single mom, but your hook needs to be something strong, so make it count.)
When Jamie’s father—the sheriff(Sheriff)—is shot chasing a human trafficker, he names Jamie as interim sheriff just before he’s placed in a medically-induced coma. Although terrified of failing, Jamie takes the job eager to prove herself. The first thing she does is call the Colorado Bureau of Investigation for assistance.
I like that we get a little information here, but it’s not detailed enough. I assume Jamie is a deputy as she would need some sort of law enforcement background to be named the interim Sheriff. You need to be more detailed.
Ie: Twenty-seven-year old Jamie English isn’t the greatest deputy under her father’s precinct, but when she’s named interim Sheriff after he’s shot, she’s determined to make sure the man who pulled the trigger pays.
Agent Austin Varner is still shaken after the death of his last partner who died at the hands of a Mexican drug cartel. However intrigued he is by the sexy, blonde sheriff, the agent keeps his feelings strictly professional, unwilling to ever love another woman who puts herself in the line of fire.
I personally don’t like dual POV queries. It becomes confusing and messy most off the time. I think your best bet is stay in Jamie’s POV, but I also don’t think you need a full paragraph about them falling in love. You need to have the conflict building for the stakes in the last paragraph.
Jamie and Austin fall in love as they follow a trail of clues that leads into the Colorado Mountains. After a confrontation with a killer leaves them both injured and stranded, their mutual attraction leads them to making love. Their newfound relationship is tested when Austin is shot and Jamie stolen by a human trafficker. Jamie’s near miss makes both Jamie and Austin realize they love each another.
I have no idea who’s POV this is. Also you don’t need to put them making love. The agent will read that when they read the book. What you need to do is put more conflict in it regarding the trafficking ring. It’s a love story, but why is it different? Also don’t give away the ending. Your last line should be stakes. The character must do THIS or else THAT (usually a consequence) will happen.
I am published by Siren-Bookstrand, Crimson Romance, Heart’s Desire Press and have self-published several titles. Along with five other authors, I am published in an anthology, Cowboy Up, which hit number one in western romances in the United States, Japan, Canada, Australia and the UK. It has remained in the top 50 western romances on Amazon for over 3 months!
I hope you like Austin and Jamie’s story! If you do not, I also have a complete manuscript about a rock star and a big game outfitter.
Don’t put this in your query. If an agent wants to know what else you’re writing, they will ask. Keep it professional. Also don’t put exclamation points. Periods work just fine.
Thank you for your time and consideration,
So the main problem I see here is that there is too much going on. It’s disjointed and doesn’t flow together. Keep it integral to the central plot. Side plots will only make it confusing. I also suggest using one POV to keep it clean. The premise sounds engaging, but the stakes need to be defined. That’s going to be the hardest thing. Keep working at it. I also suggest posting it on AgentQueryConnect.com to get some feedback before the competition starts.
Thanks for letting me read this and I hope I managed to help.
A programmer by day, J.C. Davis writes YA fiction, the occasional short story and has far too many hobbies to keep up with. She lives in Dallas, Texas with her husband, two kids and a pair of hedgehogs with nerdy names. She’s repped by Mandy Hubbard of the D4EO Agency.
J.C.’s query critique…
As a bounty hunter for a shady paramilitary company, August Dillon isn’t living a life he’s proud of [This is nitpicky, but there’s that old saw about not ending a sentence with a preposition, especially if there’s a way to reword it that doesn’t sound stilted. Consider “August Dillon isn’t proud of the life he’s living” instead.]. All he’s ever wanted was to be a hero, and he finally gets the chance when a race of immortals bring their civil war to Earth. [I really like your setup here and the phrasing is perfect. The term, ‘to Earth’ implies the immortals are extra-terrestrial. If that’s not the case, and we’re talking about immortal gods on the other hand, you should consider rephrasing this sentence.] In exchange for his promise [‘his promise’ sounds a bit stilted & awkward. Perhaps use ‘a promise’ instead?] to fight, August is armed [Armed by whom?] with a potent healing factor [Is ‘healing factor’ a common term in sci-fi or gaming? It sound vaguely familiar but I wonder if that term will be confusing for agents. Also, the meaning is ambiguous – it could mean that he has the ability to heal others or that he has the ability to heal rapidly. Consider rephrasing this for clarity.] and enough strength to bench press a Chevy.[I love the specificity of “bench press a Chevy.” Nicely done.] It’s all he can do to keep from giving himself a cheesy name and donning a cape, but he soon realizes that having powers doesn’t make you a hero, and running from your past doesn’t mean it can’t follow you.[This is the first mention that August is running from his past so it seems a bit out of left field right now. Either include a sentence or two about said past, or drop this sentence clause.]
The shadow of war closes in quickly, and with it comes a wave of enemies eager to test August’s mettle. His otherworldly foes are more powerful, their armies more vicious, and just as the war is set to explode, a dangerous enemy from his past strikes, one who has his sights set on acquiring August’s powers for himself. [What are August’s stakes in all this? What horrible decision or dilemma does he face? Yes there are bad guys but what makes it personal for August, why is it imperative that he’s part of the battle? Right now we know there’s a threat and an enemy but those are vague threats. We need something that makes the reader/agent invested in August’s struggle. I’m also not clear about the dynamics of all this. Is August fighting for one side or the other? Is there a third force moving against the immortals and not siding with either one? Is the military involved? Who is August fighting for, specifically? Or is August fighting all on his own and If that’s the case – who gives him the healing factor and super strength and why?]
GODSEND is a 112,000-word speculative fiction novel similar to Joss Whedon’s AVENGERS and V.E. Schwab’s VICIOUS. It’s the first in a trilogy of books chronicling the events of The Circle War.[This is unnecessary, just let agents know It’s part of a trilogy. Also, can GODSEND stand on its own or would readers HAVE to read all three? I mention that because it’s common practice in a query for series to mention that the book is the first in a series but can stand on its own. Many publishers acquire all the books in the series, but some only place the first under contract because they want to see sales numbers before investing in more books – in those cases, publishers look for books with series potential but that work well on their own.] The second book, THE LAST WINTER, is already complete. [I’m conflicted on whether to include this last sentence. Normally you just mention the book is the first in a series and leave it at that.]
My [I suggest including the word ‘short’ here or use the word ‘short stories’ instead. Unless you’ve had novella length work published.] fiction has appeared both online and in print over the last ten years [Remove this. Agents don’t need to know the length of time, just that you’ve been professionally published.], most recently in (magazine).
Thank you for your time and consideration.
[You’ve got a really nice query right now. You’ve clearly put a lot of time and energy into it and that shows. With a teeny bit more polishing and a few added details I think it will be fantastic. Great job!]
Thank you, Natasha and J.C., for your critiques. Interested in learning more about querying from those who’ve been there? Come back Monday for our next two critiques by Pitch Wars mentors Sarah Glenn Marsh and Kevin Springer.