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Saturday, July 16, 2011

THE ALABASTER REFUGEE - Query Letter

So here goes nothing :) As part of Deana Bernhart's "Gearing Up to Get an Agent Blog-O-Rama" I am posting my still in need of work--Query Letter. Please give me your feed back. Tell me what you like and dislike about it. What grabs you and what turns you off. Thanks :)

Dear ….

Seventeen year old Jocelyn’s world collapses when her family is murdered by Prince Zven—her betrothed. And she is next.

After discovering Zven’s secret plan to poison his father the king, she escapes with her life and his secret.

Jocelyn finds temporary asylum, but when Prince Zven closes in she must alienate her last friend by accepting help from the mysterious soldier Taggert—the man her friend has fallen in love with.

The thrill-seeking Taggert is more than willing to help Jocelyn flee the ruthless prince. Danger is good for the soul after all, and what could be more dangerous than racing across the kingdom with Jocelyn?

Taggert uses his questionable connections to elude the prince and enlists an eclectic group of allies to aid Jocelyn: a drunken rouge, a jilted pirate princess, and a silent enigmatic spy.

Jocelyn and Taggert’s new romance is interrupted when it becomes apparent that one of their allies is sending the prince information about her whereabouts. Who is the betrayer? And can Jocelyn use Prince Zven’s secret to stop him before he uses the betrayal to find her?

THE ALABASTER REFUGEE is a YA adventure/romance, complete at 95,000 words. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

Angela Cothran

-I've left off info about myself, because I've read all over the web that unless you have been previously published--they don't care. Is that right?


33 comments:

Emily Rittel-King said...

Angie,
Great letter! I love romance. Jude Deveraux is one of my favorite authors, and she, too, has frequented the names Jocelyn and Taggert. Good choices.
In the first paragraph, I would use present tense: "Lady Jocelyn's world collapses when her family is murdered by Prince Zven—her betrothed. And she is next." It packs more of a punch than past tense.
One more thing, it would be good to know the age of your MC. I actually thought the book was for adults until the end. Noting the age will help distinguish your market right off the bat.
Good job! I hope you have lots of success!

kpsimmon said...

Hi Angie,
Oh how I love books that have the fairytale feel to them. :) I agree with Emily that I would put the age in there. I would also put some information about yourself in the query as well. This sounds like my type of book-reminescent of some Gail Carson Levine. :)
KP

Angie Cothran said...

Thanks for the ideas. I changed my query above :)

kathy stemke said...

I love your query letter. The story and characters are introduced while giving the reader hints of the adventure to follow. Good luck.

kristibernard said...

It has peaked my curiosity. Great job.

Robin Weeks said...

Love, love, love the first two lines. Way to open with a great hook!

After that, thought it's interesting, it kinda drags for me. Much too long. Try to trim it by half or more. I find it's easier to summarize a summary--so forget about your whole book and summarize what you've written here. You should hit your main points and get off 'em as fast as you can--family killed, she's next (we don't need to know why at this point), escapes with Taggert, three allies, one traitor.

See? Everything else is what the book is for. The query is JUST to get the agent to want to read the book.

Do you have any education or life experiences that make you the perfect one to tell this story? If so, include them with the note "this is my first novel."

Michelle Fayard said...

Hi, Angela,

Your opening paragraph rocks! The only thing I'd recommend changing is the em dash to a comma. If you'd like to keep an em dash in this graph, I'd change it to "Prince Zven, her betrothed-and she is next."

For the second graph, I'd delete the first reference to "secret" since you use it at the end of the sentence. I'd put a comma after "his father."

The third graph rocks too.

I'd consider pulling the fourth and fifth graphs and moving straight into the sixth one.

And I'd definitely say something about what makes you the right person to write this book. For example, in my query I don't have any previously published fiction books to talk up, so I let agents and editors know that I lived only minutes away from where the plot takes place, which brings a unique, first-hand perspective to the research.

I would want to read this book!

Michelle

Huntress said...

Although I loved the first paragraph (very much!), my mind bogged down in the names. This sounds like a story that is worth the time it takes to unravel.

But you might try simple verbs, simple nouns/objects to free the plot.
Example: "uses his questionable connections" Why not "Taggert eludes the prince by..."?

I've read this before and loved the storyline then...Best Wishes :)

Callie Kingston said...

I agree with Robin. The opening sentence has a great hook. One thing I was told by an acquisitions editor is that they really, really want to see the word count and genre in the opening paragraph. It helps them sort and decide immediately if it fits with their guidelines and interests.

Tightening the middle three paragraphs will help a bit to keep that strong pull you begin with.

Sounds like a fun read! Good luck.

Nancy Thompson said...

Hey Angela! I'm going to take this paragraph by paragraph and try to be clear.

#1: Seventeen year old Jocelyn’s world collapses when her family is murdered by her betrothed, Prince Zven. And she is next.
(Just change sentence order & remove dash.)

#2: After discovering Zven’s (delete secret, it's unnecssary) plan to poison his father, (add comma) the king, she escapes with her life and the prince's secret. (Replace his with the prince's)

#3: Jocelyn finds temporary asylum, but when Prince Zven closes in, (add comma) she must alienate her last friend by accepting help from the man her friend has fallen in love with, the mysterious soldier, (add comma) Taggert. (Just make sure Taggert's name is at the end here)

#4 The thrill-seeking Taggert is more than willing to help Jocelyn flee the prince. After all, danger is good for the soul (no comma necessary here) and what could be more so than racing across the kingdom with Jocelyn?
(Delete ruthless. Put after all at the beginning of the sentence. And replace dangerous with so since you already used the word danger.)

#5 Enigmatic is awkward in this paragraph. Just keep it simple and use mysterious instead. Other than that, this paragraph is fine.

#6 Jocelyn and Taggert’s new romance is interrupted when one of their allies informs the prince of her whereabouts. (This is MUCH simpler this way) Who is the betrayer? And can Jocelyn use Prince Zven’s secret to stop him before he finds her? (Again, much simpler)

#7 Yes, this is fine. You're correct, if you don't have credentials or an angle that makes you an expert, then don't say anything at all. Some agents like a little bit of personal info though.

All in all, this is good query. Just focus on tightening it up where you use too many words.
My only other comment is that the "new romance" bit feels rather abrupt. Perhaps say "budding romance" to avoid this feeling. Good job!

Kate Larkindale said...

Can't add much to what has already been said. Love the first paragraph - it's really hooky which is perfect. But after that, it kind of meanders a little. I think you could tighten it up by just focusing on the central conflict and how your MC deals with it.

Definitely add a little about yourself, even if you aren't published. It makes the query more human.

Good luck!

Pk Hrezo said...

Hi, Angela! To me, it feels like I need to know a little more about Jocelyn. Who is she exactly? What makes her unique and why do I care about what happens to her family?
With that in mind, learning about what happens to her family and all the conflict that ensues will have a much more powerful effect on me and make me NEED to know what happens next. :)

Juliana L. Brandt said...

Most everyone has said what can be said, but I will add that you can probably take out the "the man her friend has fallen in love with." That doesn't seem necessary to me and only makes me think she's the one who's sending information on them later.

Christa said...

The above feedback is great. This is an engaging story but your query can be cut down. Robin is right, summarize your summary.

In terms of the story, as a YA book, I'd totally be into this. Does it have crossover appeal? If so, try Entangled Publishing. Just a thought.

mooderino said...

Hi

I think in terms of getting across what your story is about you've done an excellent job.

Not sure you need the complication with her best friend. I would suggest something like:

After discovering Prince Zven’s secret plan to poison his father the king, she escapes with her life and his secret. With the Prince closing in she is forced into accepting help from the mysterious soldier Taggert, a thrill-seeker who is more than willing...

Otherwise think you have apretty solid effort here.

mood
My query is up at: Moody Writing
@mooderino

LisaAnn said...

Nancy Thompson must be my query soul mate, because she nailed all the points I was planning on suggesting!

This sounds like a very solid story, and I'm definitely intrigued, especially by the character of Taggert. I would most certainly ask to see sample pages if I were an agent!

One last thought... My novel is my first manuscript as well, but I've been told by multiple folks to NEVER actually come right out and say, "This is my first novel." If you don't mention a previous novel, they will naturally assume it's your first, and many agents apparently think this is a rookie mistake. I think your query is fine without a bio; the story is strong enough to stand on its own! :)

K.V. Briar said...

Hi Angela, I'm a new follower :)

I love your query. You've done a great job with the hook. Your manuscript sounds like something I'd LOVE to read! I have my fingers crossed that an agent will swipe it up!

I think the previous posters all posted helpful suggestions. I agree that it's fine without a bio, I didn't post one in my letter either.

I think I'd like to know a little bit more about Jocelyn, what kind of person is she? What does she care about most in life? Ruling the people? Love? Her (now deceased) family?

Great job!

amy kennedy said...

Hi ANgela, don't think I can add anything new, just reinforce some of the ideas. What a great story! It sounds from your query as if it would be funny as well as adventurous.

I don't think you need the paragraph about her friend being in love w/ Taggert (GREAT name)that paragraph stopped me -- had to read it over a few times.

Love the 5th and 6th paras -- that's where you really grabbed me.

Deana said...

Hey Angie!

What a thrill seeking adventure! Everyone has left great comments. I am going to agree with Juliana and Mooderno on the Taggert part. I love what Mooderno said to say about it instead of even adding the bit about her best friend. At this point we don't know enough about the MC and telling me this just makes me think she isn't a very nice person. I'm sure there is more depth and understanding to why she did what she did but you just can't explain it in a query. Also, like Juliana said, my first thought was it is her bf that is sending the info because of what she did.

Other than than that I really enjoy what you have here:)

If you are going to submit a final for the contest have it sent to my email deanabarnhart@gmail.com by 12PM ET:)

Good luck!

Deana said...

By 12PM ET Tuesday I meant to say:)

amber said...

Hi! OK, I think the book sounds like fun, but here is my overall comments: The query letter shouldn't be a summary -- it should be a teaser. This is reading a little choppy, like you're checking off items on a list of events. Try to make it more smooth (less paragraphs!). ALso, I like adding in a bit about myself -- it gives you credibility -- and be sure to address the agent somewhere, at least to show that you researched them a bit. Personalization is always appreciated! Good luck :)

Small Town Shelly Brown said...

Oooh, this sounds fun Angie! It looks like you and I write similar genre.

I think the story sounds good but if I was an agent with 100's of these to read, I might chuck it based on the length of the summary. I'm with Robin, it drags (not the story, just the summary part of the query.) I bet you could tighten it up to two solid paragraphs of the fun parts. I always think of it like a movie trailer or a back cover copy. It doesn't have to summarize the whole story, just enough to get them interested and WANTING more (wanting the pages)

But keep in mind, there is not ONE way to do this. Agents are just people and some like their queries different than others. I'm just giving you one more POV to think about :)

Laura Barnes said...

I like your query, it sounds like a great story. I do think it would read better if it was a little tighter. Pull or condense the third and fourth paragraphs. My mind sorta wandered by then.

A nitpicky thing - I would prefer if the first paragraph ended with "And she's afraid she's next." I haven't read your book, of course, but when I hear "and she's next" I feel like she's in a prison already waiting for execution.

A final suggestion is to lose the questions. I have read in lots of places that agents don't like to be asked questions in your query. End with a sentence more like "Jocelyn must discover the betrayer before Prince Zven uses the information to find her."

Good luck!

Nicole Zoltack said...

I like your query and this sounds like a great story. That said, why did Prince Zven kill Jocelyn's family?

Other than that, I would try to remove the questions from the query. Most agents that blog don't like questions. Good luck with this!

jamieayres said...

Looks like you have lots of great suggestions already:) Sounds like something I'd want to read! The only thing I question is the 95,000 word count for a YA. Although YA is running a little longer these days with all the world-building many of them entail, I read in a Writer's Digest article that you should not expect to be the exception to the rule as a newbie and have a compelling reason for exceeding 70,000 words. Just food for thought:) Good Luck!!!

Alleged Author said...

This is a great premise, and I agree with many of the suggestions for revisions above. I would say choose adventure OR romance (I would go with romance because the adventure should shine through in your query).

alexia said...

This is a great start! Far better than my initial attempts at queries. I like that there's some voice, and above all the story intrigues me. The cast of characters sounds fun, especially the jilted pirate princess! I would definitely want to read this.

This is what I would do to tighten it up a bit: 1) add a few more contractions to help the flow (like change "and she is next" to "and she's next" 2) I would shorten it a bit. Maybe something like:

When seventeen-year-old Jocelyn’s family is murdered by Prince Zven, her betrothed, she barely escapes with her life. On the run with Zven's dark secret in tow, she loses her last friend by accepting help from the mysterious soldier Taggert—the man her friend has fallen in love with.

The thrill-seeking Taggert is more than willing to help Jocelyn flee the ruthless prince. Danger is good for the soul after all, and what could be more dangerous than racing across the kingdom with Jocelyn? Taggert uses his questionable connections to elude the prince and enlists an eclectic group of allies to aid Jocelyn: a drunken rouge, a jilted pirate princess, and a silent enigmatic spy.

Jocelyn and Taggert’s romance is interrupted when it becomes apparent that one of their allies is sending the prince information about her whereabouts. Who is the betrayer? And can Jocelyn use Prince Zven’s secret to stop him before he uses the betrayal to find her?

THE ALABASTER REFUGEE is a YA adventure/romance, complete at 95,000 words. Thank you for your time and consideration.

And yes, I've heard not to mention personal details unless you have paid publishing credits to your name. Awesome start!! Good luck!

jamieayres said...

Just wanted to come back and say THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU for posting that link to Elana Johnson's site. It helped me more than anything else today:):):)

Sharon Bayliss said...

Hi Angela,

You've already gotten a lot of good feedback, but I wanted to return the favor! :)

You have a great hook. It might benefit from being a little more direct like - Seventeen year old Jocelyn’s world collapses when the Prince she plans to marry murders her family. And she is next.

There are several details you may not need - "Jocelyn finds temporary asylum" "—the man her friend has fallen in love with"

Danger is good for the soul after all, and what could be more dangerous than racing across the kingdom with Jocelyn? - This sentence confuses me slightly. I know queries are written in third person, but I still expect the plot to be told in the POV of the MC. I expected that the sentence was going to be about the danger Jocelyn is in, but then realize at the end it's about Taggart.

Sounds like a good story. Good luck!

Laura Barnes said...

Ok, Angela, I'm back to ask if you are a personal friend of Elana Johnson or if you just really admire her blog?

I read her too. I was pretty good friends with her husband and sister growing up :)

RAD - Dot Painter said...

Great Hook! I want to know if she is not just trying to stay alive, but does she want to revenge her family's death?

We all need a good romance. I agree with the comments above.

Good Luck!

Lori M. Lee said...

This is a pretty strong query but there are areas you could definitely tighten it up. I don't think the 'temporary asylum and the friend' needs to be mentioned at all since she doesn't seem to play any plot-relevant part in this query. So you could go straight from escaping with her life and his secret to accepting the help of a mysterious soldier.

At first, I wasn't sure with how you switched pov from Jocelyn to Taggert, but if this is how the story is told (from both their povs) then I think it's fine.

Also "rouge" should be "rogue." Rogue = dastardly person. Rouge = make up. Although I'd argue that the entire paragraph about eluding the prince and listing their group of allies is unnecessary. It's just fluff and can be removed.

I also don't think the new romance line is necessary either. Since this book is an adventure romance, it's a given that the two are romantically interested in each other. Cut to the chase--the part about one of their allies betraying them.

Hope this helped, and good luck!

lindy said...

I've stopped by to learn, not to advise. I stink at writing queries, and so I'd only lead you down the wrong path! Thanks for being brave enough to put yourself out there! (BTW your premise is intriguing, I hope to read your book some day)

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