Query Letter Critique

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Robert E. Parkin

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Its been awhile, so I would like any and all opinions regarding this. My resume is non existent outside of being "self-published" so it's very hard for me to put in any accomplishments as I've never won any contests or been published in magazines. Regardless, feel free to lend me your thoughts. Want this to be as perfect as I can since it is my first query letter in awhile.

Dear [REMOVED],

Upon finding your agency and looking over your website, I have found that you are considering YA for all genres, but are mainly looking for works with a strong voice, and that keep you turning the page. That being said, it is my pleasure to present you my novel, [Title Removed].

[Title Removed] is a story centered around eighteen-year-old Zackary Allan Knight, a withdrawn, reserved, genius programmer who has his entire reality shattered when he meets an alluring and dangerous girl called, Lambda.

Enter Lambda, the most powerful and sophisticated AI ever created. Nothing but corruption and mystery surround Lambda's creation and purpose the more Zack tries to dig into the dark secrets that lie within her. However, one thing is for certain: everyone wants Lambda.

Zack is forced to make a choice: to invite chaos and havoc into his life and embark on a roller coaster ride of mayhem and deceit, or die never knowing the truth that is hidden in a divided reality. As he struggles with his past and family while trying to seek the answers that lie hidden within Lambda, he will have his eyes opened to a truth he never would've believed.That fated day, everything changed, when he met her . . .

The story, set in 2025 Virginia, runs about 129,000 words and is slightly similar to William Gibson’s works in the cyberpunk genre.

I’m a 2011 graduate of Suny Oneonta with a BS in Mass Communication and Media Studies and my work has been published on Amazon and seen on IAN (The Independent Author’s Network).

Thank you for your time. I have included the first ten pages of my manuscript and look forward to hearing from you.


Respectfully yours,

Robert E. Parkin


Any and all feedback is very much appreciated. Thank you for any of your suggestions.
 
I think there is room to make this quicker and hookier. Remember top agents get 50 of these a day, fluff is not your friend. Also, increasingly, people read on smartphones so consider putting a top line of title-word count- genre in. I also think if this is your self-pubbed book it will do you no favours trying to disguise it - if they're interested they'll google for sure, normally before requesting. If you're serious about getting an agent and your sales are low, can you pull it or does it stay on searches? I have no idea how that works. But I think you've given yourself a headache. Anyway, crit in the expand box, take what's useful.


[QUOTE="Robert E. Parkin, post: 1869271, member: 37226"
Dear [REMOVED],

Upon finding your agency and looking over your website, I have found that you are considering YA for all genres, but are mainly looking for works with a strong voice, and that keep you turning the page. That being said, it is my pleasure to present you my novel, [Title Removed].

Okay, I'm sure you don't mean this but it sounds a little presumptious - it's up to the agent to decide if your mss has a strong voice and is a page turner.

Dear agent

I noted you were seeking YA books with a strong voice and hoped you would consider.... Is a little shorter and sounds more professional (imho.)


[Title Removed] is a story centered around eighteen-year-old Zackary Allan Knight, a withdrawn, reserved, genius programmer who has his entire reality shattered when he meets an alluring and dangerous girl called, Lambda.

18 year-old Zachary Allen Knight, a withdrawn.... Has his reality (entire is a bit adverbish and doesn't add) shattered....

Enter Lambda, she's already entered.... Lambda is the.... the most powerful and sophisticated AI ever created. Nothing but corruption and mystery surround Lambda's creation and purpose the more Zack tries to dig into the dark secrets that lie within her. For me this sentence makes no sense - themore he tries to dig in, what? And if you expand on the what you need a semi or full stop in the sengence However, one thing is for certain: everyone wants Lambda.

Zack is forced to make a choice: good, we see the stakes to invite chaos and havoc into his life and embark on a roller coaster ride of mayhem and deceit, or die never knowing the truth that is hidden in a divided reality. But i don't entirely understand them As he struggles with his past and family what family? while trying to seek the answers that lie hidden within Lambda, he will have his eyes opened to a truth he never would've believed.That fated day, everything changed, when he met her . . You go back into the past which dilutes the conflict you've hinted ag

The story, set in 2025 Virginia, runs about 129,000 words well outside the mark for YA and an immediate flag that you may not be writing for the market - 80k is long for YA, let alone foe a debut and is slightly can it be slightly similar? It is or is isn't....similar to William Gibson’s works in the cyberpunk genre.

I’m a 2011 graduate of Suny Oneonta with a BS in Mass Communication and Media Studies and my work has been published on Amazon and seen on IAN (The Independent Author’s Network).

Thank you for your time. I have included the first ten pages of my manuscript and look forward to hearing from you.


Respectfully yours,

Robert E. Parkin


Any and all feedback is very much appreciated. Thank you for any of your suggestions.[/QUOTE]

Hope it helps!
 
springs, thank your feedback as always. I can "Unpublish" my work on Amazon technically, but I also have only had it up for a simple two months. Seems rather premature for me to pull it. I suppose I could also "re-publish" it. Not sure. What would be the best course at this point? Should I not even bother with letters then (since I know my sales suck)? Not like I have another book ready. Only have one...and it took me three years to write...
 
springs, thank your feedback as always. I can "Unpublish" my work on Amazon technically, but I also have only had it up for a simple two months. Seems rather premature for me to pull it. I suppose I could also "re-publish" it. Not sure. What would be the best course at this point? Should I not even bother with letters then (since I know my sales suck)? Not like I have another book ready. Only have one...and it took me three years to write...

It's really hard for you. Honestly, I don't think anyone can advise you what to do and part of it depends on what sort of writing career you want.

I think, if you want to make a success of self-publishing, chasing an agent won't assist with that. They are focused on traditional publishing and, unless they think your book has potential to grab one - and it would need sales to persuade them if you're going from sp to trad - I don't think they'd want to represent it. (I am allowed to put up nothing that identifies new work in any way - agents want things that are fresh to the market.)

But, if you want trad publishing (and you don't need an agent for that, but they do open doors and help with the editorial needed) then you will find it easier to break with an agent. In which case you might have more luck subbing this as a new submission.*

So, I suppose it's about which route you want and why? Both are valid and a very individual choice.



* I think - I'm not an industry pro, so you might want more specialist advice. See what others think before acting.

Edit - three years is fairly normal for a first book - mine will be 5 years in the making by the time it sees the light of day. There is no quick way to do this, and even if you get an agent it takes a long time to get the book out onto submission and then a long time, normally, to get an offer on it. I know it's hard and hideous, and I find it hard and hideous, but that's the nature of the business. I don't think either route will make things happen quicker for you. Although at least with sp you have the book out there and making something...
 
Hi Robert.
Don't have time for much, as I'm in the middle of stuff, but a few things stopped me. I hope I haven't been too harsh. My crit is as a a reader of books: would I buy your book if you were trying to sell it to me through a letter?

I'd agree with springs that if this is the novel you've already self-pubbed and now want to go to an agent with, be honest. Even if you withdraw it, there will be records and archived webpages.

Dear [REMOVED],

Upon finding your agency and looking over your website, I have found that you are considering YA for all genres, but are mainly looking for works with a strong voice, and that keep you turning the page. That being said, it is my pleasure to present you my novel, [Title Removed]. This seems rather flowery and a bit cocky, which I'm sure isn't your intention. If you're flowery in your query, are you in your manuscript?

[Title Removed] is a story centered around eighteen-year-old Zackary Allan Knight, a withdrawn, reserved, genius programmer who has his entire reality shattered when he meets an alluring and dangerous girl called, Lambda. Withdrawn and reserved, pretty much the same thing? Genius does make me worry he's verging into Mary Sue/Marty Stu territory.

Enter Lambda, as springs says the most powerful and sophisticated AI ever created. Nothing but corruption and mystery surround Lambda's creation and purpose the more Zack tries to dig into the dark secrets that lie within her. However, one thing is for certain: everyone wants Lambda. Sorry, but this doesn't tell me much except for the last three words. Who is everyone? I'm confused.

Zack is forced to make a choice: to invite chaos and havoc into his life and embark on a roller coaster ride of mayhem and deceit, or die never knowing the truth that is hidden in a divided reality. Why's he going to die? Why should he care about Lambda? I don't see their connection to each other. As he struggles with his past and family Is this back story necessary? while trying to seek the answers that lie hidden within Lambda, he will have his eyes opened to a truth he never would've believed.That fated day, everything changed, when he met her . . . Again, a bit flowery, and it doesn't add to the story for me.

The story, set in 2025 Virginia, runs about 129,000 words and is slightly similar to William Gibson’s works in the cyberpunk genre. Are there any other, more recent authors that your work is similar to?

I’m a 2011 graduate of Suny Oneonta with a BS in Mass Communication and Media Studies and my work has been published on Amazon With respect, a lot of self-published authors are on Amazon. Unless you can show good sales, why would this fact draw an agent? Could you say you've been writing since X years-old -- show development. and seen on IAN (The Independent Author’s Network).

Thank you for your time. I have included the first ten pages of my manuscript and look forward to hearing from you.


Respectfully yours,

Robert E. Parkin


Any and all feedback is very much appreciated. Thank you for any of your suggestions.

Okay, geeky boy meets girl with a dubious past (who happens to be an AI), goes off with said girl and gets into trouble and danger with her, pursued by someone else.
That's a good premise. :) Now sell me the story. What makes me want to read yours more than somebody else's?

As I said earlier, I don't mean to be harsh. Good luck! :)
 
I think I'm confused by what you said:

"But if you want a trad publishing (and you don't need an agent for that, but they do open doors and help with the editorial needed) then you will find it easier to break with an agent. In which case you might have more luck subbing this as a new submission.*"

I thought traditional publishing was where you do need an agent? So if I want to go into trad publishing I shouldn't have my work Self-Published, right?

Not too sure, I think I'm confusing myself now.

Also, updating the letter with some fixes now. Will update the OP in a minute.

(so, I can only edit a post once, and that's it? Won't let me edit my original post anymore.)
 
I think I'm confused by what you said:

"But if you want a trad publishing (and you don't need an agent for that, but they do open doors and help with the editorial needed) then you will find it easier to break with an agent. In which case you might have more luck subbing this as a new submission.*"

I thought traditional publishing was where you do need an agent? So if I want to go into trad publishing I shouldn't have my work Self-Published, right?

Not too sure, I think I'm confusing myself now.

Also, updating the letter with some fixes now. Will update the OP in a minute.

(so, I can only edit a post once, and that's it? Won't let me edit my original post anymore.)

The easy answer - the editing window closes after about an hour.

The harder answer - some publishers take direct subs without an agent (many of the small publishers and some of the bigger - Gollanz and Daw for instance, but their slush pile is horrendous and there won't be a quick response.) @Mouse is published without an agent, for instance. So you don't need an agent but if you want to hit the big publishers and have someone else doing the submissions for you, you might want one.

I would have thought the same sp/sales evidence would be a consideration for direct subs too, though.
 
Hi Robert.
Don't have time for much, as I'm in the middle of stuff, but a few things stopped me. I hope I haven't been too harsh. My crit is as a a reader of books: would I buy your book if you were trying to sell it to me through a letter?

I'd agree with springs that if this is the novel you've already self-pubbed and now want to go to an agent with, be honest. Even if you withdraw it, there will be records and archived webpages.



Okay, geeky boy meets girl with a dubious past (who happens to be an AI), goes off with said girl and gets into trouble and danger with her, pursued by someone else.
That's a good premise. :) Now sell me the story. What makes me want to read yours more than somebody else's?

As I said earlier, I don't mean to be harsh. Good luck! :)

Thank you Abernovo. I'm still structuring the letter and have taken what you all have said so far. Also, if you honestly think there will still be a trail to my book even if I "un-publish" it from Amazon, I see little harm at this point in trying to find an agent. Frankly, my odds are already dreadful, so why not try and see? When you are at the very bottom, you can only go up. XD
 
Well, I can't seem to Edit my OP so I'm just going to post my revised letter here in this post. Any and all comments regarding are still very much welcomed. Tried to thin it down more with the synopsis, be more straight forward, and leave more intrigue rather than confusion. Thoughts?

Dear [Agent Removed]


Upon finding your agency and looking over your website, I noted you were seeking YA books with a strong voice and hoped you would consider my novel, [Title Removed].

[Title Removed] is a story centered around eighteen-year-old Zackary Allan Knight, a withdrawn, talented programmer who has his entire world turned upside down when he meets an girl called, Lambda.

Lambda is the most powerful and sophisticated AI ever created. Nothing but corruption and mystery surround Lambda's creation and purpose. The more Zack tries to learn about Lambda, the more danger he is exposed to as powerful groups give chase, seeking Lambda.

Zack is forced to make a choice: he must choose to either stand aside and let Lambda fall victim to the sinister forces chasing her, or take a stand and fight to save someone he knows nothing about. As he struggles trying to seek the answers that lie hidden within Lambda, he will have his eyes opened to a truth he never would've believed.

The story, set in 2025 Virginia, runs about 129,000 words and has been compared to William Gibson’s works in the cyberpunk genre.

I’m a 2011 graduate of Suny Oneonta with a BS in Mass Communication and Media Studies. I have been writing and creating stories since I was fifteen and my work has been featured on IAN (The Independent Author’s Network).

Thank you for your time. I have included the first ten pages of my manuscript and look forward to hearing from you.


Respectfully yours,
Robert E. Parkin


Any and all thoughts regarding the revision are welcomed. Thank you.
 
I'm just going to concentrate on the story part.

[Title Removed] is a story [obvs -- I'd instead tighten it to something like "title removed centers on etc". Or if you've already mentioned the title, maybe start "Eighteen-year-old Zackary Allan Knight is a withdrawn, etc"] centered around eighteen-year-old Zackary Allan Knight, a withdrawn, talented programmer who has his entire world turned upside down when he meets an ["a"] girl called, [don't use a comma here -- you wouldn't pause here when reading aloud, for example] Lambda.

Lambda is the most powerful and sophisticated AI ever created. Nothing but corruption and mystery surround Lambda's creation and purpose. [Sentence structure might be off-putting. How about "Lambda is the most powerful and sophisticated AI ever created, her creation and purpose surrounded by corruption and mystery."] The more Zack tries to learn about Lambda, the more danger he is exposed to as powerful groups give chase, seeking Lambda. [There's a bit of a logic disconnect here: you only tell us he's trying to learn about her, but this seems to equate to him either hiding her or being on the run with her. Also, you repeat her name in a short space, which feels a bit clumsy]

Zack is forced to make a choice: he must choose to either stand aside and let Lambda fall victim to the sinister forces chasing her, or take a stand and fight to save someone he knows nothing about. [I think you need to hint at why he might choose this potentially self-sacrificing course. We can only guess if it's because he loves her, or because he thinks disaster will ensue if the baddies get hold of her, or if he wants to study her for himself.] As he struggles trying to seek the answers that lie hidden within Lambda, he will have his eyes opened to a truth he never would've [would have -- the contraction feels awkward is something which is otherwise worded quite formally] believed.

Hope that helps. Queries are horrendously hard, in my experience, so you have my sympathy.
 
Perhaps you could show your voice in your query? It might be a way of attracting someone's attention.

(as springs said, you can only edit a post for an hour after you post it, which is why you haven't been able to edit your OP again).

I know there's almost no space in a query, but I think you could probably get a little more in.


Comments:

Upon finding your agency and[<-- you don't need to say that. Clearly you have found their agency if you're looking at their website. Possibly you don't even need to say you've looked at the website, since that could be assumed] looking over your website, I noted you were seeking YA books with a strong voice and hoped you would consider my novel, [Title Removed].

--> I noted from your website that you are seeking YA books with a strong voice and hope you will consider my 129,000 word YA science fiction, [Title].

[I wouldn't tell them you're submitting a novel, because they're literary agents and will assume you're submitting a novel -- tell them what kind it is, instead. Also, as springs said, 129,000 is long for YA.]

[[Title Removed] is a story centered around<-- I don't think any of that is necessary] eighteen-year-old Zackary Allan Knight, a withdrawn, talented programmer [who<-- remove] has his entire world turned upside down when he meets an [<-- no n] girl called, [<-- remove comma] Lambda.

Lambda is the most powerful and sophisticated AI ever created. [Nothing but <-- I don't think that adds] corruption and mystery surround Lambda's [creation and<-- I don't like the almost repeat of "created" and "creation", it feels a little clunky] purpose. The more Zack tries to learn about Lambda, the more danger he is exposed to as powerful groups give chase, seeking Lambda.

Zack is forced to make a choice: he must choose [you don't need to say he is forced to make a choice and then he has to choose -- that's basically saying the same thing twice and you don't have space in a query] to either stand aside and let Lambda fall victim to the sinister forces chasing her, or take a stand and fight to save someone he knows nothing about. As he struggles trying [I feel the same about 'struggles' and 'trying' -- I don't think you need both of them] to seek the answers that lie hidden within Lambda, he will have his eyes opened to a truth he never would've believed.
[so what does Lambda do in all this? Is she wholly passive? A victim? Do they have a relationship at all?]

So you end up with something like (I was just going to write out the changes I suggested but then I started wondering how I'd write it, in my voice -- or something close to it, maybe -- and I left little bits that way to show you what I mean):

Eighteen-year-old Zachary Knight, a withdrawn, talented programmer, has his entire world turned upside down when he meets a girl called Lambda.
Only Lamda's not a girl; she's the most sophisticated AI ever, created for a purpose so secret even she doesn't know it. The more Zak pursues her, the more he comes into conflict with powerful groups seeking her themselves.

Zak must choose. Will he abandon Lambda to these sinister forces, or fight to save someone he's only just met? As he struggles to find the answers within her, he will discover the unbelievable truth...

[Only I think you could say more -- you could show, not tell a bit. e.g. What shows that Zak's a great programmer/withdrawn? Something like: "Always happiest in his basement room full of computers, eighteen-year-old Zackary Knight is horrified when a strange girl climbs through his window..." (<-- though obviously, say what happens in your story, not in my fevered imaginings)

You could probably also say something to point up how sinister the forces are, e.g. are Zak and Lambda hunted by anyone in particular?

And I think the stakes could be a little clearer at the end -- what will it mean if Zak fights for Lambda? What might he lose?

Hope this helps. The story sounds like lots of fun. I think you could make a very strong query out of it.
 
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