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Monday, June 11, 2012

Query Critique Month: A Novel Query (and a Very Good One at That!)

Welcome back to Query Critique Month--and thanks again to all who have submitted queries. I won't be able to get to all of them but I am trying to pick a good mix for the month. 


We've already seen a YA novel query, a profile query, and a Second Act Parenting query. Next up, another query from a novelist seeking representation. This time around, my comments are in orange

Dear {Agent},

Melanie Gordon swore she’d never fall for another bad boy. But just when she thinks it’s safe to let sweet, kind, philanthropist, Raine Mason, into her heart she discovers his past is filled with dark and troubling secrets, including his connection to the infamous Montgomery family. [Very nice lead. I already know this is a romance novel, and the writer's done a nice job of setting up the intrigue.]

Then there is Jaxson Payne, the bad boy who shattered her heart six years ago. When their paths cross again Jaxson is completely reformed, newly divorced, and perhaps her only chance at saving her career. [More conflict, and we see the classic woman with two men to pick from scenario. Very common in romance novels...not so common in real life. :)]

Can Melanie forgive Raine for concealing his true identity and overlook his questionable past? Or has the universe conspired to give her and Jax another chance at love? Melanie must come to terms with her own faults and navigates family secrets to discover the value of family, the power of forgiveness and the meaning of love. [Good sum-up of the book but I'd like to know a little more about Melanie, as she's the main character of this book--and the one readers will relate to. Who is she? How old is she? What does she want out of life? I'd like to see another line or two about Melanie here, and an agent will want that, too.]

My completed 90,000 word novel, TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE, is a smart, funny, sexy story featuring a multicultural cast of characters. Melanie has a self-deprecating humor reminiscent of Jane Green's Jemima J or Jennifer Weiner's Cannie Shapiro. The story balances humor with heartfelt moments, family drama and intense love scenes. [Nice detail here. Author's provided word count and given some "similar to" examples, which is smart. And "intense love scenes" tells the agent what type of romance this book is. I would like to know that it's contemporary women's fiction, though it certainly sounds like it is.]

As Senior Editor of the long-running literary e-zine All Things Girl, I've interviewed authors like New York Times best-selling authors Jane Green and Joshilyn Jackson. My short story, Sorry Charli (written under the pen name Xandria Amara Lewis), was published inRomance Stories Magazine. I’m a member of Triangle Novel Writers critique group. [Good start on the author's ISG, but I'd play up her social media connections, etc if she has them. But I love the fact that the author has told the agent a little bit about herself and her writing background. Very smart. 

The complete TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE manuscript is available for your consideration. May I send the first three chapters for your review? I look forward to your reply. [I'm assuming that this agent likes to see the first three chaps of a novel--if so, very smart. And mentioning that the book is actually FINISHED is also very smart. Many novelists start shopping their books before they're done...a "rush to publish," if you will


The only thing that's missing here--other than a little more about the main character, as well as the setting for the book--is why she's pitching this particular agent. Is it because the agent reps contemporary romance? Because she heard the agent was looking for books in this genre? Because she reps an author of similar works? Include WHY you're contacting this person, in the first line or two of your query letter. You want the agent to know that 1. you're contacting her  for a reason and 2. you've done your homework and 3. you're serious about your career.


Overall, though, I think this is a very strong query--with a little more work, it will be close to perfect. My $0.02 anyway.]

Sincerely,

Readers, what say you? Do you agree with my comments? Anything to add? 
**One of the reasons I provide critiques and post templates on my blog is because I've always found it helpful to have a model to follow, whether I'm writing a query, a LOI, an invoice, or even a "pay-or-die" letter. My new ebook, Dollars and Deadlines' 10 Essential Freelance Templates (Smashwords version) includes 10 essential freelance templates together, with an explanation of how to use each; it's invaluable if you're a new freelancer. Want a guide to the business side of freelancing? Then you'll want to read my new book from Writer's Digest, Writer for Hire: 101 Secrets to Freelance Success.


And stay tuned for more queries!