Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Last query from our Query Clinic participants

Tip of the Day: even if you don't want to use it to track your queries, querytracker.net still has a ton of helpful info. My favorite bonus features are the list of New and Updated Agents and the comments section about all the agents' wait times, etc. 

Since we aren't quite done talking about queries yet, I'd love to post another query from those that submitted to the Query Clinic. This one is from Monica.

Dear Agent Awesome,

As a devoted reader of your blog and Twitter as well as a fan of your agenting style and clients, I believe that my young adult novel STAGE DIRECTIONS is something you would be interested in.

Lucy Miller is constantly trying to take care of everybody else, making detailed lists to keep track of her many commitments, and biting off more than she can chew. She just wants high school and the plays she’s a techie for in the drama club to go as smoothly as possible because, after all, if she doesn’t keep track of the little things, who will? But now in the final months of her senior year, she’s tired of how routine high school feels, so she impulsively tries out for the spring play and actually gets cast as an understudy.

Lucy didn't want to be bored, and it's a classic case of being careful what you wish for, just like her life-long best friend Colin warned her. Now she’s trying to learn her lines and how to speak with a British accent, figure out why her ex-boyfriend Todd is suddenly speaking to her after a year of silence, build sets, and be there for her friends (and sometimes, even her enemies). And since when does Colin’s smile make her tongue-tied and nervous?

STAGE DIRECTIONS is the tale of a teenage girl who tells it like it is when she finds herself onstage instead of backstage and starts to fall for her boy-next-door best friend. At 62,000 words,this story may appeal to fans of Maureen Johnson, Stephanie Perkins, and Sarah Dessen.

I am currently a teaching assistant in a high school library while also finishing my MS in library and information science from the University X. Coincidently, I work at the high school I graduated from where I was a four-year member of the drama club and I now assist my former director.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

My thoughts:
  • All and all this is a very solid query and well written. It's super easy to follow and I feel like we get a great idea of what the book is about and the characters involved.
  • It works very well that you start off with character info so we can get to know Lucy right up front and that she has a Type A personality. From the beginning it's easy to figure drama is going to ensue.
  • It might even be more impactful if you very briefly include what has caused her to be this Type A. Is her home life chaotic? Parent's divorce? External pressure to succeed? I know it can be a general personality trait that many of us have, but if there is a reason behind it, it might be beneficial to mention it along with the description of her personality. Especially because there's usually a reason why a teen takes on that much responsibility to "take care of everybody else."
  • The first sentence in the second paragraph of the book description: "Lucy didn't want to be bored, and it's a classic case of being careful what you wish for, just like her life-long best friend Colin warned her." might be a bit too obvious. I kind of like it, but I think you might be able to rephrase to get more impact.
  • Also, is there a main conflict in the novel? It's a little unclear from this query. The character conflict is nice, but there has to be something else that happens to escalate the drama. You don't have to include everything, but you need to at least hint at something larger.
  • Does she become more than an understudy? If so how? Is that important drama? If not, maybe just mention that she was cast in the play and leave out the understudy info for the query.
  • Your credentials are spot on and definitely highlight that you have the inside knowledge to deliver a believable book about high school drama clubs.
  • Also LOVE the name of the book.
  • And a general comment to everyone (because I have a feeling Monica does this when customizing the query): make sure you actually read the agent's blog or twitter pages if you comment about them. Pointing out something more specific to that agent that you enjoy about them and why you think they'd be a good fit might be helpful too. Also, specifically mention those client's books that you enjoy. But make sure if you include it that those clients aren't vastly different then you as a writer, or it might serve to confuse the agent more than anything. Also, if you compare your work to other authors (like Monica did), then you might want to just choose one location in the query to mention specific authors.
In summary:

The query is well written. I'd just like it too escalate with the drama a bit more in the second paragraph. Also, the plot itself doesn't seem too new, but I happen to be one that likes that and I know others do to. I'm a fan of predictability and just general light, fun reads. But I know it can make the agent search very hard, especially in today's market. So keep at it, because someone will be bound to love it! 

Thanks for submitting Monica and good luck in your agent search!

--Emily, Miss Querylicious



DeenaML said...

I agree with Em -- GREAT title and a fun premise! I would pick this book up.

I think pitch para #2 could use some more specifics, like what EXTERNAL FORCE does she need to overcome to achieve success, AND WHAT DOES SUCCESS LOOK LIKE to her now?

In other words, what does she want more than anything (to be on stage so her life is not boring?), and what stops that from happening, and how does she work to overcome it? Also what terrible thing will happen if she DOESN'T achieve her goal?

I have a feeling you know this in the ms, but just need to spell it out here to make this book stand out and show the STAKES for your MC.

Good luck!

Monica Fumarolo said...

Thank you so much for the query critique and comments! Your thoughts have been incredibly helpful and I appreciate it more than words can say!