Query #9 February 2015


Below is the ninth public query critique I’m offering up on the blog. This will happen once a month (as long as I get a response). I choose one query per month. If your query is not selected one month, it will be in the drawing for the next month. Please do not resubmit unless you’ve made significant edits. To enter, see the rules here. If you want a guaranteed critique (plus line edit) of your query or synopsis, private ones cost $35 each.

My comments are in blue below. To read the original query first, simply read only the black text.

Her life is a lie but Fiona doesn’t know it, until a chance encounter and a brush with death blows the lid off her neatly packaged world. These are all cliches. “Blows the lid off” is a cliche, too, but you’ve made it fresh with “neatly packaged world.” Still, this hook doesn’t tell me what makes your book unique.
Fiona’s in the spotlight cliche again, and this time it’s a little more serious than a step from the closet. Is this a reference to her coming out of the closet? Because that’s not clear. A mysterious girl, created in a lab as an eternal sixteen-year-old, plops beside her on a park bench, and instantly ensnares her mind. Now, she’s smack in the middle of a deadly pursuit.
Cut the cliches and the set up of these two paragraphs and get to what’s important: “When a lab-created girl plops beside her on a park bench and ensnares her mind, __teen-year-old Fiona is about to get even more unwanted attention than when she came out of the closet.”
A black ops team is on the hunt; their project’s running loose, and if she becomes active, the entire world will suffer. I’m not sure what’s going on here. Is the girl who sat next to Fiona and ensnared her mind this “project”? What is that girl’s name? I want to know more about her, even if it’s just a sentence, so that I’m really concerned when I read that a black ops team is looking for her. And how will the world suffer? Give us a precise idea of what could happen. The squad of government-trained assassins will stop at nothing cliche, especially in queries. to keep their secrets from surfacing, but Fiona’s determined to safeguard this long desired sense of belonging, which stems from her new friend’s presenceThis is a bit awkward and needs to be its own sentence. Flip it to make it less awkward: But Fiona has long desired the sense of belonging which stems from her new friend’s presence, and she’s determined not to lose either.
On the run, confused, and desperate, Fiona turns to the strongest person she knows, her girlfriend/martial arts instructor, Isoko. With the help of the woman she loves, Fiona fights to uncover the truth behind Project Snowfall. However, the more she digs, the more her own existence begins to unravelI don’t know what this means. I know what the words mean, but I don’t know what it means in the context of the story. It’s too vague. What kind of things come into question? How can someone’s existence unravel? When I hear that, I picture the melting Nazis in Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Your title is stellar. If you want to share it in the comments, feel free, but I need to keep the workshops anonymous. [GREAT TITLE], a YA techno-thriller, is complete at 53,000 words. Told in an omniscient third, this LGBT themed novel is geared toward general suspense lovers, literary action seekers, and those with a flair for the romantic. This is pretty much akin to saying “everyone will like my book.” Again, be specific. Marketers can’t sell books to everyone—they need a direct audience to target. That’s why agents and readers like comp titles. Try “my book will appeal to fans of ___ and ____.” While [TITLE] works as a stand-alone, it has series potential; comma, not a semicolon. and would appeal to mature teen readers through adults.
Thank-You Just “Thank you,” no hyphen. for the time you took in considering my query.
This is a great start, and your concept alone should garner some requests, but I’d like to see fewer-to-no cliches and some more specifics. Feel free to revise and resubmit to continue the workshop.

Kindle Touch versus Nook Simple Touch

UPDATE: This is a review comparing the Nook Simple Touch to the Kindle Touch. These models have both been replaced by newer models. And while I still prefer brick & mortar stores to Amazon, after struggling with my Nook’s clunky highlighting and note-taking issues, I’d recommend just going with the free Kindle app on mobile devices, or sticking with physical books if you don’t want to read back-lit text.

Next week is my birthday, and though I have thought about getting an E-reader for a few years now, I am finally getting one.

Why the delay?

1. I like physical books. No e-reader will ever compare to snuggling up with a book, turning its pages, holding the weight in your hand, seeing the typography printed on paper and laid out with intention. And no e-reader will ever have that deliciously musty smell of a book.

2. I wanted a touch screen, no backlight e-reader if I was going to get one at all. I have an iPhone with both Nook and Kindle apps if I need a backlight, but the truth is, I stare at a screen all day. I’d prefer reading to be better for my eyes, not more strain for them.

3. I wasn’t reading enough to justify the purchase.

4. I thought going to the library would suffice when I finally finished the books I was reading.

5. Buying used books is cheaper than buying an e-book.

Why the change of heart?

1. I’ll still buy physical books.

2. No backlight E-readers with full touch screens are available.

3. I’ll read more if I have access to more books.

4. The local library here has very little selection. When we move to the city, I’ll use the library more, but I can get e-books from the library, too.

5. Buying new books supports the publisher, which means more books in the future.

Kindle Vs. Nook

Big surprise! The Kindle Touch and Nook Simple Touch have more similarities than differences. To read about the similarities and a few differences, read this article at the MSNBC Technolog, or click the image below.

The Nook and Kindle homepage layouts
John Brecher / msnbc.com

Kindle Touch Review

I went to two stores with Kindle Touch samples, Walmart and Best Buy. Unfortunately, the demo version used at both stores SUCKS, so if you want to try out a Kindle Touch, find a friend who has one and try theirs, or find a nice Best Buy person willing to register the sample in his name so you can bypass the demo. The latter happened for me. Still, it felt a bit clunky, so finding a friend seems the better option.

Here’s the overview of a Kindle Touch:

  • One free book to borrow per month if a Prime member ($80 annually) NOW $99 annually
  • $30 more to get one without ads
  • 3G available for $50 more
  • Can view web browser
  • text-to-speech option
  • 4 GB storage plus cloud capabilities
  • can read PDF, TXT, and Word documents, no e-pub
  • turn page by tapping sides of screen
  • Reading Options:
    • Options accessed by tapping top of screen (I accidentally accessed it a few times while turning pages)
    • 8 text sizes
    • 1 typeface with 3 font options (serif, sans, condensed)
    • 3 choices for line spacing
    • Words per line: fewer, fewest, default
  • not easiest to navigate (demo version impossible)
Because I used a demo version, my experience was limited.

Nook Simple Touch Review

  • 1 hour free reading in-store, every day, of e-books you haven’t purchased. A select e-book is free every Friday
  • no ads
  • 3G not available
  • no text-to-speech
  • no web browser access
  • 2 GB storage plus cloud capabilities plus SD card slot for unlimited storage.
  • can read PDF, e-Pub, and image files, not Word or TXT docs
  • turn page by tapping sides of screen OR use buttons on edges
  • Customizable sleep screens—create your own with personal photos
  • Reading Options:
    • Options accessed by tapping bottom of screen
    • 7 text sizes
    • 6 different typefaces (I think Amasis is the name of my favorite)
    • 3 choices for line spacing
    • 3 choices for margins
    • publisher default option
  • better navigation and interface
Kindle has some features that the Nook doesn’t have, but the Nook has a better design. Kindle has better Amazon phone support with a return policy, but Nooks can be serviced in any B&N store.
I still couldn’t decide between Kindle and Nook, so I looked at the stores:

Amazon versus Barnes and Noble

Though Barnes & Noble claims to have 2 million books available, that counts the free books, which Amazon also has. Amazon actually offers more books, but the difference is small, and those books offered on Amazon and not on B&N are more likely to be self-published books.

The decision-maker was which store had a better relationship with publishers. The answer? Barnes and Noble. (Read the New York Times article here.) Amazon might have cheaper books from time to time, but Barnes & Noble respects the publisher’s wishes. It might lead to some grumbling from cheapskate consumers like myself, but think about the price for a second here: by paying the publisher’s price, you are keeping the publisher alive. By keeping the publisher alive, you are keeping traditional publishing alive. By keeping traditional publishing alive, you are keeping book printing and quality control alive.

Now, I’m biased. As a designer, I’ll always prefer printed books to e-books because they are intentionally designed with intentional typefaces. As a tactile person, I’ll always prefer printed books. As a writer, I prefer traditional printing because traditional publishers 1) don’t publish as much crap and 2) get writers seen and their books read.

Do I have respect for people that can do self-publishing? Yeah, because it’s a lot of work. Do publishers sometimes reject awesome books? Yes—try a different publisher or find a better agent. Can publishers get greedy? Yes–go to the library if the book is too expensive.

But really, publishing is an industry, full of workers. Workers who deserve to be paid. It makes me SO MAD when I see people saying that “reading should be free for everyone.” One: It is, you idiots. Get a library card. Two: how would you feel if YOU didn’t get paid for your job?

Bottom Line

While the Kindle is easily the number one sold e-reader, popularity doesn’t necessarily mean superiority. Then again, I’m a Mac person, so of course I feel that way. Except in this case, the Nook is actually the cheaper option.

Nook isn’t called the “Simple” Touch for nothing. It has fewer gimmicks extras, and it’s much easier to use. The design is far superior, and I am supporting traditional book publishing by supporting Barnes & Noble.

Nook wins.

Update April 2012: Nook just released the NOOK Simple Touch™ with GlowLight™—SUPER long name, super cool gadget if you want to read at night. $139, same price as the Kindle without ads. Check out a review here. Preorder it here.