Query #11 April 2015

Below is the eleventh public query critique I’m offering up on the blog. 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.

Dear Agent,

If being shy around girls were a serious disease, sixteen-year-old Jason Martyr would be on the terminal list.  ha! It turns out girls are the least of his worries when a secret government agency abducts him, claiming he has a rare genetic ability to travel through time. I’m not a fan of the phrase “it turns out” because 1) I see it a lot in queries and 2) it’s a passive, abstract phrase. I’d suggest cutting it, but this premise has me excited, so I’m not that bugged by it.  The agency threatens Jason’s family and friends to ensure his cooperation. Let’s swap this to give it more immediacy. Always end on the strongest point: “To ensure his cooperation, the agency threatens Jason’s family and friends.” Later you mention the “perfect girl.” Does he have a particular crush? Is she threatened as well? If so, this would be a great place to put it, putting a name and personalizing the threat.

 

His Jason’s mission is to go back in time to and stop a ruthless group called the Masters of Infinity[comma] from altering history and taking control of the future. This was a long sentence. Break it up and rework the second half to give specifics about the Masters of Infinity. With the sentence as it was, we lose that awesome name in the middle. You could rewrite this as “…Masters of Infinity, a group of ___ wanting to take control of the future by altering history,” but that’s a bit blah, so I’ll leave the rewrite to you. Their next attack is a 1937 coup attempt aimed at deposing FDR and installing a fascist dictator in his place.  If the Masters succeed, the U.S. may never take part in World War II, setting off a catastrophic domino effect through the rest of the timeline. Ooooooh. Honestly, at this point, I’m assuming you’ve already snagged an agent since you sent this to me 3 weeks ago. Granted, I don’t read a lot of YA time travel, so an idea like this could have already sold, in which case the problem is timing. I hope the timing is on your side!

P.S. Find/Replace those double spaces after each period. That’s carried over from typewriters. I assume you won’t be sending agents a manuscript printed with a dot-matrix printer. Double spaces should only be used if typing in a monospace font, like Courier.

All Jason wants is to return to his normal life and the quest for the perfect girl. This is where the query starts to falter. Hopefully your premise will get you far enough that the agent will look at your pages. Otherwise these stakes aren’t personal or intense enough. The only thing keeping him from saving the world is laziness and hormones? Make it personal. Again, if there was one girl in particular, does he feel like he needs to prove himself to her? Is he up against crippling self-doubt? Before that can happen he This is a bit wordy. “First he” easily cuts three words. must survive martial arts training from the most dangerous fighter in the world, and then prevent the Masters’ henchmen from carrying out the coup. Since you stated that this was his mission already, this is redundant. His enemies know he is coming, and have some lethal surprises in store for him. I think you could cut everything in this paragraph except for this line, and you’d have a tighter query. But I would like to get a stronger, deeper reason for what he does what he does. Jason will go home when he completes the mission – if he survives.

[Fun title in ALL-CAPS], a work of speculative fiction for the YA market, is complete at 82,000 words.  It features action sequences similar to the television series Chuck, and light science fiction aspects similar to Roland Smith’s Cryptid Hunters series.  It is a stand-alone novel with series potential. While Chuck is one of my favorite television series of all time, it’s difficult to compare a written action sequence to a visual one. I’d cut the “action sequences” part and mention that it’s similar to the TV series Chuck and Roland Smith’s Cryptid Hunters series.

I can definitely see the Chuck similarity. Remember that when we meet Chuck, he’s a failed genius working a dead-end job and has been betrayed by both his best friend and his girlfriend. He’s pathetic, but we know he has potential. What Jason is lacking is Chuck’s motivation. Chuck wants to figure out what happened to him, he wants to feel successful, and he wants to feel like less of a loser. Incorporating the emotional stakes into your query will help sell it.

I have a bachelor’s degree in journalism and MBA with emphasis in marketing, both from the University of Missouri.

Thank you so much for your time and consideration.

PLEASE let me know when this book comes out.

Oh, and…er…if you want to send me a revised query, I’ll look at it.

querylara

Now Accepting Summer Clients!

I’ve been on a short sabbatical from manuscript editing to get my household ready for the big move, but I’ll be open for business again in June, with the possibility of some openings in May! I’ve been missing all my clients and am very happy to get off the bench.

Seven Reasons to Make Me Your Editor

I’m taking reservations for the following services:

Manuscript Critiques

What you need to know:

  • This type of editing fills up the fastest, so don’t delay in reserving your spot!
  • I read the entire MS or short story and give overall comments and suggestions
  • I do not make in-text comments, but may highlight sections
  • Average cost is $8 per 1,000 words (a 75K manuscript = 75 x $8 = $600)

For more information, see my services page.

Substantive Line Edits or Copyedits

What you need to know:

  • Depending on the level of editing you need, I edit on the sentence level and give thorough feedback which has been praised by established literary agents, authors, and colleagues.
  • I use track changes for objective copyediting and leave comments for anything subjective.
  • Average cost for line edits is $27 per 1,000 words (I have a $40 special for the first 2,500 words and $160 special for the first 10,000 words)
  • Average cost for copyedits is $11 per 1,000 words ($7 for experienced authors)

For more information, see my services page.

Query Letter and Synopsis Edits

What you need to know:

  • I’m nearly always available for these edits, but they are done on a first-come, first-served basis. As soon as you pay, you get put on the waiting list, and I get to you as soon as I can. (I’ll let you know if the wait times exceed 3 business days in our first email.)
  • You get unlimited passes on these, but priority for full edits goes to new clients, who will need more attention. If you have a quick question, though, I often reply the same day!
  • For examples of my editing style, see my query workshops.
  • Cost is $35 for either, $60 for both.

For more information, see my query workshops.


I list my exceptions (the genres and content I will not edit) here and mention my favorite genres and subjects here.

If you think we’d be a good fit, send me your 1,000-word sample. I’ll read your sample, give you feedback, and quote you a price. To reserve a spot, you’ll need to pay a 20% deposit or $40—whichever is greater.

The deposit is refundable if you cancel before our scheduled date. If you cancel after that, I’ll keep the deposit.

For example, say that you want the first 10,000 words of your work-in-progress professionally edited. You pay $40 and we schedule you for the first two weeks of July. If you cancel before July 1, I’ll refund your $40. If you cancel after July 1, and I haven’t begun editing, I keep the $40 for loss of business. If I edited 5,000 words before you cancelled, I’ll keep your $40 but give you feedback on the first 2,500 words. You’d then have the option of paying for any feedback beyond that, using the price-per-word quote we agreed on.

Does that make sense? If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask.

I look forward to reading your stories and pushing you toward publication!

Beta Readers vs. Manuscript Critiques

MS Editor Elizabeth talks about the difference between Beta Readers and professional MS critiques. I’ll add that strangers can be Beta Readers, but it’s best to pick acquaintances—they are objective, yet you can get a hold of them IRL if they drop off the planet or steal your work (FYI, this happens way less often than writers think). I had twelve friends read my novel and give feedback anonymously using a Google form—it worked well!

MS Editors

You just finished writing the last page of your story—congratulations! Whether you pumped out a NaNoWriMo victory or spent the last five years agonizing over your dream book, you now have a full manuscript sitting in front of you. Give yourself a pat on the back; you deserve it for making it to the end. Now what? You want to make your story better, but you’re still too close to see its weaknesses and discern whether readers would enjoy it. It’s time to get an outside opinion.

If you take your work seriously, you should show your story to someone other than your mother or best friend. Run far away from anyone who has an obligation to tell you that your story is great as is! No book will be ready for publication without major revisions, so you need to hook up with someone who can give you informed feedback…

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Query #10 March 2015

Below is the tenth public query critique I’m offering up on the blog. 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.

Dear Agent:

Aristocrat Tanner Mills, in theory, knew not to trust anyone his parents haven’t you switch to present tense here, then switch back. extensively vetted. In theory, he should have been in school instead of the bar close to the docks How old is Tanner? Is he a schoolboy, a Yale man?You never give his age or the age category of this novel—please do…and then quickly finds himself I’m not a fanof “finds himself,” because it’s a passive cliche. If you want to use passive tense to show that he’s a victim, then you can cut the wordiness and say “is tied,” etc. tied, gagged, and bound if you want to use the bound and gagged trope, that’s fine. I love tropes! But “bound” and “tied” are redundant here. on an airship where the city of London is nothing more than a distance dot wrapped in cloud cover. I’ll be honest, the first time I skimmed this, I completely missed the “air” part and the “cloud cover” part. Since this is steampunk, and setting is muy importante in steampunk, I’d like that up front. Start with what makes your book unique, not with a trope.

I’d recommend starting with a personalization, then leading into your genre paragraph, then starting immediately with the hook (the shanghaiing of the aristocrat, not the disobedience of the aristocrat). It might look like this: Continue reading