Today's guest blog post is being done by Faith E. Hough. Please be sure to visit her blog and become a follower.
She does not have an agent but she does have an interesting query that earned her a full request - from an editor. I don't have any experience with querying editors directly but if I had to guess I would imagine that they're even pickier than agents.
As usual Faith's query is in plain black text, her analysis is in blue and my own thoughts are in red.
She would like to explain her situation first:
This is from back when I was querying editors because agents were mysterious to me. :) I sent it out to five editors...three asked for a partial and one of those three asked for a full from that. One of the five sent a form rejection the next day, and the last sent a personal letter telling me how much she enjoyed the query (pointing out specific elements), and though the book wasn't right for her house, she'd be love to see queries for anything else I had.
Of course, this book still isn't published—and I think that is due in large part to the query promising a kind of adventure the book doesn't deliver. So I've been working on that. I'll be grateful to hear what everyone thinks of this so I can perfect it along with the manuscript!
Dear (Editor's Name),
The Pieta disappears. The ceiling of the Sistine Chapel is left white, dry, and peeling. The tomb of Julius II is gone (good thing old Julius wasn’t actually buried there). David is missing, from the curl on his forehead to his perfectly chiseled toe and, well, everything in between.
I wanted to begin with the fun stuff—the problem that the novel is going to hopefully solve. And I wanted there to be humor right off the bat, to make it clear that solving the problem is going to be enjoyable!
I think this is a pretty good hook. It certainly has voice, and does a nice job of hinting at some of the flavor of the humor that I'm sure must be in the novel.
When every piece of art Michelangelo Buonarroti ever laid his hand to vanishes, everyone—and I mean everyone—sits up and notices. But when, in the same disastrous moment, a skinny twelve-year-old named Walter also vanishes, even his classmates in the desks around him don’t realize it. Chalk one up for normal; since Walter’s mother died, he is lucky if his own father remembers to say hello to him in the morning. Suddenly, when he is transported to Gambee, a world where time-traveling villains are obsessed with stealing earth’s greatest art, a forgotten hello becomes the least of his worries.
I hoped to convey here what the MC was like, and what his personal problem is. I tried to carefully choose words that would make you empathize with Walter while wondering about what such a kid would do with such a big problem dumped on his shoulders.
This is fun. I mean sure the premise is a little wacko but as I suspect this is a MG novel that fits perfectly. I can also sympathize with the MC right off the bat - I can remember feeling totally invisible in middle school.
Lucky for Walter, fate (or was it one of the time-traveling villains?) gives him two allies: Michelangelo himself, fifteen years old, plucked from history, but alive and kicking…and spitting and swearing and yelling and punching; and Cassandra, the only girl in Gambee with the courage to stand against her prejudiced world. When Michelangelo and Walter learn the role they are meant to play in an unjust war led by Gambee’s leaders, the three children are determined to stop it by any means necessary, from eavesdropping to espionage to art forgery by a boy who will become one of the world’s greatest artists—if Walter can find a way to get him home.
I wasn't sure—and I'm still not—whether this paragraph was really needed. I felt that it was important to introduce the other two key players in the story and expand upon the plot a bit...but it does begin to drag on. In the new version of the query I'm working on, after revising the ms a bit, I was able to incorporate the important bits into paragraph #2.
I can understand Faith's point - and certainly usually less is more but I think the idea of running around having adventures with a 15 year old Michaelangelo is just so zany that it may just be the highest spark of this query. Remember, sometimes a premise that is unique enough is all you need.
This 51,000-word manuscript, The Art of Elsewhere, was the winner of Connecticut’s 2009 Tassy Walden Awards Program for New Voices in Children’s Literature in the Middle Grade category.
Let's face it: this might have had more to do with the partial request than the query itself. This was a contest judged by agents and editors, and I was really lucky to have something like that to put in my otherwise clean slate of a bio!
I'd say it helps. I'm not familiar with the award but I'm sure an agent would be.
I have enclosed a SASE for your response should you wish to review the entire manuscript. Thank you for your time and consideration.
Faith E. Hough
So what do you guys think? I'm sure it's a little different writing directly to editors but I would say that Faith's query would probably work for agents.
Please leave your thoughts, ideas and questions in the comments and don't forget to visit Faith's blog and become a follower.