Today is Emily's query again, but I will add my thoughts and ask you all to do the same. Let's get right into it.
Dear Super Agent:
You all probably know my feelings about this by now. Personalization is good, especially if you can show that you have really researched an agent, but my OPINION is that you should jump right into your story, and cover that other stuff after.
Ella didn’t think her problems were going to get worse after escaping an interstellar prison ship, and she certainly didn’t think she’d be expected to save the galaxy.
This sets up setting and stakes/conflict pretty well, but for your opening hook to really zing I think you need more idea of character. Even adding an occupation and age before Ella's name might be enough. Especially if this is YA or NA. If Ella is older it's not as important.
For example I call my MC a reluctant juvenile delinquent in my query. True, that's not actually an occupation but it tells us loads about his character in three quick words: he gets in trouble a lot, but he doesn't mean to. You obviously don't have to do that, but I do think it's important to give some idea of why a reader should care about your character, even before you get to plot and setting, even if you have to call her a kick ass wheel chair wielding elemementomancer.
Her feet barely touch solid ground before the prison ship guards notice Ella’s missing and chase her all the way into the middle of a giant bug infested desert—giant bugs who just happen to have a taste for meat. Watch your tense. With sharp-edged pincers ripping away at her flesh, an ability Ella never knew she had is awakened. Anybody order crispy critters? With fire now at her tenuous disposal, Ella hops aboard a freighter on its way to a planet well outside her captors’ territory.
This paragraph is mostly good. You have several phrases that are dripping with awesome voice - which is great, but I'm also confused by your opening and when she discovers her powers. The opening I don't get because although I know from previous versions Ella is somewhat crippled at first (right?), this comes at us out of nowhere in this version, and leaves the reader wondering what you mean about her feet touching the ground. The part about gaining her powers isn't so bad, but I would like to hear how they were awakened a little more.
Making friends is something she hoped she’d do, but these friends have some bad news: she’s part of some alien race everyone thought was a myth. And more specifically, she’s destined to fight a fallen angel with a god complex, or die trying.
This paragraph is similar, it ends quite strong, with great voice, wit, and sense of stakes regarding the main conflict in your plot, but I'm left wondering which friends you mean. Are you talking about the people on the freighter she escapes in? If so just a teeny bit more about them might help. We don't need names, just what kind of people are they?
Problem is, years of solitary confinement didn’t really prepare Ella for fighting—or walking—or any semblance of balance on two feet for that matter. Honestly, she doesn’t even know if she wants to fight him. In a perfect world, Ella would be left alone. But here’s the thing: this god’s not exactly sitting around waiting for her to make up her mind. If Ella doesn’t hurry up and decide what’s really important—a life with her friends or a galaxy where living is actually possible—she won’t be the only one to end up dead.
This is great, it conveys an excellent sense of character, but ... that stuff needs to come first. There are no hard fast rules when it comes to queries, but giving the reader a reason to care about your character ASAP is pretty important. This part about her legs, and about her reluctance to fight is awesome, well written, concise, and very informative, but you need to work it in much earlier.
ELEMENTAL, a 65,000 word YA Science Fiction set in a galaxy in desperate need of change, is rife with teleporting fairies, interstellar battleships, and things that go boom.
This is pure gold, assuming your novel is as funny as most of this query. That is all.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
I realize this is general, somewhat vague advice, and it often helps to have more specific examples of how to change things, but I'm hoping to get to that through people's comments and perhaps via email between us later today or this week.
So, that being said, does anyone have any specific examples they could give Emily of how to re-write a particular part of her query? I think a new hook with more characterization tossed in would be especially helpful.
Otherwise feel free to leave your thoughts or questions in the comments, and as always, thanks for visiting!