Friday, January 28, 2011
Okay folks, same query as yesterday, but with my thoughts, advice and jokes. I'm sure you can figure out that my feedback is in red.
Dear Obviously you know to put their name here. First name is okay, but Mr. or Ms. and their last name spelled correctly is better,
I’m seeking representation for Burnt Amber, a YA fantasy complete at 75,000 words, inspired by the tragic fairy tale of Byzantine landmark, KizKalesi. The older voice and bittersweet ending will appeal to Kristin Cashore fans, and my experience living in Turkey helped me enrich the story with authentic details. (Insert reason specific agent will appreciate BA.)
Now I know the jury is still out on this, and there is plenty of advice for either side, but my suggestion is to save all this housekeeping info for the end of your query. It is better to get right to the story. A smart agent is going to infer a lot about your genre from a good hook anyway. That being said there is no question that certain agents prefer it one way or the other, so try to find out which one they want and then tailor your query to their preference.
Sybil isn’t a fan of “Once Upon a Time” and she’s certainly not interested in a Prince Charming, a Sultan, or an entitled Istanbulite who thinks his sappy guitar ballad will melt her American heart. She’s perfectly capable on her own, when the sun is up, but at night a Crusader haunts her dreams and leaves her seeking answers her adoptive parents can’t provide.
This isn't bad. Your hook could have more punch to it, I think, but as is it's pretty damn funny. It could work like that if the voice and style of your novel are just as irreverent and hilarious.
The second sentence I'm not sure of. I mean the phrase about her parents is great, it set up just the right amount of backstory, but the rest ... I'm not sure you need it. It's too vague, and if the Crusader is the same as Haydon, mentioned below, then I would skip it. If not, then I'm confused.
Another thing that would be great would be more about Sybil's character from the get go. In my own query I call my MC a "15 year old reluctant juvenile delinquent" before I ever get to naming him, er - I just double checked and it's actually right before and after. Anyway, point is, in those 6 brief words you know so much about who he is that you can probably already begin to picture him. I would always suggest putting your MCs age in if your novel is YA. The profession/status/background/whatever description is probably less important, but if you can figure out a clever way to work it in, you'll be starting off quite strong.
With two weeks left in her semester abroad, Sybil meets a fortuneteller with a unique tattoo similar to one she’s had for as long as she can remember. The connection might explain her premonitions and links her to enigmatic gypsies who channel the djinn. Her psychic awareness skyrockets when she bumps into Haydon, a familiar stranger who would look really irresistible in chainmail. She discovers that he shares her clairvoyance, but he also triggers a fiery energy she has trouble controlling -- the same djinn energy the gypsy warned her to keep secret at all cost. That should say "at any cost" or "at all costs" Aggressive amber orbs and visions plague her when she tries to forget him, so she’s tempted to try a short fling regardless of the consequences…until she connects a fanatical priest with the Maltese cross from her nightmare and everything suddenly makes sense.
You have some very strong points in this part. I would say that the best part of your story (keeping in mind I haven't read it) is the unique premise and the setting. Each of these tastes of conflict are good, and would stand up fine on their own, but all bunched together in the query like this it doesn't work, and it get's too confusing.
I'll try to break this down sentence by sentence. The opening clause is great, it's lets us know why she's there, what kind of position she's in (as in temporary) and that she's probably either a prep student from a nice school, or a very young college student. The fortune teller part I'm not sure about. I'm sure it's important to the plot, but we can't tell how here, and you never come back to it except to say that it triggers everything else. It's also kind of vague.
You then introduce her power, which I think is done fine, but when coupled with the possible romantic interest, the heightening of her power, Haydon having similar skills, and then it all linking back to the Gypsies and the Djinn (which BTW I think sounds like a freaking awesome story) I get lost in the shuffle. I don't think you need all these details. I would skip over Haydon sharing the clairvoyance, it sounds cool, but you need to trim and tighten this anyway, so you may have to skip everything that isn't critical. I would also try to bump the part about the warning up into the same sentence as the discovery of the Djinn. I mean I understand why you linked back, and it does kind of work, but you've just simply got too much going on here, IMHO.
I would cut "Aggressive amber orbs and visions plague her when she tries to forget him, so she’s tempted to try a short fling regardless of the consequences…" and then focus on that last clause. It sounds like this is the antagonist, so we need to hear about him. And what nightmare and what cross are you talking about? The way it is introduced here makes it sound like we already know about them, which we don't. Also, you've already hinted at the possibility of romance (in a very funny, clever way, I thought) and we don't need a reminder.
Sybil learns that her biological mother risked everything to help her escape the chauvinistic clutches of the djinn world, knights and all. So she isn’t happy to be thrown back into it and discover that she’s not only been married to Haydon since she was five years old, but she’s the lost Queen of Cilicia. She just wants to get back to her old, predictable life. Instead she’s sucked into a power struggle with her djinn father’s rival and faced with a choice: bigamy with a chance at regaining her humanity…or a future cut off from both worlds forever.
I would cut the marriage and the part about being Queen. This is kind of getting into synopsis territory. Those sound like great plot twists and you don't have to give us everything in the query. I think the first sentence is good. I also think your summary is pretty good.
Overall you're off to a great start. I know you already know this query is a bit long and that's fine. I think the bigger problem is a lack of focus. Try to consider these main points:
Who is the character, and why would we care about her?
What conflict arises that she must overcome, and what are the stakes if she fails?
What choice must she make in order to succeed, and what is the cost of failure?
More djinn lore along with Turkish customs and places described in the book can be found on my blog at www.carolynsnowabiad.com. Recently, the blog site of Turkish national newspaper Milliyet featured a post recognizing my positive portrayal of the advancement of women’s rights in my piece about former Turkish Prime Minister, Tansu Çiller.
Thank you for your consideration of my work,
Carolyn Snow Abiad
The rest of this is fine, I would still move word count and genre to the end here, but I would also customize that for each query.
Okay. So the rules here are simple, you absolutely do not have to agree with me, you just have to be honest and try to help Carolyn improve this query as much as possible. I am not an expert by any means. I'm way better than I was when I started, and I may be better than some, but that doesn't mean I know everything.
Also, I'm pretty good at knowing what to cut, and what might need to be changed, but I am not very good at suggesting how to change it, or what might make it pop a little more. If you readers could please help us out here, it would be much appreciated.
Thanks so much for visiting, please share your thoughts in the comments.