Anyway, talking about my day job is so lame, even I'm already bored. So let's get to work. Today we have Patricia's query again, this time with my feedback, in blue.
Here's the letter:
Dear [Agent Name],
Top graduates ever from the Academy of Demia, David and Catrine were Queries are generally written in present tense. You can break the rules if you make it work, but be careful, because your tense switches in the third paragraph. I realize you're using tense to separate backstory from story, but that means you've got two whole paragraphs of backstory! more than friends and schoolmates -- You don't usually surround em-dashes with spaces. In fact, I recommend leaving them out of queries, but if you're going to use them, make sure you use them--like this--right. they were a team. At least until the day he kissed her. Otherwise, as far as content goes, this opening isn't bad. I like this twist, I like the bit of world-building, and I like the sense of character we have, but I do think we could use a little more characterization. Who is the protagonist? David? Try to introduce him first, give us a sense of who he is, and make it clear why we should care that he succeeds.
That was the day David noticed the tiny tattoo hidden in her hair. Ooh, I like this. He recognized the symbol from a book that implied a single family had been ruling Demia since colonization. I was thinking Fantasy up until this point, but it's not really a problem, because you can mention genre in the subject line of your email. But David had never believed the book before -- it contradicted the core principles on which the planet was founded. Demia was the center of knowledge in the galaxy. It was supposed to value merit, not birthright. Everyone knew the last two headmasters were from the same bloodline -- but all of them? No wonder the history books have disappeared! I'm struggling with this. On the one had, it's all pretty cool. Certainly important to the story, and clearly makes for a fascinating world rife with conflict, but I'm not sure whether it belongs in a query. This is essentially all backstory, set-up, or world-building. Or all three. In a query, you kind of need to open with an inciting incident, and then get right to the conflict. The discovery of the tattoo might be that incident, and I realize you need to set-up the contradiction for the conflict to make sense, but you might need to go about it more quickly.
Now David is certain Catrine is next in line for a hereditary throne that should not even exist
When David discovers his parents are conspiring to make him king of Demia -- a position that does not exist -- by marrying him to Catrine, he is sure his leadership skills can be better employed bringing peace to the turmoil at the other end of the galaxy. He does not want to be part of a deceitful government, but can Demia prosper without him? And how long can he evade those who are determined to lure him home? The bait might just be more than he can resist. This is excellent too. If you could somehow distill this query down to these last two paragraphs, you'd be in great shape.
THE LEGACY OF THE EYE, complete at 85,000 words, is social science fiction and was inspired by Plato’s Republic. I also work with science fiction in test tubes at [the cool place I work]. If you really do it, wouldn't it be science non-fiction?
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Okay, in summary: I'm having a really hard time deciding what to tell you to change about this query. You've got two long paragraphs of backstory, that I would normally say you have to cut, but then the two great plot paragraphs wouldn't make as much sense.
The one thing I definitely think you should do is introduce David by himself, show us who he is, and make us care. Then, if you could tighten up the backstory about the world, maybe into one or two brief sentences, and then get right to the actual plot/conflict/story, I think you'd be in much better shape.
Let's see what my readers think.
What do you all think? Can the query work with all that backstoy? Or do you think there's another way to go about it? Anything else you would suggest?