Monday, July 5, 2010

Bob's Query (So Far)

I started writing Bob’s query last week, and it ended up coming together a lot faster than I thought it would (assuming, of course, my beta readers don’t uncover a massive plot revision that renders the whole thing obsolete). I posted my first draft on Nathan Bransford’s forums, got slammed, and put together this draft, which garnered (winks at Myrna:) ) a few good reviews. So now that I won’t be completely embarrassed by it (I think), I wanted to share it with you and get your opinions and advice.

Dear [Agent]:

The 2046 International Biomedia Conference is, according to the pamphlet, the most celebrated event for high school students on the planet. But when Seth receives an invitation to attend, the last thing he wants to do is celebrate.

Seth hates biomedia. He hates Hermes United, the company that pioneered the industry, and he loathes his Wingtooth, the tooth-shaped implant that links his brain to the feed. The too-smooth voices give him headaches, and he’s never found much use for a Camera that takes pictures with his eyes, or a Music Player that blasts its words and sounds straight into his brain. The truth is, he hardly uses his Wingtooth, even though ripping out Wingteeth is about as socially acceptable as ripping out real ones.

But his protests fall on feed-deafened ears. Monday morning finds him at the conference, which gets off to a not-so-promising start when he slips and dumps his breakfast on the most beautiful girl in the whole world. And that’s the high point of his week. The low point hits the night of the Last Banquet, when Hermes United’s Toothless workers launch a hostile corporate takeover--literally--and disable the feed.

The Toothless rebels meant to humble their Wingtoother colleagues, but they end up crippling them instead. Because the feed’s smooth-talking voices have left the Wingtoothers incapable of independent thought--except for Seth. As the last Wingtoother standing, he’s biomedia’s last hope.

But does he really want to save the thing that turned everyone into thoughtless nothings? And if he wants to save them, does he have any other choice?

[BOB] is a 63,000-word YA dystopian. [Agent-specific comments]

I am a BYU graduate, a stay-at-home mom, and a blogger. [BOB] will be my first publication.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Contact Info

Any thoughts?


Kathryn Packer Roberts said...

I love the idea of the book (though there is a book that just came out a lot like it). I think the query just needs a little tightening up. It's just a little bit wordy for me. Shorter sentences. Really make it more intense, it needs to have impact.

Sorry you got slammed on Nathan's site. It's really brave of you to put yours up there for people to see. I have written dozens of queries and I'm sure they all stunk. I'm not the greatest at picking out the parts of my story that would appeal to an agent. But each time I write one I think it gets better.

I would also try out different models. Even if they seem outlandish and crazy. I have read other people's queries (people who have been published through those queries) and have seen different styles and been inspired by how they changed up the format a little. Just make sure you instill your voice into the query as well.

Sorry, was that enough babbling? =)

Keep up the good work!

Unknown said...

Hola, I came across your site while researching agents to query, someone on query tracker posted a link to one of your interviews.

I too am in the query process. It's daunting and scary as hell. My critique partners all loved my query but I got form rejections so I did some research, and found this.

Now, it's super hard to do a query the way it's mentioned here. I went over the three sentence plot summary rule by one or two. I mentioned my characters names, only once. But check it out and let me know your thoughts. I am really interested to see what you think, if this formula for a query is actually better.

BTW, your blog rocks!

Erica75 said...

I am a fellow Bransford-slammee (who doesn't know how to spell slammee, apparently). Let's just say I feel your pain there.

I've been told "less is more" and that makes me think you have too much here. I like your first line, but then I wonder why Seth would have been invited at all and, even if he was, why he accepted. I'd say something like "It's the last place in the world Seth wants to be."

I like the 2nd paragraph, it's a little wordy, but sets things up nicely.

The 3rd paragraph is too long and doesn't add much info. I'd take it out and start the next para "The Hermes United's Toothless workers, wanting to takeover the event, disable the feed and cripple their Wingtoother colleagues."

I'm not sure the conflict is enough for me (sorry). There must be something else there. Why is only Seth left - did the toothless somehow disable the feed across the world (this makes it sound like it's just at the conference)? Does he want to save his friends, girlfriend, family (no one really has been mentioned)? What makes Seth feel like he needs to save PEOPLE (which is probably the point, since he hates the feed itself). If you take out the 3rd para, you have more sentences to add here, which is the "meat" of your query. I'd take out the rhetorical questions, too. You could end the preceding para with something like "As the last Wingtoother standing, he's the biomedia's - and perhaps the world's - last hope." (or whatever the stakes are).

One last tiny little thing - I'd usually skip the bio unless the agent specifically asks for it. If you don't list pub creds, they'll know it's your first, and probably won't care about the rest (I'm saying that as a master-degreed teacher, mom, and avid reader, although I don't ever put that in!). Under your signature, include your blog address.

Okay, my usual disclaimer is that I've never been published and you can throw rotten tomatoes across the Mississippi at me if you want!! This is just "food for thought." Have fun and congratulations on the book!
Erica (a lurker who reads all your agent interviews and decided to come out of the shadows to support you after your slammee status was reported :)

Karen Denise said...

Hi Krista, I’ve been torn a new one on Absolute Write so I feel your pain. I really love the concept of this. I’m a fan of YA dystopia so I already want to read more. With that said, I think some of the sentences don’t flow so smoothly. And I think that may be because you are trying to give us too much information in one swoop so it becomes a mouthful.

For example, The too-smooth voice could just be the smooth voice. That alone gave me an instant idea of this voice in his head so I didn’t really need to know it was too smooth to understand that it would be annoying. Also, I don’t think you need the—literally—in the last sentence of the 3rd paragraph. The sentence itself is literal as you haven’t said anything in it that we would take as figurative. The Toothless workers launch a hostile take over—that is very literal. Btw, I love that they are called Toothless even though they probably have teeth just not Wingteeth. It tells me that you will probably have some humor in this book and I just love that.

Other than those minor things, I think you’ve got a great query here and I hope you have much success with it.

Oh, one other thing, I must agree with Erica75 about the bio. I’ve read so many places that agents don’t want you to mention that this is your first novel. The lack of publishing credits will tell them that and they’d much rather let your writing speak for itself. So I’d remove that last sentence. If you want to think of something else to make the bio look meatier then maybe find something to compare it with. It doesn’t always work, but if you know of books that may have a similar concept, then maybe compare it to that. Like my current novel is about a girl who has psychic dreams so in my bio I said, fans of Lisa McMann’s Wake series might like my novel. Even though our books aren’t really about the same thing, they have the dream element in common. Hope that helps!

Holly said...

Hi, Krista. I like your query letter and the novel sounds great. The draft letter is not too long -- about 300 words, with room to add agent personalization plus your full contact info.

You've developed a fantastic blog, so that can go with your address, email, and phone.

Also, a tip: you can put all your contact info in one line across the top of the page (in a header), instead of under your signature. That format saves several lines of space on the page for your query.

I think you can polish the letter some more. The word pitch springs to mind.

You could reread Nathan Bransford's blog for pitches and go through the steps he suggests. I plan to do the same thing for my query letter (which I hope you will look over when it is ready).

Good luck! I can't wait to read Bob when he's ready.


Holly said...

This is the best one.

Anonymous said...

I'd drop the first paragraph (incorporate the info in the second graf). Condense the next two paragraphs. Clarify "save the thing" and "save them" because it's a little confusing. Drop the line about your lack of publication credits; add your blog address to your contact information.

Intriguing concept. Looking forward to seeing what happens!

Krista Van Dolzer said...

First off, thank you for your comments, everyone. I've been out and about most of the day, and I was so excited to come home and find all this feedback.

Kathryn, I'd be interested to know what book, so I can check it out. (Because we always need to know our competition, right? :) ) And I agree with you that this could use some tightening.

Lady lovelace, welcome! And thanks for the link. In general, I'd say agents tend to fall into two camps: those who favor a more extensive two- to three-paragraph pitch (or, if you follow Janet Reid/Query Shark's mini-paragraph model, possibly even more), and those who prefer a short two- to three-sentence elevator pitch. From what I've seen, more agents like the longer pitch, but it's probably a good idea to have both kinds of query letters, so you can be versatile.

Erica, I'm glad I coaxed you out of the shadows:) You raised some valid points that definitely got me thinking, especially about those last two summary paragraphs...

Karen, I'm glad you like the concept, and you've stirred up some ideas about how to tweak that bio paragraph. Thanks.

Holly, so glad you stopped by! Thanks for the awesome links. And I'd love to take a look at your query when you're ready.

Anne, your pointers were concise and straightforward. Thank you. I'll definitely take them into consideration as I revise.

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Myrna Foster said...

I didn't think it was wordy, and I liked the detail. There was only one place that snagged me out of your query. "But does he really want to save the thing … " This paragraph is ambiguous (referring to "the thing" and "them") where the rest of your query is quite specific.

Kathi Oram Peterson said...

I liked the letter. And it looks like you're getting a lot of feedback.

BTW: Stop by my blog. I have an award for you. :)

Krista Van Dolzer said...

Anon, thanks.

Myrna, good point.

Kathi, thanks - for the comment and the award:)

Jemi Fraser said...

Your book sounds really intriguing - definitely something I would read.

I agree with the others that you might want to tighten up a bit. I'm NOT a query expert and am struggling mightily with my own. From what I gather, most agents don't really want a plot summary (one of those things I'm struggling with) but rather enough of a tease to get them to want to read more.

Hope that helps :)

Erica75 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Erica75 said...

Whoops, I had to delete my post. Stupid typos :( Here's what it said, sans typos (I hope):

Krista - Had to come back and thank you for your comments to me on Nathan's blog today. To anyone reading this - the first page of my YA won Nathan Bransford's critique contest and is up there today. He has a strict contest rule that you can only be nice, so it didn't get rough like it can in the forums. Anyway, thanks, Krista, I got good feedback to make some revisions. The sentence you questioned was one I used to help me condense the entire first chapter into one page. It doesn't work, I see. Until I became a writer, the value of one sentence just didn't strike me the way it does now! Thanks again!

A.L. Sonnichsen said...

Krista, I like your query letter a lot. I am not very good with queries, though, so take my thumbs up with a generous dose of salt. :)I love the fact that Seth has to make an ethical choice. That's a huge selling point for the novel, in my opinion.

Are you entering KarenG's contest? I'm going to, but I know my query is not good. Ugh.


Unknown said...


Thanks for the warm welcome. I currently have 26 queries out, 4 rejections, and 1 partial. I have about three different variations of my query. I feel out the agent before selecting which one. They vary in length, obviously. I agree, it's all a matter of who you are querying. I look forward to reading more, the blog is inspiring for fellow aspiring authors who happen to have offspring and cave-men to tend to!


Krista Van Dolzer said...

Jemi, glad to hear it piques your interest. And I'm definitely still tweaking. Isn't that all that writing is, a seemingly endless parade of tweaks? :)

Erica, I thought that was yours:) When I saw the name, I had to comment. How awesome to get such great feedback.

Amy, thanks. The moral conflict was one of the first plot points that came to me - I knew I didn't want to have a clear-cut good team, bad team. As for KarenG's contest, I didn't realize she was having another one. *goes and checks it out* Argh. Another temptation. But this one might be worth indulging... Thanks for the heads-up:)

LL, one out of five is pretty good, and you'll only get more requests. Congrats! BTW, what's the genre?

Esther Vanderlaan said...

You are AMAZING!!!

Krista Van Dolzer said...

And you are very kind, Esther:)