Wednesday, July 24, 2013

An Agent's Inbox #5

Dear Ms. Smith:
I am a published author seeking representation. After reading your bio, I felt that you might be a good fit for my middle grade novels.  Here is a description of my most recent novel, Millie Glow, which includes time travel from my favorite decade: the eighties:
Millie Glow is just a typical sixth grade student; that is, until her scientist father decides to take the family on a business trip to the future: 2013.  Too bad Ava Henry doesn’t know this--she and her friend are convinced the Glows are zombies.  How could they not be when they see Mr. Glow being dug up from the ground by his family?
Millie Glow is a light-hearted mystery-turned-science fiction novel that combines humor, zombies, and eighties fashion.
I am the author of seven children’s books in the trade market. I am an SCBWI network representative and a former elementary and middle school teacher. In 2008, I won the SCBWI Work-in-Progress grant for one of my contemporary novels, A Recipe for Ana.
Below are the first 250 words of Millie Glow.  Thank you for your time.


Chapter 1: Millie

It was only the first week of sixth grade when Millie Glow found out about The Vacation. The one that would change her life forever.

“Sit down, Millie,” her dad said. 

Millie grabbed an Ecto Cooler juice box from the fridge and sat down at the kitchen table. “What’s up?”

“Your dad has some…unusual news for you,” her mom said, as if unusual was a foreign word in their house.

“So you know how I’ve been doing studies into protons and anti-protons…” Mr. Glow dad began.

Millie took a sip of her juice box and zoned out as she often did when her dad tried to explain what he was working on in his lab. 

Millie’s dad was an inventor. Some stuff turned out super cool, like his bicycle which peeled a banana as you pedaled and a peanut butter that exploded into cotton candy in your mouth. Other stuff he invented was pretty boring--those inventions usually involved microscope slides, pipettes, and goggles.

It's not that she didn’t think he was a great inventor. It’s just that he was always talking about particles smaller than a speck of sand, and, well, she wasn’t sure what that had to do with her.

“…I can’t confirm anything, obviously,” he said taking off his glasses. “That is, think of it as a business trip of sorts.”

She turned back to her dad. “Where’d you say we’d be going?”

“The year 2013.”


Karen Clayton said...

Sounds fun. I like zombies and the 80s. I like the juice box touch too - very relatable to the market.

Hong said...

I like that your query is concise.

Several things are unclear to me:

I don't understand how Ava Henry can be convinced that Millie's family is full of zombies, if Millie's father only brought his family? How is Ava involved in this?

If Millie and her friend are "convinced", it seems to come across that it's not 100% certain that Millie's family members are zombies. They could be wrong. What about using a stronger word like "discovered"?

How is Millie in danger when she finally discovers the truth about her family?

The second sentence of your opening paragraph is cliche. "The one that would change her life forever."

This is telling and we will get to know Millie's story from now on.

I don't get a feel of her personality since we're jumping into her conversation with her father.

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Interesting. Time travel and zombies. Sounds like fun.

The thing that jumps out at me is that I don't understand what Ava Henry has to do with anything. Obviously, she lets you bring in the zombie angle. What else? She doesn't seem to have anything else to do with the story, based solely on the query. It feels disconnected.

GSMarlene said...

Love the concept!

For the query - the personalization is a little generic (maybe fine for this, but you'll want more, or to leave it out for real). And you can cut the last line of the first pg.

I was lost with the Ava Henry reference. Your query is short and sweet (better than too long), and you have room for a little more clarification. Or maybe tell us more about Millie beyond typical. Hopefully she's special in some way.

For the first 250 - really enjoyed it (child of the 80's too!) and it was perfect how she zoned out as her dad talked.

The last 2 lines are perfect - I'd certainly read on.

Anonymous said...

Your first 250 flowed well, but from that query I'm not sure an agent would want to read that far. The query does not seem to tell enough. For me, in fact, it just leaves me in a bubble of confusion. Like who are these girls who see the father dug up? Why is he dug up? What is the story actually about?

I feel like this gives the first scene, without giving the meat and bones of the great story we may be in story for.

Good luck, though. To me, this seems like the hardest genre to write. Kudos for taking it on.

And I hate writing queries, too. This person says too long, this person says too short. I feel your pain. :-(

I just think you could dig a little deeper to really hook us in that query. Okay - I'm babbling now. I hope this makes some sense.

Samantha Sabovitch said...

I would suggest that if you're going to start your query with the publishing credit hook, you put your credits up front: where and what you've published. Don't make the agent dig. Even when you get to the credits in the last paragraph, it doesn't give names of publications.

Also, your book summary is too short. Give us a little bit more plot and lay out the stakes. I had to re-read that paragraph a couple times to understand what it was saying, and then I got stuck on how 2013 was the future. Since I'm also querying, I've done a lot of reading on what agents want--and that's the story. Your publishing credits are a bonus, but they want to know what the story is about and whether it's something they want to rep.

I don't have much to say about the 250 words because I don't read/write MG, so I'll just say it sounds to me like a voice that would appeal to your age group. (But I'm not expert!)

Good luck!

Mandy P. said...

I'm a sucker for a time travel story! And zombies. So I would probably read on just for that, but like many of the other commenters, the query leaves me a little confused.

The first thing I noticed is that there doesn't seem to be a word count in the query. Don't forget to include it!

I was confused when you mentioned "Ava Henry" and digging up Mr. Glow. Is Ava a girl in 2013? Is coming up from the ground part of the time travel process? I would definitely make it more clear if Ava is in the 80s or the present.

Concise queries are definitely a good thing, but I think you could add a little more detail without getting overlong. I'm left wondering what exactly the plot of the novel is. Is it about Ava trying to figure out the mystery of the Glow family? Or is there something else going on. I would make it more clear.

Overall I think your 250 is good, though I noticed what I think is a typo in the line that begins, "So you know how I've been doing..." It says "Mr. Glow dad began." I think you just mean "dad began."

I love the paragraph about Millie's dad's inventions and which ones Millie thinks are exciting versus boring.

Overall good job! Millie seems like an interesting character and this seems like a great concept!

Bridget Smith said...

I just recently heard an editor ask for more time travel stories that introduce characters from other eras to the present day, so you might be on the right track with this one! Just remember that MG readers missed the 80s by a full decade – they weren’t even around in the 90s. So your pitch might want to reflect how foreign a world that will be for them. Similarly, I don’t know enough about Millie herself from this query: “typical sixth-grade student” doesn’t tell me much. I want to know why I want to follow her story!