Wednesday, August 20, 2014

An Agent's Inbox #17

Dear Agent,

DREW HORRIBLE AND THE GREAT DRAGON POO EVASION is a good mix of Harry Potter (I know, I know, comparing my work to Ms. Rowling is probably a no-no, but I truly feel Drew’s world is Potter-esk) and Septimus Heap, with a little bit of How to Train Your Dragon thrown into the mix.

Ten-year-old Drew Horrible has always been a failure in his father’s eyes. As the son of the High Chancellor of Evil (who, for fun, turns people into mice and feeds them to his cats--and that’s when he’s in a good mood), Drew is expected to follow in his father’s mean and nasty footsteps as the up-and-coming ruler of the Outlander Realm. Unfortunately, Drew never could live up to his father’s horrible expectations.

Hoping to redeem himself as a worthy heir, Drew sets out to the Outlander Academy, where young villains-in-training learn to fight knights, ward off sock gnomes, and above all, avoid a low ranking on the student Scoreboards, which can lead to a lifetime of squalor and public shaming.

And, quite possibly, dragon poop-shoveling.

Drew soon finds himself in danger of falling into last place on the Scoreboards, and he’s certain bad luck has boxed up his irrevocable fate with a big fat bow on top. But when a deadly sickness starts working its way through the Outlander Realm, Drew learns a secret that could bring about a cure--but could cost him future as heir--or even his life--in the process. Taking care to steer clear of a lifetime of becoming Dragon Poo Drew, Drew finally has the chance to prove himself as future leader of the Realm--if he can embrace his own kind of Horrible.  

DREW HORRIBLE is 77,000 words of MG fantasy. I'd be honored if you would consider it for representation, and I hope to hear from you soon.



Timothy Sparrow stopped to catch his breath. He’d spent the better part of the last ten minutes chasing after a sock gnome, who’d jumped right out of a honeyberry bush, shrieking like a wild banshee. There was nothing quite like having your socks magically ripped right from your ankles, and this gnome had been particularly nasty, with putrid breath and fingernails six inches long. Socks weren’t normally worth the trouble of battling a gnome, but this pair had been a gift from his dear ol’ granny Mavis. And you just don’t mess with socks from granny.

“Oh, fuzz-dudders,” Timothy sighed, taking notice of his war-torn appearance. The gnome had fought admirably, tearing the hem of Timothy’s emerald robes to shreds. The Chancellor would not approve, and now Timothy would have to sneak into the castle through the kitchens to avoid a vicious scolding--or something worse, depending on the Chancellor’s disposition.

The gong sounded eleven, and Timothy reached into his robe, removing a small, crumpled paper. Unfolding it slowly, his eyes scanned the first three words for the hundredth time.

Death is coming.

He knew he should tell Drew Horrible what he’d seen, but couldn’t seem to find the right way to do it. Was there a right way to tell someone that he was the only thing standing between the entire Realm and certain terrible death?

It wasn’t exactly light dinner conversation.


Angie Azur said...

This entry has strong VOICE - I laughed and chuckled and want to read more. Perfect for the age group of MG. Fun words. Great stakes. The writer is knowledgable in craft. Not in love with the title, but this can be worked on easily.

If this came into the slush, I'd kick it on up the chain to the agent to check out! Great work!


Mike M said...

Shrieking like a wailing banshee is a really bad, trite metaphor. It has no place in this imaginative work. You've got all this made up awesome stuff, and you compare it to something dull and overdone,

Never use trite metaphors. If you have heard it before, it is BAD.

Your query sounds like you are very young. Not in a good way. If you compare to potter, compare to it and leave out the editorial. And it would be potter-esque, not esk. But just delete that sentence.

Rosalyn said...

I thought the voice was a lot of fun, and I loved that the voice from the query matched the section below. The query did feel a little long (I've read you should aim for about 2 paragraphs) and I worry a little about 77,000 for MG, though it might be okay since its fantasy.

Mel said...

I love the query. I thought it was fun and great for MG. I wanted to read the pages. I worry about the word count, but maybe it's okay for fantasy.
The pages read well too, I like your humour.

Becca said...

I loved the humor in your query. The idea of sock gnome is hilarious.

Two questions: Timothy Sparrow--is the similarity to Jack Sparrow intentional parody? And is there a reason for starting with someone other than the main POV?

Love the idea of this.

Laura Moe said...

Great premise, but I agree with Mike that too close of a comparison to Potter makes it sound derivative.
Love your title, though, and upper elementary kids will love the poop shoveling. As will 7 th grade boys.

I was confused about starting your book with Timothy Sparrow. Whose story is it? Does he have a POV throughout as well as Drew?
You're almost there.

Anonymous said...

Great voice! But I would take out the Harry Potter comparison in your query (and I think your editorial comment shows that you already know it's a bad idea). Your plot and voice does remind me of How to Train Your Dragon (movie), so I'd keep that since it's not overdone or taboo. But make sure you specify it's the movie version of HTTYD, and not the book, which are completely different. Good luck!

Kendra said...

I have to agree with everyone that the HP comp should go. No worries though, because your words are strong enough to stand on their own. You seriously don't need it. If you want to make comps, choose books in your category/genre that are less well known. This communicates that you are well-read in your area of writing, without saying as much.

Loved the voice and definitely agree that this would appeal to middle grade boys (6-7th grade). And I spend my days with seventh graders-they're some of my favorite people-and I can't think of a single one of my male students who wouldn't enjoy this story.

Well done! Hope to be able to share this one with my classes one day! :)

Unknown said...

Thank you for your feedback, everyone! Truly. I'm actually a bit embarrassed because I'd meant to leave the entire first paragraph out of this query. I'd a written it for another contest – one that was less formal, as it was not written for an agent (hence my parenthetical commentary about Potter). Whoops. Just serves as a reminder to always check your work before you submit. :-)

Again, thank you for your comments. It was very helpful and encouraging. I will definitely take out the wild banshee from my first chapter. :-)

Also, it means a lot to me that this might appeal to MG boys. Statistically, there is such a decline in boys' readership about when they hit the age of 10 and I have a real heart to reach that audience.

Good luck, everyone. I've had so, so much fun reading through all the entries!

Kiriojo said...

Fun fantasy idea! The word count does seem steep for a middle grade - maybe two books? I'm also a firm believer in diving right into the MC's story. Don't start with another character. From this piece though, I can see a great voice... but is it your MC's voice or his friend's voice? Or is the voice of the whole story? I need to love your MC right off the bat.

Secret Agent said...

I don’t need the clarification that you give about comparing your work to JK Rowling’s. Asides from authors like that turn me off to a query. It comes across as though you’re second guessing yourself and you feel like there’s something to prove. However, there’s tons of great MG magical fantasy that you could use as a comp. Comparing an MG magic book to Harry Potter is kind of like writing a religion book and comparing it to the Bible. I would recommend searching a little bit more for a more current MG book. And maybe one that’s less of a global sensation. That said, if it’s like Potter, it’s like Potter and don’t apologize for saying so.

I would recommend cutting the last sentence in the first paragraph about Drew. “Unfortunately, Drew never could live up…” It’s unnecessary and slows the pacing of the query.

Could you tighten the fifth paragraph a little bit? Cutting things like “he’s certain bad luck has…” would help. That phrase, specifically, isn’t necessary.

I would move the comp titles to the last paragraph, also. That way the query starts with Drew.

This is a great concept and I love the school for evil-children-in-training. But it also leads me to question why the society needs evil people so badly that their raising a generation of future evil leaders? I am willing to buy it, but I might like to know early on in the story (if not in the query itself) why that’s a valued trait for Drew’s world.


I’m not sure why your pages start with Timothy Sparrow when your main character is Drew Horrible. Timothy seems delightful, but I’d like to make that initial connection with Drew.