Query Letter Critique

 

It’s that time, y’all!

 

Original Query Letter

 

Dear Agent:

 

Young witch Gemma Morrin’s life takes a dangerous twist when a member of her ancestral coven asks her to hide a powerful grimoire. The book holds secrets of the past, present, and future with the unique ability to alter any moment in time.

 

With such power come dark forces willing to kill for it. 

Desperate to keep the book out of the clutches of the sinister wizard Cathaoir, Gemma must use her rare talent to alter perceptions to erase his memory of the powerful tome. Except – she can’t figure out how to get close enough to cast the spell without getting herself killed…

 

Between hiding the supernatural world from the mortal boy she’s fallen for, dealing with her sister’s tendency to create disaster whenever she waves a wand, and now being thrust into Cathaoir’s terrifying orbit, sixteen year old Gemma is questioning whether a magical life is worth the sacrifice.

 

THE GRIMOIRE is an 86,000 word young adult fantasy. As I am an epidemiologist, the majority of my experience is with medical publishing. However, I have also e-published two romances, A DANGEROUS DREAM and NEVER TRUST A MATCHMAKING WITCH, which both received numerous 5 star reviews, including Reviewer Top Pick Awards from Night Owl Romance.

 

The opening ten pages of THE GRIMOIRE follow. Thank you for your time in considering my work.

 

Sincerely,

 

(Name redacted)

 

Query Letter After I Got My Grubby Paws On It

 

Dear Agent:

 

Young witch Gemma Morrin’s life takes a dangerous twist when a member of her ancestral coven asks her to hide a powerful grimoire. Great opening line! The book holds secrets of the past, present, and future with the unique ability to alter any moment in time.

 

With such power come dark forces willing to kill for it. 

Desperate to keep the book out of the clutches of the sinister wizard Cathaoir, Gemma must use her rare talent to alter perceptions to erase his memory of the powerful tome. Except – she can’t figure out how to get close enough to cast the spell without getting herself killed…

So far so good. It’s obvious that you’re a talented writer, and the story is compelling. Actually, it reminds me of my own book! (Not the compelling part, though I like to think it’s that too, but the witches, evil sorcerers, witch-hunting bible that must be kept safe from said evil sorcerers part).

 

Between hiding the supernatural world from the mortal boy she’s fallen for, dealing with her sister’s tendency to create disaster whenever she waves a wand, and now being thrust into Cathaoir’s terrifying orbit, sixteen year old Gemma is questioning whether a magical life is worth the sacrifice.

This paragraph, while well-written, doesn’t add much to the query letter, I’m afraid. While it’s interesting to learn of her love interest and her quirky sister, what I want to read about here are the exciting stakes. What does Gemma have to do, and what do she ultimately risk if she fails? Clearly lay that all out here.

 

THE GRIMOIRE is an 86,000 word young adult fantasy. As I am an epidemiologist, the majority of my experience is with medical publishing. However, I have also e-published two romances, A DANGEROUS DREAM and NEVER TRUST A MATCHMAKING WITCH, which both received numerous 5 star reviews, including Reviewer Top Pick Awards from Night Owl Romance. I wouldn’t mention a self-published novel in your query unless you’ve sold something like 5,000 copies or more. I just made up that number but you see what I mean. 5 star reviews doesn’t really tell the agent anything. 

 

The opening ten pages of THE GRIMOIRE follow. Thank you for your time in considering my work.

 

Sincerely,

 

(Name redacted)

 

Well, author, you’ve left me with very little to say here. This query letter is pretty fantastic. It’s my guess that you’ll do well with this. Happy querying!

 

And only 2.25 days left to enter to win a copy of Insurgent, Cinder, and Under The Never Sky! Free books=good.

Posted in query critique, query letter, writing advice

15 Responses to Query Letter Critique

  1. Rachel says:

    Here are my suggestions for editing this query:

    **Sixteen-year-old (I added in the age here) ** witch Gemma Morrin’s life takes a dangerous twist when a member of her ancestral coven asks her to hide a powerful grimoire. **Why do they ask Gemma? Why not another random member??**
    The book holds secrets of the past, present, and future with the unique ability to alter any moment in time.

    **I took out the sentence about dark forces.

    

Desperate to keep the book out of the clutches of the sinister wizard Cathaoir, Gemma must use her rare talent to alter perceptions to erase his memory of the powerful tome. Except – she can’t figure out how to get close enough to cast the spell without getting herself killed…



    Between hiding the supernatural world from the mortal boy she’s fallen for **WHO IS THIS BOY? This feels very random! Maybe a little bit more about him in the query above? Or delete it entirely**, (got rid of sentence about her sister, unnecessary!)** and being thrust into Cathaoir’s terrifying orbit, Gemma questions** (keep it in present tense without the passive “is questioning”) whether a magical life is worth the sacrifice.



    THE GRIMOIRE is an 86,000 word young adult fantasy. **WHO DOES THIS APPEAL TO? Would it appeal to…say “Fans of HEX HALL would enjoy my piece because of similar story line or narration, etc?** I would love to see comp titles here!!

    The opening ten pages of THE GRIMOIRE follow. Thank you for your time in considering my work.



    Sincerely,

    Overall, this query isn’t bad. Hopefully my suggestions are helpful! :-) Good luck!

    • This is REALLY good advice, Rachel! I’m incredibly impressed! You should listen to the nice lady, author :) Though I do advise that authors should be careful when comparing you book to others-some people say you shouldn’t do it and some say you should, so whether or not you do it is entirely up to you, but if you do, put plenty of thought into which books you choose to compare yours to. I’ve read that to do this successfully, it’s best not to choose the biggest names in the business. As in, ‘Fans of Twilight will love my novel’. Reason being, that’s what everyone says. Plus to compare your book to a blockbuster sounds vaguely egotistical. But obviously it wouldn’t do any good to compare your book to an obscure one no one’s ever heard of either!

    • Rachel says:

      Thanks, Michelle. I tend to keep my query critiquing nose under wraps but maybe I should start something like this on my own blog? *shrug*

      And agreed – Comps don’t always work, and they aren’t always necessary. don’t use major books to compare yourself. I used relatively smaller books (quieter but still well known) in my query letter, and it definitely got the point across for a feel of my book rather than me just saying “IT IS A PAGE TURNER LIKE TWILIGHT, YO!” ;-)

    • HA!

      And you should definitely think about that. You obviously have a knack for it!

  2. Amaleen Ison says:

    This sounds like a really fun novel. Just the sort I’d like to read. Good luck. :-)

  3. Aaron says:

    Agree that the third paragraph needs to go, but otherwise this is a great query letter. Fantastic advice, Michelle. And Rachel too.

  4. Omg this does remind me of your book, Michelle!

    Great query. I’d clean up the stakes para as Michelle suggested. Nicely done!

  5. JimmyRanfaz says:

    I agree with Michelle’s comments. When I first read the query, it immediately hit me that the ingredients were similar to Michelle’s own novel :).

    Besides that the third paragraph seems a bit random and forced with the love suddenly coming in and the dilemma is a tad too long ( as if I am the one to speak).

    But otherwise pretty solid!

  6. Mary Paine says:

    Hi everybody!

    Many thanks to Michelle and everyone who gave me such great feedback!!! This series has been three years in the making and through endless rounds of revision. After all that, I can’t believe how difficult it still was to drill the story down into a query letter for the first book. I’ll rework the last two paragraphs, cross my fingers, and start querying!

    Warmly,
    Mary

  7. Anonymous says:

    Oh my gosh! Thank you so much for the vote of confidence, Michelle!

    Right now I’m at the Backspace Writers Conference getting feedback so I may do yet one more revision of the manuscript. Now I have more confidence knowing that when I finish these final tweaks I have a good query letter ready to go!

    Warmly,
    Mary

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