Query Letter Critique

Original Query Letter

 

Dear (Mr./Mrs. Agent Name)

 

Andrea Smith and her friends learn that they have fallen into a killer’s trap. It all begins with a prank on a classmate that goes entirely wrong.

 

As if the prank wasn’t bad enough, they accidentally kill the kid that was label a social outcast by their school. So they cover up the murder and lie to the police about it. They think they got away with the crime. But it will catch up with them sooner than they could have imagined.

 

Little do they know that someone close to the victim was watching them that fateful night. Someone who won’t stop at anything to exact revenge. When a couple of Andrea’s friends mysteriously disappear, she knows something bad is going on.

 

After receiving death threats, almost getting shot in a drive-by shooting, and having a strange person reach out to her in cyberspace, now she knows that this killer has hit too close to home. She grows frightened by the day and tries to find out who this person is in order to stop the mayhem.

 

She wonder if it’s one of her friends or a scorned lover from a past relationship only because the killer knows many personal details about her. Andrea must solve the mystery quickly because her own life depends on it.

 

I recently published an article in Sync magazine. CRUEL SACRIFICES: BITTER SWEET MEMORIES, is a 53,000 word Young Adult novel.

 

Thank you for your time and consideration.

 

Sincerely,

 

(Name redacted)

 

Query Letter After I Got My Grubby Paws On It

 

Dear (Mr./Mrs. Agent Name)

 

Andrea Smith and her friends learn that they Unnecessarily wordy have fallen into a killer’s trap. It all begins with a prank on a classmate that goes entirely wrong.

 

As if the prank wasn’t bad enough, they accidentally kill someone the kid thatwas label a social outcast by their school.Not important. So they cover up the murder and lie to the police about it. They think they got away with the crime. But it will catch up with them sooner than they could have imagined. I hate to say it, but main characters aren’t coming across as very sympathetic here. At first we learn they’ve fallen into a killer’s trap, but actually they themselves are killers (and seemingly unremorseful, immoral ones at that—I would highlight that they cover up the death and lie to the cops because they’re scared, etc., etc., so they don’t come across this way.

 

Little do they know that someone close to the victim was watching them that fateful night. Someone who won’t stop at anything to exact revenge. When a couple of Andrea’s friends mysteriously disappear, she knows something bad is going on. I apologize for the bluntness to come, but the plot so far sounds a little too similar to I Know What You Did Last Summer—a group of teens accidentally kills someone and now a mystery killer is after them, but who?

 

After receiving death threats, almost getting shot in a drive-by shooting, and having a strange person reach out to her in cyberspace After trying to shoot her, contacting her on the internet comes across as anticlimactic. Reword? , now she knows that this killer has hit too close to home. She grows frightened by the day and tries to find out who this person is in order to stop the mayhem.

 

She wonder if it’s one of her friends or a scorned loverfrom a past relationship only because the killer knows many personal details about her. Andrea must solve the mystery quickly because her own life depends on it.

 

I recently published an article in Sync magazine. CRUEL SACRIFICES: BITTER SWEET MEMORIES, Just my opinion but the title sounds much better without this addition. More punchy. is a 53,000 word Young Adult novel. What genre? Contemporary? Thriller?

 

Thank you for your time and consideration.

 

Sincerely,

 

(Name redacted)

 

To be completely honest, this query needs some work. I could have gone more in-depth with my critique but I’m not sure it’d serve much of a purpose as there just doesn’t seem to be enough plot here to carry a whole novel. Perhaps this isn’t the case at all and it’s just how it comes across in the query (Damn query letters! So hard!), but what I’ve read so far seems like a basic plot that could be great if expanded on, but one that has been done before. What it’s missing is the BUT element that would take it to the next level—Andrea and her friends cover up a murder. Now the murderer is after them and they have to find out who is it before their time is up. BUT such and such complication happens. Now what? This is just an example, of course, but hopefully you see what I mean.

 

Again, very sorry to have been so blunt, but I’ve done so with the sincere hope that it helps push you in the right direction. What I would suggest is linking up with writing groups or a critique partner if you haven’t already done that. Scribophile.com is fantastic and I couldn’t recommend it enough.

 

Best of luck, author! And have a great New Year.

Posted in query critique, query letter

14 Responses to Query Letter Critique

  1. Great crit, once again. I agree wholeheartedly with all of your comments.

    I would hope that the author wouldn’t be upset with your honest crit. Honesty that comes along with useful points/tips is much better than the alternative.

    Good luck, author!

  2. Very insightful points Michelle. I love reading your query critiques. I wouldn’t worry about your bluntness/honesty. That’s what I love most about your crits. As a writer myself who’s looking to query soon, I find the bluntness/honesty in your crits to be very useful and informative. I’m thinking the author likely feels the same way! (I hope)

  3. knowsprose says:

    Nice to see you run through these. The query critiques are always something too take mental notes on.

  4. Sara Madison says:

    Nice work, Michelle. Good points.

  5. Jess says:

    I agree with knowsprose, above. Query critiques are great learning opportunities for all of us, so many thanks to the writer and Michelle for sharing this!

  6. Ru says:

    Totally agree with your points — that is what is the trouble with the query letter. She/He’s got to make it sound different than I Know What You Did Last Summer as well as make the conflict clearer (I am a little confused on whether she’s more worried about the killer — who has he/she killed so far? kind of sounds like a stalker/attempted killer from the query — or getting caught for her own crimes, etc.) The book might be really good, but I just can’t tell from the query letter if it’s something I’d want to read.

  7. Denise says:

    Hello, I am the author of this query. I appreciate all of your comments and Michelle thanks for the critique. A few points I should make about this query:

    Michelle, you mention every point that I thought you would make in your critique. My novel isn’t another “I know What You Did Last Summer” at all. Though I am a fan of the franchise!

    The story is different because if you read the novel you will see that I have my readers sympathizing with both the protagonist and the killer.

    Andrea Smith is very sympathetic and a nice kid. Her friends are the spoiled selfish rich kids, that you’ll probably love to hate!

    Only one person accidentally killed the victim in the story, Andrea and the others were just there and didn’t do anything except called the cops.

    But after the accident takes place, then they all-the spoiled and mean friends- become afraid of the consequences too.

    Andrea is a little weak, following along with her friends, then up until the climax of the novel, she finds her voice.

    The killer is not mysterious at all. Actually the killer is a friend of Andrea and the others, because the kid they killed is her brother. (She wasn’t there when he died)

    The killer’s name is Shannon and she gets her boyfriend to help her exact revenge on Andrea and the other kids. So actually there’s two killers. Shannon being the mastermind of the crimes that takes place.

    There’s a lot of back story in the novel, Shannon started another killing spree in a different town where some more kids bullied her brother and then when she moves to this new town, she faces the same problem with Andrea and her friends. I should also mention that Shannon is not your average one-dimensional maniac.

    I wanted readers to feel sorry for Shannon even more than Andrea. In the novel, you get to see Shannon’s perspective of what she’s thinking, feeling, etc.

    Everything she do she have a reason for doing it. The only people she kills are either guilty or done something bad to her.

    I made the query vague on purpose, I thought if I mention a lot of details or back-story it’ll drain out the plot. My novel is more than the average horror/slash movie.

    There’s a lot of strong emotion, romance, everyday teen issues, drama, and of course death, all pack in the novel. A variety of everything.

    With Andrea being the protagonist and Shannon the antagonist, the reader gets to hear from both teens about their lives and feel a connection to both of them.

    Finally, there’s a very emotional scene in the novel at the end, when Shannon surrenders. When both girls are face to face, Shannon tells Andrea that she actually liked her and that they could have been best friends.

    Shannon could sense that Andrea wasn’t like the others and had a lot in common with her.

    And that’s why Shannon lets Andrea go in the end. I don’t think a twist like this have ever been done before especially where the reader becomes sympathetic with a serial killer like Shannon.

    She really is a nice and cool person, it’s just that the people she met took advantage of her and her brother. And that’s what turned her into a monster.

    (My challenge is briefly inserting this part into the query without drowning out the plot.)

    Anyway, I just wanted to clear up confusion and point out why my novel is different than I know What You Did Last Summer, Scream, and other plots. Again thanks for all of your comments.

    I’ll use that advice to make my query even better!

    • Denise, thanks for chiming in! Your book definitely sounds much more unique plot-wise when you describe it the way you have just now. I just would suggest inputting some of this information into your query letter and not worrying about ‘draining the plot’. After all, if an agent doesn’t like your query letter, you won’t have the opportunity to explain yourself as you’ve done now. You need to impress them right out of the gate! Good luck honing your letter, and thanks again for sharing it with me :)

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