Query Letter Critique

Original Query Letter

 

Dear Agent XXXXXX,

 

Seventeen-year-old Enne Alfero roams the shadow world of Ombra looking for her lost mother and fleeing from the city’s politicians who want her dead. With Ombra’s gang-infested streets, rusted horse-drawn carriages, and magical people in top hats and petticoats, Enne stands out like a tie-dye t-shirt in a Dickens novel.

 

Her only ally is Levi Glaisyer, a devilishly good-looking street lord and card dealer at a casino royale. He believes Enne is a deva, therefore able to create vast amounts of magic in her mind. The Phoenix Club, the city’s corrupt political bosses, murdered the deva families seventeen years ago in their rise to power. Skeptical of her so-called magic and Ombran heritage, all Enne wants is to find her mother and make it home alive. �

 

Levi thinks her safest bet is to assume a new identity in Ombra where the Phoenix Club won’t look for her, so he arranges her a job interview with the casino’s owner. But when the owner tricks Enne into swearing an unbreakable vow as an assassin, Enne becomes a Burlesque acrobat by day and a professional poisoner by night. As her assignments and Levi’s street empire crumble, both must play against the Phoenix Club in a deadly game for their lives.

 

Spirited Away meets Boardwalk Empire set in a world akin to Victorian London, ACE OF SHADES is Young Adult fantasy steampunk complete at 75,000 words. It is told through the alternating points of view of Enne and Levi.

 

I am currently an English student at [name redacted]. I have won a few awards, including first place in the 2012 Kay Snow Williamette Writers fiction contest, and I am participating in a two-month editing workshop for ACE OF SHADES with Entangled Publishing managing editor Eden Plantz.�

 

Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.

 

Sincerely,

 

[name redacted]

 

Query Letter After I Got My Grubby Paws On It

 

Dear Agent XXXXXX,

 

Seventeen-year-old Enne Alfero roams the shadow world of Ombra looking for her lost  mother and fleeing from the city’s politicians who want her dead. With Ombra’s gang-infested streets, rusted horse-drawn carriages, and magical people in top hats and petticoats, Enne stands out like a tie-dye t-shirt in a Dickens novel.<CUTE! This is a nice opener, but I feel like the paragraph construction is a bit off. Right now we have: Enne roams around looking for her mom and fleeing baddies. Enne stands out. They seem like two, unconnected, separate thoughts, though I can infer their connection (I shouldn’t have to, though). Also, your opening line is bit weak, in my opinion. You lead with her roaming around, which isn’t nearly as active, exciting, and engaging as looking for her lost mother while being chased by baddies, which comes later. (I realize I’m being quite picky for an opener I said was nice, but that’s because I see such potential here for this query to be a knockout. So…suggestion: ‘For seventeen-year-old Enne Alfero, finding her mother in the shadow world of Ombra, while avoiding the politicians who want her dead is proving to be much harder (and more dangerous) than she thought. Because in Ombra’s gang-infested streets, where rusted horse-drawn carriages carry magical people in top hats and petticoats, Enne stands out like a tie-dye t-shirt in a Dickens novel.’ Feel free to hate it :D

 

Her only ally is Levi Glaisyer, a devilishly good-looking street lord and card dealer at a casino royale. He believes Enne is a deva therefore able to create vast amounts of magic in her mind. The Phoenix Club, the city’s corrupt political bosses, murdered the deva families seventeen years ago in their rise to power. Skeptical of her so-called magic and Ombran heritage<And here I thought she was from Ombra!, all Enne wants is to find her mother and make it home alive.

 

Levi thinks her safest bet is to assume a new identity in Ombra where the Phoenix Club won’t look for her, so he arranges her a job interview with the casino’s owner. But when the owner tricks Enne into swearing an unbreakable vow as an assassin, Enne becomes a Burlesque acrobat by day and a professional poisoner by night. WHAT?! I’m confused. She goes for an interview at a casino, then accidentally signs up to be an assassin. Ok, so where does the Burlesque acrobat part come in? I googled casino royale in case I was missing something but all I came up with was that James Bond movie, which I haven’t seen (and presumably all agents haven’t seen). Am I missing something? As her assignments and Levi’s street empire crumble, both must play against the Phoenix Club in a deadly game for their lives.

 

Spirited Away meets Boardwalk Empire set in a world akin to Victorian London,  (just say steampunk) ACE OF SHADES is Young Adult fantasy steampunk complete at 75,000 words. It is told through the alternating points of view of Enne and Levi. <I’m not a fan of the introductory phrase style opener here, but that could just be me. I prefer a cleaner setup. Up to you, though!

 

I am currently an English student at [name redacted]. I have won a few awards, including first place in the 2012 Kay Snow Williamette Writers fiction contest, and I am participating in a two-month editing workshop for ACE OF SHADES with Entangled Publishing managing editor Eden Plantz.

 

Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.

 

Sincerely,

 

[name redacted]

 

This is close! (Seriously, I know I painted blue all over the query but I do think it sounds fascinating and right up my alley, not to mention the writing is very well done. BONUS!). I think the problem here is that, while trying hard to get all the fun steampunk, fantasy elements of the book into the query, the actual core of the story was lost. I would suggest scaling it down to the basics and making sure you have all those important questions answered first, and then add the spice and flavor in.

 

Thanks so much for sharing this with me, author. And good luck in your querying endeavors!

Posted in query critique, query letter

11 Responses to Query Letter Critique

  1. Delia says:

    I agree, this is close. Very intriguing. I’d also point out that Eden Plantz is an editor with Entranced Publishing, not Entangled. I’m sure it was a typo, but you’ll definitely want to be fixing it. Good luck!

  2. Listen to the clever lady, author. She knows her s***!

  3. Paulina. says:

    You had me at “Burlesque acrobat”
    Want.

  4. Amanda Foody says:

    Thanks so much for this critique! It’s really helpful and I’ve made a lot of changes based on it :)

  5. Amaleen Ison says:

    Just love the sound of this story. :-)

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