Friday, November 30, 2012


  Dear QueryShark:

I have been traveling, living, and working throughout Southeast Asia for five years.
Ok, so this is a memoir. Let's read on.

Mystic Fool is about a young man with a drinking problem, traveling through Southeast Asia, trying to find his way onto the path of the hero. He is a bright and well-read student of new-age spirituality and esotericism. These influence his paradigm and his experiences.

Ok, so I don't understand any of that but I get that it's a travel memoir, about finding yourself. Okedokey. Let's read on.

He begins on the islands of southern Thailand where he ritualizes the beginning of his Saturn return, trips acid on Christmas, then builds water filters, teaches, and becomes violently ill in Siem Reap. He continues through Vietnam, where his attempt to live in Hanoi falls apart, jettisoning him to a farm in northern Laos. In the golden triangle of northern Thailand, he meets a half-crazy old man who inspires him to live through his depression, whereupon he finds a job and stays in Thailand.

 Ok, I'm a little lost at "Saturn return" since I associate that with the planet first and foremost and with an education in the hard sciences, learned that Saturn wasn't hospitable to humans, but ok, let's read on.

His alcoholism and depression eventually drive him into an existential brick wall. While in Bangkok on his way back down to the islands to drink himself to death, he meets and goes on an adventure with a woman with whom he falls in love, and makes him realize that he can not only handle, but enjoy sobriety.

Ok, he's off the sauce, and on a better road. This is sort of Eat, Pray, Love, ok, that book did pretty well, let's read on.

MYSTIC FOOL is a 60,000 word travel novel. Thank you for your time.

Oh. It's a novel. Oops.

When you open your query with sentence about yourself and then your "character" appears to be just like you, and you fail to mention it's a novel, you've got a problem.

The problem is those people interested in acquiring novels will think it's a memoir (and stop reading.) And those people who read on cause they think it's a memoir are in for a big surprise here at the end.

Thus you need to remove that first sentence.
Also, there's no story here. No plot. 

I'm not surprised because this sounds like a thinly disguised memoir. (Call it a novel, no one will sue!) 

Real life rarely has a plot. Getting sober and finding love are important if you're the person they're happening to, but pretty much not to other people without some added ingredients.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012


Dear Query Shark,

Some might think Pru has it all. She's young, industrious, and planted in a prime location on a grassy knoll. Overlooking the stream just beyond the new amphitheater, it's a beautiful site for any tree. However, Pru doesn't feel so beautiful, especially compared to the older, more developed trees.

One of my favorite parts of Lord of the Rings was the Ents, so I'm not going to stop reading here but this is pretty unclear. The main character is a tree?

Inspired by the performances at the amphitheater, she has an idea. An elaborate gown (like the ones the human actresses wear) would make her the most beautiful and unique tree in the park! Unfortunately, this seems an impossible task she cannot accomplish alone. So, she accepts help from Agar - a fast talking, shady mushroom with an agenda of his own. Pru soon discovers that Agar's help comes with a price too costly for her to imagine.

A tree and a mushroom. I hope this is a kids book, but this doesn't sound kid-like.

THE BEAUTIFUL ONE is a 2,300 word fable/picture storybook. It will appeal to children who enjoy classic fables and fairy-tales. In particular, Pru's story will aid parents, teachers, and children in their efforts to deal with issues surrounding self-esteem and acceptance though character education.

Ah, ok, picture book.

First problem is that queries for picture books include the text of the book. ALL of it. 

Second problem is I think 2300 words is really long for a picture book.  Picture books are 32 pages (that's an industry standard) Given that you need two pages for the title and the copyright page, that leaves 30 for text.  2300 words on 30 pages... a little more than 75 words per page. Once you see that you an see why your word count is too high.

Third problem is that I'm really REALLY hoping that kids sitting on laps hearing books read aloud don't have problems with self-esteem. Picture books are generally for kids who are lap-size.

I currently make my living as a visual merchandiser/manager, who enjoys telling stories through installing window displays. I convey different themes through using props, mannequins, backgrounds, and lighting. That's how Pru was born. THE BEAUTIFUL ONE was initially an idea for an art installation to evoke social commentary. The more I thought about it, I decided that Pru needed a backstory. THE BEAUTIFUL ONE is my debut as an author. I hope to feature Pru and her friends in a series of character education-based fables.

Aha! You're the visual side of things.  I bet you have ideas for the art, maybe even the actual art? You might consider pairing with a writer who can help you hone your story to the more manageable length: 750 words or so. 

Writing short is very very hard. It's like writing poems. Bad poetry is very easy. Good poetry is hard.  Poetry that illuminates and enhances art work, uses language for developing minds, and doesn't bore the pants off the adults reading it either...well, that's a real trick.

Thank you so much for your consideration.

You're not ready to query yet.
Get the text in shape first, then revise your query and resend.