Sunday, June 17, 2018

#314

Question/s
I've queried fifty-six agents. Five requested my full manuscript. They all passed. I now have these questions: Regarding my MC's name, I know your mind turns to CODE NAME VERITY. This isn't what I want. But, I want to use the name and there's an etymological reason. Is this foolish? Should I mention that the novel is told in two points of view? Would it be relevant to mention my writer's group in my bio? And should I include my published novel even though it didn't achieve robust sales?

Dear Query Shark,

Sixteen-year-old Verity Callahan has the ability to know the true answer to every question she's asked. When she was fourteen, she learned minutes before it happened that her father would die in a car crash — and yet, she failed to save him.

She's tried to bury her ability, but now it's manifesting in new ways. She's burdened with more information than ever before. What's worse, she's compelled to blurt it all out. She never asked for this. She wants to be normal.

Her younger brother Lucas Callahan is an empath whose power is growing. He will manipulate anyone's emotions to get what he wants: access to the best Ivy League institutions and a life of power and prestige. And once he understands what Verity can do, he imagines all they could do together.

But Verity has found happiness with her new boyfriend, Will McConnall. Lucas wants Verity and her abilities under his control. Realizing he'll never get that with Will in her life, Lucas devises a drastic plan to eliminate him.

By answering one fateful question after another, Verity learns of Lucas's scheme. She must hone the very abilities she detests to thwart Lucas's plot, or lose Will forever and become Lucas's puppet.

TRUTH BE TOLD, a young adult contemporary fantasy novel, is 101,000 words.

My first novel, (title), was published by (press name) in 2009. I wrote the novel while earning a master's degree in creative writing at (named) College. I completed the Creative Writing Summer Programme at the University of (other name).

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Regarding your questions:

I've queried fifty-six agents. Five requested my full manuscript. They all passed. I now have these questions: Regarding my MC's name, I know your mind turns to CODE NAME VERITY. This isn't what I want. But, I want to use the name and there's an etymological reason. Is this foolish?

No. Verity is a fine, old-fashioned name.

Should I mention that the novel is told in two points of view?

It doesn't matter.


Would it be relevant to mention my writer's group in my bio?

No. Your writers group is absolutely irrelevant.
And should I include my published novel even though it didn't achieve robust sales?
Yes


And here's the answer to the question you didn't ask: what's wrong with my query.

Nothing. You're getting requests. The agents are passing after they've read the ms. That means you have a problem in the manuscript, not the query.

There are a couple of ways to work on that. All of them are going to require some financial investment. You can engage an outside editor to look at your novel and identify areas that need to be revised. You can enroll in a class about novel writing. Grub Street in Boston offers these. You can bid on (and win!) an auction item wherein an agent offers a manuscript critique.


When you're considering who to work with look for actual, and recent experience in trade publishing on the acquisitions side of things.  You need help from people actually in the publishing trenches, because what agents want is a book they can sell.
Your query has done her job. Time for the manuscript to step up.

10 comments:

KariV said...

OP - something you can get for about $15 at B/N or Amazon is The First 50 Pages by Jeff Gerke. This book revolutionized my manuscript and might be a good place to start.

Your library might have other good craft books. If none of these reveal any obvious problems, then spring for an industry professional.

nightsmusic said...

My first thought after reading your query and Janet's answer is yay! What a great query! My second thought is...two POV in a novel...that's often hard to pull off seamlessly. And that might be where the problem lies if you've had full requests but the agents have passed.

You don't say if you've had an editor look at this. Or anyone other than your writers group. Writers groups are great. They're supportive, encouraging, helpful. But they're (usually) not editors. They're in the same seat as you. You need fresh eyes. Someone with a blue pencil, who doesn't know you, who won't be afraid that your feelings might be hurt if they tell you something doesn't work.

I'm wondering if you might not want to write a few chapters out in just Verity's POV and see how that works for you. You might be surprised. In the meantime, get that editor. Writer Beware/Absolute Write might have a list and recommendations to go with it.

Good luck!

Francesca Strada said...

The query is good. It does its job. If I was an agent I would request your ms too.
Work on your ms. you need someone with a more clinical POV and experience in revising ms.

I wish you all the best!

Samantha Walker said...

I don't think you need to be spending money just yet. I often don't like giving writers the advice to spend money when they are trying to traditionally publish. Not everyone has disposable income. Do you have critique partners? Beta readers? I'm sure people other than you have read your book, but you need fresh eyes. Find a few others writers you think are talented and swap manuscripts. Find more beta readers that don't know you and aren't afraid to be tough (as nightsmusic said). Don't spend THOUSANDS of dollars on an editor before you absolutely have to. Developmental editing is very pricey. Honestly, for a book that is 100,000 words, you are looking at $7,000 to $10,000.

Brittany Constable said...

If you wanted to change the name, Cassandra might be another good option. My worry with Verity is it might be too on the nose, at least for a linguistically minded reader. Something that still has connotations of truth without being a literal translation of the word might work well.

My favorite book on writing is Your Screenplay Sucks! by William Akers. I reread it every time I'm preparing to embark on a project. There's a lot in there that's specific to film and the industry, but a lot more about developing characters, writing good antagonists, delivering on emotional beats, strengthening language, etc. Generally a good measure of a writing advice book is that it gets you thinking about how it applies to your own story as you read it. If you're not getting that, toss it and try something else.

Steve Stubbs said...

What comes to mind is, you have not made the challenge difficult enough.

Unless Verity is a veritable cretin, she will ask herself the question, "What is the question, which if I were to ask it, would allow me to get rid of Lucas and prevent Lucas from getting rid of Will until he outlives his usefulness and I am ready to get rid of him myself?"

Once she has the True Answer to that question, the story is over.

You need Verity to have a knottier, more convoluted, problem to solve.

Kathryn Lapierre said...

Thanks for reviewing my query and for all the recommendations everyone. Now (cracking my knuckles), onwards to the perfect manuscript!

Claire Bobrow said...

What Janet said. Based on your query, I would read this. It sounds fantastic! Good luck going forward with revisions. If you can write a query this enticing, I have faith you can make the manuscript equally so.

Cordia Pearson said...

Your letter makes me want to read your book. Were it jacket copy, I'd download a sample tout sweet.

While it could be how you've constructed the story, is it possible your story is something agents have seen too much of and feel they can't sell another one?

Do you have a crit group who write in your genre? That could be the first place to turn for what next. I could point you to a Trello board that does just that, SFF writers trading beta reads with each other.

Nicole Parton said...

Loved your Query!

Two points of view? Even if his role is minor, why not Will's? Someone suggested the lilting name "Cassandra" rather than the plainer, stiffer "Verity." I like the name, but you know your characters best, and "Verity" may be exactly right. Best of luck with this!

Nicole Parton