Saturday, June 7, 2008


To (Specific Agent),

I would like to introduce you to Mississippi Kids, a new mystery/fantasy novel for ages 9-12.

She falls against the cold wall, fire in her eyes, heart weeping with the sadness of the rain. She has been betrayed by the one she loved most. Sisters. He stands with breath caged in his chest, staring at the evil he's allowed. He has always wanted to be strong enough to leave his mark, but now he knows he's a coward. Alone. Tessa. Norman. Susan. All three are locked in a centuries old secret. The conspiracy of their own past.

Uh, what? Who are these people and why are they weeping all over my carpet? I cannot emphasize strongly enough how important it is to be PLAINSPOKEN in a query letter. I'll be happy if you never use more than one adjective, adverb or metaphor in a paragraph. Tell me who the characters are, what happens to them, and why I should care.

I'm sorry, but this is a bewildering mess right now. I'd stop reading here (well, ok, really, I stopped reading at the first sentence) and click "no thank you" auto-reject.

Found alone in a Mississippi wheat field as infants, Susan and Tessa have lived their entire lives at the J Putanbee Orphanage. After ten years, a twist of fate causes them to be adopted by a professor. Soon, Susan begins to learn of the Order of the Oaks, a secret society that has been searching for the sisters their entire lives. It does not take long for Michael, the brother of the professor, to poison the sisters against each other. At the same time, clues of the twins shrouded past begin to come to light. Finally, Susan gets too close to the answer and Tessa too close to the Order. The sisters are ripped apart forcing Susan to trust a junior member of the Order and rush to save her sister. In a shocking turn, Susan rescues Tessa, but learns who it was that really betrayed the sisters.

And you want 9 year olds to read this?

They fight for a chance to know family they've never had. Seeking truth. Finding betrayal. All their answers lie in the cruel hands of evil men. If only they can work together. If only they can survive.

See comment on paragraphs 1 and 2.

My name is (redacted) and I am a graduate student in my last semester working toward a Masters in Education. During my educational career, I have focused my research and thesis on Educational Storytelling. I have gained experience interacting and understanding children through my work as a children's pastor, middle school pastor, preschool teacher, mentor, literacy volunteer, and children's drama writer/director.

Written under the penname, (redacted), Mississippi Kids begins the six-part saga that tells the complete story of Susan, Tessa, and Norman. Book One is approximately 60,000 words, completed. Book Two is finished and about 55,000 words.

For 9 year olds??

Elements of Mississippi Kids can easily be compared to The Alchemyst by Michael Scott, The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown, and The Spiderwick Chronicles by Holly Black. However, it possesses a fresh style unlike any on the market.

Wait, you've just told me that any book I sold into this market doesn't have a fresh style? And you're comparing a book for 9 year olds to The DaVinci Code?

I would be happy to send you a longer writing sample, manuscript synopsis, series synopsis, resume, or full manuscript(s).

May God bless you with the imagination of a child,
and the wisdom of a grandparent,

Resist the urge to bless me in a query letter. Please. I know you mean well, but this just isn't the place for that.


Anonymous said...

*snort* I'm so glad you're back!

I was seriously jonesing for more Shark.

Thank you.

Marian said...

I like the name "Order of the Oaks" and the idea of once-abandoned children finding out about their pasts.

It's the title that throws me off first. "Mississippi Kids" just doesn't sound compelling enough for that children-of-the-corn start. I also wonder why the book is called a fantasy - there doesn't seem to be any magic or "otherness" in the query.

beth said...

I was lost for a majority of this query...I still don't really know what it's about!

Lehcarjt said...

I think this query lacks a certain amount of focus. It's trying to tell and be too much.

The opening paragraph has a 'She' and then a 'He' structure. That too me means that the books is primarily about two people of opposite sexes. But then the next paragraphs says it is about two sisters.

It is also written with a number of powerful words, but they are cliche words, and almost too dramatic. ie: "shrouded past" "ripped apart" "rush to save"

I really think you'd be better off going super simple. Tell us what the heart of the story is and why we should feel connected to the heroines. Drop the drama and the expressive writing. Be natural.

I am curious about the book. I'm not so concerned about it being age inappropriate (other than the DaVinci Code Reference). 9 year olds can be pretty sophisticated readers (Thinking of H.P.) The story itself caught my attention.

I agree with the Title being kind of odd. Mississippi Kids brings to mind a Huckleberry Finn type story for me for some reason.

Moth said...

I'm sorry but this is a hot mess right now. Let's start with the fact that it's too long. You get one page for your query and this is not a page if you're using 12 point. Yes, I tested. Also, short and sweet is better than long and inscrutable anyday.

Your first paragraph doesn't hook me in it just confuses me. I thought you were trying for literary fiction at first and then I went back and looked at the actual genre and went "Huh?" Also, the Da Vinci Code ref is overdone in queries (everyone thinks they have the next DaVinci Code- no one does) not to mention inappropriate in this instance since, as the Shark mentioned, you're writing for 9 year olds.

Also, your writing credits don't have much to do with writing. It reads more like a job application to be a teacher than a paragraph of writing creds. I always go by the advice of if you don't have anything pertinent to write there just don't put anything at all.

Tighten this up, tell us the plot coherently and cut out the signature at the end. Then you might have something.

Southern Writer said...

I think you should ditch everything but the second paragraph, and start over with that. It was the only part that gave me some sense of what the story is about.

ChrisEldin said...

This sounds like YA (which is 13 and over).

Just_Me said...

The query.... everyone's given you excellent advice on.

The story.... as a parent I'm not sure this is something I'd let my 9 year old read. Maybe it's written so it isn't quite so alarming but I think it might be a YA, for 13 and older, rather than a Mid-Grade for 9-13. Just a thought.

And, what age are the twins when the action happens? If they're closer to adult YA or even regular genre fiction would be a better fit if you could add to the action a little bit.