Sunday, November 13, 2011

Just a reminder

I saw this tweet this morning: "Dear God, Please don't ever let me click a link from Query Shark and find my query letter there. Amen."

I immediately replied, and I'm posting this here, to remind everyone that QueryShark is entirely voluntary. Every letter here was sent to the QueryShark, not to my incoming queries at the agency.

I do not ever post letters without the author's permission.

I take this pretty seriously because I value the trust you show by letting me critique your work publically to help not just you but LOTS of other writers.

I take it so seriously that even if someone jokes around about finding themselves on QueryShark, I don't treat it as a joke.

And if I ever make a mistake (and I can't see how it could happen...but it never hurts to be prepared) I have one last failsafe mechanism in place: when I post the query, I also send the link to the author as it goes up.

So, back to our regularly scheduled gnawing.

Saturday, November 12, 2011


Dear Query Shark,


Wanted: Temporary housing for 6 year old female

Non-negotiable-Parents must maintain a reasonable distance from adolescent. Foster siblings must be willing to undergo counseling. All exchanges between occupants must be formal and diplomatic. The home dwelling needs to have ample technological devices. (Here's where I'd stop reading and send a form rejection)  Weekly allowance will not cover all extra-curricular activities. Family members should have a clear understanding of the phrases “doesn’t adjust well to new settings” and “loved ones should keep an open mind”. Applicants must become members of the Aspie cult also known as, Family Members of Children with Asperger’s Syndrome.

There are several problems:
1. This is a gimmick. As soon as I see something like this it says you're using a gimmick rather than voice to entice me to read on. That is not what you want in a query.

2. The opening line says the kid sister needs to go, but the next paragraph makes it sound like the brother is the one moving "foster siblings etc."  So not only is this a gimmick, it's a confusing gimmick. Very not good.

3.  It's not actually funny.  Now, humor is more subjective than love so you may think it's funny, but to me it's just confusing, and one thing  you have to have with humor: your audience needs to get the joke. 

Will make exchange for older sibling with driver’s permit or potty trained animal. Female comes with complete medical history and list of medications. All vaccines (vaccines are what the inoculation is made of; you mean vaccinations) up to date. Bonus inclusion, exchangee’s ability to retain useless facts.

Again, I'm still confused about who's coming and who's going.

* *

This temporary arrangement is being made for the preservation of exchangee’s older brother. He wishes to continue his meager existence without interference. Female need only be cared for during the next 8 years, at which point brother, James will leave parental home and younger sister (said female) may return. All interested applicants must call home phone @ #440-555-0218, as advertiser does not have his own cell phone or email.

Ok, now it's clear but it's late in the game. You don't have this much time to get an agent's attention. If I'm confused in the first paragraph, I've moved on right then. 

NOT QUITE NORMAL is a light-hearted middle grade contemporary novel about an eleven year old boy who struggles with his place in society. When his autistic sister is mainstreamed into his school, James' delicate balancing act is thrown off the high wire. He must now face the relentless twin bullies at Harwood Elementary with an additional handicap (literally).

This doesn't sound light hearted at all, which is why you want to avoid describing your novel in a query letter.  Let ME figure out the right adjective to apply.  And who exactly is going to read this?
Middle grade novels are for kids in elementary school.  They aren't struggling to find their place in society; they're trying to live through third grade.  They're reading things like Jacob Wonderbar and the Space Kapow; Zachary Ruthless; and, Vordak T. Incomprehensible

Word count of 29,000. This is my first novel.

You're focused on the wrong thing here. Tell us what happens in the book, not the premise for it. Show me it's lighthearted, don't tell me.

Thank You for your time and consideration,