Sunday, September 8, 2019


Question: I do not have much as far as credentials are concerned other than personal experience driving my story but I do have a large and strong social media presence. How should I go about this? Have I represented that aspect well?

Dear QueryShark,
The universe was music before it was anything tangible.

I love this idea. Whether anyone else will is subjective, but I like it a lot. It's fresh and new (to me at least.) It's not a killer first line, but it does the job: it engages my interest.

Time was measured without signature, and worlds formed from the power of boundless melody, creation in song. Within this crucible of worlds lies Tellure Grand, a land wide, young, and full with possibility. Here, power is being found in the notes of destruction.

oh splat.  That first sentence was easy to read and easy to understand.
Now we get time was measured without signature: well, my guess is you mean this:

but unless you have some education in music (versus just listening and enjoying) you may not get the reference.

And I don't know what a boundless melody is. Is it like an Unchained Melody?

The last thing you want is the agent trying to parse out what you mean, and get diverted to YouTube and dive down the Dirty Dancing rabbit hole.

The world folds where Warsingers make music. Each striking sword and flying arrow is accompanied by the strum of a harp or the lilting of an aria. Minds mold, politics change, and ideologies bend in the wake of such music. Life tuning to the history they create.The land shaping by those who wield the ebb and flow of these powerful sonatas.

this is so abstract I have NO idea what you're talking about.
That means I've started to lose interest.
Now the era turns anew for Tellure Grand and her fledgling civilizations. Strains of glory hum against the strings, where baritones of tribulations rise. A young lordling, a foreign man, a blind girl, and a wild huntress find themselves caught in the orchestrations of a world steered toward discord. For in the distance a bell tolls, a powerful noise that resonates with annihilation, striking with insidious fury. And the gods?

And now I'm skimming.
Gods do not sing; they are the song.
THE WARSINGER OPUS:(Series) A BREAKING OF BELLS is an adult High Fantasy manuscript complete at 325,000 words. It is an epic for those that love The Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson, The Kingkiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss, and The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan.

You don't need me to tell you that 325,000 words is a total deal breaker.
I grew up telling stories, comfortable with the attention of a room.
This is not the selling point you think it is.

That joy only grew as my love for Dungeons & Dragons burgeoned, kindling a deeper appreciation for worldbuilding and immersion. I market myself well and have a loyal following of 152,000 followers on the social media platform Tik Tok where the videos I have made about my book and worldbuilding have garnered hundreds of thousands of views, tens of thousands of likes, and thousands of positive comments. A consistent flow of those followers are transferring to my twitter as well, with 1,250 following on that platform to date. I also boast 950 active Discord participants that enjoy in public readings of chapters bi-weekly.

Well, that's a platform indeed.
And you put the info on how to find you at the end, which is just where it should be.
Because this query is an utter mess (right now) if I'd gotten to this part, I'd go check it out because clearly you're doing something right.

BUT note that I lost interest, and was skimming after the second paragraph.
Don't risk losing an agent's eyeballs.
Get the story on the page.

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

E-Mail: (just put your email address. We know gmail means email)
Phone: (and we know what that pattern of numbers means)
Tik Tok: (what you had) here is where you DO need the identifier because this isn't as well known to your audience yet.

Twitter: we know what @ means.

This query doesn't work because I don't know what the book is about.  

Here's the PW review of one of your comps, the first Brandon Sanderson book:

This massive tome is the first of a 10-part epic fantasy series from relative newcomer Sanderson (Mistborn), best known for his efforts to complete the late Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series. 

In a storm-swept world where history has dwindled into myth, self-serving aristocrats squabble over mystical weapons that render their bearers immune to mundane attacks. 

The ambitious scholar Shallan learns unexpected truths about the present, the virtuous aristocrat Dalinar reclaims the lost past, and the bitter and broken slave Kaladin gains unwanted power. 

Race-related plot themes may raise some eyebrows, and there's no hope for anything resembling a conclusion in this introductory volume, but Sanderson's fondness for misleading the reader and his talent for feeding out revelations and action scenes at just the right pace will keep epic fantasy fans intrigued and hoping for redemptive future installments. 

There's not much sense of the plot here, but at least we have an idea of what's going on.

Here's the PW review of The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss (2007)

The originality of Rothfuss's outstanding debut fantasy, the first of a trilogy, lies less in its unnamed imaginary world than in its precise execution.
Kvothe ("pronounced nearly the same as 'Quothe' "), the hero and villain of a thousand tales who's presumed dead, lives as the simple proprietor of the Waystone Inn under an assumed name.
Prompted by a biographer called Chronicler who realizes his true identity, Kvothe starts to tell his life story. From his upbringing as an actor in his family's traveling troupe of magicians, jugglers and jesters, the Edema Ruh, to feral child on the streets of the vast port city of Tarbean, then his education at "the University," Kvothe is driven by twin imperatives—his desire to learn the higher magic of naming and his need to discover as much as possible about the Chandrian, the demons of legend who murdered his family.
As absorbing on a second reading as it is on the first, this is the type of assured, rich first novel most writers can only dream of producing. The fantasy world has a new star.

 And again, not much plot but a sense of what the story is.

Both of these books are too old and too successful to be good comps NOW.  Generally you need comps that are new (within the last three years) and from authors who haven't sold a gazillion copies.  That's a tough challenge, I know, and it drives me crazy too.

Bottom line: even in epic fantasy you have to tell me  the story.

Saving grace: That kind of platform can rescue a query that's an utter mess, but it's a risk  you don't need to take. A query that tells me the  story combined with this platform would be very very strong.

Take another crack at this and tell me the story.


nightsmusic said...


I'm going to pick at a couple things here. First off, I have a major music background and music always has a signature. It's the rhythm of the melody. Even in the remotest areas, untouched by any structured civilization that we would traditionally think of, their music has a rhythm to it. A structure to that melody, that music. So for me, if this was a part of your back blurb on a published novel, it would go right back on the shelf.

That said, I also have no clue what's going on. Are you trying to use music as good music vs evil music? I really get no sense of that at all. Is it the 'warslingers' manipulating the music? Say so. I'm getting no real idea of whether the music is in charge or the people slinging it around are. It's confusing. The second, third and fourth paragraphs are a mishmash of things and it's not cohesive.

My point is, if there's 325K worth of words like this query, you're in trouble. Your query isn't necessarily a mirror of your story, but it certainly lets the agent know how well you use the 250 or so words you have to get their attention. The only thing in this that was easy to read and understandable was how many followers you have.

And that brings me to my last pick. After reading how many followers you have, I get the impression that you're already posting this story online. If so, I don't know how many agents would want to try to sell something people already have access to. Yes, I know, there have been a few authors who have managed, but it's not a common thing.

Your first line caught my attention. But the who, what, when, etc of the rest of the query made my eyes roll. An agent isn't going to re-read your query for clarification. They're going to read it until they lose interest and the hit the reject button.


Bethany Elizabeth said...

You're so in love with your world concept you've completely forgotten about the story. No worries- that is SUPER common for authors who started with D&D. Why? Because a D&D pitch involves an interesting world concept. The characters are built as you go. Books are kind of the opposite. You START with story, then drip in the world until readers are totally immersed. Right now that's an issue with the query, but you should also look into the story.

Also, seriously? Comping Wheel of Time, Name of the Wind, and the Stormlight Archive? Why not throw in Tolkien and Erikson? Hell, sprinkle in a bit of McCaffrey and Martin and you've got the whole set!

That's like a poet comping himself to Shakespeare, Keats, and Angelou. Any agent who knows fantasy will be dismissive of those claims. Pick something that has more in common with your book than, "Well, it's really long."

Your concept is awesome. It deserves an awesome story to go with it.

Mister Furkles said... need comps that are new (within the last three years) and from authors who haven't sold a gazillion copies.

Darn! I was aiming for MacBeth, Great Expectations, and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Guess that's out.

The problem with recent novels by less renowned authors is you've got to buy them. If you read fifty books a year, it's off to the library every week. Otherwise it's a thousand dollars of discretionary income. My dog, Parky Warkles, can use that at the vet in a year.

I'm not letting him die for pile of books.

How about similar novels by well established authors published in the last twenty-five years?

Brittany said...

Echo nightsmusic on the signature thing. I did a song once in choir that was in 3/4+3/8. The director played us a recording and it sounded like absolute chaos, but there was a structure and we figured it out. It wouldn't be a dealbreaker of a metaphor for me, but I don't think it lands like you want it to.

It was only on the second readthrough that I spotted characters being mentioned at all, and that's where you probably need to start. Remember, readers might have fallen in love with the breadth and scale of Middle-Earth, but for the most part they started off by getting to know a hobbit who lived in a hole in the ground.

lala412 said...

How far away is your library? Many books written today really are a great deal different than those written 25 years ago. No one wants a writer to starve (or lose their dog) in order to write. If you live far from the library and don't want to waste the gas, check out as many books as you can read before they will come due again so you don't have to make more trips. That's what I do, but part of that is agoraphobia - I "bundle" all of my errands in one day to get them over with.

lala412 said...

Argh, that was supposed to be a reply to Mister Furkles

Mister Furkles said...


The library is kind enough to lend new books for free--my favorite price. Amazon doesn't see it that way.

When David Baldacci writes a book, the library orders it pre-publication. But he gets sales of a million hardbound--or should--for each new book. So, I can get on the library's list for a Baldacci and maybe get it only nine months after the library gets it. But Baldacci is not a comp.

When Alice New-Author writes a book, it's not in the library, at least not right away.

And trade paperbacks, even mass market paperbacks, cost twelve to eighteen a pop.

But what if I don't like the book? The library provides a full refund: $0.00. That's the same refund provided by the bookstores. Aren't they generous? So, I'm sold on the county library.

In your genera, can you afford buying a plethora of new authors' books? Many are good reading but only a few will be similar to your story. Gotta buy to know.

And Parky Warkles' drugs for Valley Fever are expensive. Others have similar expenses to eat up their discretionary income.

Blessed be the libraries for they lend free.

Bethany Elizabeth said...

Mister Furkles -- you should check out some used bookstores in your area. There are quite a few near me that offer store credit for books you bring them. So for every two or three books I donate, I can get two or three older books or one newer book. It's not a perfect system and still involves buying new books occasionally, but it's a good option. Also, used bookstores get newer books fairly often, so you can usually find quite a few titles that were released in the last year for 3-8 bucks a piece (ten for hardbacks).

Also, a lot of lesser-known authors have sales on amazon where you can get the kindle version for free or like one dollar. It's just not that hard or expensive to read new books in your genre if you really want to.

Unknown said...

You can also get Kindle books via the library, which means no schlepping at all.

But also, if you're hoping to become a published writer who wants people to buy your books, you should be allocating at least *some* of your income to buying books. Publishing is a struggling industry in general and if you want to be part of it, you should also support it. I went out and bought at least a dozen books when I was struggling with comps -- no need to buy 50, if you can't -- and I got two great ones out of it. You also need to be familiar with current trends in your genre and category. Obviously we're all on different budgets, but if you can, I'd add books into yours in whatever way you can.

The Outsider said...

Also, most libraries offer ebook and audiobook lending programs online now, so if you own an e-reader or are comfortable reading on a phone/laptop/tablet etc. you don't even have to leave the house - check your library services website, it might ask you to download an app but that's about as complicated as it gets!

Michellaneous said...

Mister Furkles,

(Even though no one asked) I am a public librarian and I process new books into our system almost as soon as they are published. Sometimes it might be a week or two, but we get notice of upcoming books (and advanced copies, my favorite perk!) well in advance so we can pre-order. No, it isn't like Baldacci, where we have the books pre-ordered months in advance, but like you said, the wait-lists for those are 150 people deep as soon as it reaches us. Anyway, that was more to the "not right away" comment, than anything. Sorry for the (unnecessary) education--comes with the job!

I suppose your point is more that you don't wish to go to the library every week--but putting books on hold and picking them in one go is a common practice here. We give people 10 days before their hold goes back on the shelf with a fine, though of course other public libraries operate differently, I'm sure.

I'm right there with you, however. I have the fortune of being able to read books at my desk for my job, but otherwise, comp research can be a grueling (and expensive) necessary task.

Amy Nuttall said...

The querier mentions TWO audio/video-based social media platforms as a major part of their online presence. That makes me wonder if some of their appeal lies in their screen presence or voice acting. Nothing wrong with that, of course, but being able to read your words in such a way that it enthralls a Discord server full of people is a completely different beast than writing a novel to be read on a page. Just because you can read it well doesn't mead it *reads* well.

I wince at the piece of advice I hear often (even from the Shark herself!) to read your work out loud in order to discover flaws. I'm sure that works for some, maybe even most, but my work often sounds fine, sometimes better, when I read it out loud... because I add meaning and energy from vocal inflections that aren't present on the page. When I go back and read it silently, sometimes I find I'm actually rambling, or straight up not making sense. I wonder if querier has the same problem.

April Mack said...

Amy, reading your own work aloud can help you catch typos and such. But if you can't read your own work out loud objectively, then have a friend read it aloud to you. THEN you'll hear it, because they won't know your original meaning and won't add inflections where you would have put them.

Mike said...

The movie that famously used Unchained Melody is Ghost, not Dirty Dancing.

Unknown said...

Who's the protag?

Camille said...

Just a note to the author: it's Kingkiller Chronicle (singular) and any agent familiar with the series would balk at the use of the plural here.

sevennights said...

Both Tolkien & Lewis did the whole 'world is created by gods singing' thing, btw. (The Silmarillion & The Magician's Nephew). And possibly Dunsany as well?

MackAttack said...

I'll just add as another music major background: I've studied music over 20 years and I won't nitpick the specifics of the purple prose (as Madame Shark and nightsmusic have already done that quite well), but the whole of your descriptions here are too abstract and opaque to penetrate even with a Music Ed degree. My WIP currently features a kind of music mage, myself, so I have good reason to be very intrigued here. But I can tell you for certain, you're losing every reader who's not musically trained and half the ones who are. One of the things you have to balance when you're writing about your area of expertise is being able to show you know your stuff without confusing the average reader. For a fabulous example of how to do this well for music (if not a recent one, sorry) I'd look at Anne McCaffrey's Crystal Singer series. Though she uses a sci-fi setting, the way she develops the world has a lot in common with fantasy, and music is woven throughout.

Your world descriptions aren't just abstract and ultra-poetic, though, they also seem really redundant. Take this paragraph: "Warsingers.
The world folds where Warsingers make music. Each striking sword and flying arrow is accompanied by the strum of a harp or the lilting of an aria. Minds mold, politics change, and ideologies bend in the wake of such music. Life tuning to the history they create.The land shaping by those who wield the ebb and flow of these powerful sonatas."

Every sentence in it is expressing the same repeated idea: that the warsingers make music that shapes and changes their world in major ways. None of the sentences after the first one expand upon the idea or say anything more interesting than "The world folds where warsingers make music." Then in the next section: "Now the era turns anew for Tellure Grand and her fledgling civilizations. Strains of glory hum against the strings, where baritones of tribulations rise." This is essentially saying the exact same thing as this part of your first paragraph: "Within this crucible of worlds lies Tellure Grand, a land wide, young, and full with possibility. Here, power is being found in the notes of destruction." We have a world that is at some kind of crossroads, hints of war, destruction, tribulations, but no additional details making clear what the stakes are. Also, the noun "baritone" typically refers to either a brass instrument, or a male singer with a particular vocal range. Therefore, "baritones of tribulations" had me picturing the most histrionic Voice majors I knew in college mid-tantrum.

My advice: take your two strongest sentences and connect them with as few words as possible, then jump straight into the characters. Example:

"The universe was music before it was anything tangible.

The Warsingers of Tellure Grand have always known the secrets of the universe's song, and the power it holds. The world folds where Warsingers make music."

Then you need to immediately tell us about one or two of the following people: A young lordling, a foreign man, a blind girl, and a wild huntress. Who they are, what they want, why they can't have it, what's at stake. If one of these people is not a Warsinger, they better be fighting the Warsingers. Or cleaning up the mess the Warsingers made of the world.

LaGataTriste said...

I have laughed so hard, I cried! This blog is so good, it should be published.
"The Query Shark on the prowl: things you should never send to a book editor"