So, I opened up myself to critiquing queries, and quite a few of you said – “Yes! Me! I love it when other people jam their grimy fingers into my carefully polished words!”
OK – my hands aren’t actually grimy, but I don’t make any promises about the cleanliness of my editing tool. Meet the BBC Hatchet of Death (or, some other colorful description RC Lewis and I come up with at any given moment). This is how I edit myself, it is how I edit others. If you think you want to play with me and my hatchet, shoot us an email. And a little bit of BBC literary info.
We all know the first line of a query is your “hook.” I call the last line the “sinker.” You want it to punch them in the face, in a nice, friendly kind of way that makes them unable to forget you after having read the 300 other queries in their inbox. Also, at the end, I’m going to tell you what I think your story is about, based on your query. I know how hard it is to get your ideas across succinctly, and how easy it is for your author’s brain to fill in the blanks and not see the gaping holes that the average reader may very well fall into.
Also, for my brave Saturday Slash volunteers I will gladly do follow-up slashes (each more kindly than the next) on your query if you post them on the Query Critique board over on AgentQuery Connect. You’ll get advice from me, and also people who are smarter than me. If you do post on AQ, be sure to follow the guidelines and let me know you posted so that I can follow up!
And now for our next brave soul. For clarity, my comments are in purple.
What does a young boy selling hot dogs in Appalachia have in common with a retired postal worker driving a van to Upstate New York? They are animal rescue super heroes. I’m not as good with MG voice, but I still think this hook needs more zap. Also, I wouldn’t call it a “rule,” but I definitely don’t advise posing your hook as a question. I like the parallel between the boy hot dog seller and the retired postal worker used in conjunction with their locations, however, the verb tense is not working for me. I’d try re-phrasing into a statement and using “who sells” and I’d ditch the driving and van reference for the postal worker altogether.
ANIMAL RESCUE SUPER HEROES is a work of narrative nonfiction that tells middle grade readers the ongoing and inspiring stories of people who work to reduce pet overpopulation while saving the lives of unwanted dogs. Nice, this works for me. Complete at 10,000 words, the book explores the process from actual rescue, to fund raising, to adoptions. The stories, illustrated with vivid photographs, will inspire readers, even those who do not own pets, I’d strike for phrasing to become animal rescue super heroes themselves.
I met the people featured in this book after I rescued two starving puppies near my home in Claiborne County Tennessee and discovered there was no animal shelter. I am involved in building a shelter in my county and a member of Claiborne Animal Shelter Board of Directors. I volunteer regularly for the Remote Area Medical Volunteer Corps veterinary clinics, and, of course, I rescue stray animals. This all works well – you’re telling the agent why you qualified to write this book. And brava for being a furry friend hero yourself!
And now for my little para where I talk about what I think your book is about. Obviously, since this is for non-fic, I don’t have a lot of room for extrapolating down here. I know very little about how to go about querying an NF work. I’m going to put a bug in the ears of some of my more NF qualified people over at AQC and usher them in this general direction though! Hopefully I helped a little.