Meet my 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.
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.
If you’re looking for query advice, but are slightly intimidated by my claws, blade, or just my rolling googly-eyes, check out the query critique boards over at AgentQueryConnect. This is where I got my start, with advice from people smarter than me. Don’t be afraid to ask for help with the most critical first step of your writing journey – the query. My comments appear in green.
I saw on your agency’s website that you are currently seeking new young adult stories, and I thought you might enjoy my young adult novel, THE CHANGE. This novel is complete at 65,000 words and was a finalist in the LUW (League of Utah Writers) Oquirrh Chapter Selection Contest 2013. Normally I say put this information at the end, but you’ve done a good job of introducing the basics and then also your finalist info is good. So I say leave it 🙂
In Piper Dashton’s world, who you are is defined by the color of your eyes. And this is a great hook. I love the idea, original concept. No unusual eye colors were your tense changes here with “were” expected to appear at the Copperfield Orphanage during the week of the change, just the colors that were prevalent in the area: orange, pink, and silver, to name a few. I’d dash your last hang-on here in this sentence.
But Piper’s world flips upside down when her dull, grey eyes, the color of the unchanged, turn gold, a rare color that thrusts her into the crosshairs of warring sects that want to use her newfound psychic abilities. Hunted down by rebels, Piper’s on shifting ground, questioning everything she’s ever known about the world and the people within. I feel like we need to know more about the sects and their goals here – are there good guys? bad guys? Where to the rebels fall in this? What are their goals? And her just questioning everything is very vague – what is she questioning? Did she used to think rebels were good and now they’re bad? Vice versa?
Among the country’s elite, why is she among the elite now? Is this part of the warring sects? Piper desperately searches for the truth about the power she holds, the family she has never known, and her heart’s true desire. Meaning which side to choose, or is there a love interest? She is torn, not only by the corrupt capitol officials who have taken her in, but also by the rebels bent on capturing her and all other gifted individuals. Aha – so they “took her in” – as in, she’s a prisoner? Or a guest? Or under house arrest? With lies surrounding her, Piper needs to choose a side before she becomes a pawn in the hands of those that want to control her and her power.
This novel will appeal to fans of Alexandra Bracken’s THE DARKEST MINDS trilogy or Veronica Roth’s DIVERGENT. I’m currently working full-time on my next young adult novel. As per your guidelines, I have enclosed my query letter for your review. The full manuscript is available upon request. Be careful about using big titles for your comps – everyone wants to be like something huge. And they probably see 100 queries a day that use DIVERGENT as a comp title.
You have all the right information in here, but in the wrong order. You’ll see that I ask questions early on that you then answer later. The second paragraph isn’t really necessary, as most of what you say there is reiterated in the third, using different language. Also, it’s really important to know more about Piper – how does she feel, other than torn and confused? Is she thrilled to have a power? Scared? Give us some feel for her personality, and also more of an indication of why these sects are fighting and what they want to use her power for, specifically. Being psychic is cool, sure, but how are they going to use it?