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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.
Fifteen-year-old Prince Kyan has been preparing to be Creftenbaugh’s next king for as long as he can remember. But so has his quick-tempered identical twin brother, Sayled. With the coronation ceremony quickly approaching and confusion over who was the first-born prince, King Rowden announces a series of five trials that? will determine the next ruler. Each prince will compete using nine criminals from the prisons, leading them as a general would his troops.
Kyan knows he’s studied harder than his twin and is determined to prove he’s the better prince to keep Creftenbaugh peaceful and prosperous. Unfortunately, his memorized facts and figures are useless for training his prisoners. He struggles to keep the peace and make them work together, even after he offers their freedom if they win. Very good. I think you might want to add here what Sayled’s training has been. Is her more military minded? Do these trails favor him over Kyan? We also need to know more about what these trials are like, even if they are vastly different from one another. Are these troops facing each other in battle? Solving puzzle like traps? Fighting dragons? Use this opportunity to get more genre-feel into the query. This is fantasy, sure. But is it high fantasy? Are there creatures? Is there magic?
One of Kyan’s prisoners, thirteen-year-old Enna, is desperate to return to her orphaned younger sister and sees an opportunity to help the prince. She shares information about the other prisoners with Kyan, which he then uses to gain their loyalties. Maybe a touch more detail here. Typically sharing information sounds like sabotage, not something that leads to gaining loyalties. It might even help to give more of an overall view of what the relationship here is like. Does Enna help Kyan learn how to relate to his troops, bringing them together as one? Something like that might be more helpful than going into detail about information?
After Kyan win(s) the first two trials, he can practically feel the crown on his head. But when a notorious gambler blackmails Enna with her sister’s life to ensure long-shot Sayled is Sayled the long-shot b/c Kyan won the first two? Or was he always? is the next king, her focus turns from winning the trials to sabotaging them.
Told in alternating points-of-view between the boy trying to win the crown and the girl who would do anything to stop him, PRINCES AND PAWNS is a 70,000-word upper-middle-grade fantasy. Thank you for your time and consideration.
Honestly, this looks pretty good. There’s a lot of green type up there, but it’s mostly for guidance. I think you need to blend the two paras that deal with Enna together, which will give the query a more focused look, and also illustrates the change in her character and goals over the course of a small amount of type, which is ideal for a query. There are a couple of echoes in the first para that I highlighted, and I think we need a feel for what the trials are like, which will in turn illustrate your world. Other than that I think you’re in good shape.