Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Stacey's Slush Week entry

by Stacey


(For details on Slush Week, see Chasya's introduction.)


We'll start with the query on its own, then the response after the jump:

Dear Mr./Ms. (Insert Agent's Name),

Life is tough, but Natalie MacKenzie is about to find that it gets a whole lot tougher when your stepsister is a succubus.

After Natalie is accused of burning the high school science wing to the ground (without anything more explosive than a pencil and paper), her father finally tells Natalie the truth: her mother wasnt human. Her father and stepmother decide to ship her off to a special school in Turkey where she can learn how to control herself and her fire abilities.

The only thing that makes the idea bearable is that her parents allow her stepsister and best friend, Olivia, to join Natalie and the other students for a two week tour of the country. On the way, Natalie and Olivia fall for the same guy, David, and when he chooses Natalie, Olivia makes a deal to become a succubus, which gives her power to have any guy she wants.

And she wants David.

Its up to Natalie to figure out how to use her fire abilities to rescue both Olivia and David--assuming that the other elements let her live that long . . .

My Stepsister is a Succubus is a young adult contemporary fantasy novel with 70,000 words. Although I have not yet published a novel, I have sold two magazine articles to the Ensign magazine. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,
(Author's name)


Dear Mr./Ms. (Insert Agent's Name),


Life is tough, but Natalie MacKenzie is about to find that it gets a whole lot tougher when your stepsister is a succubus.

I really like this opening line. It gets right to the point and draws the reader in.

After Natalie is accused of burning the high school science wing to the ground (without anything more explosive than a pencil and paper), her father finally tells Natalie the truth: her mother wasnt human. Her father and stepmother decide to ship her off to a special school in Turkey where she can learn how to control herself and her fire abilities.

It's very important to edit your letter carefully. Mistakes like "wasnt" instead of "wasn't" really stand out. Also the paragraph loses the reader and begs some questions. It's a big leap from "her mother wasn't human" to "Her father and stepmother decide to ship her off to a special school in Turkey where she can learn how to control herself and her fire abilities." Wait, what fire abilities? And if her mom wasn't human, what was she? And what's the special school, and why Turkey? This section needs to be reworked.

The only thing that makes the idea bearable is that her parents allow her stepsister and best friend, Olivia, to join Natalie and the other students for a two week tour of the country. On the way, Natalie and Olivia fall for the same guy, David, and when he chooses Natalie, Olivia makes a deal to become a succubus, which gives her power to have any guy she wants.

How old is the protagonist? You should include that information. How old is Olivia? It's unclear how Olivia becomes a succubus, and who does she make a deal with? Fill in the blanks with clear, concise information.

And she wants David.

Its up to Natalie to figure out how to use her fire abilities to rescue both Olivia and David--assuming that the other elements let her live that long . . .

Is the fire her only gift? You might come up with a better description than "fire abilities" which you already used above. What is she rescuing Olivia and David from? Important to specify. And what are the "other elements". Again, clarify.

My Stepsister is a Succubus is a young adult contemporary fantasy novel with 70,000 words. Although I have not yet published a novel, I have sold two magazine articles to the Ensign magazine. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Title, which I like, should be in all caps or italics to stand out. Good to describe it as a "young adult contemporary fantasy" and give word count. You might say instead of "Although I have not yet published a novel" something like "Although this is my first novel, I have articles published in Ensign magazine." If you think you have any additional relevant information about your interests or background that speaks to this book or your writing, you could share it here to flesh the section out just a bit, not more than a line or two.

Also, it might be helpful to have a better sense of where you see this fitting into the marketplace, and if it compares to other books you love.
Finally, you should offer the reader a writing sample, and if you know the agent you are querying has represented a book or books you like, definitely let us know that. It helps to see writers who have done their homework, and can cite books on our list, and it really makes a query stand out from the competition. If you choose to do this, I'd recommend including it in the first paragraph of the pitch to grab our attention.


Sincerely,
(Author's name)

 
Thanks so much for being a part of Slush Week!

19 comments:

  1. Would you have asked for more, Stacey?

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  2. I'm feeling confused on the subject of comp titles. You say you want this book compared to "other books you love" and Jane suggests her slusher comp her book to "other bestselling thrillers."

    But Miriam says "comparing one’s work to canonical titles is a recipe for disaster. You’re setting yourself up against very stiff competition and stacking the cards against yourself from the get-go."

    It looks like a case of "whatever you do is wrong." Can anybody clarify a bit?

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  3. The author in Miriam's example was comparing her manuscript to some of the most revered novels in literature. Those that are considered to be classics. That is the difference.

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  6. Wait, Natalie's step sister is a succubus? Or is Natalie a succubus? Am I the only one who got confused there?

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  7. Suze, I think based on the title that her stepsister is the succubus!

    I think based on the query in its current state, I would have passed, but with some tweaking, I might have requested pages.

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