Wednesday, July 29, 2009

1 Query Contest

Dear Ms. Meadows,

I am sending a query letter to the response that you are currently accepting Young Adult novel proposals at this time.

Sarah Armstrong doesn’t know she’s going to die in two months, or that she's got an angel trying his damnedest to stop that from happening. She's too busy worrying about losing her scholarship to deal with the sudden interest from Wenham University's sullen, bad boy rocker, Caleb Smith.

Heaven’s law forbids renegade angel Caleb from interfering with humans, especially falling for one. But he can't help watching over Sarah or becoming her reluctant guardian. Never one to play by the rules, Caleb’s saving her life at every turn and leaving a calling card for Hell's demons and Heaven's Archangels to find him. After centuries of running from the fight, he's finally found something worth fighting for.

When a demon attacks them, Caleb is forced reveal his true self to protect Sarah. Now more than ever, Sarah must not only trust her heart to him, but her soul as well. But as their worlds’ collide with fiery passion, all Hell intends to break loose to capture the AWOL angel. The agents of both sides are hot on the trail, hunting not just Caleb but Sarah, too.

Filled with guitar hero angels, straight off the runway demons, bitchy co-eds, and a psychotic recluse, Broken is a completed 90,000 word young adult paranormal novel about forbidden love and second chances.

I have several poems published in anthologies, and during college I wrote for the University of Tennessee’s newspaper. I am a member of RWA and the online writing forum Romance Divas.

I would be happy to send you a synopsis and the beginning chapters for your consideration. Thank you for your time.


Unpublished Author



I freeze. Obsidian eyes glisten triumphantly inches from mine. A bitter taste accompanies the awful smell of him, something like burnt flesh, sweat and sulfur. I slow my ragged breath. Trapped like a caged bird, the first thought that enters my mind as I lay sprawled across the gravel lane. I glance at the old covered bridge only a few feet away. I know they can’t cross the water. With the fleeting thought that I could make it, I have run until my body is numb and my lungs ache. Any hope I have for my own life lays dashed beside me on the ground. My sanctuary, the bridge, looms before me just out of reach. My savior locked in Wenham University gym is behind me. I trust Caleb is safe. Luring the demon away has been my intention.

“I underestimated how brave you are. But he can’t save you now,” my assailant hisses with a deadly smile upon his lips.

I try to inch away. “I wasn’t worried about myself.” My voice shakes with the pain pulsating from my broken leg and dislocated shoulder.

“Even in your last moments, your thoughts are of him. How ironic.” His eyes sparkle and his voice ripples like silk.

My eyes flicker between the park on the right of me and the stream bed to the left. Deserted. Everyone gathers in the old gym for Fall Ball. Closing my eyes, I remember searing blues eyes and the reason for my bravery.


  1. I think the premise of the query is interesting, but when I first read it, I wasn't sure if the book was about Sarah or Caleb. It seems to jump from her to him, without giving the full perspective of either.

    I was even more surprised when I read the first 250 words and saw first-person narration. If this book is first-person from one character's viewpoint, I think the query needs to be the same.

  2. I was hesitant at first with the query...not really into angel stories, and this didn't seem to stand out. But the line "Filled with guitar hero angels..." hooked me.

    I respectfully disagree with Holly that the query should be first person--I don't think it's a good idea to write a query in first person POV. However, if you alternate view points, then you might want to mention that.

    I'm not a fan of prologues, and this one seems a bit cliched (it's similar to the one used in Twilight, for example--you start off with the character in danger in the prologue, then rewind to the beginning in Chapter 1, right?).

    However, I think the concept is clear in the query, and the writing isn't bad at all, so if this were a subject I loved, I'd probably request a partial.

  3. I agree with the previous poster. You start out talking about Sarah, but spend the rest of the query talking about Caleb.

    Also, I hate to say it, but the sullen bad boy rocker who happens to be a renegade angel is a bit cliched, no? I feel like I've read this book before.

    The query is well written, if a little awkward.

  4. Oops, someone jumped in here, I agree with Holly. What she was saying is if the book is from a first person POV the query needs to follow that same MC, but from a third person POV.

    I hope that's clear.

  5. It took me a couple of reads of the 1st paragraph to understand that Caleb was the angel. Then I was confused by why Hell would want him. Does he go to Hell if he breaks Heaven's rules?

    I did think it was an interesting concepts and find the prologue intriguing.

    Good Luch

  6. I'm not really hooked. I don't know if it's because of the whole angel thing (it sounds strikingly similar to the book ETERNAL, at least in part) or that I can't really get a good feel for Sarah.

  7. I was very interested in reading after the query! The only thing I would suggest is that you change this:

    "I would be happy to send you a synopsis and the beginning chapters for your consideration. Thank you for your time."

    Because I'm sure you'd be happy to send the entire manuscript if they wanted it! Just "Thank you for your time and consideration" is enough. They know you'll send more :)

    Good luck!

  8. Honestly... I think you have an interesting premise that people *do* like reading about. And you do have some fun concepts - runway demons, for example. :]

    But the query was a little confusing at first read through. I had to read a couple times before I got the idea.

  9. I'm in agreement with Megs. People who are into this genre will be hooked. But I was also a little confused reading through. Nothing a polish or two won't fix though.

    In particular, I think the very first sentence of the query could us restructuring.

  10. QUERY: Not coming together smoothly for me. For a start, it needs another proofread. The first sentence is clunky and ungrammatical, and there are misplaced apostrophes and a truckload of missing hyphens as well.

    Try not to start a query with information the protagonist *doesn’t* know. Presumably she also doesn’t know the airspeed velocity of an unladen African swallow, but that lack of knowledge has no effect on her life, so the reader doesn’t care. The *story* starts when she *does* find out, and that discovery makes something *happen*.

    The characters seem rather passive to me. Sarah doesn’t know stuff. Caleb is forbidden by a third party to do stuff, and can’t help doing other stuff. I'm not sure which one is the protagonist, which is both cause and effect of neither of them seeming especially active and decisive.

    I couldn’t understand why so many people are trying to kill Sarah - is it explained somewhere in the query?

    Be careful of using cliched language: “trying his damnedest”, “never one to play by the rules”, “something worth fighting for”, “worlds’ [sic] collide with fiery passion”, “all Hell ... break[s] loose”, “hot on the trail”, etc.

    FIRST 250: The opening four sentences are loaded with adjectives and adverbs. Obsidian. Triumphantly. Bitter. Awful. Burnt. Ragged. Try streamlining these down to draw the reader in more smoothly.

    I found the dialogue kind of cliched: I’m imagining the assailant as Doctor McEvil, with dastardly lines like “he can’t save you now!”. I’m looking for more subtlety/complexity in the characterisation.

    OVERALL: Liked the way this book starts with action, and I might skim the rest of the page if it was provided, but at the moment, I’m not feeling hooked. I'm not sure this is very different from the millions and millions of other YA fantasies out there.

  11. QUERY: The errant apostrophe after worlds was distracting. Despite that, the query intrigued me. I like the idea of the renegade rocker angel become guardian. I don't know why he's reluctant about it, but I'm curious enough to read pages.

    250 WORDS: The opening didn't hook me. The description feels overwritten for an action scene, and I don't care for the present tense. If I didn't know the premise from the query, the prologue would confuse me.

  12. The query didn't entirely hook me, but it was enough that after I left it, I thought about it for the next hour and came back to look at the sample page.

    So, I moved to the sample page and stopped with the second sentence because it's present tense. Present tense stories drive me nuts. If it wasn't present tense, it would probably would hook me.

  13. Um, I'd probably reject this just because of the typos. Make sure you're using lay/lie correctly. And you need to watch your apostrophes. I think, in general, this query and sample showed that you aren't particular enough about editing, and if I were an agent, I'd be concerned that the trend ran through the book.

    I'd also cut out the first line of the query and just go straight into the pitch.

    I hope this helps and good luck!

  14. The query runs a little long for me and reads a bit awkward. On the other hand, there were certain phrases that caught my attention (straight off the runway demons). I wasn't completely hooked but curious enough to read on to the sample. I did hesitate at the length of the novel considering that it is for young adult. It seems a little long.

    The sample lost me in the first paragraph. Some of the sentences seem imcomplete to me. While I think the line of thought and the tension are good, the writing needs to be a bit more polished. It would flow much better if it was easier to read each complete thought from the main character.

    Overall, I do think the premise is interesting and has a lot of potential. The writing just needs some sculpting and polishing.

  15. Hooked by the query: the plot seemed a little generic, but your voice pulled me
    250 words: stopped reading after the first para, but that's just personal as I don't like present tense

  16. Like Parametric, I had trouble with the query. I get a sense if the flow was a bit more fluid, I might have been hooked.

    It took several reads to get through it which is not what you want. It becomes a distraction. I don't think it would take much to adjust, though. I'll refer you to parametric for edits, thereby avoiding duplication.

    Good luck

  17. I was definitely hooked enough to read the first page.

    I would say don't query in first person. I went to an agent panel where someone asked that question and the answer was overwhelmingly that first person queries get too confusing. Who are you talking about, yourself or your book?

    About the first page, I think it's too obviously like Twilight. It's going to be hard to differentiate your book if you start like that.

  18. OH -- I loved your query!!

    Premise / plot is good, and I definitely want to read this. Please get it published!


  19. I was intrigued by the query, but after reading the sample, I probably wouldn't ask for more.

  20. Hooked! Would definitely read more.

  21. The query felt long, but my interest to the point where I wanted to read.

    In the first paragraph though I recommend you break it up a bit. It slowed me down. Here we are in this dangerous situation and I want to be in the moment. I don't want it to slow down.

  22. The query intrigued me but the sample didn't. I felt like I wasn't starting at the being of the book. More like several chapters into it based on your query. I also felt it was overwritten. It seemed a better voice for Caleb than Sarah.

  23. I was hooked by your first line about Sarah's predicament and the intervening angel. Then you lost me at the 'bad boy rocker.' Then I came back again with the mention of "Heaven's law."

    In other words, I happened to be interested in the Angels/Demons side of the story and not so much the romance. But I still like the premise!

    Maybe mention "Heaven's law" as it was spelled out by Heaven's lawyers and let us now that Caleb is just going to have to break that law. Just a suggestion!

  24. I liked your query, but the first thing I thought after getting a few sentences into your sample was Twilight. And I see at least one other commenter has thought the same. That might be something to consider. Also, I've seen agents say not to send the prologue as the writing sample, instead, to send the first 250 words of the first chapter. That would help avoid comparisons with Twilight.

  25. Guardian angel/human stories are a really hard sell for me. I just can't get into them. (To be honest, they kind of freak me out.)

    The query letter itself is fine. It's concise and I can follow it well enough, but this wouldn't hook me. In addition to this simply not being my kind of story, I see a *lot* of guardian angels falling for their wards.

    The opening pages wouldn't hook me, either. I've seen this device before: we start with the main character in danger and rewind to show how she got there. It's always felt false to me, an easy way to bring tension into the beginning so the real beginning doesn't have to work so hard.

    This whole submission isn't *bad*, but it does read like the writer's early attempts. I feel like the writer isn't comfortable in her (I'm assuming her) own voice and style yet, which is why we have something that strongly resembles so many other submissions out there.

    So I'd reject this, but if the writer is serious about their career, I'd expect to see something from her in a year or so after she's written and revised something a little more original.

  26. While I agree that query could've been read through one more time to fix some of the grammar and missing word, I didn't think it was that bad. It made me curious enough about the story and characters to want to read more.

    And while I agree that the prologue reminded me of Twilight, there are other books that have used this technique.

    Overall, I'd be interested in reading more of this. At least more sample pages to get a better feel for the author's overall writing style. And to see if the story lives up to its premise (like will the sample pages be as interesting as I think they'll be just from reading the query?).

  27. The query didn't quite hook me. I wasn't sure who was the protagonist and I felt the story had been done before; the premise made me think of the TV program, "Twice In a Lifetime" (altho' I realize it's not exactly the same). I must say I did like the paragraph that begins with "Filled with guitar hero angels...", but I didn't love it enough to read the partial. Sorry.

  28. The "currently" and "at this time" both in the first line bothered me. Repetition bothers me. And that this is in response to something. Does that mean there was a pre-query query? And if she's going to die in two months why does he have to save her life at every turn?

    I didn't read any further.