Wednesday, July 29, 2009

19 Query Contest

Dear Agent,

I am an author seeking representation for The Style Chamber, a contemporary chick lit novel of 80,000 words.

The Hook

They meet. They judge. They execute. All in the name of the style.


Stephanie Hardy is determined to be a successful technical writer, but something is standing in her way: she hates it. Hates the company, hates the cubicles, hates the people and their hideous shoes. And just when she thinks it can?t get any worse, Stephanie?s boss accuses her of being the one thing she swore to never become: a woman who uses her looks to get ahead. Furious, Stephanie vents to two co-workers who agree with Stephanie?s insults of the boss and joke about sending her an anonymous makeover tip. Stephanie learns that her co-workers weren?t kidding, but is so impressed by their success that she decides to join them as they continue the makeovers under the guise of The Style Chamber.

Although the group initially offers Stephanie some enjoyment, she is easily distracted by her desire to make over her own life. She starts with a temporary transfer to Marketing which, unfortunately, annoys her even more than technical writing. She then turns her efforts towards acquiring the man she thinks is Mr. Right, but soon learns that the real Mr. Right is the same executive with whom her boss accused her of flirting.

Frustrated by her inability to better her life, she returns her attention to The Style Chamber and discovers that the group has escalated the harmless makeover tips into vicious personal attacks. Stephanie realizes that the only way to stop the group is to reveal their identities and is forced to choose between doing what is right for her career, and doing what is right, full stop.

About the Author

I hold a Bachelors degree in English Literature from the University of Ottawa. For the last thirteen years, I have been working as a technical writer, manager and now director in the Publishing industry. I actively follow many agent blogs and tweets and am a top user of Critique Circle.

The first two hundred and fifty words are pasted below but I'd be happy to send you a complete copy of my manuscript for your review. Thank you for your time and I look forward to hearing from you.


Chapter One

It would be fair to say that I was slightly late for the status meeting...if by "slightly" you mean seventeen minutes, and if by "status meeting" you mean hour of drool-inducing boredom which I'd been forced to endure for the past one hundred and twelve Wednesdays of my life.

But it would not be fair to say that I hadn't tried to get there on time.

I had.

The moment I realized that I'd completely forgotten about the meeting, I picked up my latté and low-fat blueberry muffin and ran as fast as I could to the third floor boardroom.

Okay, okay, that is not one hundred percent accurate. I walked. Quickly, but still a walk. And not a power walk like those people you see on the street with the ski poles. I don't even own ski poles and if I did, I wouldn't keep them at work as that would probably violate Modal's Winter Sports Equipment Policy (if it exists...if it doesn't, they'd probably enact it just for me).

Anyway, aside from the running and the ski poles, what I said is completely accurate.

Except that it was chocolate chip.

As soon as I slipped into the empty seat at the end of the table, I felt Joanna's death stare burn into my forehead. I did not need to look up to know that the entire team had followed her gaze.

Well, almost the entire team.

Patricia was too occupied by her witch-hunt of the week to notice my entrance


  1. Would you have the labels to part of your query in your real query? That jumped out at me immediately--but it seemed a bit superfluous. I can tell by your writing what each segment was without the label.

    In the first paragraph: I assume from the boss's comment that Stephanie is why does she need a makeover?

    After reading the pitch, this feels like a typical women's fiction story--but the hook sentence said "execute" which, to be honest, made me think literally they execute. I was expecting a dystopia along the lines of Scott Westerfield UGLIES series.

    Despite this confusion, I did read the pages.

    I liked the pages *much* better than the query. Could you inject more of that personable tone into the query? Perhaps by condensing the plot in the synopsis a bit?

  2. I agree with the previous commentor that labeling the various parts of your query is unnecessary. I also think the synopsis part could be shorter - especially the first paragraph seems to go into way too much detail.

    The first 250 were good. The "Except that it was chocolate chip" would have been funnier if it didn't take me a minute to figure out what "it" was referring to (I did get it eventually though;)

  3. the labeling seems unnecessary and confusing. The excerpt is better. Work on your query.

  4. Hmmm.... not quite hooked by the hook. Query could be condensed.

    I'm sorry, not entirely hooked.

  5. The format of your query really turned me off. Regardless, I wasn't hooked. I think it was that there was nothing about the query that really jumped out at me. Maybe cut straight to the conflict?

  6. I didn't care for the query, but I loved your first 250 (okay, I cheated). I'm a technical writer, and your opening made me laugh out loud (especially the chocolate chip muffin comment, chocolate is much better than fruit).

    Try to inject more of your "voice" from the first 250 into your query, because I think the voice would be enough to get most folks to the first page.

  7. I thought the first 250 words of your manuscript was brilliant! The voice was light-hearted and funny. It made me want to sit down and read about Stephanie's adventures.

    Unfortunately, for me, the query letter didn't match the manuscript -- in intent or style. The query seemed much, much darker than the manuscript.

    I agree with the writer who objected to the word "execute." It took on a far more sinister feeling than I'm sure you intended.

    Just try to get the query to match the first 250-words, and I think you'll be just fine!

  8. Query--Not hooked.

    First paragraph had me a little lost. If she's pretty, why is she getting a makeover? Unless it's an "ugly" make over?

    How does she realize that Mr. Right is the executive she was flirting with?

    The last sentence of the query doesn't make me feel compelled to read on. The full stop thing was kind of weird.

    The hook made me think they were going to be killing people in the name of fashion.

    That said, I did read on to the sample 250. MUCH better than the query. Reminds me of a Meg Cabot book.

    Try injecting more of her actual tone to help jazz the query up.

  9. Love your voice. It seems like it could be just the light read I sometimes enjoy. Your query looks like it would benefit from you checking out QueryTracker.Net. I wish I could say it made mine the perfect query, but I have learned more from that site and this one than I could ever say. Good luck.

  10. I've never seen a query formatted like this before, with the labels. I agree with Beth that you're better off removing them. I also thought execute was meant literally. I think you could trim the query, both the synopsis and the bio, down a bit.

    I loved your first 250 words. The chocolate line is great, and your voice is engaging.

  11. I mostly like this, but in the sample page, the "except" thing kind of grated after the second time. It was cute at first, but I'd be wary of it continuing longer than this.

    You might try condensing some of the query -- it runs a little long -- but overall, I think this is well done. I'm not a fan of chick lit, but I'd give this a few more pages.

  12. who meets, who judges, who executes? I'm lost and I stop after the first sentence. Please be more specific about the characters and story in your query.

  13. Definitely agree with the others on the format. Aside from the format just not being proper, there's another way to look it. The query letter should have a hook, of course, but not all letters will actually hook all agents, so to label it as such could draw more attention to it 'not' being hooky-y. If you just take out those headings, your query follows a good formula.

    I thought your description was a little too long as well, but overall I do like your writing style. And, I am constantly late, even when I try, so I relate to your MC for sure!

    So query: not hooked... 250: mostly hooked