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Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Query Critique - The Legacy of The Eye

Thank you Patricia, my first brave volunteer! Here is her query for a science fiction romance.

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Dear [Agent Name],

David and Catrine, top graduates from the Academy of Demia, are more than friends and schoolmates--they are a team. At least until the day he kisses her.


This "hook" sentence is technically fine, but I think it could be stronger. Basically you're saying that best friends are becoming romantic, which is certainly a fine plot element but not very unique or "hooky". Since your novel is primarily science fiction, I think I'd prefer to see some sci-fi elements in the hook, instead of pure romance. Perhaps you just start with the inciting incident – David finds the tattoo. You can certainly mention that he finds it while kissing her for the first time, to add that element. Maybe something like, "Catrine had been David's best friend for years, so he doesn't know what to expect when he kisses her for the first time. He certainly didn't expect to find a tattoo on her neck that implies she's a member of ruling family of Demia."

That day, David notices the tiny tattoo hidden beneath her hair. He recognizes the symbol from a book that implied a single family had been ruling Demia since colonization. But David had never believed the book before. It contradicted the core principles on which the planet was founded. Demia is the center of knowledge in the galaxy. It is supposed to value merit, not birthright.

This is useful backstory, but since it is backstory, you could stand to cut it down so we can get to the action faster. I think you're okay with just saying she has a tattoo of the symbol of the ruling family of Demia, a family that's supposed to be no more than myth, because on a planet that values knowledge over all else, David believed that leaders were chosen on merit. Obviously, you'd want to clean that up to flow a little better, but as someone who doesn't know anything about your world, that's all I feel like I need to know for backstory, 2 sentences tops.

Now David is certain Catrine is next in line for a hereditary throne that should not exist on their school-planet. This is the first time "school" planet is mentioned. If that's an important detail, you might want to mention this earlier. If it's not important, I would remove "school" just to not distract the reader. Will his degree in governance count for naught when the next headmaster is chosen? That particular problem seems off-topic and not as important as the others. And how can he love her if she represents the hypocrisy of the utopian society he has always believed in?

When David discovers his parents are conspiring to make him king of Demia by marrying him to Catrine, he is sure his skills can be better employed at the other end of the galaxy. A self-imposed exile will thwart his parents’ ploy, but can Demia prosper without him? This seems like a detail you don't need. This character the "self-imposed exile" just confuses things to me. And how long can he evade those who are determined to lure him home? The bait might just be more than he can resist.

You have a lot of questions in your query. Those can be nice in a back-of-the-book blurb or other promotional material, but their use is questionable in a query. The agent or publisher does want to be "teased" into wanting to know more, but only by hearing an awesome plot and voice. Too may questions can be off-putting. They just want the meat of the story and a chance to hear your voice and style.


THE LEGACY OF THE EYE, complete at 85,500 words, is science fiction with romantic components. LEGACY has a literary bent and was inspired by Plato’s Republic.

Since they are in school, I wonder about their age. Is this YA? New Adult? If so, certainly mention that. If they're over 18, you're probably okay marketing it as straight adult, but be aware that the query does make me wonder if you've forgotten to mention the age group you're targeting.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

On the whole, I think this query is very good. If you're not getting bites, it may be that it's good, but just not blowing them out of the water. The tough truth is that good or even very good, is not always enough. An agent or an editor has to think, "Wow, that's the coolest thing I've ever heard! I can't wait to read that," in order for it to make it out of their mountain of slush. I know that's pretty cruel advice since adding that magic factor isn't exactly an easy fix. But, I think you're close. Perhaps making some of these changes will take away some of the clutter that distracts from what does seem like a compelling, high-stakes plot with a great romance.


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But that's just what I think! Please add your own 2 cents. I pasted the query without interruptions here so you can read it through and share your own thoughts.

Dear [Agent Name],

David and Catrine, top graduates from the Academy of Demia, are more than friends and schoolmates--they are a team. At least until the day he kisses her.

That day, David notices the tiny tattoo hidden beneath her hair. He recognizes the symbol from a book that implied a single family had been ruling Demia since colonization. But David had never believed the book before. It contradicted the core principles on which the planet was founded. Demia is the center of knowledge in the galaxy. It is supposed to value merit, not birthright.

Now David is certain Catrine is next in line for a hereditary throne that should not exist on their school-planet. Will his degree in governance count for naught when the next headmaster is chosen? And how can he love her if she represents the hypocrisy of the utopian society he has always believed in?

When David discovers his parents are conspiring to make him king of Demia by marrying him to Catrine, he is sure his skills can be better employed at the other end of the galaxy. A self-imposed exile will thwart his parents’ ploy, but can Demia prosper without him? And how long can he evade those who are determined to lure him home? The bait might just be more than he can resist.

THE LEGACY OF THE EYE, complete at 85,500 words, is science fiction with romantic components. LEGACY has a literary bent and was inspired by Plato’s Republic.

Thank you for your time and consideration.





6 comments:

mshatch said...

I agree with all your suggestions, Sharon, and definitely about the questions. I've tried to write questions into my queries and have been told to get rid of them.

Sam F. said...

Pretty good! I would read this, but I agree that the hook could be stronger.

Brooke R. Busse said...

Wow, Sharon. Your suggestions were wonderful and I don't think there was anything I couldn't agree with.

I do have one suggestion. Perhaps change up one of the sentences starting with "And" as they make the third and fourth paragraphs feel a bit too similar. Sentence, sentence, "and" sentence.

I really like the sound of this story and I wish you luck with your querying, Patricia!

Ink in the Book said...

This is such great advice I hope the query brings you more requests than you can keep up with. With every sample I read from Legacy of the Eye, it gets better and better.

I wish you the best of luck with this and hope to see it the shelves soon. So I can read it:)

Patchi said...

Thank you so much for all your comments! I'm trying not to go crazy over this. I rewrote the query a bit. Does this read any better?

David and Catrine, top graduates from the Academy of Demia, are more than friends and schoolmates--they are a team. At least until the day he kisses her on the way to their proposal defense for an ambitious new program. It was the kind of kiss that makes a guy forget his speech. Catrine steps in to salvage their pitch, and earns for herself the directorship of the new program.

When David notices the tiny tattoo hidden beneath Catrine's hair, he is certain she is next in line for a hereditary throne that should not exist on their school-planet. But David had never believed a single family had been ruling Demia since colonization. Demia is the center of knowledge in the galaxy. It is supposed to value merit, not birthright.

As the utopia he has always cherished crumbles into a school-boy’s dream, David discovers his parents want to crown him king of Demia by marrying him to Catrine. He is sure his governance degree can be better employed at the other end of the galaxy, even though duty and desire pull him back to Demia. But Catrine has time on her side and the bait to lure him home might just be more than David can resist.

Lauren said...

Is the directorship important to the query?

The rest of the pitch is much tighter, but I still think you can find a better hook than that first sentence. "Falling in love with his partner isn't going to work." Or "800 billion stars in the galazy, and David fell for the one he shouldn't." Or "The tatoo on Caterine's neck looked like a three dimensional gordion knot." Lots of possibilities. You could actually skip that first paragraph and start with "When David..."

I'm curious though. Is this a school-planet, or is it a planet where they happen to be going to school? I think you can just leave that as "their planet" since that word raises questions. If they live there, it's "their" planet. If you need to pare it down you could also take out "But David had never..." since it's implied in the next sentence. It's fine as is, but could be removed for brevity.