Friday, July 16, 2010

Query Feedback

First off, I want to say that despite an overwhelming urge to prematurely send off a dozen queries, I held back. Phew! It was dang hard too. Two people I've met on Twitter, @natashaneagle and @darylsedore have been awesome in taking a look at my query letter and giving me some feedback and if you're on Twitter you should look them up.

Then I thought "What about my blog followers?" Most of you haven't read the book, maybe know a little about it because of my big mouth, but otherwise would be a fair group to get some feedback from. Fresh eyes and first impressions can tell you a lot about your query letter. So below is my actual query. Let your criticisms fly, don't worry, I can take 'em!

Dear Mr. Agent

I am looking for representation for my urban fantasy, The Chronicles of Sin: Gluttony. It is complete and professionally edited at 94,000 words. This is a standalone book, though it also has the potential for a longer series.

Toni is a morbidly obese woman whose major talents are eating copious amounts of food and giving phenomenal phone sex, the latter being a fact she’s damn proud of. The weight is another matter all together and out of her control. She’s Gluttony, one of the Seven Deadly Sins, dedicated to the pursuit of filling the world with the compulsion to indulge. Trapped in a vicious circle, she can neither free herself on her own, nor love the life she leads as a Gluttony.

Far from alone, Toni and the other six of the Seven Deadly Sins are bringing the world to its knees, overseen by Dantalion, a Grand Duke of Hell. The status quo is blown to hell when Toni falls in love with Rathburn, a.k.a Wrath, thanks in part to a flying nymph and his crossbow. Between a forbidden love and a little divine intervention from an archangel, Toni finds the strength to fight for the changes she wants in her life. Freedom from Gluttony and fitting into size 6 skinny jeans.

Furious with Toni for weakening his power base, Dantalion lashes out at her. In a bid to control Toni, he seizes Rathburn and drags him to hell, but not before driving a wedge between the two lovers. A wedge Toni can’t ignore, but must, in order to save Rathburn. Toni follows, not only to rescue him, but to find the key to their freedom hidden within hells depths. Tangling with a growing number of demons and monsters, Toni has to face the possibility that she may never be free of Gluttony or be able to have Rathburn, no matter how strong her desires are. And all this while still trying to fit in those jeans.

The Chronicles of Sin: Gluttony is a wild ride of a novel, full of quirky characters, romance and a world free of vampires.

Thank you for your time and consideration of this proposal, I look forward to hearing back from you.


markmurata said...

Hello, Shannon.

Pardon me while I go Stephen King on you. (If you don’t know what that means, get his book On Writing and look at pages 56 and 57.)

“all together” should be the one word “altogether.” You can delete “and out of her control” and put a colon after “altogether.”

“the pursuit of” is unnecessary.

Why is there an “a” before “Gluttony” at the end of the paragraph?

The third and fourth paragraphs could be merged into something like “These Seven threaten to bring the world to its knees, but Toni blows it by falling in love with Rathburn, a.k.a Wrath. [instead of the detail about the nymph, insert who or what Rathburn is.] When Rathburn is dragged to hell because of her, Toni must tangle with a growing number of demons and monsters to save her lover. But no matter how strong her desires are, she may lose not only this forbidden love, but also the life she wants: Freedom from Gluttony and fitting into size 6 skinny jeans.”

In other words, I thought that mentioning the jeans twice was repetitive. Also, describing too many of the conflicts in the cover letter can dilute the effect. Kristin Nelson, an agent who gives workshops on how to pitch and query, gives generous advice in her Pitch Workshops at

“and a world free of vampires” Is that a shot at all the vampire novels and movies out there? If so, DON’T. Do not drag down other successful writers, no matter how sick you are of teenage girls who dream of vampires giving them longing looks and werewolves who run around with no shirts on. Stick so saying what’s great about your story.


Shannon said...

Hey Mark, Thanks for the comment(s), I have made my adgustments accordingly. :)

I wasn't taking a pot shot at vampires in the written word (I have a story myself including said blood suckers) more an acknowledgment that agents/editors get tons of Urban Fantasy that is super repetitive. Ah well, I guess my attempt at humour will only work with some :)

Tanya said...

i would have said take out the vampire thing as well, i thought it was funny, as did Shawn, but to i don't think it will go over so well with some reps, more so if they seem to approve lots of vampire books.

CJ Gosling said...

The story is fascinating and your voice is even stronger... however 'gulp' I hate to say this- I think you can tighten it. If it's not important enough to have to include details, maybe cut the point out all together?

Your first paragraph is strong, second weaker, last a little vague and convoluted. I think I can feel your frustration as you write! You want to do so many things with so few words.

This sentence didn't make sense to me: Freedom from Gluttony and fitting into size 6 skinny jeans.

Do you need to mention the flying nymph?
Just a quick impression before bed... hope they help!

Natasha said...

This was your original letter correct? Pre the suggestions I and @darylsedore suggested?

The novel speaks for itself for sure! Writing a query letter is sooo nerve-racking!

Shannon said...

Yup, this was the original, but really just tightened it up a little, I left in the vampire bit and the agents loved it! Your suggestions and Daryl's helped it be upber proffessional without changing it completley.