Query Letter Edits (from a professional!)

Totally unrelated to the point of this post, but every time I start a new post, I start with the title, and this article from WordPress jumps to mind.  It was called something like, “How to title your big entries so people read your blog!” I’m sure it was actually snappier than that, and I’m totally paraphrasing, and I admit to not reading the article, but I’m positive I do a sucky job titling my blog entries. This blog is really more for me than the masses, so I’m not gonna sweat it. Maybe my next blog title will be, “Suck It Hakuna Matata Mouse Fart.” That’s snappy right? Catches your eye? Makes you want to read more? Yes? Yes?

No idea where this title came from.  I think I was half drunk when I started drafting this post.  Consider it an exercise in stream of consciousness writing!

No idea where “Suck It Hakuna Matata Mouse Fart,” came from. I think I was half drunk when I started drafting this post. Consider it an exercise in stream of consciousness writing!

 

Okay – my digression aside, I mentioned in an earlier blog post that I was going to hire Chuck Sambuchino to edit my query letter (that blog post is here).  I received the results today!  Yeah!  Curious what he said?  Not to worry – I will tell you!

Here’s what I sent to Chuck:

Dear Ms. Adams:

I chose to submit to you exclusively because I was really impressed by your sale this past summer of the YA novel, The Walled City and your subsequent sale of Valiant.    I can see you’re a successful agent, and I know my novel Hell High is a perfect match for your tastes.

Gabriel Reid’s senior year at Avery High is cracking up to be a good one.  He has a spot on the championship swim team, and he’s dating the most attractive and mysterious girl in school, the notorious Genevieve Jones.

Genevieve Jones is a Lightling, a damned soul given a chance to earn her salvation by recruiting and training soldiers for the Army of Heaven to fight in Armageddon. Seventy years on the job have left Genevieve burned out and emotionally dead – that is, until she begins to train Gabe.

When Genevieve reveals her intentions to recruit Gabe for Heaven’s army, he’s confronted with the reality that he’s not a typical high school senior bound for college, but destined to lead an army in a war that will end the world as he knows it.

While Genevieve helps Gabe adapt to his changing reality, Gabe breathes new life onto the dying embers of Genevieve’s humanity, sparking a love she never dreamed possible. When she learns that a deadly rival recruiter for Hell’s army is after Gabe to poach him or kill him if he refuses, Genevieve must try to save his life and the love she never thought possible.

Hell High is a 61,000 word supernatural young adult novel with Biblical motifs. Even though I would classify Hell High as “young adult,” I believe it’s a story with mass appeal.  Hell High probes universal concepts and experiences like first love, loss, redemption, and free will.  I think of it as Buffy the Vampire Slayer meets the Mortal Instruments.

I’m an intellectual property paralegal by day with a Bachelor’s degree in Marketing.  Hell High is my first novel.  You can find out more about me and my journey with Hell High on my blog at www.TheWritersWrong.wordpress.com.

Pursuant to your Submission guidelines, submitted herewith is the full manuscript for Hell High.  Thank you for your courtesy.  I hope to hear from you soon!

I SLAVED on this stupid query letter.  Day and night.  I realized it wasn’t great, but I thought it was pretty good.  I have to give props to Nathan Bransford’s blog for all of the query help found there.  Serious. Life. Saver.  I used his Query Letter Mad Libs, as one draft, and found an example query that I thought worked for my manuscript, which I used as a form for this query letter, re-directed from his blog.  I’d post a link here, but I can’t find it.  Maybe it’s like the room of requirement and you can only find that blog entry at 2:15 am when you’re manically re-drafting and editing a crappy query letter.  Who knows.

Accio Room of Requirement Blog Post!

Accio Room of Requirement Blog Post!

 

Now for the response – Chuck’s edits are in caps:

Dear Ms. Adams:

I chose to submit to you exclusively because I was really impressed by your sale this past summer of the YA novel, The Walled City and your subsequent sale of Valiant.  (YOU SEEM TO HAVE A LOT OF EXTRA SPACES RIGHT HERE BETWEEN THE FIRST TWO SENTENCES.)  I can see you’re a successful agent, and I HOPE my YOUNG ADULT novel Hell High is a perfect match for your tastes.

Gabriel Reid’s senior year at Avery High is cracking up to be a good one.  He has a spot on the championship swim team, and he’s dating the most attractive and mysterious girl in school, the notorious Genevieve Jones. GOOD START, BUT HOW CAN GENEVIEVE BE BOTH MYSTERIOUS AND NOTORIOUS? THAT WORDING THREW ME FOR A LOOP. THE FORMER SEEMS TO CONVEY LITTLE IS KNOWN ABOUT HER, WHILE THE LATTER CONVEYS PLENTY *IS* KNOWN ABOUT HER.

Genevieve Jones is a Lightling, a damned soul given a chance to earn her salvation by recruiting and training soldiers for the Army of Heaven to fight in Armageddon. Seventy years on the job have left Genevieve burned out and emotionally dead – that is, until she begins to train Gabe.

THIS IS INTERESTING AND I LIKE HOW YOU GOT AROUND TO THE HOOK QUICKLY. THAT SAID, I HAVE QUESTIONS:

DOES IT MATTER *WHY* SHE IS A DAMNED SOUL?

IF SHE HAS BEEN WORKING FOR 70 YEARS, HOW IS SHE A STUDENT AT SCHOOL? YOU LOST ME THERE WITH THE AGE THING.

IF HER REAL INTENTIONS ARE SECRET, WHAT IS SHE “NOTORIOUS”?

When Genevieve reveals her intentions to recruit Gabe for Heaven’s army, he’s confronted with the reality that he’s not a typical high school senior bound for college, but destined to lead an army in a war that will end the world as he knows it.

While Genevieve helps Gabe adapt to his changing reality, Gabe breathes new life onto the dying embers of Genevieve’s humanity, sparking a love she never dreamed possible. When she learns that a deadly rival recruiter for Hell’s army is after Gabe to poach him or kill him if he refuses, Genevieve must try to save his life and the love she never thought possible. GOOD PARAGRAPH! MY ONLY QUESTION IS WHETHER THE BOOK ENDS WITH HIM DEFEATING THE HELL RECRUIT…? OR DOES HE HAVE TO DEFEAT THE HELL RECRUIT BECAUSE THE BATTLE HAPPENS? IN OTHER WORDS, IS THERE ONE MAJOR HURDLE TO CROSS AT THE END OR TWO?

Hell High (PUT TITLE IN ITALICS AGAIN) is a 61,000DASHword supernatural young adult novel with Biblical motifs. Even though I would classify Hell High as “young adult,” I believe it’s a story with mass appeal.  Hell High probes universal concepts and experiences like first love, loss, redemption, and free will CUT ALL THIS IN BOLD.  I think of it as Buffy the Vampire Slayer meets the Mortal Instruments.

I’m an intellectual property paralegal by day with a Bachelor’s degree in Marketing.  Hell High is my first novel.  You can find out more about me and my journey with Hell High on my blog at www.TheWritersWrong.wordpress.com.

Pursuant to your Submission guidelines, submitted herewith is the full manuscript for Hell High.  Thank you for your courtesy.  I hope to hear from you soon!

You can tell me what you think, but I thought this feedback was freaking GREAT!  Well worth $80 in my opinion.  I can’t wait to edit this bad boy!

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2 thoughts on “Query Letter Edits (from a professional!)

  1. Thanks! I think Chuck Sambuchino did a great job (he actually wrote the blog post on Writers Digest that you linked to in your other comment)! His comments were thoughtful and polite while still being critical. I used this query as the template for my Amazon Breakthrough Novel pitch this year, so hopefully the edits will pay off!

  2. I somehow found a fairly old post of yours about a query letter “How NOT to Query – Part 1” and left a big comment. I’m glad I saw that blog post though, because there is a huge leap forward in quality between your previous query letter and this one. Keep it up!

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