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The Island (YA Sci-Fi) UPDATE ON POST #75 WIll CRIT BACK

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#1 Bkrasnik

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Posted 12 April 2018 - 03:40 PM

MOST UP TO DATE VERSION IN POST #67

Hello,

 

I completed my manuscript & query for a YA Dystopian Novel and would love some honest feedback!



Thank you!!




Hello Ms./Mr. Agent,



I am seeking representation for my 96,000 word Young Adult Dystopian novel THE ISLAND. I have chosen to submit to you because_(will fill this out based on each agents profile)____.



Rachel Ives lives imprisoned on a quarantined island in the Western Division, with the thousands of other citizens who have succumbed to a merciless government. Living in slums, the citizen’s slave away at hard labor jobs out of fear of being taken. The mystery of where they go and what happens next haunts them as the population quickly thins out.



To her horror, her best friend Zander is among four others selected to fly out to the other side of the island, the Eastern Division, for reasons unknown. Shortly after, a young man with no record of existing arrives with a mysterious connection to her deceased father. The islands secrets begin to unravel and Rachel becomes immersed in a treacherous plot, putting the lives of thousands of citizens in jeopardy, unveiling the fatal flaws of her father’s plan and the danger that comes with trusting the friends you thought you knew.



Thank you for your time and consideration.






***I have published some short stories in various literary magazines (one was a high school magazine, another was a university magazine, and the other two were regular magazines based out of New York), but none of them are prestigious. Should I mention them in a brief bio or is it best to leave them out?


Have a moment to offer up some very much appreciated feedback? :)

My Young Adult Dystopian Query: http://agentquerycon...ate-on-post-15/


#2 Graeme_Smith

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Posted 12 April 2018 - 05:12 PM

Lady Bkrasnik

 

First, a caveat. What follows is purely my opinion, and not intended to be in any way to be presented as Great Wisdom™ or anything similar. After all, what i know about Querying is probably best represented by all the Agents I, um, haven't got (blushes again) :-).

OK - so on with the motley, whatever motley may be.

 

I would lose the 'I am seeking representation for'. I don't think anyone ever wrote a Query to an Agent who _wasn't_ seeking representation, so it's kind of redundant. It also loses you some of your critically few words (circa 250) for a Query, and potentially raises a question in the reader's head - is the author this redundant in writing? I'm sure you're not, but you don;t want even the ghost of that thought to wake, no? In fact, I'd lose the whole first line, or move it. 'Show not tell' is just as important here as it is in your book - and you want to show the Agents you're his or her kind of author, not tell them.

'Rachel lives imprisoned on a quarantined island'. Again, with genuine and sincere respect, the spectre of redundancy rears it's head. If she's quarantined, it's a prison (somewhere someone else says you can't leave). Plus, and I know I'm coming over hard, line edit your Query as though your life depended on it - in this context, 'citizen's' is a simple plural, not a possessive. No apostrophe required :-).

I'd suggest perhaps a revisit, and maybe punching it up some for the opening. Something to display your Voice as much as the plot. Possibly something like (and I don't know the book, so likely this wouldn't work, and it's not  necessarily uour Voice):

 

 

Dear Agent

 

Western Division. Slum-ridden garbage dump of a merciless government. For those sent there it's a place for the world to forget you - or for you to have never existed. One more stop for people on a road none of them wanted to travel, it's punishment for crimes nobody cares if they actually committed. Once here, there's no escape - ever.

But every day, there's a new empty bed. Every day another 'missing'. Because Western Division isn't quite the end of the road - there's another place. A place as far away from Western as Western is from the real world - because nobody comes back. Not from Eastern.

As Western's population thins, Rachel Ivis scratches her way like all the rest - work hard, or there's Eastern. Don't cause trouble, or...

Well. 'Or'.

But if Rachel's not gone to Eastern, Eastern's come to her. Because now her best friend Zander's gone. Gone where nobody ever comes back from.

Lost among friends she thought she could trust, the only person who might be able to help Rachel is a new arrival. A young man who doesn't exist, but seems to have connections to her dead father.

THE ISLAND. 96,000 words and a question. When you can't trust anybody - can you trust nobody?

 

Sincerely

XXXXXXXXXXXXXX

 

 

Thoughts?



#3 RosieSkye

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Posted 12 April 2018 - 09:49 PM

Hello,

 

I completed my manuscript & query for a YA Dystopian Novel and would love some honest feedback! 

Thank you!!


Hello Ms./Mr. Agent,

I am seeking representation for my 96,000 word Young Adult Dystopian novel THE ISLAND. I have chosen to submit to you because_(will fill this out based on each agents profile)____.

Rachel Ives lives imprisoned on a quarantined island in the Western Division, with the thousands of other citizens who have succumbed (this makes them seem kind of weak. Maybe reword it to say they've been relocated/beaten down/oppressed, whatever it is.  Right now it seems like they've just rolled over, if that makes sense) to a merciless government. Living in slums, the citizen’s (no apostrophe) slave away at hard labor jobs out of fear of being taken. (I'd integrate an element of the mystery into this sentence, because I immediately start asking "Taken where, why, by whom?") The mystery of where they go and what happens next haunts them as the population quickly thins out.

To her horror, her best friend Zander is among four others selected to fly out to the other side of the island, the Eastern Division, for reasons unknown. Shortly after, a young man with no record of existing arrives with a mysterious connection to her deceased father. The islands ("island's") secrets begin to unravel and Rachel becomes immersed in a treacherous plot, putting the lives of thousands of citizens in jeopardy, unveiling the fatal flaws of her father’s plan and the danger that comes with trusting the friends you thought you knew.  (I don't really know what's going on here.  Half of the plot points are completely shrouded in mystery, and the rest are totally vague.)

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Best Regards,
Betty


***I have published some short stories in various literary magazines (one was a high school magazine, another was a university magazine, and the other two were regular magazines based out of New York), but none of them are prestigious. Should I mention them in a brief bio or is it best to leave them out?  (I'd include the New York ones, but omit the school ones.)

 

 

I think an agent is just going to feel frustrated by this, because your MC is so in the dark about everything.  She doesn't know why people are taken from the island, she doesn't know why Zander is sent out, she don't know the identity of the new guy, she doesn't seem to understand how he's connected to her father.  I'd do some serious fleshing out regarding the plot, her father's plan, and everything at the end of your query, and eliminate the overall sense of cluelessness.

 

Good luck!



#4 Bkrasnik

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Posted 12 April 2018 - 10:36 PM

Lady Bkrasnik

 

First, a caveat. What follows is purely my opinion, and not intended to be in any way to be presented as Great Wisdom™ or anything similar. After all, what i know about Querying is probably best represented by all the Agents I, um, haven't got (blushes again) :-).

OK - so on with the motley, whatever motley may be.

 

I would lose the 'I am seeking representation for'. I don't think anyone ever wrote a Query to an Agent who _wasn't_ seeking representation, so it's kind of redundant. It also loses you some of your critically few words (circa 250) for a Query, and potentially raises a question in the reader's head - is the author this redundant in writing? I'm sure you're not, but you don;t want even the ghost of that thought to wake, no? In fact, I'd lose the whole first line, or move it. 'Show not tell' is just as important here as it is in your book - and you want to show the Agents you're his or her kind of author, not tell them.

'Rachel lives imprisoned on a quarantined island'. Again, with genuine and sincere respect, the spectre of redundancy rears it's head. If she's quarantined, it's a prison (somewhere someone else says you can't leave). Plus, and I know I'm coming over hard, line edit your Query as though your life depended on it - in this context, 'citizen's' is a simple plural, not a possessive. No apostrophe required :-).

I'd suggest perhaps a revisit, and maybe punching it up some for the opening. Something to display your Voice as much as the plot. Possibly something like (and I don't know the book, so likely this wouldn't work, and it's not  necessarily uour Voice):

 

 

Dear Agent

 

Western Division. Slum-ridden garbage dump of a merciless government. For those sent there it's a place for the world to forget you - or for you to have never existed. One more stop for people on a road none of them wanted to travel, it's punishment for crimes nobody cares if they actually committed. Once here, there's no escape - ever.

But every day, there's a new empty bed. Every day another 'missing'. Because Western Division isn't quite the end of the road - there's another place. A place as far away from Western as Western is from the real world - because nobody comes back. Not from Eastern.

As Western's population thins, Rachel Ivis scratches her way like all the rest - work hard, or there's Eastern. Don't cause trouble, or...

Well. 'Or'.

But if Rachel's not gone to Eastern, Eastern's come to her. Because now her best friend Zander's gone. Gone where nobody ever comes back from.

Lost among friends she thought she could trust, the only person who might be able to help Rachel is a new arrival. A young man who doesn't exist, but seems to have connections to her dead father.

THE ISLAND. 96,000 words and a question. When you can't trust anybody - can you trust nobody?

 

Sincerely

XXXXXXXXXXXXXX

 

 

Thoughts?

 

 

 

Hi Graeme, 

 

Thank you for taking the time to read my query and provide feedback! I agree with the points you mentioned about redundancies & grammar issues and will make sure to address them. I read your version of my query and it had a lot of spunk and personality to it, which gave it some flare. It does not represent my voice and writing style though, so I will not be able to use it. 

 

Thanks again :) 


Have a moment to offer up some very much appreciated feedback? :)

My Young Adult Dystopian Query: http://agentquerycon...ate-on-post-15/


#5 Bkrasnik

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Posted 12 April 2018 - 10:42 PM

I think an agent is just going to feel frustrated by this, because your MC is so in the dark about everything.  She doesn't know why people are taken from the island, she doesn't know why Zander is sent out, she don't know the identity of the new guy, she doesn't seem to understand how he's connected to her father.  I'd do some serious fleshing out regarding the plot, her father's plan, and everything at the end of your query, and eliminate the overall sense of cluelessness.

 

Good luck!

 

Hi Rosie, 

 

Thank you for the feedback!  I read through your comments and they were very helpful. I will work on my query to address the issues and will repost in here for second thoughts. 


Have a moment to offer up some very much appreciated feedback? :)

My Young Adult Dystopian Query: http://agentquerycon...ate-on-post-15/


#6 Graeme_Smith

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Posted 12 April 2018 - 10:44 PM

Lady Betty

 

Nor was I suggesting you use it :-). However, while some Query approaches focus on  enticing the potential Agent with the plot, I sometimes think the aspect of Voice can be missed. You'll often see people say there are only seven basic plots - everything else, they'll tell you, is icing on those seven different flavours of cake. But what _is_ unique, what _is_ different is each author's individual Voice - and that can be a real Hook. Not guaranteed, but people will be reading your Voice long after they move from this plot, this book, to your next and the one after that and the one after that. So getting your Voice in the Query can be your Unique Value Add for a market. At least, so I think - but then, I'm an Idiot (blush).

How would you phrase, how would you write _your_ Query so it's unmistakably yours to anyone who's read any one of the books you're going to write over your career? That's the 'you' the Agent's buying into, I'd suggest - but it's just a thought :-).



#7 Bkrasnik

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Posted 12 April 2018 - 11:13 PM

Lady Betty

 

Nor was I suggesting you use it :-). However, while some Query approaches focus on  enticing the potential Agent with the plot, I sometimes think the aspect of Voice can be missed. You'll often see people say there are only seven basic plots - everything else, they'll tell you, is icing on those seven different flavours of cake. But what _is_ unique, what _is_ different is each author's individual Voice - and that can be a real Hook. Not guaranteed, but people will be reading your Voice long after they move from this plot, this book, to your next and the one after that and the one after that. So getting your Voice in the Query can be your Unique Value Add for a market. At least, so I think - but then, I'm an Idiot (blush).

How would you phrase, how would you write _your_ Query so it's unmistakably yours to anyone who's read any one of the books you're going to write over your career? That's the 'you' the Agent's buying into, I'd suggest - but it's just a thought :-).

 

Graeme, 

 

You bring up some interesting points. When it comes to voice, I think writers need to be careful with how they use it. Too much personality can turn off some readers from a character, because they might find them to have an attitude or be annoying. Then again, there are some readers who love it. You can't please everyone and you have to find the right audience for your material. But I do agree that my query lacks any kind of voice, and I will have to work on fixing that. 

 

I agree that plot is not #1 when it comes to a book. In my opinion, its character development. Creating complex and relatable characters who have unique dynamics with the other characters in the book is key. That is what keeps me reading even when the plot slows down. 


Have a moment to offer up some very much appreciated feedback? :)

My Young Adult Dystopian Query: http://agentquerycon...ate-on-post-15/


#8 Graeme_Smith

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Posted 12 April 2018 - 11:35 PM

Lady Betty

 

And I would agree entirely - whatever road you take, there will be some who don't like it. And some who do :-). But, and again it's only my 2c, worth a wooden nickel in the current market, I think that's what a potential Agent is looking for. Something that will wake that spark, that fire, in readers - and sometimes even for good or bad. Because, for an author, one of the worst fates is not being noticed at all. If there are people who love you and people who hate you, a flame war between them? That's great publicity in the making :-). But that's a ways down the road at the moment. Right now? Right now you want a potential Agent to look at about 250 of your words - and sit up. And _wake_ up. And read something that says 'hey! This isn't like the last fifty I read today! _This_ is the one!'

You can do that with plot, _maybe_. And get them interested in that one book. If you add Voice into the mix, you can get them interested in _you_.

Not intended as any form of self-advertising, here are some links to Queries that didn;t follow the standard patterns - but all got contracts. Big main-street ones? Nope (blush). But Indie publishers still putting out the titles? Yes :-). But, I would suggest, they did it with Voice, not so much plot. Thoughts?

 

http://agentquerycon...-comic-fantasy/

 

http://agentquerycon...-comic-fantasy/

 

http://agentquerycon...-comic-fantasy/

 

Graeme



#9 JMB

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Posted 13 April 2018 - 08:36 AM

I think your suggestions on voice are spot on. Really enjoyed reading the queries in the link. They show your personality and the personalities of the characters you create. I will keep this is mind as a put together my own query. Thanks for the post.

#10 BadgerFox

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Posted 13 April 2018 - 09:33 AM



Hello Ms./Mr. Agent,

I am seeking representation for my 96,000 word Young Adult Dystopian novel THE ISLAND. I have chosen to submit to you because_(will fill this out based on each agents profile)____. [There's nothing technically wrong with this opening, but many prefer to open with a hooky sentence that gets straight to the heart of their plot, and move this segment to the end of the query. It's not the ONLY way to do it, granted, but it does seem, on par, to be one of the most successful. Plus if you do that you can rephrase to cut out the redundant words 'I am seeking representation', because you should have already made that plain by putting 'QUERY' in the email subject line, and the very fact you're writing them an email should kind of flag up that that's what you want from them. The phrasing could be more like 'THE ISLAND is a 96,000-word YA Dystopian novel, and I've chosen to submit to you because X'.]

Rachel Ives lives imprisoned on a quarantined island in the Western Division [could this be rephrased a little so there's less redundancy? Someone who is quarantined is, by definition, already also imprisoned, so putting both words in is a little like the classic description of a 'large grey elephant'] , with the thousands of other citizens who have succumbed to a merciless government. Living in slums, the citizen’s [no apostrophe needed here, this is not a possessive] slave away at hard labor jobs out of fear of being taken. The mystery of where they go and what happens next haunts them as the population quickly thins out.

To her horror, her best friend Zander is among four others selected to fly out to the other side of the island, the Eastern Division, for reasons unknown. Shortly after, a young man with no record of existing arrives with a mysterious connection to her deceased father. The islands secrets begin to unravel and Rachel becomes immersed in a treacherous plot, putting the lives of thousands of citizens in jeopardy, unveiling the fatal flaws of her father’s plan and the danger that comes with trusting the friends you thought you knew. [I think I agree with previous posters that there is too much mystery here. The initial sequence of events is fairly clear, and you have a good way of describing effectively that information which you have chosen to give, so do build on that...but you need to offer up more description. At the moment the plot could be anything, from any genre, with any theme - the agent doesn't know because they've never met you or seen mention of your book before. YOU know that you are a reasonable human being who wouldn't write, say, a neo-Nazi polemic using the analogy of the island as a modern-day metaphor for Auschwitz during which Rachel realizes genocide of the racially impure is actually noble and correct...BUT the agent doesn't know that! Because such books do exist. People really write them! :D An agent does have to deal with book queries from fringe wingnuts with some fairly repellent political agendas sometimes, and so an agent would probably like to be assured ASAP that your book does not fall into this category.

You need to give some hints about what kind of mystery is going on on the island. What clues does Rachel have to work with, based on what she's figured out from living on the island? Is it all a dream? Are aliens secretly posessing the bodies of quarantined residents? Is everyone secretly a robot? Are the island residents that get taken away eaten like Soylent Green? Are they unwittingly the last survivors of a nuclear wipeout that's destroyed everywhere but the island itself? etc . You don't have to give the plot away entirely but it would be good to have some indications whether we're dealing with robots or aliens or The Hunger Games v2.0 or cannibalism or reincarnation or...well, you get the idea.]


Thank you for your time and consideration.

Best Regards,
Betty


***I have published some short stories in various literary magazines (one was a high school magazine, another was a university magazine, and the other two were regular magazines based out of New York), but none of them are prestigious. Should I mention them in a brief bio or is it best to leave them out? [I think you could mention the two New York magazines, especially if they were fiction of a similar genre to the one you're writing. Your query is already pretty concise and snappy, so you probably do have room for a sentence or two about your previous publications. A high school magazine probably isn't high level and professional enough to mention though]


Spare a little feedback, if you have a moment? :)

My AU historical novel query: here. Thank you!


#11 mkuriel

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Posted 13 April 2018 - 10:02 AM

First off, I agree with the other critiques. 

 

I am seeking representation for my 96,000 word Young Adult Dystopian novel THE ISLAND. I have chosen to submit to you because_(will fill this out based on each agents profile)____. (I highlighted the important information, Suggest: cut everything else, find a couple YA stories to use as a comparison, and move to the end.)

Rachel Ives lives imprisoned on a quarantined island in the Western Division, with the thousands of other citizens who have succumbed to a merciless government. Living in slums, the citizen’s slave away at hard labor jobs out of fear of being taken. The mystery of where they go and what happens next haunts them as the population quickly thins out. (all backstory, no hook. Get people interested AND THEN present interesting, pertinent backstory. Suggest cutting this and only including the pertinent information after a hook.)

To her horror, her best friend Zander is among four others selected to fly out to the other side of the island, the Eastern Division, for reasons unknown. Shortly after, a young man with no record of existing arrives with a mysterious connection to her deceased father. The islands secrets begin to unravel and Rachel becomes immersed in a treacherous plot, putting the lives of thousands of citizens in jeopardy, unveiling the fatal flaws of her father’s plan and the danger that comes with trusting the friends you thought you knew. (This long, run-on sentence presents several ideas that do not go together without context. Secrets unravel; Treacherous plot; fatal flaw's in father's plan; friends you thought you knew; NONE of these things means anything concrete. One example: The Island's secrets could be anything from it's a one-celled organism that's been giantized and terraformed to, like LOST, it's basically purgatory. With ~250 words, you have the space to communicate only what the plot's about, so find it and focus.)

Thank you for your time and consideration.

 

Here's what I get from your query: After her best friend is taken by the government, Rachel Ives must risk everyone's lives to save him.

 

They live on a dystopian island in abject poverty performing manual labor to survive. Every so often, people are snatched and taken to the other side of the island.  You hint that there's more going on, that her dead father had a plan, and that her friend wasn't snatched but betrayed them in some way. Oh, and some stranger appears to 'help' after her BFF departs. Don't hint - say it flat out. Before you do, dig deep and find the central idea behind your story. Is it about betrayal? Survival? What's in the story doesn't matter nearly so much as what it's about. 

 

Hope that helps,



#12 Bkrasnik

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Posted 13 April 2018 - 01:11 PM

Lady Betty

 

And I would agree entirely - whatever road you take, there will be some who don't like it. And some who do :-). But, and again it's only my 2c, worth a wooden nickel in the current market, I think that's what a potential Agent is looking for. Something that will wake that spark, that fire, in readers - and sometimes even for good or bad. Because, for an author, one of the worst fates is not being noticed at all. If there are people who love you and people who hate you, a flame war between them? That's great publicity in the making :-). But that's a ways down the road at the moment. Right now? Right now you want a potential Agent to look at about 250 of your words - and sit up. And _wake_ up. And read something that says 'hey! This isn't like the last fifty I read today! _This_ is the one!'

You can do that with plot, _maybe_. And get them interested in that one book. If you add Voice into the mix, you can get them interested in _you_.

Not intended as any form of self-advertising, here are some links to Queries that didn;t follow the standard patterns - but all got contracts. Big main-street ones? Nope (blush). But Indie publishers still putting out the titles? Yes :-). But, I would suggest, they did it with Voice, not so much plot. Thoughts?

 

http://agentquerycon...-comic-fantasy/

 

http://agentquerycon...-comic-fantasy/

 

http://agentquerycon...-comic-fantasy/

 

Graeme

 

Graeme,

 

Yes you are absolutely right, a distinct voice can help me stand out from the batch. I will need to work on that.

 

I read through your queries, and "Comedy of Terrors" really stuck out to me. You really mastered the voice on this one! Wow. I don't usually find things funny, especially when I feel like the author is trying to make me laugh, but this was truly hilarious and the voice was on point. Not annoying, not trying too hard, etc. Great job!! 


Have a moment to offer up some very much appreciated feedback? :)

My Young Adult Dystopian Query: http://agentquerycon...ate-on-post-15/


#13 Bkrasnik

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Posted 13 April 2018 - 06:34 PM

 


Hello Ms./Mr. Agent,

I am seeking representation for my 96,000 word Young Adult Dystopian novel THE ISLAND. I have chosen to submit to you because_(will fill this out based on each agents profile)____. [There's nothing technically wrong with this opening, but many prefer to open with a hooky sentence that gets straight to the heart of their plot, and move this segment to the end of the query. It's not the ONLY way to do it, granted, but it does seem, on par, to be one of the most successful. Plus if you do that you can rephrase to cut out the redundant words 'I am seeking representation', because you should have already made that plain by putting 'QUERY' in the email subject line, and the very fact you're writing them an email should kind of flag up that that's what you want from them. The phrasing could be more like 'THE ISLAND is a 96,000-word YA Dystopian novel, and I've chosen to submit to you because X'.]

Rachel Ives lives imprisoned on a quarantined island in the Western Division [could this be rephrased a little so there's less redundancy? Someone who is quarantined is, by definition, already also imprisoned, so putting both words in is a little like the classic description of a 'large grey elephant'] , with the thousands of other citizens who have succumbed to a merciless government. Living in slums, the citizen’s [no apostrophe needed here, this is not a possessive] slave away at hard labor jobs out of fear of being taken. The mystery of where they go and what happens next haunts them as the population quickly thins out.

To her horror, her best friend Zander is among four others selected to fly out to the other side of the island, the Eastern Division, for reasons unknown. Shortly after, a young man with no record of existing arrives with a mysterious connection to her deceased father. The islands secrets begin to unravel and Rachel becomes immersed in a treacherous plot, putting the lives of thousands of citizens in jeopardy, unveiling the fatal flaws of her father’s plan and the danger that comes with trusting the friends you thought you knew. [I think I agree with previous posters that there is too much mystery here. The initial sequence of events is fairly clear, and you have a good way of describing effectively that information which you have chosen to give, so do build on that...but you need to offer up more description. At the moment the plot could be anything, from any genre, with any theme - the agent doesn't know because they've never met you or seen mention of your book before. YOU know that you are a reasonable human being who wouldn't write, say, a neo-Nazi polemic using the analogy of the island as a modern-day metaphor for Auschwitz during which Rachel realizes genocide of the racially impure is actually noble and correct...BUT the agent doesn't know that! Because such books do exist. People really write them! :D An agent does have to deal with book queries from fringe wingnuts with some fairly repellent political agendas sometimes, and so an agent would probably like to be assured ASAP that your book does not fall into this category.

You need to give some hints about what kind of mystery is going on on the island. What clues does Rachel have to work with, based on what she's figured out from living on the island? Is it all a dream? Are aliens secretly posessing the bodies of quarantined residents? Is everyone secretly a robot? Are the island residents that get taken away eaten like Soylent Green? Are they unwittingly the last survivors of a nuclear wipeout that's destroyed everywhere but the island itself? etc . You don't have to give the plot away entirely but it would be good to have some indications whether we're dealing with robots or aliens or The Hunger Games v2.0 or cannibalism or reincarnation or...well, you get the idea.]


Thank you for your time and consideration.

Best Regards,
Betty


***I have published some short stories in various literary magazines (one was a high school magazine, another was a university magazine, and the other two were regular magazines based out of New York), but none of them are prestigious. Should I mention them in a brief bio or is it best to leave them out? [I think you could mention the two New York magazines, especially if they were fiction of a similar genre to the one you're writing. Your query is already pretty concise and snappy, so you probably do have room for a sentence or two about your previous publications. A high school magazine probably isn't high level and professional enough to mention though]

 

 

Thank you for the detailed feedback, I appreciate it very much! Once I address your points and everyone else's, I will repost for second thoughts. 

I will also look over your query in the next couple of days and provide some comments. 


Have a moment to offer up some very much appreciated feedback? :)

My Young Adult Dystopian Query: http://agentquerycon...ate-on-post-15/


#14 Bkrasnik

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Posted 13 April 2018 - 06:47 PM

First off, I agree with the other critiques. 

 

I am seeking representation for my 96,000 word Young Adult Dystopian novel THE ISLAND. I have chosen to submit to you because_(will fill this out based on each agents profile)____. (I highlighted the important information, Suggest: cut everything else, find a couple YA stories to use as a comparison, and move to the end.)

Rachel Ives lives imprisoned on a quarantined island in the Western Division, with the thousands of other citizens who have succumbed to a merciless government. Living in slums, the citizen’s slave away at hard labor jobs out of fear of being taken. The mystery of where they go and what happens next haunts them as the population quickly thins out. (all backstory, no hook. Get people interested AND THEN present interesting, pertinent backstory. Suggest cutting this and only including the pertinent information after a hook.)

To her horror, her best friend Zander is among four others selected to fly out to the other side of the island, the Eastern Division, for reasons unknown. Shortly after, a young man with no record of existing arrives with a mysterious connection to her deceased father. The islands secrets begin to unravel and Rachel becomes immersed in a treacherous plot, putting the lives of thousands of citizens in jeopardy, unveiling the fatal flaws of her father’s plan and the danger that comes with trusting the friends you thought you knew. (This long, run-on sentence presents several ideas that do not go together without context. Secrets unravel; Treacherous plot; fatal flaw's in father's plan; friends you thought you knew; NONE of these things means anything concrete. One example: The Island's secrets could be anything from it's a one-celled organism that's been giantized and terraformed to, like LOST, it's basically purgatory. With ~250 words, you have the space to communicate only what the plot's about, so find it and focus.)

Thank you for your time and consideration.

 

Here's what I get from your query: After her best friend is taken by the government, Rachel Ives must risk everyone's lives to save him.

 

They live on a dystopian island in abject poverty performing manual labor to survive. Every so often, people are snatched and taken to the other side of the island.  You hint that there's more going on, that her dead father had a plan, and that her friend wasn't snatched but betrayed them in some way. Oh, and some stranger appears to 'help' after her BFF departs. Don't hint - say it flat out. Before you do, dig deep and find the central idea behind your story. Is it about betrayal? Survival? What's in the story doesn't matter nearly so much as what it's about. 

 

Hope that helps,

 

This helped me very much, thank you for the comments!! Your summary was also extremely useful as it gave me a very good idea of which parts of the story need clarification. I will address all your comments and everyone else's, and repost here for another look. Thank you again :) 


Have a moment to offer up some very much appreciated feedback? :)

My Young Adult Dystopian Query: http://agentquerycon...ate-on-post-15/


#15 Bkrasnik

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Posted 16 April 2018 - 12:58 AM

Version 2.0 April 16, 2018

 

Dear Agent,

 

Rachel Ives is condemned to an island of horrors, aching to escape to the Nation, a place of freedom that she only heard whispers about.

The Supremes have made that impossible, giving the citizens two options: Hunger, cruel laws, ritualistic sacrifices, hard labor, whippings, sickness, and constant paranoia under the guise of unity and prosperity—or to be taken by the watchmen that police the town, an even worse fate.  

To her horror, her sister who she vowed to protect is taken, her own mother betrays her, and her best friend, the person she trusted most in the world, is sent to help the very government that aims to destroy her and everyone she loves.

After a young man arrives to her workhouse claiming he knows her deceased father, she soon discovers that they are both a part of a much larger plan to destroy what they believe is the most important asset to the Supremes—a machine that wipes away memories and controls the mind.

But Rachel soon comes to realize that this is only the tip of the iceberg: even with the machine destroyed, they aren’t safe.

Hoping to find a way to escape, she embarks on a dangerous mission to save not only her sister, but thousands of innocent people marked for a fate worse than death. With the odds against her, more citizens being taken by the day, a dangerous lockdown, and even harsher punishments, Rachel must navigate the chaos to find the one loophole that can save her people, but only if she will be able to find it in time…

THE ISLAND is a Young Adult Dystopian Novel complete at 96,000 words.  


Have a moment to offer up some very much appreciated feedback? :)

My Young Adult Dystopian Query: http://agentquerycon...ate-on-post-15/


#16 Raichu

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Posted 16 April 2018 - 04:20 PM

Version 2.0 April 16, 2018

 

Dear Agent,

 

Rachel Ives is condemned to an island of horrors, aching to escape to the Nation, a place of freedom that she only heard whispers about.

The Supremes have made that impossible, giving the citizens two options: Hunger, cruel laws, ritualistic sacrifices, hard labor, whippings, sickness, and constant paranoia (I'd cut these down a bit. The horrors of this island can probably be described in fewer words) under the guise of unity and prosperity —or to be taken by the watchmen that police the town, an even worse fate.  (I think it might be better to write this paragraph a little differently instead off in these "two choices". Now this is your query and your book, but consider something like this: - The Supremes have made that impossible and the citizens of the island are forced to serve as slaves. Every day means hunger, hard labor and whippings, and those sorry souls who fail to comply are dragged unceremoniously off by the watchmen that police the town. Who knows what happens to them after that.)
 

To her horror, her sister who she vowed to protect is taken, her own mother betrays her (how?), and her best friend, the person she trusted most in the world, is sent (why and how? If he's her best friend I assume he's in the same boat as her, so why would he help them?) to help the very government that aims to destroy her and everyone she loves. (Why do they want to destroy her? Given the watchmen who are policing the island, I assumed the government wants to keep them there to work as mindless slaves.) 
 

After a young man arrives to her workhouse claiming he knows her deceased father, she soon discovers (this is a bit too vague for me. How does she discover this?)  that they are both a part of a much larger plan to destroy what they believe is the most important asset to the Supremes—a machine that wipes away memories and controls the mind. 
 

But Rachel soon comes to realize that this is only the tip of the iceberg: even with the machine destroyed, they aren’t safe.

Hoping to find a way to escape, she embarks on a dangerous mission to save not only her sister, but thousands of innocent people marked for a fate worse than death. (too generic and vague) With the odds against her, more citizens being taken by the day, a dangerous lockdown, and even harsher punishments, Rachel must navigate the chaos to find the one loophole that can save her people, but only if she will be able to find it in time…
 

THE ISLAND is a Young Adult Dystopian Novel complete at 96,000 words.  

 

Hi there!

I think this version is a lot better than the first you posted. There's a lot more information and I feel like I know your plot a lot better. The problem is that I am still left with a lot of questions while I read. Especially the paragraph about how everything went bad for Rachel (how her mother and friend betrayed her) needs more love, in my opinion. How things went this bad for her is probably an interesting part of who Rachel is in your book, and I'd think an agent (here's me presuming to know how agents think :p ) would like to know more about her. Your MC is important (perhaps more important than your plot) and this is her chance to shine. By elaborating on her personal hardships, I think you'll present a deeper and more interesting MC. 

 

I left some comments on the query as well and I hope you find it useful :-) Keep in mind that these are just the opinions of a fellow writer who is struggling with his own query and I am definitely not an expert on querying. I think your story sounds like a great read. Good luck!



#17 RosieSkye

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Posted 16 April 2018 - 09:42 PM

Version 2.0 April 16, 2018

 

Dear Agent,

 

Rachel Ives is condemned to an island of horrors, aching to escape to the Nation, a place of freedom that she only heard whispers about. (This feels a little clunky.  I'd expand on the horrors a bit.)

 

The Supremes have made that impossible, giving the citizens two options: Hunger, cruel laws, ritualistic sacrifices, hard labor, whippings, sickness, and constant paranoia under the guise of unity and prosperity (I'd chose maybe three of these)—or to be taken (maybe "hauled off" or "hauled away" to give it more punch?) by the town watchmen that police the town, an even worse fate.  

 

To her horror, her sister who she vowed to protect is taken, her own mother betrays her (you don't mention her mother again, so I'd delete this), and her best friend, the person she trusted most in the world, is sent to help the very government that aims to destroy them her and everyone she loves.

 

After a young man arrives to at her workhouse claiming he knows knew her deceased father, she soon discovers that they are both a part of a much larger plan to destroy what they believe is the most important asset to the Supremes' greatest asset—a mind control machine that wipes away memories and controls the mind.

 

But Rachel soon comes to realize discovers that this is only the tip of the iceberg (cliche): even with the machine destroyed, they aren’t safe. (This feels like a big jump - did they destroy the machine themselves?  Why aren't they safe now?)

 

Hoping to find an way to escape, she embarks on a dangerous mission to save not only her sister, but thousands of innocent people marked for a fate worse than death. With the odds against her, more citizens being taken by the day, a dangerous lockdown, and even harsher punishments, Rachel must navigate the chaos to find the one loophole that can save her people, but only if she will be able to find it in time…  (I'm unclear what the previous two paragraphs have to do with anything at this point.  It feels like destroying the machine didn't do anything, and Rachel is back to square one here.)

 

THE ISLAND is a Young Adult Dystopian Novel complete at 96,000 words.  (I've heard that some agents are immediately passing on anything labeled dystopian these days, so you may want to call this adventure or something instead.  Just a suggestion.)   

 

 

I think you need to streamline this a bit, because it kind of wanders.  For example, you mention that Rachel's mother betrays her, but you never elaborate or return to it again.  The young man appears to help her destroy the machine, but then it just sounds like it was a failed plan that didn't do anything to secure their freedom.  Include only the most essential plot points, so they run together in a bit more coherently.  And watch your overall wordiness - you can often say the same thing with half the words, which will free up real estate to expand on important plot points.

 

Good luck! 



#18 jpfranco

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Posted 17 April 2018 - 07:47 AM

Dear Agent,

 

Rachel Ives is condemned to an island of horrors, aching to escape to the Nation, a place of freedom that she only heard whispers about.

The Supremes have made that impossible, giving the citizens two options: Hunger, cruel laws, ritualistic sacrifices, hard labor, whippings, sickness, and constant paranoia under the guise of unity and prosperity—or to be taken by the watchmen that police the town, an even worse fate.  

To her horror, this is the second time you've used horror her sister, who she vowed to protect, is taken, her own mother betrays her, and her best friend, the person she trusted most in the world, is sent to help the very government that aims to destroy her and everyone she loves.

After a young man arrives to at her workhouse claiming he knows her deceased father, she soon discovers that they are both a part of a much larger plan to destroy what they believe is the most important asset to the Supremes—a machine that wipes away memories and controls the mind. How is she part of this plan without knowing it?

But Rachel soon comes to realize that this is only the tip of the iceberg cliche: even with the machine destroyed, they aren’t safe.

Hoping to find a way to escape, she embarks on a dangerous mission to save not only her sister, but thousands of innocent people marked for a fate worse than death. cliche With the odds against her, more citizens being taken by the day, a dangerous lockdown, and even harsher punishments, Rachel must navigate the chaos to find the one loophole that can save her people, but only if she will be able to find it in time…redundant. you use find twice in quick succession.

THE ISLAND is a Young Adult Dystopian Novel complete at 96,000 words.  

 

I gotta tell you, this query doesn't make me feel anything for Rachel. She's not doing anything, she's just having a lot of things happen to her up until the end. So far she's not very interesting.  She's the victim of an oppressive government. That sucks for her, but this has been done a lot and there's nothing about her that stands out. I barely even care about the oppressive government since I've seen that story so many times. Make it unique.



#19 galian84

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Posted 17 April 2018 - 03:15 PM

Version 2.0 April 16, 2018

 

Dear Agent,

 

Rachel Ives is condemned to an island of horrors, aching and aches to escape to the Nation, a place of freedom that she only heard whispers about.  

The Supremes (who are The Supremes?) have made that impossible, giving the citizens two options: Hunger, cruel laws, ritualistic sacrifices, hard labor, whippings, sickness, and constant paranoia (agree with the others above, try to narrow this down to just two or three of the major ones) under the guise of unity and prosperity—or to be taken by the watchmen that police the town, an even worse fate. (Why? What happens when they're taken?)  

To her horror, her sister who she vowed to protect is taken (by who? The watchmen?), her own mother betrays her (how?), and her best friend, the person she trusted most in the world, is sent to help the very government that aims to destroy her and everyone she loves.

After a young man arrives to her workhouse claiming he knows her deceased father, she soon discovers (how does she discover this? Does he tell her?) that they are both a part of a much larger plan to destroy what they believe is the most important asset to the Supremes—a machine that wipes away memories and controls the mind. (Now I'm confused. At first, I thought the Supremes were recruiting them for this plan, but that's not the case. So, who's behind all this?) 

But Rachel soon comes to realize that this is only the tip of the iceberg: even with the machine destroyed, they aren’t safe. (cliché and vague. Why are they still not safe? When did they destroy the machine?)

Hoping to find a way to escape, she embarks on a dangerous mission to save not only her sister, but thousands of innocent people marked for a fate worse than death (what fate? "Worse than death" doesn't tell me anything. Are you talking about the machine? I thought they destroyed it in the previous paragraph). With the odds against her, more citizens being taken by the day, a dangerous lockdown, and even harsher punishments, Rachel must navigate the chaos to find the one loophole that can save her people, but only if she will be able to find it in time…(okay, I understand your stakes, but they're not grabbing me and making me want to know more. Mostly because I have no idea what your protag is actually doing, or what this dangerous mission is that she's going on)

THE ISLAND is a Young Adult Dystopian Novel complete at 96,000 words.  

 

Hi Bk, my thoughts above. Sounds like it could be interesting, but I'm not invested in it...mostly because it's very vague, and doesn't stand out from the other fantasy/sci-fi/dystopian stories out there. Specifics are definitely your friend, here. I *think* I get the general gist of what's going on, here. 

 

What makes your story unique? Mention those aspects.

 

Your protagonist, Rachel, also comes off as very passive, until the very last paragraph. Also, I feel like I know nothing about her.

 

Good luck, I know query writing is a whole different beast and it can take multiple revisions to get right (and mine's not even there yet).

 

With that said, thanks for your critique on my query!



#20 TeaTime

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Posted 17 April 2018 - 08:24 PM

Version 2.0 April 16, 2018

 

Dear Agent,

Rachel Ives is condemned to an island of horrors (Island of horrors feels a little too "tell-y"), aching to escape to the Nation, a place of freedom that she only heard whispers about.

The Supremes (What are these leaders like?) have made that impossible, giving the citizens two options: Hunger, cruel laws, ritualistic sacrifices, hard labor, whippings, sickness, and constant paranoia (Yeah, only include two or three of these, readers will glaze over a list this long) under the guise of unity and prosperity—or to be taken by the watchmen that police the town, an even worse fate. (How come? Is it mysterious what happens to them then or not?) 

To her horror, her sister who she vowed to protect is taken, her own mother betrays her, and her best friend, the person she trusted most in the world, is sent to help the very government that aims to destroy her and everyone she loves.

After a young man arrives to her workhouse claiming he knows knew her deceased father, she soon discovers that they are both a part of a much larger plan to destroy what they believe is the most important asset to the Supremes—a machine that wipes away memories and controls the mind.

But Rachel soon comes to realize that this is only the tip of the iceberg (Cliche phrase that doesn't really fit well): even with the machine destroyed, (So Rachel & the young man already destroyed the machine?) they aren’t safe.

Hoping to find a way to escape, she embarks on a dangerous mission to save not only her sister, but thousands of innocent people marked for a fate worse than death. (Cliche & this kind of phrase was already used at the end of the second paragraph) With the odds against her, more citizens being taken by the day, a dangerous lockdown, and even harsher punishments, (These are mostly vague problems--it would be interesting to see what specific obstacles stand in her way & how she tries/is good at overcoming them (for example, is she good at infiltration?)) Rachel must navigate the chaos to find the one loophole that can save her people, but only if she will be able to find it in time… (Ellipsis feel melodramatic, I would just do a period.)

THE ISLAND is a Young Adult Dystopian Novel complete at 96,000 words.  

 

I have to wholeheartedly second basically all of Rosieskye's cuts and comments on this query.

 

There are a lot of vague/generic descriptions that can be spiced up with more specifics. Rachel in particular really needs some development--what's different about her? Does she have any talents, or is she developing any talents that allow her to have a chance to outplay the government?

 

Best of luck  :smile: 


Feel Free to Check Out My Current Query Letter Here, Thank You






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