First off, thank you so much to the 150+ very intrepid souls who volunteered their queries and pages for public consumption and our sort-of-scientific test of the query process.
Here’s how I whittled them down to five. I classified the queries loosely by genre (fantasy, urban fantasy, paranormal, etc. lumped together and romantic suspense, thriller, mystery, etc. lumped together), then checked to see which genre had the most entries. And yes indeed, YA Fantasy narrowly edged out mystery/suspense!
I then used the random number generator at random.org to select the five entries.
As you read the queries, please remember the purpose of this experiment: you are thinking like an agent. You are not looking for the best query according to the rules of blogging agents or what you personally would choose to read in your spare time. You are looking for the query that you think will have the best written pages and that you think has the most potential of selling to a publisher. Your job depends, in fact, on looking past the query. (Hopefully the writers helped you with queries that reflect the pages, which is why we blogging agents spend so much time dispensing advice.)
Please be exceedingly, ridiculously, incredibly nice to the participants who so bravely offered their queries to science. If I see one anonymous commenter who comes in and is all, “Meh meh meh I don’t like any of them mine’s way better I’m so awesome because no one knows who I am” I will confiscate everyone’s science kits and I mean it!!
Now then. There is a poll at the end of the post. Please vote for the query you would be most likely to request if you were an agent. If you subscribe by e-mail or in an RSS reader you will need to click through to see the poll, and e-mail subscribers, please do not e-mail me your votes.
Here are the queries!
#1: I’M A NOBODY:
Dear Agent for a Day,
Everything Dominic Taylor thought he knew about the universe was shattered when he followed his classmate through a door, and into another world. While trying to get home he is pulled into a war between man and myth that had been going on for centuries. He soon learns that the reasons behind the war are more complex than man’s fear of the supernatural. The only way he can return home is by finding what his deceased father’s research calls the Source, but no one could have guessed what he would find instead.
In the 70,000 words of I’m a Nobody Dominic struggles to find a place where he fits in, to rise above the crimes of the father he never met, and to come to terms with who, and what, he is.
I chose to submit this novel for your consideration after joining your blog. It’s been very helpful for preparing my manuscript and query letter, and I saw you represent most genres. Upon your request I am prepared to send the complete manuscript. This is my first novel.
Thank you for taking the time to consider my Novel.
#2: I WOULD HAVE LOVED YOU ANYWAY
Dear Agent for a Day,
Presley O’Connor expects a memorable senior year. What she doesn’t expect is the letter that arrives on her eighteenth birthday with her mutilated senior picture and a wish for a happy last birthday.
A serial killer has chosen her for his sixth victim, but his presence is affecting more than just Presley. Reid Montgomery, a guy she had a massive crush on three years before, is having visions of her abduction and murder. Visions aren’t new to Reid. His family has been under a 400 year old spell that allows them to save others and to find their soul mates. Seeing her in the vision, he knows exactly why he must save her.
When the killer moves to kidnap Presley on Christmas Eve, Reid arrives just in time to save her. The love between Presley and Reid is immediate and powerful. Presley believes nothing will ever stand in the way of their happiness. Reid sees a different picture and as the killer escapes from jail determined to add her to his collection of victims, Reid is unable to stop him. This time saving Presley will take all Reid’s magic, love, and more.
My YA paranormal romance, I WOULD HAVE LOVED YOU ANYWAY, is complete at 92,000 words. I am prepared to send a partial or full manuscript upon your request. Thank you for your time and consideration of my novel.
Dear Agent for a Day,
Sixteen-year-old Maya Georgiou is a beautiful ocean nymph faced with an impossible decision. She must choose between sacrificing Nate, the only boy she’s ever cared about, to a Greek Goddess with insane demands – or take his place instead.
SHORELINE, complete at 65,000 words, follows Maya as she and her family move back to Bar Harbor, Maine to help the sickly marine life developing offshore. As they settle in the tiny town, Maya finds herself intrigued by the sullen (albeit gorgeous) waiter at the local resort.
After a brief, rocky start, Maya and Nate fall for each other, but the rest of Maya’s world deteriorates. Her attempts to cure the ailing ocean creatures continue to fail, all while her family schemes to destroy her love life. In a shocking revelation they disclose one final, horrific family secret. Maya is not just an ocean nymph. She is also a Siren and must make a deadly sacrifice to appease the Goddess Persephone.
Maya has only days to make her decision. Does she spare Nate by succumbing to the sickness that is literally drowning her alive? Or does she convince him to plunge into the ocean abyss where he will die to fulfill her ancestral obligations?
Although Shoreline is a standalone novel, I have outlined a sequel and have completed another young adult urban fantasy novel.
I freelance for several websites with an audience of teens and young adults and am a member of SCBWI and YALitChat. I’m published in non-fiction, with titles including The Everything Card Games Book and The Everything Lateral Thinking Puzzles Book.
Attached please find the first 30 pages, as requested.
Thank you in advance for your time,
#4: BLACK EMERALDS
Dear Agent for a Day,
Sometimes you go looking for fate, hoping to find a path to greatness. Sometimes she breaks down your door with an apocalyptic grin and drags you out in the alley.
For Kayden Verus, it’s the latter. Fate blessed him with super powers: good looks, superior strength, a killer smile, and more confidence than a seventeen-year-old kid should have. He never realized that she’d come looking for payback.
His story begins with a simple fact: Phaedons exist. They are physical representations of life’s virtues and one of them was Kayden’s father. Upon learning this, he leaves his small town safety to find his true identity at the prestigious Summit High School.
Instead of fate though, he is greeted by mythical creatures called Shades trying to end his life. He is able to foil their murder attempt but he can’t stop them from dragging him into the middle of the ancient war between the Phaedons and the Diotriphe family that controls them.
Enter Ailia. There’s only one thing that can conquer a cocky young man with cosmetic super powers: a beautiful girl with actual super powers. Like all boys, he’s helpless. She captivates him at first site but her sadistic tendencies and unhinged nature might kill him long before he discovers which side she’s actually on.
Black Emeralds is complete at 105,000 words and is of the young adult genre.
I am a first time author with a business undergrad from Millikin University and an MBA from Washington University in St. Louis.
Thank you for your time.
#5: UNREALITY CHICK
Dear Agent for a Day,
When faced with the grim prospect of another year of being the nicest, quietest girl in high school, Rebecca Rogers decides it’s time to get wild. Sure, she’s afraid of the dark, heights, big bugs, and cute guys, but she decides the key to coolness lies in overcoming her fears one at a time. She starts with heights. Unfortunately, the tree she chooses to climb turns out to be the tallest object on the highest hill in an expected thunder storm. Rebecca jumps to escape a lightning strike and falls into a fantastic new world.
Though she’s pretty sure she must be lying in a hospital somewhere and experiencing the world’s wildest coma-induced nightmare, she’s soon facing monsters, handsome princes, and evil villains with diabolical plans to take over this very scary world. Can she save the hottie, defeat the baddie, and run like hell from everything else? Some people are born with courage – Rebecca is having it thrust upon her.
“Unreality Chick” is a fast and funny 50,000 word young adult fantasy novel. I am the author of [a variety of work-for-hire things] and this is my first original novel.
Thank you for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you soon.
Claire King says
Not at all my cup of tea, genre-wise but what a brilliant exercise. Thanks to the brave query writers.
I found myself debating over all the queries logically until I got to the last one. Something about the query seemed so confident and natural that my gut feeling straight away was 'this is the one'.
I wonder, is gut feeling a good indicator when looking for something marketable? Maybe not, but I'd request pages for Unreality Chick because that's the one I would most like to devote precious time to reading.
This little experiment has taught me a lot……. being an agent sucks, being a writer sucks, writing queries sucks, when I get done typing this I am chunking this keyboard out the door…. hey wait, this could be an idea for a GREAT story,…… a stressed out writer/agent/and award winning blogger from San Fransisco goes postal
Question, how often do you find yourself not in love with the query or storyline, but you love the title? Or you find a wee verb tense problem with the query, but you think the story might be worthy? I chose "I Would Have Loved You Anyway" for these reasons.
Kristin Laughtin says
Not my science kit!
Reading these, I was surprised how much little things, like a missing comma, affected my judgment. I wouldn't necessarily not request any of these because of missing commas, but I found I had to be interested enough in the story to not mind the prospect of a manuscript full of missing commas.
I really liked the second query, but I wished the third paragraph had been condensed. At first I questioned whether it was needed at all, then decided it would have been more powerful if it were shorter.
In the third query, I wondered why Persephone was so mad. Why does her family want to destroy her love life? Is it an attempt to save Nate? I would have liked a little more clarity on that point.
In the fourth query, the third paragraph almost sounds like a re-start, and it's a bit jarring. Or perhaps the first two paragraphs are meant to be the hook or tagline. If so, they're a bit too long, although I found myself intrigued by them. I'd rather see the first two paragraphs left as is and the rest re-worked a little so that it flows more smoothly.
#1 and 5 were good queries, but the subject matter didn't interest me too much. I could see them both appealing to a lot of people, though.
I thought Unreality Chick wrapped up too much action in cliches and the length was not appropriate.
I thought I Would Have Loved You Anyway sounded really emo and schmaltzy – which is exactly what I would have LOVED when I was a young adult, hence more marketable. So, that was my vote.
Nothing is more helpful in the process of writing your own query letter than reading query letters from other aspiring writers and, of course, reading agents' blogs. THANKS NATHAN!
I think these are great queries. Having said that, I'm curious as to where the vote would be for "none." I'm very curious to know if any of these would actually get a partial or full requested. That is to say, since these are randomly chosen, who's to say these are even the best of the batch? We are voting on the best of this batch, but I'm always curious to know about an agent's ability to simply push these aside and move on in order to find gold in the pile of the day.
I'm not saying that these aren't gold.
Nathan Bransford says
The reason there's no "none" option is because it doesn't work with the goal of the experiment, which is to see if there's a correlation between query quality and manuscript quality. By forcing everyone to choose whichever query they think is the strongest and then choosing whichever pages they think is the strongest we have a better sample than if there's a "none" option, which doesn't really tell us anything except some people didn't like the queries.
I read just the first couple sentences of "I'm a Nobody" and was reminded of Narnia. Although I thought "Shoreline" was a bit unorganized I thought the story would sell the best.
Nathan, at the end of the experiment, you are going to tell us which one you would have chosen, and why…aren't you?
Tried to maintain the focus of a salable story I could push hard to a cynical editor whose job is always tenuous.
2. Had a very memorable synopsis and presentation. The crispness of the query implys this author has a firm grip of his story line and characters.
I "believe" I could convince another person this is sellable.
My personal reading preference in order would be
1. I'm A Nobody
2. Unreality Chick
4. Black Emeralds
I choose fantasy/supernatural based
on the believability of the world building. That's my *bias* as a reader due to a weird science preference.
Shoreline and Black Emeralds sound like novels I would enjoy by studying the portrayal of the characters in conflict quests that involve extreme alternate realities.
When I read and match those two partials to the queries I shall be reading for the power of the imagery, prose, flow and pacing to draw me into that dreamscape and away from my daily reality.
Unfortunately I am not a YA fan.
I think all the queries met a professional standard.
To my own author vote: #2
Razor edging the tag line to match the crispness of the synopsis.
Presley O’Connor's hopeful visions of an awesome senior year are crushed when a sinister eighteenth birthday greeting arrives in a black card opened up to reveal her mutilated yearbook picture glued by blood to an ominous message;
"Happy Last Birthday Presley."
I would re-title it to that also:
_ Happy Last Birthday _
I'm an agent. I have no soul.
Good work on all the submissions.
Thanks for the fun.
Maria Alexander says
Really thought this was a genius idea to put up the queries, for the record.
Anyway, quite simply, the last query was the best for a few reasons. One, it grabbed me and said 1) Who was the main character, 2) What was her dilemma, and then 3) What did she do to start the story. The author also clearly demonstrated that she had a command of the English language that was a notch above the others. No misplaced commas. No grammatical issues. Just solid writing.
And, as a bonus, the idea seemed to appeal strongest to the YA market.
Disclaimer: I write copy for Disney.
Ann Marie Wraight says
The exercise asked us to "look PAST the query" and give our opinion of the one with the "most POTENTIAL of selling to a publisher."
…I'm honestly a bit stumped with this one. I've been scrolling up and down for about 15 minutes and STILL can't make an ABSOLUTE decision. I'd last half a day as an AGENT. WELL DONE those who put themselves out there – difficult choice!!
'AGENT' AM chooses
# 4 for the VOICE – has great promise of what's to come.
# 5 for the storyline.
One of these two would be chosen if I were an AGENT. Probably #5 would be first choice due VOICE, wit and especially marketable value.
As plain old me I could happily read ALL of these. I'm a YA fan!There wasn't even one I disliked.
THANKS for showing us JUST HOW difficult this really is. PHEW!
#5, Unreality Chick, got my vote because the query told me enough to really pique my interest without giving away important plot twists or the gist of the story.
In many of the other queries, I felt like I might not need to read the book to know what happened. The trick of a query, IMHO, is to tease the agent into wanting to know more.
Like on Project Runway–you might be a good designer, but do I want to see more from you?
I feel sympathy for Anonymous, upthread, who struggled with examining these as business letters. It is hard to know which agents prefer a more traditional "business letter" organization and tone as opposed to those who prefer the more "pitch blurby" sort.
I Would Have Loved You Anyway pulled at my interest. Wasn't sold with query but was interested that if I could have read more I would have.
Black Emeralds was a good query and again I was interested but the voice and plot line sounded too much Percy Jackson books
Unreality Chick was my pick because I smiled reading it, wanted to see if the novel was as refreshing as the query and it had a YA tone to it
Simon Hay Soul Healer says
I would've asked for 'I would have loved you anyway' on the title alone. The title promises tension and pace, but 92k is too long and I'd expect some slashing.
Thanks guys for sharing. Good luck.
Keith Popely says
Simon, JK Rowling just called and said 92k is not too long.
Wow, this has been such a helpful exercise. I think I have a much better understanding now of the difference between a well-written query, and one that grabs an agent's attention.
I chose Unreality Chick, after much dithering between it and Black Emeralds. These two stood out for me because of the voice. They sounded like writers I could spend an entire manuscript with. Each of the other three queries described stories that could be engaging or not, depending on the writer, but without a sample there was no way of telling from the query alone.
Unreality Chick wasn't the most well-written query, in my opinion. I would have liked more details on exactly what happened in this other world and what the stakes were. But the story sounded marketable and the voice sounded fun and I could see it selling.
It will be really interesting to read the partials and see if they live up to, or outstrip, the promise of their query.
This one was a tough choice for me. I was deciding between Shoreline and Unreality Chick, but decided to choose Shoreline due to Unreality Chick's word count. 50,000 is a little too short for that type of novel too me. Also, Shoreline had a more sound synopses to me, and the story really grabbed me from the first sentence and only got better as I read on. Unreality Chick was interesting, but the description just didn't quite grab me as much as Shoreline did.
Thanks for sharing! All the queries were great you guys, I can't wait for the 30 pages to be posted 🙂
The opening lines to BLACK EMERALDS are great, (an allusion to Teddy Roosevelt's quote on greatness…?) but UNREALITY CHICK got my vote. I'm a YA reader, and these days (in my opinion) there are way too many "My life was perfect until…" and "Imetthisguy/girlandfellinloveanditchangedmylife
worldorbecome[insert fantastic creature of choice here]/ go to [insert random fantasy world here]" books. There are not enough books about girls who aren't in a relationship that find themselves during the course of the book. Author of #5, my kudos to you.
Holly West says
Shoreline has a lot of potential to be a great story. But I'm picking Unreality Check because I can see the whole thing laid out. It's more vivid to me.
UNREALITY CHICK all the way! What a great query; short and tight. Tells you just enough but doesn't bore you with unnecessary details.
Victoria Dixon says
I voted for "I Would Have Loved You Anyway" in large part because I thought the plot was well-stated and the word count was within the upper range of YA. That said, it was a close call between it and "Black Emeralds" because I loved the voice in the first paragraph. But then the rest of the query turns wordy and the word count seemed a bit long, though I realize it's a fantasy, so it's probably cool. Just my .02.
Joe G says
Sorry this is so long! I'm killing time before LOST comes on. This was a fun exercise though.
1. Number 1 sounds like a nice story, but I had little idea of the voice. All you tell me, really, is that he goes to another world, becomes involved in a war between fantasy people and monsters, and that his father is involved somehow. Off the top of my head I can think of a number of stories that have the same plot.
I also have no idea why it's called "I'm a Nobody", which is an intriguing title. Giving the query a little more personality would tell us more about the world and the story. Also want to come away knowing why it's titled the way it is. Make the special salient.
2. There's verve and confident writing in this query but I had a little trouble reconciling the serial killer plot with the paranormal. There's less suspense in your description than you should like. I'm fairly confident that the serial killer isn't going to get Presley, and there's no tension in the relationship between Presley and Reid. They're fated to be together, he's fated to save her, etc… It's all a little too neat, you know? The paranormal aspect feels redundant, almost as if it drains the story of its tension. It's like… a story about a girl who gets kidnapped by an ice monster, and her boyfriend can shoot flames from his hands.
3. It's clear that you have an elaborate mythology for this, but it DOES evoke an immediate reference to Twilight in my head (especially the emphasis on the physical appearances of the characters). Some agents might be moved by this though. Also, careful with haphazard details… A siren is a terrifying creature which immediately evokes certain things in my mind, (why must she lure her boyfriend to his death? Since when are sirens nymphs? Aren't they bird ladies?) Persephone was a goddess of the underworld, daughter of Demeter, wife of Hades. What relationship does she have to the sea? When did she get so mean?
See if you can avoid soap opera statements like "Her family schemes to destroy her love life" and the like. Stuff like that can be inadvertently humorous.
4. Your query ends when it's just getting started. The first two sentences of the third paragraph don't make a lot of sense to me, I have to think about it harder than you want me to. The high school has nothing to do with anything else in your query, and feels like a random detail. You should work a little harder to make these plot details hang together and let us know what is at stake in this story.
This query does have a lot of personality though, and I KNOW that you've created characters that would be interesting to read about. They have dimension. Take that personality and turn the query into a narration instead of a laundry list of plot details and characters.
5. I actually chose number 5 because it had the clearest voice and it was funny, with some twists, which suggested to me it was worth looking at to see if the manuscript fulfilled the query's promise. I do agree with what others have said that it comes off a little juvenile, so I'm not sure if it's aimed at very young teens or older teens. The length and tone suggest younger. It depends on what kind of agent I am, I suppose.
What is an "expected" thunderstorm? If she expected it, why the heck would she climb a tree?
There's honestly very little plot in this query yet I know exactly what I'm going to get because of the voice. It's obviously parody and I can imagine this working in a few different ways.
The thing I didn't like overall was that every single letter followed the same format. I realize that this format is one of the preferred ways to query but after just five letters, I got a little tired of it.
Obviously an agent reads hundreds of these letters a week…so is this ever an issue for you, Nathan? Does the format get boring or tired?
Nathan Bransford says
I think you can see why some agents start to chafe at intros that begin I'm writing with regard to my novel…. or when lots of queries begin with rhetorical questions.
It's only human to start noticing patterns and for this to start driving you crazy after a while. But it's important to resist.
Kathleen Guler says
It was a tie between #2 & #5. These two both were more complete in the description of the plot. I ended up voting for #5, "Unreality Chick" because it showed more 'personality' which I would hope carries over into the ms. The other three queries didn't flow quite as well. I know how difficult it is to distill a book down into a few words, having done it myself a number of times, so kudos to these brave attempts!
The first line of Black Emerald got me hooked. If the entire book is written this way, you've got an addictive page-turner.
Nathan, thanks for doing this. And big thanks to those brave enough to volunteer their queries. I'll admit I'm not sure what agents are looking at and picked the one that just gave me a good gut. Will be following closely to see what happens.
Alleged Author says
I love the voice of Unreality Chick. You can hear the protagonist speaking through the query, and that is something I think will aid in a request for partials. If this author is this good at inserting voice into queries imagine how well he/she will do in the actual ms. Though according to "guidelines it is short for a YA fantasy, I think it sounds great! Not that I know much at all! 🙂
Butess is my security word…how funny.
John Baron says
Thanks to all the query writers — including the ones not randomly selected. These were all good, and I'm impressed by this sample.
I chose UNREALITY CHICK because I liked the voice and because I thought the word count was well-matched to the audience and to the "fast and funny."
I was also torn between BLACK EMERALDS and UNREALITY CHICK. They both sound interesting and the queries are well written. All I have to say is that I'm glad I'm not an agent or I would be requesting tons of manuscripts and never sleep!
Janalyn Voigt (WaySinger) says
I chose UNREALITY CHICK for its great premise and because it's already a marketable length for a YA.
Marilyn Peake says
This is hard. Does my science kit come with special time tunnel glasses that allow me to see the future, specifically the day your blog posts the votes for the 30-page samples? All the queries are good, and all the books have popular YA themes.
I voted for BLACK EMERALDS. The first paragraph had such a great hook: "Sometimes you go looking for fate, hoping to find a path to greatness. Sometimes she breaks down your door with an apocalyptic grin and drags you out in the alley." And the rest of that query described a book with popular YA themes.
In choosing BLACK EMERALDS, I tried to follow Nathan’s guideline: "You are not looking for the best query according to the rules of blogging agents or what you personally would choose to read in your spare time. You are looking for the query that you think will have the best written pages and that you think has the most potential of selling to a publisher. Your job depends, in fact, on looking past the query."
I’m hoping BLACK EMERALDS has more paragraphs like the first one in the query for it. That one’s really great.
I chose Unreality Chick because the query introduced me to a character I found engaging and would like to read more about.
#1: I'M A NOBODY:
Dear Agent for a Day,
Everything Dominic Taylor knows about the universe is shattered when he follows classmate "—- —" through an opening into another world. Both young men are pulled wildly by this hidden realms newly exposed native forces into a brutal, centuries long war between mankind and its myths. Dominic discovers the hidden reasons for the onset of the macabre war are far more complex than societies traditional simple minded fears of the supernatural. His only possible escape route is to decipher his dead father’s research and find its main experimental target; The Source, without falling into the same conclusively fatal trap.
What Dominic Taylor uncovers destroys every last shred of his former clarity. He shall now continue onward past the perils of a final battle only if he accepts the hard won revelations of this world truths and places his last moment of faith into a bolt to freedom scheme that forces him to overcome " -*- " and (not?) leave his terribly beleaguered, thoroughly bedeviled classmate "—- —" behind to this worlds torturous torment.
Good Luck Author #1
Regan Leigh says
#1: I'M A NOBODY:
Why does he want to go home? If I went through a door to another world, I'd think it was cool. What makes him want to rush home? The father thing comes out of nowhere. Why is he struggling to fit in if he wants to go home? They mention coming to terms with who he is, but they haven't even told us who he is? Overall, it's just too vague and non-descript. There's not much for me to connect with.
It sounds like an interesting book and a big plot, so they need to show it more in their query. Make their description as cool as their idea. 🙂
#2: I WOULD HAVE LOVED YOU ANYWAY:
Something about the first paragraph threw me off. It came out cliche. Also, presence doesn't sound like the right word for a killer and I think it might be better off starting with the visions and spells. Just clarify that better. If she may be killed, how does that not "stand in the way of their happiness"?
This seems like a marketable YA concept, their query just needs some work. I bet there's a great voice in this book, I'd like to hear it in the query.
Overall, the plot was confusing. In the beginning, I thought she was going to live in the ocean since she's an ocean nymph. But then she moves to Bar Harbor? And was she in the ocean there? 🙂 It mentions Nate's name and then in the 2nd paragraph, it says a gorgeous person without a name. Plus, when the nymph's beauty is mentioned and Nate is gorgeous… it felt telly. Made me wonder if it has problems with show vs tell in the book. (Though I'm sure it's just the way the query is written.)
But the story and title are interesting. 🙂 The conflict and tension are pointed out clearly in this query, which is very good.
#4: BLACK EMERALDS:
The opening paragraph is bordering cliche. I think it's going in the right direction, but it isn't quite there. I want to hear a flaw about the MC because that first paragraph makes him boring, like a Mary Sue character. Is Fate, the she referenced more than once, a character? That's confusing. The paragraph about Ailia is also confusing.
The male main character caught my interest because you don't see that as much. The fantasy world seems developed well and the creatures are interesting.
#5: UNREALITY CHICK:
This is the one I voted for.
Negatives – At the end of the first paragraph, "in an expected thunderstorm" makes her sound stupid. There's adventurous and then there's Bella. (No offense to any fans, but really? I want more common sense in the characters.) This one had two sentences that were like lists that could be more effective if mirroring each other.
It's straightforward and relatable from the beginning. When it said "get wild" I was like, "Heck, yea!" 🙂 I could hear more of the author's voice in this one as compared to the others. "Can she save the hottie, defeat the baddie, and run like hell from everything else?" – Great line. 🙂
Well done on submitting your work, lab rats. I'll start by saying I thought all the stories were interesting, so don't be offended by the following remarks; I'm only pointing out what lost me and why I voted the way I did.
#1 Felt like an all too familiar story. It only became interesting when "Source" was mentioned. The middle para was good, but then there was nothing.
#2 Serial killer? I guess it's not my thing – unless in a crime novel. A bit wordy too; too many things jammed together.
#3 Couldn't picture the nymph/siren in Maine.(Don't know why)and nothing made me care about Maya. Perhaps too much info and not enough 'hook' to make me curious.
#4 Kapow! I'm in. The writing grabbed me immediately and the story intrigued me. Got my vote.
#5 Would have voted for this too. If I were an agent, I would have requested a partial. She captured the voice of a shy kid determined to change herself extremely well.
Can't wait to see the partials.
Just a thought on the word count. I don't think a book should be losing votes because of it. Just look at the Harry Potter series – Thin, thick, fat, Huge, Fat. I believe if the story, voice, writing, is strong enough, the word count shouldn't matter.
Robin Constantine says
These are all great! Thanks for sharing.
I picked #1. The writing is succinct.
Door to another universe/mystery involving deceased father/perilous journey home. I'm in!
Well, I'm certainly not cut out to be an agent! I think I would have requested to see more of all of these, and I'm not sure how much my choice (Black Emerald) was influenced by my own preferences. It might be easier for me to be objective in a different genre, though, since fantasy is what I normally read. Anyway, best wishes to all of the authors!
Ashley A. says
I didn't exactly follow the rules. I'm sorry. Waaahh!
I thought I could pull things apart, but I picked UNREALITY CHICK pretty much because I read the query so fast and was left wanting more. Not sure that was my agent hat speaking.
My second choice would have been SHORELINE.
I'd have to vote for UNREALITY CHECK. The query has a great tongue-in-cheek confidence and I think the concept could be marketed to Twilight fans…
I tried to do this experiment as the agents must have to, by first impression. Black Emeralds definitely caught my eye with the strong voice and humorous hook. Look forward to checking out the pages tomorrow.
Jane Steen says
It's fascinating that so many commenters read "Unreality Chick" as "Unreality Check". I have read again and again that it's the publisher that ultimately decides on the title, but Nathan, do agents ever have any chance to give their opinion? And would the misreading influence you?
When I'm writing marketing copy, sitting in meetings listening to how others interpret my words often suggests when a change needs to be made. If I heard "Unreality Check" enough times I might be tempted to go in that direction.
Another question: I read all five queries quickly and made up my mind quickly, pretending to be an agent who receives hundreds of them every week (day?) Do you have a system for putting aside the ones that might be interesting and reading them more carefully later, or do you trust your first impression?
I chose I WOULD HAVE LOVED YOU ANYWAY for several reasons. First and foremost,I liked the plot. I like a mystery and although I think I know where this book is going, curiosity concerning the plot twists would lead me to finish the book.
That said, I want to congratulate #1 for his thoughtful query. You work hard, Nathan, to judge and represent us fairly and his was the only query that reflected his awareness of your end of this deal.
The other queries were all "look at me and what I've done" or business-as-usual.
Also, I'll bet anything I know the crux of #1's novel and I'm all sorts of curious to know just how the protagonist is going to handle it. I'd definitely read this book.
I was immediately turned off by SHORELINE's use of the word "gorgeous". Can't we have ordinary-looking protagonists? Or at least protags that don't realize they're gorgeous? It's generic, to my way of thinking. If the author has to fall back on beauty, will the rest of the novel be generic as well?
I thought BLACK EMERALDS was interesting. I liked the opening paragraph. Fascinating use of words. I'd probably read that book and really enjoy it.
UNREALITY CHICK didn't do much for me. To begin with, 50,000 words is a tad short. To end with, it's show, not tell. I don't see any of the humor the next-to-the-last paragraph promises. Nor do I see that it's fast paced. And, again, the words "handsome" and "evil" are generic, imho. If those words were on the book jacket I'd never buy the book.
Claire Farrell says
Black Emerald caught my attention at first but ultimately I voted for Shoreline – it is the only one that has me extremely intrigued to know what actually happens in the end.
Sommer Leigh says
I chose number 5 for the voice. If the partial has the same voice as the query, I'd be sold as an agent and as a reader! It's funny, witty, and painted a picture of imagination I could get behind. The idea that it may or may not be a dream didn't bother me. It reminded me of American McGee's Alice. I am a little concerned that it is only 50,000 words, but then, maybe that's all it needs. If the book is as punchy as the query, it might not need 100,000 words to tell a great story. I'd be willing to give #5 the chance to show me what it was made of.
I'm utterly shocked that I am very excited about more than one of these queries. I mean, shouldn't virtually any batch of 5 randomly-selected queries be "form rejections"? (Not speaking of the quality of these particular queries, of course, just the nature of the query game).
So how is it that I *love* more than one of these queries.
Nathan, you've got some quality writers who read this blog!
The YA Fantasy genre is right up my alley. The competition was stiff! No Vamps or Angels in the bunch.
Good job everyone whose query was rated.
Haste yee back ;-) says
Thinking as an agent and not wanting to waste time, I'd pick Unreality Chick… why? because the author has writing credits, even if it's "work for hire"
Chances of this author producing something that will SELL – are higher… and selling makes Momma happy!
Strictly business, darling!
Haste yee back 😉