Kate, a Giant, and a Query Makeover

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Please welcome Kate, RANDOM’s young author for the day. Be her fan! Kate has written a MG novel and needs help on her query letter. Her goal is to find an agent. As many writers know, finding an agent can be a daunting experience. Imagine if you’re twelve and trying to find one!

Below is the query letter Kate wrote. Below Kate’s query is a list of questions I asked her about her novel and the characters. Below that is my revised pitch based on her first query and the answers to the questions.

Here’s where you come in. Kate needs your professional opinion about this query. Do you have any additional suggestions? Based on this query would you read her book? Can you offer her any other encouragement?

Kate’s Query 

To Whom It May Concern,

Cassandra Day is a unicorn. She lives in a world called Fantasya where magical creatures from royal pegasi to tiny elves live in peace. Well, they used to live in peace. Gargamouth, a giant with a hot head, wants to take over Fantasya and rule all of the creatures living in it by killing off the unicorns and Pegasi using his army of trolls and elves. Cassandra knows she must she must stop Gargamouth, and her best friend Cornelia, who is also a unicorn and is a bit better about plan-making than Cassandra, wants to help her.

But before either of them can do something about this gigantic problem, they are both whisked away to Earth where they must blend in with the humans. Cassandra and Cornelia disguise themselves as humans and search for a way to get back, meeting all kinds of danger along the way, such as nearly getting captured by trolls and exposing themselves to the human race. Can they defeat Gargamouth and bring Fantasya to peace once again?

I would love it if you could represent my book Fantasya: A Giant Problem. It is a complete 25,501-word manuscript and the first book in a fantasy trilogy intended for middle-grade kids, but I think all ages will enjoy it.

I am a twelve-year-old homeschooled girl who loves to write. I won our local library’s poetry contest in 2010, I write for our local library’s newsletter, I won an honorable mention for the Hershey Story Contest, I have a blog (themagicviolinist.blogspot.com), and I write a monthly post for The Write Practice (thewritepractice.com).

Thank you for your time and consideration and I hope to hear from you soon!

Sincerely,

Kate, Age 12

The Questions I Asked Her

1.What is Cassandra’s goal? What does she want?

2.What is her story problem? What stands in the way of her getting what she wants?

3.What are the stakes?

4.What will happen if she doesn’t get what she wants?

5.Does she have a decision to make? What are her choices?

6.If she makes the wrong one what will happen?

7.How many subscribers does The Writing Practice have? (This will help your bio. Didn’t they win one of the ten best writing blogs in 2012?) Share anything positive about that blog that you can.

8.Who is your intended audience for the book? Male or female? Mid-grade, but what ages?

9.Has anyone read the book? Did you distribute it to other kids your age to test the market?

10. Did you have it professionally edited?

The Revised Query

If someone doesn’t defeat Gargamouth the giant, all the unicorns in Fantasya could die.

Cassandra Day, a unicorn, needs to defeat Gargamouth if Fantasya, a world full of magical creatures, will ever be at peace again. Cassandra and her best friend, Cornelia, another unicorn, devise a plan to conquer the hot-headed giant, but when they accidently touch the Earth Flower they’re whisked away to Earth where they must blend in with humans to survive.

How will the unicorns hide from humans, escape from the trolls who threaten their lives, and return to Fantasya to defeat Garamouth? If they don’t will Fantasya fall into ruins? Will it be the end of their species?

Fantasya: A Giant Problem is a 25,500 word MG novel intended for children ages 7-12. It’s a story of how friendships and teamwork can conquer all.

I’m a twelve-year-old homeschooled girl who loves to write. I write for the Annville Free Library’s newsletter, and won a poetry contest there in 2010. I post at my blog, The Magical Violinist two to three times a week, and am a monthly contributor at The Write Practice, a blog for writers. The Write Practice has over 6500 subscribers and nearly 30,000 monthly readers and was voted one of the Top Ten Blog For Writers in 2012.

I look forward to the possibility of hearing from you soon.

Sincerely,

Kate XXXX,

http://themagicviolinist.blogspot.com

Below is Kate playing the violin:

Please leave Kate your professional opinion. Should she add or delete anything to her query? Does the new pitch pique your interest? If you were an agent would you request her book?

 

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Comments

  1. Robin says:

    This is a wonderful query, but there are two small things I would recommend considering changing. The first is removing your age simply because it could turn agents off because they don’t want to be working with someone so young. Instead, focus on your considerable writing credentials. The second is the last line before your signature. I would actually recommend combining the two. First, thank the agent for his or her time and consideration and then write that you’re looking forward to hearing from them soon. I prefer it over “I hope” or “to the possibility of” because it’s a polite request for a response. My dad’s a businessman and he suggests always ending with the “reminder that you want to hear back” because it asks for an action.

    Obviously, you can take or leave my suggestions as you will. I think the MG novel sounds fascinating and I hope you can find an agent soon!

    • Great tips, Robin! Thanks and I totally agree. A call for action is needed.

    • Thanks for the advice! That’s a good idea to take out my age. If they want to work with me, it shouldn’t matter how old I am! 😀

  2. First of all, congratulations on the very good query letter. I love how your voice comes through. Now, the revised query reads more professional, so if you can rewrite the 2nd letter using touches of your voice, it’d be perfect! I would leave out the age part for now. And add what Robin suggested for sure. But I would love to read the whole story!

  3. Hi,

    I am very impressed with your quality of writing in your original cover letter. I agree with Patricia if you could add a bit of your own voice to the second cover letter it would be great. And a more direct call to action is better also, as said by others. I wish I had something original to add but I really just wanted to say how impressed I am with your writing accomplishments so far, and your only 12! Congratulations. 🙂

  4. Tom Crepeau says:

    Kate,
    It’s a wonderful letter. If I were an agent, you’d hear from me right now! I’m looking forward to reading your book.
    If you can’t find an agent and can’t place your book with a publisher, consider having it edited for story arc and content and put it out as an e-book yourself. It’s what I’ll probably be doing with my works. If you put it out with Amazon’s Kindle, get your own ISBN (that’s Library of Congress catalog number) so that you, yourself are the publisher of record, work carefully with your cover-maker or illustrator, and make sure you give links to the book on Amazon on your blog so people can get it. I understand it will still be possible for a publisher to consider it “unpublished” for the purposes of buying and releasing your book through bookstores as an physical, bound paper book people can hold in their hands and reading. Price it at $2.99 or over (and, less than $10.00) and you’ll get 70% royalties, which you will need as initial sales can be kind of slow. -Tom Crepeau, age 61.

    • I have considered e-book publishing before, so thank you for the advice! 😀

    • Hi Tom,
      Thanks for stopping by and encouraging Kate. (And including your age. Too funny!) I love the advice you gave about publishing and ebook too. I know a cover artist. She’ll be guest-posting here in a few weeks. So if you have any “cover” questions check back. Let us know how your ebook experience goes. We’d love to know.
      Michelle

      • Tom Crepeau says:

        Welcome. I imagine it will take me most of the year to finish the novel I plan to publish this year, but I’ll get back you about it when I have. For anyone in the Northern Virginia Area (the parts of Virginia near Washington, DC), you’re welcome to join us at the Northern Virginia Writer’s Club, http://northernvirginiawriters.org/, whose writers vary from gosh-thats-awful (and we’d only tell them that if they pressed us about what we think) to serious, heavy-duty writers whose works have a following. There Self-publishing seminar last Saturday (January 26th) by Matt Iden, Karen Cantwell, and Misha Crews was very well attended and appreciated. if you live around here, check us out! Most months, we have accomplished writers lecturing at our meetings.

        • Thanks for the info to that meeting. Unfortunately I’m in northern Indiana, but I will post this info to Random’s FB page for others who might live nearby. Good luck writing that novel and don’t stop!
          Michelle

  5. Vie says:

    Dear Kate,

    I believe you’ve already received lots of good advice, so let me just say that I LOVE your voice (and agree that adding a touch of that to the query would be good). I also want to tell you that if I received this query, I would certainly request a full proposal with sample chapters from you.

    Keep writing, Kate! God has blessed you with not only the art of writing, but a willing spirit to master the craft. That, my dear writer friend, is what I call the difference between a hobby writer and a pro.

    I am praying that God continue to open doors for you and your books. Keep me on your e-mail list when your book comes out. I want to purchase a signed copy.
    Sincerely,
    Vie

    • Thank you so much, Vie! I appreciate all of the compliments that you’ve given me. I’m sure you’ll be seeing a lot of me soon. 😉 Any news I get will be shared on my blog.

      • Kate –this is from Sarah Burns Hampshire, a FB friend who saw this post:
        Kate, I applaud you! Wow! I didn’t do half of all you’ve done by the time I was 12. I share with you something totally embarassing now, and I did this in my…well, um, when I was MUCH older than 12. My first query letter I introduced my manuscript and then went on to tell the editor how much he or she would love everything else I’d written and that I was sure I could do a whole series. I learned this is NOT what I should have done. I kept a copy of it, though, so I could laugh at myself once in a while. I’ve learned a lot since then, but I am still learning. You will learn too. You’ve got a good start. Sincerely, a fellow violinist.

        • Thank you, Fellow Violinist! 😉 I look back on things I’ve written sometimes and think, “W-O-W. What was I THINKING?!?!” But I always keep the original thing I’ve written before I go into editing. I’ve read so many books and watched so many movies where someone throws away their work or deletes all of their pictures and regrets it a few days later.

  6. Kate,

    I see that you’ve already received some great advice, so let me give you some advice in another realm. Just so you know, I’m age 19, have been writing since I /could/ write, and have even received some interest from agents and publishers. This is something that I’m constantly being reminded of by the writing professionals in my life, and I have seven years on you. So here we go…

    Sweetie, you are still young. This is not to say that you cannot write or that you cannot handle being a published author. It is to say that you still have years and years that you can spend honing your craft. For you to be be an aspiring writer now, that means you must be dedicated to that idea of spending your life as an author. Excellent! You are in love with writing. You are most likely already gifted with an extra dose of writing talent. I’m not in any means trying to discourage you from trying to pick up an agent.

    With that being said, don’t be afraid to slow down. I know that the idea of being a published author at such a young age is alluring. Honestly, I fantasized about showing up all the adults with a better written story almost every day. I was actually very prideful when I was your age. I still am, to a degree. The point is, now I can look back and see that when I was your age, I blundered through the writing process with pure talent. I knew nothing of the theories, of discipline, of how to manipulate words to completely captivate my readers. The time that I’ve spent actively studying such things, that I’ve spent analyzing published author’s work, has benefited my personal writing more than I can put into words.

    Kate, if you are already getting such compliments from people now (see above comments), then you know that you’re good. Now, imagine what your writing will be like several years from now. I also believe in you, in the same way that countless people have encouraged me by believing in my abilities. But I also believe in the writer that you could be, the writer that comes about only by studying those who have already traversed the publication path. I’m not discouraging you from sending your query letter to agents; in fact, it’s a great way to meet people you’ll one day need as a writer. I’m only trying to remind you that each day that goes by without you being accepted by an agent or editor is another day that you can hone your writing abilities to a greater level. If I could convince you of one thing, it would be to make that your goal until you graduate high-school, with publication of a novel being secondary goal that might result from you honing your craft.

    Good luck, girl. As one aspiring author to another, I’m rooting for you.

    • Thank you so much for the advice! I am in no way rushing this, but I think it’s great that I’m starting now instead of later! (I’ve seen so many comments from adults on writing blogs that say they wished they had started earlier instead now when they’re life is already halfway over). I agree that it might be hard to get a deal at a young age. I don’t think most agents want to deal with a 12-year-old.

      Thank you again!

      • Tom Crepeau says:

        And, as I’m sure someone has pointed out already, you only need to find one who will work with you, whether the issue is age, inexperience, or whatever else there is that they could dislike, and you then can prove that one right while ignoring the ones who ignored you.

    • Hi Lauren,
      Thanks for taking time out of your schedule to mentor Kate. I know things in your world are crazy right now with having a HUSBAND and homework. IT was sweet of you to stop by. I know Kate appreciates it–and so do I.
      This is Lauren’s blog address: http://writerlaurenclaire.wordpress.com/

      M

  7. Kate:

    First off, let me say that I think what you’re trying to do is tremendous, especially at your age, but do not give up if this particular story doesn’t get you an agent; as others have said, you are still young, and if you continue to practice and hone your craft, you will see success. I have to say I like the second query letter better, for two reasons: 1) It has a good “hook” at the beginning to make the agent/publisher want to know more, and 2) it provides specifics about where you write and how many people read what you’ve written. I would agree, too, that you should not include your age along with your information — let your story stand or fall on its own merits. And you can always self-publish if no one picks this up; many people have found this a valuable way to get started on the process. Best of luck!

    • Yes, I much prefer the second one, as well. Michelle did a great job helping me to improve the letter! 😀

    • Hi Miriam,

      Thanks for taking time to stop by and offer Kate encouragement and give her your professional opinion. I visited your blog and it sounds like you’re an awesome editor!

      Thanks,
      Michelle

  8. Hi Kate and Michelle,

    I’m sorry I didn’t get a chance to stop by on Friday. We were just reading your free critique excerpt and I wanted to find out more about you, so I came over.

    It looks like you’re getting a handle on the query letter thing. I just wanted to add one thing. Don’t forget that it’s important to tailor your query to the agent you’re pitching to. Agents like to know that you’ve done your homework on them. It can be good to scout around the internet looking for interviews they’ve done where they say what they’re interested in, what their pet peeves are, what they love to see, and so on, and then try to find a way to work some of this into your letter.

    An agent and an author must sign a contract. Because you’re not old enough yet to sign legal agreements, Kate, the agent would have to sign with your parent or guardian, so probably your mom. It’s okay not to mention that you’re 12 right now, but remember that you’ll have to tell them at some point. I think (and my editing partner agrees) that you should wait at least until they request the full manuscript. (because what normally happens is that they’ll request a partial manuscript — first fifty pages– and then the full if they like the partial.) Then, it’s a toss up as to whether you mention it when they request the full or after they read it and say they like it and want to represent you.

    For some agents, the fact that you’re 12 might be a selling point. It might make a good news story. In that case, it could be beneficial to mention it when they request the full. To others, it might be detrimental, in that they might expect you to be difficult or they might think your parents aren’t supportive of your plan to get an agent. So then, it would be best to hold off telling them until they say they want to represent you, let them make the decision unbiased by your age. You seem very professional in your demeanor, so this can only work in your favor.

    Good luck with your search. It’d be so cool for you to get an agent! You, I believe, have comments coming back on your excerpt.

    Best,
    Salome

    • Hi Salome!

      Thanks for taking the time to give Kate some awesome tips! I hadn’t thought about the contract/age thing, but I totally agree with your theory on when to divulge her age. And your suggestion to research the potential agent and what they like versus don’t like is great advice, too.

      Kate, I might go one step further and keep a log of who you pitched, the agency they’re from, and the date you submitted. It’ll help you keep track of who’s who. It’s okay to submit to more than one agent at a time too. It didn’t use to be acceptable, but most agents assume you are sending multiple submissions.

      Thanks again Salome!

      Check back soon for Salome’s post on UNDERSTANDING POV.

      M

    • Thank you for the advice, Salome! I saw that I got an e-mail back with your critique. I am going to check it out soon.

      My parents are VERRRRRY supportive of what I want to do, so that shouldn’t be a problem. But I hadn’t thought of all of the legal papers. That’s a good idea not to tell them my age until they request a full manuscript.

      Thanks again! 😀

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