Nathan Bransford, Author


Monday, November 3, 2008

Query Critiques

Whew, where did the day go? Let's get to these critiques, and thanks so very much to the brave souls who offered them up for our learning pleasure. As always, if you would like to make any comment about the queries, please be constructive and ridiculously nice to the point that you might qualify for some sort of politeness and constructiveness award. Gold stars, people. I, on the other hand, will not be obeying rules of nicety when I delete comments that I deem insufficiently polite and constructive.

Now then. I will first print the queries so you can get a sense of the flow, and then I will offer up some comments.

#1:

Please consider representing Sir Earl, the children's novel I have written which takes place in a land where the fantastic fairy tales we grew up hearing are just a part of common, everyday life. In Fairyland, the land where enchantment is ordinary, a young man named Earl has always dreamed of being a "Knight in Shining Armor," a group of stuck-up jocks that love walking around in their flashy letterman jackets, yet he always finds himself a cut below the best. To prove his worthiness to be a "Knight in Shining Armor," Earl seeks to rescue every damsel in distress he can, and in this fairy tale land damsels in distress are a dime a dozen. They even have classified ads in the Fairyland Times.

When Earl finds one such add for the Princess Esmerelda, he embarks on an adventure with the falsely accused Big Bad Wolf and the beautiful but himble girl next door, Sara, as his companions. When he finally reaches Esmerelda's castle, Earl finds that this rescuing business isn't all it's cracked up to be. In fact, it seems a little easy. Earl just walks in and finds the princess without having to fight any dragons, ogres, monsters or anything. He soon finds, though, that Princess Esmerelda isn't all she's cracked up to be. She's kind of bossy, more than a little conceited, and she's just plain annoying. Earl starts to realize that he wasn't looking for a princess all along, but a normal girl like Sara, who's been sitting under his nose this whole time. It could be too late for Earl and Sara, though, because the Princess Esmerelda is actually the evil Sorceress Vennulga, disguised as a princess in an ill-executed attempt to leave evil sorcery behind her. She won't let Earl go without a fight. But it's a fight Earl is up to, because he has finally found something worth fighting for in the girl next door.

I am a previously unpublished writer, though I am working hard to change that. I am from Sacramento, California and recently graduated from Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah with a degree in English. To read the first two chapters of Sir Earl and some of my other writing, you can visit michaelpickett.net.

The manuscript for Sir Earl is about 42,000 words in length and is made up of fifteen chapters with a short epilogue. I have pasted the first chapter below. If you would like to review the entire manuscript for possible representation, I have it ready for submission in hard copy, and any electronic means you may require. Thanks again, for considering Sir Earl for representation. I look forward to hearing from you.


I must confess that there are have some red flags up front, and my skepticism radar thus was sent into high gear.

1) This query is on the long side. It's 443 words, well outside of the sweet spot of 250-350. There are some details (such as the number of chapters), which could very easily be cut.
b) We have a possible typo or that/, which confusion in the first sentence. "the children's novel I have written which takes place" is missing a comma. I'm not a stickler for typos, but I am on very high alert for grammar errors. This falls into the latter category.
&) This feels like a run-on sentence "In Fairyland, the land where enchantment is ordinary, a young man named Earl has always dreamed of being a "Knight in Shining Armor," a group of stuck-up jocks that love walking around in their flashy letterman jackets, yet he always finds himself a cut below the best."

Now, assuming this is just a question of polish and this query wasn't a final draft, I would set those things aside and look at the heart of the project, which is a fairy tale kingdom gone bad. Because it's a variation on prevalent cultural tropes, such a re-telling depends immensely on the style, humor, and inventiveness of the writing, and thus, the query must be incredibly snappy, polished, and witty in order to convince me that the writer has the chops to pull something difficult like that off. I'm afraid it's not there for me yet.

#2:

Seventeen year-old Audi Layton has a secret. No one in the small Midwestern lake community knows why she and her father have relocated from Chicago a month before the end of her junior year in high school, and she wants to keep it that way. She tries to avoid sharing too much with the girls at the doughnut shop where she works, and she especially keeps things from Emerson, the handsome boy who visits the shop daily. The appeal of having friends again, and maybe a boyfriend, is strong though, and before Audi knows it, she has fallen in love and is close to exposing the secret that threatens to destroy her.

COMING UP FOR AIR is more than a novel about first love or a teenager experiencing grief. It’s a story for anyone who has watched someone they love struggle with pain that runs so deep it’s deadly. Audi’s fight to recover from the loss of her twin and to forgive herself and her sister for the mistakes they made is one many of us can relate to, and the thrill of Audi’s finding friendship and romance has universal appeal.


In journalism there's a phrase called burying the lede, which means the reporter didn't lead off with the actual big story, but rather only arrived at the essential heart of the story later on in the article. I thought of that phrase when I read this query.

My experience while reading was to go along not necessarily responding one way or the other, and then, just as I was getting to the end and felt like things were wrapping up, I read "loss of her twin" and thought, "Wait, what??"

I know that people always say that the point of a query is to get an agent to want to read more. And yes, that's true. That does not, however, mean that one should withhold so much information that the agent misses the heart of the story. Blink and you might miss that this is the story of a girl who has just lost her twin and is trying to start over.

I actually would probably still request this because I like the idea so much, but I wonder if the balance between starting off with the mystery and then arriving at the source could be rejiggered to allow the agent further into the story before the query begins wrapping up. The first paragraph could also flow just a tad better, methinks.

#3:

If Seth McCoy had asked his Magic 8-Ball whether he’d ever get his life on track, the answer would have been: Very doubtful. Or maybe: Don’t count on it. For too long, Seth’s only focus was getting wasted with his band—a pastime that contributed to his reputation as a slacker, a jerk, and an all-out loser. But there’s one thing the Magic 8-ball didn’t predict: Seth’s close friend dying after a night of partying.

Scared sober, Seth finally notices a girl who’s been there all along: sweet, beautiful, broken Rosetta. She’s a brainiac from Rich Bitch Hill, but she doesn’t judge Seth for who he’s been. Instead, she challenges him to become the person he wants to be—the person no one else sees. Seth and Rosetta confide in each other, and are comforted to find parallels in the troubled pasts they’re struggling to leave behind. Still, when it comes to their relationship, Seth can’t help thinking: Outlook not so good.

THE FAKE MCCOY is a YA novel about defying expectations and breaking free of the words that define you. Straddling the line between literary and commercial, it runs 74,000 words and should appeal to readers of Barry Lyga or Sara Zarr.


I can't decide how I feel about the 8-ball concept. On the one hand, it's kind of catchy and this query flows very well, and I get the sense that the author has talent. On the other hand, since the 8-ball doesn't really seem to figure into the story, that hook feels a bit extraneous.

Nathan's reaction: Reply hazy, try again

Ultimately, a novel about a teen dealing with death depends very heavily on the quality of the writing. And because of the aforementioned flow, I definitely get the sense that the author can write. So I would probably request a partial.


In sum, my reaction to these queries speaks to an important element of query-writing that can be overlooked in the drive to try and hammer your whole book into a 300 word pitch. It's so important not just to present the heart of your work, but also to give a sense that your writing is up to the challenge. That is why query writing differs so much from jacket copy -- you aren't just selling me on what the story is about, you're also selling me on your ability to write it.

Thanks again to the brave writers who ventured their queries!!






46 comments:

ChrisEldin said...

This is really informative--thanks for sharing!!

Maris Bosquet said...

Wow, a mini master class in query writing!

Thank you, Nathan. And mammoth thanks to those brave, incredibly generous writers, who have got to be rethinking, if not rewriting, what they submitted for professional scrutiny.

N W Wemmick said...

Amazing ideas for everyone to be writing! It is tough to put your work out there - even if it is only a query letter, and I have to admit that all stories struck my interest...

Good luck!!

valbrussell said...

Hi Nathan,

The query letter is a lot like a job interview. Hide your desperation, lest it make you stutter and wear your finest damn duds.

Anonymous said...

I want to very kindly and constructively point out that, in the first query, the phrase "I have written" is unnecessary. We can infer that you have written it. You could just say "my YA novel."

Also, you repeated the phrase "all it's cracked up to be." I would watch out for this sort of thing, both because it's repetitive, and because it's a cliche.

Nathan Bransford said...

Good thoughts, anon.

Deaf Brown Trash Punk said...

i've never heard of the phrase "BURYING THE LEDE" but I will avoid that in my queries next time... ol

Sandra said...

In #1, "beautiful but himble girl"--I presume this is a typo?

Emily Ruth said...

I've been stalking your blog for a while now ;) but I just wanted to say this is such an amazing way to help people learn how to write queries.
I won't be sending out query letters for a decade at least (haha) but when I do I will think back on this.
Thanks so much, Nathan!

Min said...

Thanks so much, Nathan! Your own 8-ball response made me laugh. You definitely make putting our work out for scrutiny far less scary than it might be on many other blogs.

I've been considering changing the title of this manuscript to "Scratching At the 8-Ball," or something similar. I wonder if that would have made the 8-ball hook feel less extraneous?

Also, I feel guilty taking all the credit here. My friend, Mandy, was a HUGE help to me in putting this query together. :-)

Thanks again!

--Mindi

mkcbunny said...

Thanks for the guidance, Nathan. And thanks to each of the writers for permitting a public critique of their query.

smauge said...

Unfortunately I missed out on being one of the three, but this was highly informative anyway! Maybe it will be mine you read next time!

Anonymous said...

This was a fantastic post, and exactly what I was looking for in terms of what an agent is looking for in a query.

Many thanks to three writers who let us take a look at their queries, and to Nathan for telling us what he really thought.

I thought two of the queries were quite good - much better than one I recently sent off (oh dear, I have so much work to do...) - so reading this particular post was a real lesson for me.

Sandra J.

Brigita said...

Very informative! Thanks for this insight into an agent's mind. ;)

L-Plate Author said...

I agree Nathan. I am a 'stalker' of your blog too and think your time out to write it is very generous. I, like many of the others, wish I had been a bit earlier to look. Sometimes with the time difference between the UK and USA I catch you just as you are posting but not this time.

Cheers!

Joy said...

So practical! Thank you to writers and Nathan. I'm challenged to make sure my queries show off my writing abilities.

Question: Nathan, I've always heard that you're not supposed to state that you're unpublished. Is that true or can you make a comment similar to #1?

martha said...

The old joke about agent's hearts and thimbles certainly doesn't apply to you. Thank you so much for a very effective and useful master class in Query Letter Writing.

Luc2 said...

Yes, very informative. Thanks Nathan, and thanks three brave posters!

Candy Gourlay said...

i loved the 8-ball concept - but yes, it does need to integrate into the rest of the story. how about if the lead character use an 8-ball to make decisions?

loved the other two ideas as well. i'm sure sir earl will come to its own when its ripe.

Coming Up for Air is a great title - interesting about the twin dying concept, i've seen a similar plot at a critique session.

thanks nathan and thanks, volunteers. you volunteers deserve big reward for letting us learn from you.

Michelle Miles said...

Nathan, thank you for doing this! It was really informative and now I know I need to get back to the drawing board on mine.

I love all the ideas and hope these writers get their perfect query and find their dream agent. :)

Professor Tarr said...

I think one of the challenges of writing a query letter is to make it reflective of the work that inspired it. For SIR EARL, there is a really strong premise that could be a heck of a lot of fun, i.e., treating a Fairyland much like the high school's of our retro youth. The letter-jacket/shining armor crowd just sings for contemporary resonance. Therefore I think I would use that witty premise by trying everything I could to make the query as witty and reflective of that as could be.

A lot of that query seems to be telling rather than showing to me. There are nice details, but I believe a lot could be clipped, or shortened to give just a taste. It seems a little wordy for a 42,000 word book. With a nice little tome such as that, I'd aim for an equally breezy query.

I wouldn't highlight that you are unpublished - the lack of credits will say that but your education line will suffice to tell us you are serious.

It has promise. With every query I write, I look at what I can cut, what I can make snappier, what I can do to make it sing and be memorable. SIR EARL is a fun idea, let us share that fun in the query.

Professor Tarr said...

As to Audi's story... I know what Nathan is saying about the buried lede. The lost twin, grief and guilt seem crucial to the story. Does the reader find out about the twin early on? Or is it a long-time reveal?

That being said, I have to admit, that I almost like it left hanging entirely. In a way, the teaser is spoilt by the revelation of the twin. If she has a secret, I'm intrigued as to what that secret is and how it impacts the action of the story.

Aside from those questions, I think this query is very professionally written and moves at a nice brisk pace. It's not really my kind of book and yet I was intrigued enough to want to pick it up! Well done.

Absolute Vanilla (and Atyllah) said...

Great post, Nathan, really useful and informative - and thanks to the brave souls who offered up their queries so we could all learn!

Anonymous said...

This is an awesome post. Thanks Nathan and thanks especially to the writers who submitted these queries. Very brave. I learned a great deal reading this post.

Professor Tarr said...

For the 8-ball story... I agree with Candy. The Magic 8-Ball is an intriguing Macguffin of sorts. It is certainly memorable - and Nathan's response is quite humorously apropos as well. If you use it as a device in the query, I'm hoping it has a relevant place in the construction of the plot.

If not, I think I'd eliminate it as a lead-in and jump right into the girl. The purpose of that opening paragraph is to set the stage for the story, but you can almost do it in a one-liner that cuts to the chase. Seth's buddy died, he changed.

Is the death a key part of the plot? Or does it happen as we enter the story? Or before the story even? It seems as if the title and the description seem to play on the idea that there are two Seth's - the hard partying one that his band buddies knew, and the one that only Rosetta sees. Which one is fake?

It is a great thought and one to which we can all relate - how do we pick our identities? How do we become who we are? We all have 'personas' that we adopt over time. Slacker, loser, wasted partyer, but those truly are never all there is. There is always something much deeper. Sometimes even more than we ourselves know.

That is the beauty of your story - the reveal of that inner humanity as Seth discovers that which Rosetta sees. I think that has a lot of promise.

Now the trick is how to cut right to that and intrigue us with your query version of it.

cc said...

Love it when you do these, Nathan!

Congrats to the brave souls who allowed the masses to see their work.

#1 -- "Classified Ads in the Fairyland Times" cracked me up. However, it is a bit wordy, and almost reads like a synopsis. Hit the key plot elements and leave the rest out?

Perhaps delete the last two paragraphs entirely? Instead try a simple: The novel is complete at XX words. I look forward to hearing from you.

No need to say you are unpublished or you can send it to the agent a variety of ways. They already know this.

#3 -- The catalyst of story seems to be the MC's friend's death, with the actual story arc concerning Seth's life afterward? If this is the case, it might help to include plot points that have to do with the ways Rosetta "challenges" Seth. The way it is now it only seems like they swap stories.

(but I suck at queries, so take my comments with a grain of salt)

Good luck to everyone!

bryan russell said...

I quite liked the Sir Earl story, but I thought the query was a little hampered by a looseness of style and repetition, which you really can't afford in the confines of a query letter. Just taking a screwdriver and tightening the screws down would help a lot on this piece. A few (merely subjective) suggestions.

Please consider representing Sir Earl, the children's novel I have written[you could cut "I have written" as this is a given - unless the writer happens to be a plagiarist:)] which takes place in a land where the fantastic fairy tales we grew up hearing[you could cut "we grew up hearing", as again we generally know where and when we heard fairy tales] are just a part of common, everyday[You could probably cut one of these, either "common" or "everyday", as they are somewhat repetitive in meaning. There are reasons for keeping both, but in a query letter I don't think you have that luxury] life. In Fairyland, the land where enchantment is ordinary[This basically repeats the meaning of the previous sentence, though the wording is nicer here. I'd rework these sentences so that you only say it once], a young man named Earl has always dreamed of being a "Knight in Shining Armor," a group of stuck-up jocks that love walking around in their flashy letterman jackets["a group of stuck up jocks in flashy letterman jackets" would be an abbreviated form for this], yet he always finds himself a cut below the best[You could cut "the best", as it's understood through context]. To prove his worthiness to be a "Knight in Shining Armor,"["To be a Knight in Shining Armor" could be cut, again because it's repetitive and clearly understood from its context] Earl seeks to rescue every damsel in distress he can, and in this fairy tale land["in this fairy tale land" is a bit repetitive. We know the concept now, and this could easily be replaced by something as simple as "luckily"] damsels in distress are a dime a dozen[I hesitate on "dime a dozen", as it's a bit cliched - but sort of interesting as it plugs the ordinary into the fantastic. Something to think about, anyway.]. They even have classified ads in the Fairyland Times. [Nice line. This is the sort of humor and personality that really caught my eye as a reader]

When Earl finds one such add for the Princess Esmerelda, he embarks on an adventure["Embarks on an adventure" is a little vague. What does the ad say, and what are they going to do?] with the falsely accused Big Bad Wolf and the beautiful but himble[typo] girl next door, Sara, as his companions. When he finally reaches Esmerelda's castle, Earl finds that this rescuing business isn't all it's cracked up to be. In fact, it seems a little easy. Earl just walks in and finds the princess without having to fight any dragons, ogres, monsters or anything[this sentence could be tightened. It would be a nice moment for a bit of humor]. He soon finds, though, that Princess Esmerelda isn't all she's cracked up to be[cracked up to be is a little cliched, and it's also repeated twice in this paragraph]. She's kind of bossy, more than a little conceited, and she's[you could cut "she's" if you wanted] just plain annoying. Earl starts to realize that he wasn't looking for a princess all along, but a normal girl like Sara, who's been sitting under his nose this whole time[Everything after "like Sara" could be cut, if desired]. It could be too late for Earl and Sara, though, because the Princess Esmerelda is actually the evil Sorceress Vennulga[You could cut the name, as it doesn't really add anything to the query. As a reader, I just need to know it's an evil sorceress], disguised as a princess in an ill-executed attempt to leave evil["evil" is repeated twice, so you could cut one of them] sorcery behind her[You could cut her}. She won't let Earl go without a fight. But it's a fight Earl is up to, because he has finally found something worth fighting for in the girl next door.[Could cut "in the girl next door"]

I am a previously unpublished writer, though I am working hard to change that.[You could easily cut this whole first sentence. If you don't list publishing credits the agent will simply assume this] I am from Sacramento, California[comma] and recently graduated from Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah[comma... but you could probably cut "in Provo, Utah"] with a degree in English. To read the first two chapters of Sir Earl and some of my other writing[You could cut "and some of my other writing" as they'll see it when they get there, and read it if they want to], you can visit michaelpickett.net.

The manuscript for Sir Earl is about 42,000 words in length and is made up of fifteen chapters with a short epilogue[You could cut everything after "words"]. I have pasted the first chapter below. If you would like to review the entire manuscript for possible representation[You could cut "for possible representation" as it's understood, and you repeat it again in a couple lines], I have it ready for submission{Cut "for submission" in hard copy, and any electronic means you may require["and electronic formats" would be an abbreviated form for this]. Thanks again,[I'd cut this comma too, but I'm obviously cut happy] for considering Sir Earl for representation. I look forward to hearing from you.



I hope that was helpful and not too intrusive. I quite liked the story idea and some of the humor that peaked through, and thought that this was the sort of thing I might like to get my daughter in a few years... and maybe I will! When browsing shelves I'll keep my eyes peeled for Sir Earl. (Oh, and with just these basic cuts to tighten down the sentences, my computer said it was 343 words, right in Nathan's sweet spot.)

Best of luck with it.

PS And Nathan... sorry about the Kings. Ick. Though Hawes and Thompson make me think they might have a future...

Ryan Field said...

I really like the smart way you critiqued these, especially when you mentioned the "sweet spot" of 250-350 words. Before I found my agent, I always had better responses with queries in that range.

Stacey said...

I skip one day and miss the oportunity of a lifetime to submit a query to Nathan with no pressure! Dang!

Note to self...become a Nathan blog addict, and check it at least a hundred times a day until there is new info.

On another note. Thanks so much for doing this! It is VERY informative! You're the best Nathan!

Miss Viola Bookworm said...

Hey Everyone...I just wanted to say thanks for your kind words. I was excited when I saw Nathan's post and immediately submitted the hook (clearly I left out the intro and closing paragraphs which I personalize)for my YA novel. It was in rough draft form, but I wanted to get some feedback, so I went for it.

That said, I was terrified the rest of the day and wished I hadn't sent it. Now, I'm glad that I did. Nathan, I appreciate your feedback and look forward to submitting to you once I perfect the query and put the final touches on the manuscript. Everyone else, again, I thank you for your encouragement and kind words, and I wish you all the best of luck with your projects as well. :)

R. A. Mare said...

For the writer of #2: If you've not read The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield, you might like to check it out. It's a really well-written novel that has much to do with lost twins.

Miss Viola Bookworm said...

Professor Tarr,

Yes, the reader knows immediately about the lost twin. Also, the reader is aware that Audi has a secret that involves the death of her twin.

I struggled for a long time about whether or not to start with this information in the opening pages of the novel, only because the story isn't about the death, it's about grieving and healing. Yes, there are many sad parts, but ultimately, it's about moving on, acceptance, and also first love. I don't want the reader to think it's only a depressing story because of the opening lines, but at the same time, I think it's essential for the reader to know the situation: Audi is the main character. Her twin sister has died, and she thinks it is her fault. So, I've decided to begin the novel that way.

Now, for the query...well, you see what I was trying to do. Again, I have the same concern: I don't want an agent/reader to be turned off about the death and think it is a depressing story because in the end, it isn't. I definitely see Nathan's point though, and I don't want to lose that hook by saving the info about the twin until the end. I'm happy that it works for some as it is though, and I'll keep playing with it. I always start with a rough query and then adapt it as I go through the process and see what is working.

Again, thanks for your compliments. I was really nervous yesterday when I submitted this, especially since I knew it wasn't in the best form. Again though, it is so thrilling to see your character's name in print and to hear others talking about it. I encourage others to seize the opportunity the next time it arises. :)

Kristan said...

Thanks, Nathan, for this great insight to your evaluation process. As someone who has never written a query but will have to soon, I really appreciate this.

Also thanks to those brave souls who offered up their queries for critique. I will say that I was interested by all of them, so hopefully you'll get some important fish (i.e., agents) to bite!

Marilyn Peake said...

Hi, Nathan,

As I was running around like crazy yesterday, getting ready to attend a rally in which a presidential candidate was appearing, gates opening five hours before the event and lines forming hours before that, I quickly checked out your blog. My reaction was: Noooooooooooo, there's an invitation to submit a query now?!!? Out of time, I walked away from my computer. Will you do this again? Do you ever critique the opening page or two of a novel?

Thank you, Nathan and the three people who submitted queries. I learned a lot.

Professor Tarr said...

Viola, I think you're absolutely right in how you're looking at this. It is a bit of a dilemma as to how to craft the query to not over-play the pathos of the death on the overall. The good thing is that you have a strong story that shines through and your writing style itself is immediately accessible.

By taking the reader into that confidence, you are giving them that hidden insight that makes them immediately sympathetic to the plight of Audi. I think an agent would want that same sympathy. By starting from that foundation, you can then quickly redirect expectations to that of the coping, the grieving and the joyous act of becoming whole again - which is the key part, and really it is the change where we as a reader will truly empathize.

For my own queries I come into some of those same challenges. I have a story with a lot of twists and turns. The reader will be frequently challenged as to who the killer in my story is - and even who the victims are! - and though I know that the query-reader is not the end user reader, it is so difficult not to play up those same devices I use to misdirect in my query. But that in a way over-emphasizes their importance. They are important, but they shouldn't overshadow the rest.

One of the devices I use is to have two narrative voices - one first person, one third. We are lead to believe that they are the same point of view throughout, but ultimately we discover that they are separate. As I self-analyse, I realize that I probably should out myself right away by admitting that the first person voice is not the main character. And I should probably reveal to the agent exactly who it belongs to as that is the final twist that will never be read without a full request.

All along the reader supplements their impressions of the acts of the countervaling scenes with these snippets, and they help to steer the reader down a more sympathetic path, but taken out, we see a colder heart within, and that is emblematic all its own.

Man, it's such a fine line of what to leave in and what to take out...

Travis Erwin said...

I love reading your take. Really makes me think over my own query. Thanks for doing things like this for all of us wannabees out here in blog land.

sally apokedak said...

What a helpful post. Thanks much!

lotusloq said...

I appreciate it so much when you get to the nitty gritty of what works and what doesn't in queries. I still trying to refine.

Deniz Bevan said...

Love these query critiques, thank you; they really help me a lot. I was just wondering - is it a good idea to start with a synopsis, as these three have done? Instead of a sentence or two describing the novel's genre and why I've chosen that particular agent? Thanks!

pulp said...

re: bryan russel's comments on Sir Earl. These are exactly the kind of detailed, specific comments I want and need for my own queries.

However, the fact that there are so many instances of unpolished / unrevised writing makes me think that the novel itself must be written the same way. If a query has redundancies, errors, and imprecise usages, ridding the query of all that is not going to get the novel represented and sold if the prose has not also been similarly revised.

So, author, bryan russel has lavished attention on your query letter. It's up to you (as it is to all of us) to lavish the same attention on your story.

Scott said...

Not that it needs to be said again, but great entry, Nathan. So informative and free of tuition!

MA Fat Woman said...

Just the kind of information I have been looking for!

Anonymous said...

Is it a bad time to query agents during the holiday season?

Nathan Bransford said...

anon-

Avoid the weeks around major holidays.

Mira said...

Hi. I've been lurking for awhile, and found your information very helpful, Nathan. I'd like to thank you and announce that I'm very proud today. I just submitted my first query ever! Now, I can honestly say that I am an unpublished writer. I feel so legitimate! :-) I used tons of your suggestions, from this article and others - thank you for your help!

Lisa - Mother of Nine said...

Thanks, Nsthan - I'm grateful you're willing to take the time to do this.

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