Nathan Bransford, Author

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Be An Agent for a Day II: The Pages

Alright then! You have seen the queries, now it's time to take a look at the pages to see which partial you think represents the strongest work and would be most likely to sell to a publisher. Thinking like an agent and setting aside which one you would be most likely to read in your spare time, which one do you think has the best chance of selling? Like the busy Agent for a Day that you are, you only need to read as far as you need to in order to make a decision.

I created individual posts for each of the entries so as not to make this post 150 pages long. Here they are (please ignore all formatting issues, which are due to copying over, though this is actually true to life):


Annnnnd as I mentioned yesterday, please be exceedingly, ridiculously, incredibly nice to the participants who have so bravely offered their queries and sample pages to science.

The poll!! (click through if you're reading in an RSS feed or via e-mail):

UPDATE 2:59 Whoops! While housecleaning on the blog I accidentally published a rough draft of tomorrow's post, which may have been caught by some feed readers. Sorry for the inconvenience, full post tomorrow.


dingle said...

The closing lines of chapter one for Unreality Check stinkin' rule. Fantastic. :)

William said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
T. Anne said...

I'm going to spend some time reading through them. Just wanted to stop in and say I heart you Nathan, what a difficult job you have! The queries sounded great. If I were an agent I would sign them all.

Anonymous said...

I thought that the query for shoreline was the least organized of the bunch, but I liked the idea of it the best.

Coincidentally, I liked the story the best as well.

So I guess my overall sense is that the query kinda stank, but was good enough to at least pique my interest in the story idea and the pages delivered.

algonquinrt said...

Unreality Chick gets a request for a full. In the nicest way possible, I'll say that a couple of the others had me checked out before I got through the first page. Punctuation and grammar errors are going to have any agent fleeing for the hills, I'd guess, and stilted dialogue will sink a YA novel faster than anything. I'm going back to read the whole 30 of Unreality Chick now that I've read the first few of all of them (I actually went with the first three pages or so to get a feel), but the pacing and dialogue sold me right off the bat.

Lydia Sharp said...

Hi Nathan!
In addition to reading your post (obvs), I just wanted to let you know that the winner of your March Madness Bransford Bracket Challenge (Ashley Atkins) was interviewed on my blog today, and she mentioned a little about the feedback you gave her on her WIP. Click here to view. :)

Mesmerix said...

I tried to read all of them. I only made it through the first few paragraphs of most before I discarded them. The openings were just not interesting enough, nothing to catch my eye.

"Shoreline" was interesting, but lost me at the point where she made the little girl forget things. Sometimes giving the protagonist too many superpowers just makes things too easy. I want obstacles, difficulty, etc.

I read "Unreality Chick" the whole way through. I laughed and felt caught up in the adventure immediately. There were some errors and points I think a good editor could fix, but I think this book has a real chance of selling. I'd pick it up and buy it myself. You should sign this author.

Polenth said...

The queries do tend to match the extract. A vague query has a vague opening. A wordy query has a wordy opening.

The one I felt didn't match was 'I would have loved you anyway'. The voice felt rather different and the sentence structuring is different.

Kristan said...

I have to admit, I'm surprised. The quality of the query did not necessarily correspond to the quality of the writing, in my opinion. I voted completely opposite today of what I voted yesterday. Oy, I'm glad I'm not an agent! Props to you guys for wading through this every day.

Mel said...

I voted for Unreality Chick as well (both the query and the pages). The query was the most cohesive, easy to understand, and the voice seemed to pull me in. I only read the first pages of each of the entries, but the other 4 didn't pull me in. I will go back and read the rest of the 30 for Unreality Chick when I have more time... So, I guess that queries do coincide with pages???

Phoebe said...

I've yet to read any of these all the way through, but I read the first few paragraphs of all of them carefully, skimmed a bit more of the ones that appealed to me, and am planning on going back to at least two to read them more fully. I suspect this isn't entirely unlike how time-pressed agents read!

Three of them--#1, #2, and #4--didn't sustain my interest largely for stylistic reasons--the rhythm or the tone distracted me, or it felt like the writing could have been pared down. Which left SHORELINE and UNREALITY CHICK, which, perhaps unsurprisingly, were the writers whose queries I enjoyed the most. But on initial read-through, SHORELINE sustained my interest for much longer. I love the opening passage. It's evocative and very well-written, and I believe the voice. While UNREALITY CHICK seems like it might appeal to a wider audience, it's not really quite my style. The voice there feels very young to me, too--perhaps closer to MG than YA--and I don't quite believe the dialog as the conversations of actual teenagers.

So, despite my reservations with SHORELINE--namely, that the concept and the writing might be a bit more literary than most YA fantasy--it wins me over because, damn, I want to read not only those first five pages, but probably the book now.

This was an awesome exercise. It kind of made me wish I could be an agent! I have to say, though, that I wonder if some of my professional experiences impacted my reading--I work as a proofreader, and I spotted some typos in all of these, which made me cringe. It's understandable, of course--writers aren't necessarily proofreaders, or editors, and there are professionals who can help them sort out these issues! I just wonder if my low tolerance for such things unfairly impacted my reading.

Jason Black said...

Shoreline, hands down, wins the "most kick-ass opening line" award.

Great hook.

Were I in Nathan's shoes, though, I wouldn't actually accept any of these.

The opening scene of "I'm a Nobody" didn't grab me. It was kind of confusing. Why is the guy hiding? We never find out. We do find out what he's hiding from--a girl from his school--but then that only re-raises the question: why is he hiding? Is she trying to kill him or something? I couldn't find a plausible motivation for him to be hiding from her. It felt forced, like the author simply wanted an excuse by which the character could end up following this girl without her knowledge, so the character could discover that she can open the one door he can't open.

In "I would have loved you anyway," I had trouble believing that this supposedly over-protective mother would just go ahead and deliver an envelope with an ominous skull on the front. Also, the girl's reaction to the card didn't feel quite believable to me. On the surface, yes, I could believe it but it wasn't really conveyed with the right punch. It was told all in a rush, like the author didn't have a good feel for how to pace the scene so as to create a really compelling hook out of that moment.

"Shoreline" was, in my opinion, quite the best of the lot. Again, fabulous opening sentence. But from there, while the writing is stronger than the rest, I still felt it was pretty rough around the edges. Wordy in places. Had some awkward sentences.

I would probably tell this author "this has real promise, but it's not there yet. Put it in a drawer, write a couple more manuscripts, really work on developing your voice. Then come back, do another revision on Shoreline, polish and tighten the language, and then re-send it to me."

"Black Emeralds" just didn't grab me at all. The writing kind of laid there on the page, dull and flat. It has all the hallmarks of what the author said in his query: a first novel.

While I agree with @dingle about the last paragraphs of chapter one of "Unreality Chick," I have to say I didn't get that far in my original reading. I quit much earlier on because the dialogue wasn't feeling real to me, and I felt like the beginning of the chapter was there mostly as an excuse for the main character to explain herself to the reader.

The scene didn't start at the right place, which is death for an _opening_ scene. You need to hook the reader, and do it fast. Had the scene started at the top of the tree, without the reader knowing why she's there or how she got up there, with lightning brewing in the distance, I think you'd have a much stronger hook. After all, the book is an adventure, so why not start out directly in a moment of absolute crisis?

Between "Shoreline" and "Unreality Chick" it was kind of a hard choice, but I went with Shoreline because I think the writer is closer to being publishable.

Christina said...

I read a little bit of each of them but they all lost my interest within the first page or so, with the exception of Unreality Chick. Some of the grammar and spelling errors in the other pieces killed me. The premises were interesting but I think they probably need to be sent to a professional creative writing editor before being sent in to an agent. That way, the editor can help them develop better dialogue, organization, and/or take care of the major grammar and spelling errors.

Unreality Chick was great. Everything flowed. I found the narrator to be funny and honest. Really, even if you only read the last paragraph of Chapter One you could convince people to read the book.

Great job overall everyone. Thank you for sending in your pages. Keep it up.

MJR said...

Of the five, I read the most of SHORELINE--about five or six pages. I like the eco aspect and I'm a sucker for mermaid-type stories (this wasn't the query I voted for however). The only thing that took me out of the story was the marine biology aspect that seemed a bit off to me and that's why I stopped reading...I know it's a fantasy but I think that part would have to be 100% accurate if it's an eco-story, too.

I have a hard time getting into novels that begin with dialogue so that's why I didn't choose UNREALITY CHICK as my favorite--I need something to ground me first. I didn't read past the first few lines.

So my decision was pretty idiosyncratic--for what it's worth!

The others were quite good, too. Thanks for sharing!

Emily White said...

I preferred Unreality Chick this time. It had the best voice of the bunch, and the MC seemed like someone most teenagers could relate to.

jjdebenedictis said...

Eeeee-nteresting. The query I thought best written didn't correspond to the pages I thought best written.

Well done to all the brave guinea pigs, however. Every entry had some very good writing!

TiffanyD said...

WOW. If we're "reading like agents," then I suspect the early impressions matter, so here are my early impressions:

I'M A NOBODY: The very first page (paragraph, in fact) suffers with severe punctuational issues. I had to re-read the sentences to understand them. This does not instill me with confidence, or make me want to read further.

I WOULD HAVE LOVED YOU ANYWAY, and SHORELINE: At several minutes into each, nothing had confused me. I decided to come back later and read more of each of these.

BLACK EMERALDS: I am two computer screens through it, and I have the sensation that I have flipped the channel to a complex movie I that have never seen before, and I have missed the first half, and I have no idea what's going on. I don't like this feeling. Plus, it just seems wordy.

UNREALITY CHICK: I voted for this one yesterday, so I had high hopes. Unfortunately for me, what I found charming in the query (the tone, the jumping-into-the-story-fast aspect) is not so charming to me now. The tone is too thick, and I've barely met the character before her life changes. I wanted to see her "before" stage prior to seeing her "during" and "after" stage.

Later on, I'll read more of LOVED YOU ANYWAY or SHORELINE, and then vote for one of those. I just haven't the desire to go back to the others. And that's not to say that they're bad stories--just to say that they're far too rough for me to want to read, at present.

Anonymous said...

I'd be a horrible agent. Even if I continually chant "Most publishable! Not your personal favorite!", I just can't stop my personal preferences ruling my choices.

I think it's Unreality Chick by a mile. It's the only one for which I read more than a page or two.

Renee Sweet said...

Wow, tough decision. In reality, I probably would have requested both Shoreline and Unreality Chick but ultimately I thought the voice was stronger in Unreality Chick so I voted for that one.

Thanks to everyone who offered up their queries and pages for the contest!

Elliot Grace said...

...I find it interesting how many writers, myself included, can pound out a 75,000 word manuscript with the confidence of a literary stalwart, but wallow in tearful uncertainty whenever the subject of writing the query comes into play. I'm only thankful that I'm not the only one dealing with this:)

Kari Wolfe said...

I must admit--I haven't been on here for long, but I'm not really understanding why we (as pretend agents) aren't supposed to pick the query and the 30 pages we like. I honestly would expect an agent to accept queries in genres that s/he likes to read--at least to a point, I suppose. I think I saw a post earlier from somewhere about whether an agent has to love your book or not... I think I'll go find it :)

This is an awesome idea, by the way :)

And I'm hoping we get to find out what you think also, Nathan :)

Chibi said...

I ended up voting for Unreality Check, though Shoreline was pretty good as well. The other three didn't pull me in or grab my attention; I was left with the feeling that they could use a great deal more work. Still, it was fascinating to see the differences in the query letters versus the actual first 30 pages. Great experiment.

Jaimie said...

I voted for UNREALITY CHICK last round, but all the dialogue at the beginning put me off. SHORELINE, while having a shaky query, had a GREAT opening. Wow.

SHORELINE all the way.

Denise said...

I wish we had a first and second vote because I like Black Emerald and Unreality Check. Though I don't think that I would make a great agent according to the votes so far. I like Black Emerald because I SEE more and the writer comes across as more seasoned. It will be interesting to see how all the votes pan out. Thanks again to the participants for putting yourselves out there and Nathan of course for giving us an opportunity to sit in your chair for a day.Denise

Eric said...

I really wanted the excerpts to prove I'd misjudged the queries...since that might reveal something, but I'm sticky with Shoreline on both counts.

Eric said...

er.... make that "sticking"

Anonymous said...

I still have to say SHORELINE. Even though the query was not the strongest in organization, the compelling choices for the protag struck a chord with me. I also liked how the story did not begin with dialogue. Instead, I was put into the characters head. This reminded me about a post by Nathan about the risk of starting with dialogue, and after reading the first chapter of SHORELINE, the idea of providing some context for the story really, really makes sense. I'm still sticking with this choice.

Ink said...

Very interesting. I had a tough time picking between Shoreline and Unreality Chick. I had to, so I did. :)

What struck me as particularly interesting was comparing the queries to the writing samples. I should note that when looking at the queries, I first looked to see that there was some form of workable story, and then I mostly focused on the voice and writing. And in comparing queries and samples I found that there was a fairly strong correlation between the two in terms of stylistic tendencies. The writing, I thought, was much like I expected for each. Vagueness in the query matched vagueness in the sample. Looseness in the writing of the query was matched by loose writing in the sample. Unreality Chick, for example, had quick, poppy writing in the query, with a light and humorous tone aimed at a young audience... same for the sample.

The one exception, for me, was Shoreline. I thought the story, the pacing and the writing was much tighter in the sample than in the query. Much more fluid. Which makes me think that the query could be a much sleeker vehicle.

All these writers certainly have some talent, though. Which makes things interesting. It's not too hard to sort the bad from the great. But sorting the good from the very good? That's certainly trickier.

I commend all five for their bravery, and hope the comments here can help with the revision process. It's a neat little opportunity to take an audience for a test ride. Admittedly, most test rides don't take rickety wooden bridges that dangle over a deep abyss...

Steve Axelrod said...

Strange... I take back everything I said about the system. It blows. The worst query, the one whose pages I only read out of some sense of fairness of obligation to the contest rules,was by far the best-written partial.
I'm talking about "I'm Nobody". This person has to put the needle down and bring the query into line with the gripping intelligence and smart pace of the actual pages.

hannah said...


NOBODY had nice moments in the prose, but the dialogue didn't work for me.

WOULD HAVE LOVED YOU I honestly liked (it was the query I chose) but the ... were way too distracting, and I had the same issues with believability as the others.

SHORELINE felt like a book.

BLACK EMERALDS just didn't grab me, though the prose was definitely pretty.

REALITY CHICK was adorable, but some of the dialogue didn't ring true for me.

But there are all very, very good, I want to stress. Just like I was impressed with the quality of the queries, I was impressed with the quality of the pages.

Catherine Gayle said...

To me, the queries for Shoreline and Unreality Chick were by far the strongest and most interesting. The same can be said for the pages from them. I leaned more towards Shoreline both times, though, even though the voice of Unreality Chick is priceless. I think it is the use of language that calls to me in Shoreline. Very nice work on both, though.

J. Andersen said...

So, yesterday I voted for I Could Have Loved You Anyway. I liked the premise of that, but today, it didn't capture my attention. I began with high hopes, but one the first four, my attention waned quickly. I did read more of Shoreline, but the mermaid thing doesn't really grab me, though the writing was good.

Above all, I loved Unreality Chick. It was fast paced and thrust me right into the action. At the same time the description was vivid and I could picture everything that was happening. After reading every word, I'm disappointed that more of the story wasn't available. I can't wait to read more of this one.

I don't pity you, Nathan. My query choice didn't match with my sample choice. Yours is a tough job, and I give you all my respect.

Keith Popely said...

Well, I was disappointed in the pages for the query I chose and, surprisingly, I was quite charmed by "Unreality Check", a query I did not choose.

This is, no doubt, due to personal taste in story and genre, but it underscores the importance of not leaning too heavily on the query and taking a few moments to look through at least the first few pages of a manuscript.

I know we're not supposed to focus on the small things, but I have to admit that I was negatively influenced by some of the sustained improper use of grammar. Grammar matters because, in addition to making the narrative difficult to follow, if an author is unable to manage the small elements of writing, like basic grammar, it makes me doubt his or her ability to tackle the larger aspects of writing, such as telling a good story. It's like taking your car in for repairs and the mechanic doesn't know which one is the wrench and which one is the hammer. If he doesn't know that kind of basic information, is he going to know how to rebuild my transmission? It's about establishing trust with your reader.

I, for one, do not subscribe to the "be exceedingly nice to an author" philosophy. I don't want people blowing smoke up my butt. If there's something wrong with my writing, just tell me. Don't sugarcoat it. I can't fix something if I don't know what's wrong with it. And if it just plain stinks, please tell me. I don't want to waste year after year working on a novel that doesn't work. As a writer, I want to hear the very worst things you can say about my work. When you run out of criticism, it's time to submit it.

On that note, I would like to say all hail the brave souls who not only submitted their queries and pages to Nathan, but to us all for public discourse. I wish I had the same confidence. Reading your work has helped me think about ways in which I need to improve both my novel and query. So, thank you. And good luck.

J. Andersen said...

Oops, that's "on the first four."

Lydia Sharp said...

My personal take:
I don't like stories that start with dialogue, unless the dialogue says something unique. That knocked two of them out right away.
The first two just didn't grab me. That left only SHORELINE, although, my balloon was totally deflated with the "we're not exactly human" line.
So... I voted for SHORELINE, even though I really didn't *love* any of them.

Ellen said...

Ohhh craaaap I'm torn again. Between the same two!! Unreality Chick and Shoreline... But I'm in love with the voice of Unreality Chick, so I guess I'll go with that one... Barely... :D

Josin L. McQuein said...

If I had to choose one of the five, I'd go with Shoreline. It seemed to be better written than the others - no obvious mistakes and it didn't stray into "I" to start almost every paragraph like one of the others.

Ironically, I think Unreality Chick would sell, and become one of those popular stories that make other writers want to shred it because they can't understand why. (That's not meant as a dig, btw.) It doesn't "feel" YA to me, though. Maybe more MG; the voice is very young.

The one that surprised me most was Black Emeralds because it was nothing like what I expected from the query.

But none of them really held my attention all the way through. I found myself skimming.

Sara said...

Still Unreality Chick for me. Funny, page-turning, needs work, I would say, but good bones, for sure. Shoreline would be my close second runner-up, with similar caveats.

Anonymous said...

Both Shoreline and I'm A Nobody impressed me with their starts and their lack of excess verbiage. Of the two I picked Shoreline for purely subjective reasons, because the story appealed to me more.

Anonymous said...

I wasn't pulled in by any of them.
I lean more toward Unreality Chick. It has the most potential.

Dave F. said...

>>Interesting experiment. It did track with my choices in the queries.

#1 - I'm a Nobody
Three or four paragraphs and I stopped. I kept editing in my mind as I read. The writer can say the same things in half the words.

#2 - "I would have loved you anyway "Happy Birthday... It’s your last." Comes too late in the story. Then we have to read another few hundred words to get to the nightmare. Too little action to draw me in.

#3 - Shoreline
I would read more. This isn't my taste in stories so I stopped. However as an agent, I would read more.

#4 - Black Emeralds
I got about a third to halfway and hit my "too many words, cut by half" meter.

#5 - Unreality Chick
I read to the end of the pages and I like the characters. Not that I don't have concerns about the story but I would read more. This was the query I chose and I read it with a more critical eye.

Meredith said...

I chose UNREALITY CHICK yesterday but SHORELINE today. Hands down, it felt the most cohesive, the most original. It's not perfect -- there are several wording issues, as well as a few bits I'd rework or lose altogether -- but it's the most promising, IMO.

I wanted to like UNREALITY CHICK because I felt it had the strongest query. Really and truly, I sooooo wanted to like it. I just couldn't get into it. I don't know how I can expand on my specific thoughts without potentially hurting someone's feelings (I'm so bad at giving criticism -- no, no, I'm sorry, I didn't mean it, please still be my friend!), so I'll just leave it at that.

Anonymous said...

I think Shoreline is the strongest, which was my orignial query pick from yesterday.

I sure didn't have to read all thirty pages of the entries. On some I stopped at a page, to be honest.

I'm in the minority, I know, but I'm not fond of the conversational vibes that most presented. I feel assaulted when characters I don't know yet, and haven't had a chance to wonder about yet, are up in my face, demanding attention, and listing their personality traits.

I'd make a *terrible* agent!! :)

Dara said...

I voted for SHORELINE today. Though the query yesterday didn't pull me, the pages in this one did and I think it would have the best chance of selling.

UNREALITY CHECK was a close second though...

Tracy said...

Assuming that I'm looking at this as though I'm an agent who requested partials on all of these. The only one that got me and kept me reading all the way through -- wanting to request a full -- was SHORELINE.

Surprisingly, the subject matter that I found the least impressive when reviewing the queries, turned out the be the strongest writing, and the voice was good without being too over the top. (I was hanging in there for a while with Unreality Chick, but it was too much, too soon, I think)

The other three, I still think they have good premises, but there is a lot of concerning grammar, punctuation, clunky sounding sentences within the first pages that pulled me out and caused me to stop reading. I think they need another good round of revisions with strong betas before submitting to agents.

Rick Daley said...

Shoreline grabbed my attention from the first line. The query didn't, though. Had the first few pages been submitted with the query, I would have read them, and it would have made me disregard the query.

Leis said...

My thanks to Nathan and all the brave participants.

Since YA is not my genre, my input doesn't mean a lot. But it was fun to play the 'role'.

I picked UNREALITY CHECK's query. It came across as dynamic, engrossing -- an all around fun story.

SHORELINE's opening proved to interest me the most. The author began sketching the MC right off and kept me interested in her and her story.

Don't ask if I was reading as an 'agent' or a mere reader though... Although I suppose I'm just another reader after all, eh ;-p

Sue Campbell said...

I missed the queries and read through the pages first. Unreality Chick was my choice hands down. Not only was it fun and paced to keep kids flipping pages, it had believable teen dialogue without a lot of description to slow it down.

The others were either too slow, or too disorganized, or left out something vital to clue me in to where the story was going—so I lost interest and quit reading.

Then I went back and read the queries, and dang if the queries didn't suffer from the same problems as the samples. Unreality Chick won in this category too. Sign her.

As an exercise, this gave me hope. My own writing stands up as least as well as some of these. And now I have a target for where the bar actually is! Thanks Nathan.

WriterGirl said...

I thought Shoreline had a great voice but because I didn't really buy the characters conflict as per the query I voted for Unreality Chick. I think it's readable and funny but some of the references like Xena and Lara Croft are a bit dated.

Michelle said...

The query I voted for did not get my partial vote. That went to UNREALITY CHICK, which I read first since it had the most votes.

I read it straight through and laughed out loud more than once. In a few spots the language is a little "adult talking like teen," but overall, I loved it. Really, really loved it. Somebody please sign this author so I can read the rest! My two teen daughters would eat this up, especially the romantic element.

SHORELINE was my second choice. The first line is a terrific opener. However, this wasn't my query choice, either. Makes me wonder why some agencies don't want to see a sample.

Thanks for this exercise, Nathan! Very enlightening.

Dawn Maria said...

I'm sticking with SHORELINE.

Good work by all the authors. Hope this contest helps something pop for all of them.

Michelle said...

The query I voted for did not get my partial vote. That went to UNREALITY CHICK, which I read first since it had the most votes.

I read it straight through and laughed out loud more than once. In a few spots the language is a little "adult talking like teen," but overall, I loved it. Really, really loved it. Somebody please sign this author so I can read the rest! My two teen daughters would eat this up, especially the romantic element.

SHORELINE was my second choice. The first line is a terrific opener. However, this wasn't my query choice, either. Makes me wonder why some agencies don't want to see a sample.

Thanks for this exercise, Nathan! Very enlightening.

Dawn Maria said...

I'm sticking with SHORELINE.

Good work by all the authors. Hope this contest helps something pop for all of them.

WriterGirl said...

oh and neither of those were the query I voted for yesterday

Keith Popely said...

Nathan, have you noticed that the two stories running neck-in-neck in the lead are the only two submitted in Courier font?

Coincidence? Or does font affect people's impression of the writing?

Nathan Bransford said...


I think it's a coincidence.

Maya said...

When reading the queries, I was torn between SHORELINE and UNREALITY CHICK. UNREALITY CHICK had a nice voice, but SHORELINE had the most intriguing and unique hook. I went with SHORELINE, but it fell on the low side of the votes.

On the excerpts, again only SHORELINE and UNREALITY CHICK held my attention. But here, the SHORELINE author's voice stood out more, and I still feel it has the most unique plot. I went with SHORELINE again.

I noticed that now the votes for SHORELINE have gone way up (though it's early yet). Perhaps this means that the author's query needs work, but (s)he has some solid opening pages. A possible failure of the query process, but then again some, like me, voted for it in both cases. I imagine one or two agents would have done the same.

Thanks all 5 authors for putting yourselves out there. I hope this exercise will help you!

NipponBeck said...

That was tough! I think SHORELINE had the most technically strong (and gorgeous!) opening, but the pacing and voice of UNREALITY CHICK get my vote.

I do think the first chapter could benefit from a little less dialogue and a little more time spent exploring the protagonist, and some of the slang they used felt a little off to me - but maybe that's because I cursed like a sailor when I was their age. :-) But all in all, a strong opening!

Marilyn Peake said...

I’m looking forward to reading the excerpts and voting later today.

I see Pinky and the Brain are still hard at work. Great picture!

Project Savior said...

Reading I switched my vote from "I would have loved you anyway" to "Shoreline".
Maybe I'm to old but her feelings for Jack seemed to switch from sentence to sentence. In "Shoreline" the character seemed to have some consistency.
Maybe its just thoughts of someone more than twice the target age not expecting the characters emotions to switch so quickly and often.

Mira said...

Well, this was really interesting - and taught me I've been very wrong about something - something not quite on the main track of this exercise, but related.

All of these were quite good and had definite potential, but I felt they would all need polishing and tweaking prior to publication. I can see the agent's challenge - to read pieces that are not quite finished, and imagine from that final projects that will glow.

As an aside, I also wanted to dig in and make editing changes myself. If I were an agent, it would take restraint to only make suggestions, and let the author do the work.

So, I've been wrong, I think, in disagreeing with you, Nathan, when you say the fit between client and agent is important. My stance has been that an agent should be able to work with a good writer regardless, but I think you're right. The fit is important. Unless the agent happened to stumble onto pure gold out of the box, this would become a long term project - and personality match and perspective would be very important.

On the other hand, it was a great relief that I was right about some other things. Which is about the query, and I'm sure I'll ramble on about that tomorrow.

I do want to say - again - that I thought all of the writing was good and had great potential, and I would be very interested in seeing ANY of these books in final form!

Kari said...

I was torn between Shorline and Reality Chick, but Shoreline won. All of the samples were great, but I definitely liked these two the most. Thanks again to all of the authors who submitted queries and samples for us to pick apart! You guys are very brave.

scj said...

Thanks to the brave authors who offered their queries and pages for review! My thoughts:

#1) I like the opening scene, but I didn't really get a good feel for the characters, so I wasn't completely drawn into the action or tension. I think the pages would improve if the reader could better identify with the MC and actually "feel" the stakes. When Jennifer fills Dominic in on everything, it was almost too easy for him to get all the information out of her. There's potential here, but it needs some polishing to stand out.

#2) There's a lot of "telling" instead of "showing" in this narration, which may be why I had a difficult time getting into the story and the characters. I was never fully drawn in. Perhaps the problem is, the story opens with the MC receiving a threatening letter but because I don't know much about the MC (or anyone else), I have no reason to care.

#3) I like the opening scene, as it sets the stage well, and showing the MC using her powers helps me feel like I "know" her. I noticed a few minor problems in the excerpt, such as the MC knowing Nate's name without him telling her, but overall I thought the writing was really strong and had a good pace. I read the entire thing and it left me wanting more. In my opinion, this is the clear winner.

#4) I had a difficult time getting into this because it opens with a discussion between people - and about people - that I don't know or care about yet. I think "showing" instead of "telling", especially at the beginning, could help a lot. The premise is interesting, but the characters should come to life first to really shine.

#5) I like the way the action begins almost immediately after showing a little about the characters. However, parts felt a little choppy and the dialogue was sometimes stilted, which kept me from getting really into the story.

Anonymous said...

FYI, the voting totals incorrect. One of the entry had more votes after I voted than it now does.

Anonymous said...

MY bad. There are two polls. One for query. One for exerpt. Need. More. Coffee.

phypo said...

I went with Unreality Check because it really kept me engaged, but Shoreline was a close second--and its concept seems to have more built-in commercial potential.

Joanna R. Smith said...

Completely fascinating experiment!

Yesterday I was torn between SHORELINE and UNREALITY CHICK—really loved the spunky voice of UNREALITY CHICK's query, but was slightly more intrigued by SHORELINE's premise, so ultimately went with SHORELINE.

Today I was immediately hooked by SHORELINE's opening, and loved the voice and world and character set-up. Yes it could use a few editorial tweaks, but to me it felt the most like a book out of all the sample pages. UNREALITY CHICK didn't grab me—all the dialogue at the beginning was kind of off-putting for me.

Very interested to see the outcome of all this!

Thanks to all five brave souls for donating their queries and sample pages to science!! I salute you!

Saundra Mitchell said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Saundra Mitchell said...

Today I'm torn between SHORELINE and UNREALITY CHICK. If I were an actual agent, I would absolutely request both.

Leah Petersen said...

Unreality Chick didn't grab me as a query because after the first paragraph it was so vague. But the excerpt rocked my world.

Scott said...

A gentle, pat-on-the-back to all who got their work posted. The word verification is "pawkshi", and I have to think it refers to a combination of courage and ambition. Well done.

My choice was the same as my query choice: Shoreline. Cinematic, well-written, and breezily clever. I didn't even have to get past page one.

Susan said...

Like others, I had a hard time choosing between SHORELINE and UNREALITY CHICK. Had to go with UNREALITY CHICK because I liked the sense of humor and the voice was more engaging.

But, yeah, some of the others need a bit more editing.

felisa said...

When it came to the queries, I thought Unreality Chick and Black Emeralds were fairly close. The Unreality Chick query was less confusing, but I couldn't stand the title, so I voted for Black Emeralds.
This time I voted for Unreality Chick, (good beginning!) but the title still seems off to me.

Jade said...

I thought the query letter for I Would Have Loved You Anyway was the best one, and I think that this writer is very talented and has come up with a wonderful, marketable premise. However, from the pages, I think the story itself still needs a lot more work and a better starting point, and the style needs more polishing.

I thought the pages for Unreality Chick were the best. From the query I didn't expect to like this, but the story itself is superbly written. The writer has a real gift for dialogue, and a knack of injecting just the right amount of humour into the magic of the story. I would love to read it all, and can see this book selling!

Scott said...

I'd like to add that, were I a new agent, I might have learned that it's best to zero in on the idea first and look for clues in the query that makes you think the writer has a good voice and knows what they're doing beyond the query process. In other words: look through the query, don't let a slightly awkward and/or unwieldy effort kill the chances of a marketable idea.

The converse seems true, as well. If the query is tight but the idea is off, unless you're in the business of selling queries, it may be best to pass.

Kathleen MacIver said...

Well... I voted for Black Emeralds yesterday, but the writing just didn't hold up. I lost interest really fast.

I'm a Nobody confused me.

Shoreline didn't capture my imagination.

Unreality Chick... I liked the dialogue, but the narration just dragged and my eyes started glazing over.

I Would Have Loved You Anyway... I totally acknowledge what everyone said about difficulties with the writing. Yet the first person was much stronger and better than the others, and more importantly, this story captured my imagination like none of the others did. It needs editing, I might need a lot of these chapters deleted...but I still want to keep reading. And that makes me think that this story has the most potential of the five. At least for me. (Yes, obviously there is a lot of personal preference involved here.)

So that's why I voted for I Would Have Loved You Anyway, even though it might not necessarily be the cleanest, technically, of the five.

K.L. Brady said...

If I were selecting a book to BUY, it would be Unreality Chick hands down.

However, if I'm an agent trying to sell a book to an editor, I have to go with Shoreline. The author has much better control of first person than the Unreality Chick author. The UC author uses "I" to the point of distraction.

Shoreline is also in first person, but she had much better control. Her voice was strong and distinct. The plot was interesting enough to hold my attention. It's not my usual genre but the technical skills were better.

I'd definitely be willing to work with the author of Unreality Chick if she was open to making some edits though. Lots of potential there. Fun story, great voice.

I didn't select Shoreline from the queries yesterday. It's was probably my third choice. If the author spices up the query I think they could get some interest--if they haven't already.

With that said, thanks to those who submitted their work and allowed us to play agent for a couple of days. You're brave souls.

Ellen Brickley said...

My favourite query was I Would Have Loved You Anyway, and the relationship between Presley and Jack looked interesting, but the writing in Unreality Chick just grabbed me.

Excellent entries though, and I would say all of them have great potential even if some were not my thing.

Suze said...

For me, Shoreline had the best writing, but Unreality Chick was the most engaging - despite the tell-not-show of her 'niceness' at the very beginning. It's a close call, but again I'm going for Unreality Chick as I did in the query stage. I can't wait to hear Nathan's view.

Dawn said...

If I didn't understand the importance of a solid query letter before, I do now. I didn't love Unreality Chick's query but the sample pages totally rocked. I'd ask for a full MS based on the the writing - which is polished, fun and fresh. Great voice!

Katt said...

Unreality Chick with a one word comment... Voice.

pensees said...

I liked the opening paragraph of Shoreline.

I really liked the voice of I'm Nobody (though the intro could use work, since there were way too many unanswered questions).

I liked the query of Black Emerald best, and that was my least favorite partial.

Unreality Chick seems to be the favorite (on both query and partial, now that I see the results) and I lost interest in that partial very early on, so didn't keep reading.

Yes, it's definitely hard to make a strong correlation. I think I judged the query more on the plot and the partial more on the voice. However, if the plot isn't strong enough to pique my interest, then it doesn't matter how great the voice is, in truth.

So maybe the take away is that great writers can get passed over if their story doesn't have enough of a hook. Maybe that's why sub-standard writing gets published more often than we'd like. Hmmm...

Augustina Peach said...

I loved the first line of Shoreline. Overall, it was my favorite, thanks to voice that seemed authentic. I do have to say that the ritual or whatever she was doing in the beginning was sort of confusing at that point. I'm not a reader of fantasy or paranormal, so introducing the powers in that way may be standard.

Unreality Chick also had potential, though I needed something else to convince me about the protagonist's motivation. Simply being called "nice" by a lot of people doesn't seem bad enough to motivate someone to go wild and do crazy stuff (although climbing a tree is not that crazy - maybe that's part of the humor that didn't quite catch me).

The other three all seemed to have similiar issues. There was a lot of telling, rather than showing. #1 had several errors that turned me off. #2 seemed to need to pump up the shock value of getting a death threat (I think I would have started with the main character picking up the envelope rather than the backstory about the party). I was disappointed in #4, which had the query I voted for. The dialogue seemed stiff, which was surprising, given the voice I liked in the query. AND there was the dreaded PoDD (Paragraph of Detailed Description) right at the beginning.

Interesting exercise! Thanks for the opportunity!

H.C.Reignoir said...

I chose Unreality Chick. I was between that and I'm a Nobody, but since, from just the query letter I wouldn't have asked for a partial of I'm a Nobody, Unreality Chick has my voice for consistency.

(but if I somehow did get the 30 pages from I'm a Nobody, I'd probably ask for that manuscript as well)

acstanic said...

Something I noticed about the samples, with Shoreline and Unreality Chick sweeping the voting: the other three samples are by no means terrible. They may be just one level of polish away from the two vote-getters, but the stringent voting requirement (only pick one) is sweeping them out of the running. It's interesting to me that broad no's don't mean "this bites" so much as "it's not at the very top" which is somehow comforting to me. Querying is, metaphorically, a pass/fail course, and this exercise shows me that the "fail"--the form rejection--might in any other class rank as high as a B+.

E.J. Wesley said...

Like most on here, my two favorites were Shoreline and Unreality Chick.

I voted for the 'Unreality' query because of the strength of the voice, and was glad to see that also rang true in the story sample. This writer clearly got into the head of the character.

In general, I think people underestimate how critical tone/voice are to first person POV. Your protag has to command that perspective in the strongest possible way, or it will always seem lifeless/flat.

The story ideas for all five are really solid (IMO). I think it's just a matter of execution, and Unreality seemed to be handled the best (at least at this point).

Nick said...

My faith in Unreality Chick was certainly not unfounded. The writing is snappy and grand (the awesome kind), just like the query. Compelling enough to keep me writing all the way through, in spite of the fact that I generally find YA dullsville. Could this sell? You bet your sweet tuckus it would.
I Would Have Loved You Anyway has fairly solid writing like its query, but I'm just not feeling it. Is it marketable? Probably. I dunno, it almost feels like it needs more polish before I would request more.
The writing on Shoreline is also quite strong. The query didn't do anything for me, but if the query got to a point where I would request this partial, I would totes request more.
Black Emeralds, like the query, I just can't get behind. I mean by all accounts it's good, but I'm just not feeling it.
As I suspected, the writing on I'm A Nobody is good, but like with Shoreline, it's let down by the query, which is of course vital in reaching this stage. Based on what I read through, I would request more.

And like before, we have a tie. Except now it's three way instead of two way.

Shoreline is definitely better written, but Nobody feels more engaging. On a marketing front, to my untrained eyes, they seem more or less equal, because both definitely seem like they have different ends of the YA market in mind. Of the two, I'm going with Shoreline.

So that leaves Shoreline v Unreality Chick. Shoreline is still technically better written, but there's just something about Unreality Chick, man. Tough. Very tough call. In the end though, I'm going to stick behind who I championed in the last round as well.

My vote goes to Unreality Chick.

LurkerMonkey said...

This was interesting ... I was a split voter. I thought Uunreality Chick was the best query, but then read Shoreline and switched my vote based on those pages. It was an interesting example (for me) of a query that didn't quiet convey the voice and appeal of the pages themselves.

Marilyn Peake said...

I voted for UNREALITY CHICK because the story moved along quickly, it was tightly written for the most part, and I think it would sell. (This wasn't the query letter I had voted for, but I had a much better feel for the story while reading the excerpt itself.)

I think that SHORELINE has some really beautiful writing. If parts of it were tightened up, I would definitely be interested in reading more if I were an agent.

I learned something in doing this exercise. None of the excerpts were examples of bad writing. Probably because there are so many writers today, the Internet is filled with snarky remarks about queries and aspiring writers. In my opinion, none of that is justified. Because there is such stiff competition to get published doesn’t mean an unpublished writer is a bad writer. In fact, I’ve read wildly popular best-selling YA novels that aren’t anywhere nearly as well-written as all the samples in this contest. Congratulations to all the brave souls whose queries and excerpts were voted on and critiqued during this contest!

ryan field said...


My choice this time was different from the query choice I made yesterday. In fact, totally different. And I honestly didn't feel strong about my query choice, but I do feel strong about this one: Shoreline.

Dale said...

This was very close between Shoreline and Unreality Chick. I chose Unreality Chick, but my memory of the queries probably made the difference. The query for Shoreline didn't impress me much but the actual excerpt seemed strong.

Ryan Z Nock said...

Folks have posted plenty of commentary, so I won't retread. In short, I felt Unreality had the best technical presentation, Shoreline the best emotion.

I wish the author of Shoreline would tighten up the sentences, improve the dialogue tags, and do a better job presenting the non-main characters; they blurred together a bit.

I wish the author of Unreality Chick would keep the main character's voice, but give me as a reader a bit more faith that the real world will matter. C.S. Lewis could pull off spending most of the book in Narnia because the reader got to care about the main characters before they stepped through the wardrobe.

Marilyn Peake said...

I’ve been thinking more about SHORELINE. I would still vote for UNREALITY CHICK in this contest; but, if I were a real agent, I would ask for the full manuscript for SHORELINE. The description of the main character at the very beginning of the story has stuck with me since I read it. This could be a really interesting book.

Emily Cross said...

I thought the opening chapter of shoreline was excellent and hooked me more than the others (well done to everyone though, they were all great!)

one thing in regards to shoreline, "Call me team switzerland" comment completely pulled me out of the story and suddenly I was thinking 'twilight', which I don't think the author might wanting to happen? It also dates the work IMO.

Really enjoyed it though :)

GuyStewart said...

I picked one query then picked a DIFFERENT excerpt as my favorite. The query and its excerpt were both well-written, but I felt that only one of the stories dove into the meat of the story immediately. My experience with teens suggests that the one that gets to the story fastest is the one they'll read. Of course, some read for atmosphere and some for escape; but most like to get started FAST!

Also, in the excerpt of the query I liked best, the language that a TEEN would use was excluded...and I think many young people would skrintch their faces up and move on...not all, but many of the ones I know. It seems like...pandering to the adult...hmmm...not sure I can express what I mean here...

Anyway...thanks for a peek into your job! Appreciate it!

Thomas Taylor said...

Why does everyone write in the first person?

Unreality Chick made me laugh and kept my interest, so I voted for that, though Shoreline looks good too.

Sarah said...

I almost picked Unreality Chick, but in the end I went with Shoreline.

As much as I love the voice in Unreality Chick, I'd be somewhat worried about fantasy cliches. Exiled prince who find the girl narrator beautiful even though she doesn't think so, and while it's still early in the novel, nothing about the fantasy world seems to stand out from generic Tolkien-esque forest lands. Spells, swords, and leather, you know?

Shoreline had a more original premise, and while the voice wasn't quite as initially engaging to me, I really found both the narrator and the plot getting more and more interesting as I read.

I'd want to hang out with Unreality Chick, but I want to hear Shoreline's story.

Michael G-G said...

I thought UNREALITY CHICK had the strongest query.

I didn't read far into any of the samples--after all, I'm a busy pretend agent--but I thought the strongest writing was UNREALITY CHICK and SHORELINE. It was a toss-up between those two--SHORELINE certainly had the best opening paragraph. I would have continued reading both of them once I got off the phone with Arthur Levine.

Because I had to vote, I eventually settled for UNREALITY CHICK.

Good job, all entrants. I salute your courage and wish you all the best in your writing endeavors.

Sarah Scotti-Einstein said...

I have to say that the query for Unreality Chick did not win me over; I liked the idea, but found the query itself written a little too much in the voice of a teenage girl and that weakened my faith in the author's ability to craft a good story, so it was not my pick in the last round. (Which is not to say that I don't think teenage girls can write awesome books, but just that this particular query didn't inspire confidence in me.)

It is my pick in this round. I found it to be entertaining, engaging, and very well paced. It was clever but also easily accessed.

Amanda said...

Hi Nathan,

Kuddos to you. You have a great job and you also must have a lot of patients. Of the queries, I liked Shoreline and Unreality Chick. I voted for Unreality Chick because I liked the voice of the writer.

Of the excerpts, I didn't get past the first chapter of any except Unreality Chick. For the most part, it was due to poor grammar/punctuation and lack of editing. Shoreline was better written than the others, but it moved too slowly and I got bored with it.

On another note, how does one become a literary agent?

Nic said...

I've read them and too be honest i couldn't read all 30 pages of any of them. Most of them i didn't get past chapter 1.

#1 - i like the story, concept and practically everything - the two things stopping me from reading all of it were the grammar and the flow, perhaps that was due to the formatting as it was copied over i don't know.

#2 I just couldn't get into it and the revelation of the superpowers felt a bit forced and i think there were some grammar and you were jumping around tenses at one point - i had to re-read a few bits so at that point, i went no.

#3 Again i couldn't get into it. it was nicely written but your characters didn't come alive for me.

#4 You have a really good hook at the beginning but i was confused as to where Kayden was coz sometimes you made if feel like he was part of the conversation even though you said he was eavesdropping so that made me stop reading.

#5 why i stopped reading was that she saw some hills she's never noticed before and goes i'm in a coma or dead - you've set up she's smart, she'll know she's not comatose or dead.

If i was an editing agent then perhaps i would've persisted with "I'm a nobody" but i still thinks that needs a fair bit of work to be able to send to publishers. I managed to reach chapter 2 with "I would have loved you anyway" and "unreality chick".

In alot of these pages the writing doesn't stand out for me - their nice and bland. I'm not quite sure who to vote for because i don't think any i would want to send to publishers or sell. They may well sell, i've seen a lot of books that imo have bland writing and characters that don't seem alive and sell. I feel the "i'm a nobody" and the "Black Emeralds" writing better but i don't think they are ready to send to publishers yet.

wonderer said...

I voted for Shoreline because the writing was the most polished, with a good balance between the ecology plot and the mysterious hottie plot, and lots of neat regional details that really ground the setting.

Unreality Chick was my runner-up. It's fast-paced and funny, with a great narrative voice. However, like others, I didn't get a good sense of the world she finds herself in (besides "generic fantasy world") and the dialogue didn't quite ring true for me.

Interestingly, I didn't vote for either of these at the query stage.

Jenna St.Hilaire said...

Well done, brave souls!

Of the five, I particularly liked three: I'M A NOBODY, SHORELINE, and UNREALITY CHICK (so much for being different!) All three of them threw me at some point, but all three had enough promise that I would probably have wanted to request more.

I'M A NOBODY came off as having the likelihood of being a little issue-driven. That worries me, but it can be done well and made saleable, especially with a popular issue like human rights. Also, as scj pointed out, Jennifer gave Dominic too much info too easily. The premise looks interesting, though, and the feel of the story reminded me of other fantasy novels I've read. Great opening hook.

SHORELINE sounded suspiciously like TWILIGHT in places. I'm not complaining out of a dislike for Meyers' books--I love the Twilight Saga and have read it five times--but your referencing "Team Switzerland" and then having a gorgeous broody guy with an automatic dislike for the protagonist all in the first few pages knocked me right out of your story and into Bella Swan's. Those are such easy fixes, though, and I absolutely LOVE your premise. The mix of science and magic is beautiful too. I really, really want to know how this story ends.

UNREALITY CHICK's immediate dive into romance and the apparent flawlessness of the young prince both concerned me. I'd save the attempted kissing for later (let it build some suspense) and make the guy a little less perfect from the outset. But Beck was the protagonist I wanted to spend two hundred pages with. She made me laugh, and right away her terrified climb of a giant tree to "be wild" made her relatable.

I'm still deciding between the latter two. SHORELINE's polish and great premise? Or UNREALITY CHICK's lovable protagonist? Snap decisions are the monsters from my nightmares--reason #459711 that I'm not an agent.

hampshireflyer said...

I thought I was going to be hovering between UNREALITY CHICK and SHORELINE until I got to the end of UNREALITY CHICK chapter 1. UNREALITY CHICK totally!

Something about the BLACK EMERALDS query intrigued me when you posted it last time, but it just didn't seem to come across in the pages.... the query voice and actual manuscript voice really didn't match up with each other.

Jenna St.Hilaire said...

... aaaand one would think that after reading the Twilight Saga five times, I'd put the apostrophe in the right place in Stephenie Meyer's name. Shoot.

P.S. Thank you for giving us a taste of your job, Nathan! This was fun.

Anonymous said...

I thought #5 was too short and I don't think it's possible to jump out of the way to avoid lightning unless you already have some kind of special powers.

The number one YA book is over 115,000 and the next three in the series are equally as long. Black Emerald got my vote because I think it would have teenage girls dying to read about the MC.

Maria said...

I voted for Shoreline. The writing and pacing was superior and the story unique.

The only other work that came even close was Unreality Chick. However, my interest was lost in what I felt was excessive narrative.

Jolene said...

Okay, now I get it. It's a mess - I do NOT envy your job. I was most excited about Unreality Chick and the pace of the novel was great and matched the interest of the query. I get why agents want a SHORT query. Just enough to be curious.

Liz S said...

I wavered between SHORELINE and UNREALITY CHICK... Both have great voice, great narrators/protagonists, and the writing is crisp and clear. But it was Shoreline that stuck with me... I wish I could read more of it!

Jolene said...

Are we going to hear the thoughts of the authors when this is finished?

patlaff said...

Okay, I'm an Agent for a Day; a busy guy looking for a needle in a haystack.

Based on what I saw in the five queries, I don't think I would have requested a partial for any of them, but I picked Shoreline because I thought it was the most marketable. Then, based on the samples, I don't think I'd request a full manuscript for any of them, either, though I selected Unreality Chick as the best sample pages.

Now, before blasting me for being mean, it's not that the queries or the samples were bad, it's just that each one of them had something that I found off-putting and as a busy Agent for a Day looking for that needle in a haystack, I think I would have kept on digging through my slush pile hoping for something that would knock my socks off.

Regan Leigh said...

I had picked Unreality Check for the query and I picked Shoreline for the excerpt. Why? Honestly, I'm at work and don't have enough time to read them all the entire way through. So I decided to vote for the one that had caught my interest after a couple of pages.

After reading what was probably the first 2 or 3 pages, Shoreline is the only one I wanted to keep reading. Just being honest. :) I liked the voice and the premise.

JS said...

Shoreline really surprised me--I enjoyed it so much more than I had expected I would based on the query.*

Unreality Chick did not surprise me; I had expected it to be good based on the query, and found it so.

The other three MSes are quite a bit better than I had expected from the queries, though my editorial blue pencil was practically bouncing around with eagerness to help the writers dig their good ideas out from under some excess verbiage.

How nice to get a chance to see this process in detail, and thanks to the writers who agreed to be guinea pigs.

*The query seemed, to me, to be a bit preachy and clunky, but the protagonist definitely came alive in the pages. I look forward to reading the whole book someday.

Kelly said...

Again, UNREALITY CHICK. I'm requesting that full!

taylweaver said...

Of all the stories, Reality Chick was the one that drew me right in, and made me want to read further.

I like the way it jumps right into the story, and shares information - and drops hints - without resorting to any sort of info dump.

Additionally, the information that needs to be clear is clear (I didn't get confused at any point), but stuff that does not need to be made clear is not needlessly clarified (i.e. no extraneous descriptions of characters).

I also feel like, on a line by line level, the writing is solid. As I read, I didn't find myself thinking, "I could have said that better," or, "this line feels awkward," or, "rough transition," etc.

That having been said, I wonder whether I was biased by which query letter I voted for. Maybe next time around, you should do two batches of five, and have one group of people vote on Query Batch A and Writing Sample Batch B, and have the other group do the reverse, to avoid the possible effects of, "I was already rooting for that one."

PatriciaW said...

I was prepared to like #2 and #5. I found that I didn't like #2 as much as I had hoped (this was the query I picked though). Just felt not quite ready.

#3 surprised me. Didn't like query but the pages were well-written and the voice engaging.

#5 was best. I would request this one.

Yat-Yee said...

I haven't finished reading but so far, it's been eye-opening to have a sneak peek (See, Nathan? I am being careful with "peek", "peak" and "pique") into this part of your job.

One particularly interesting thing is that I was drawn to one query above all others and to a different partial. And I can definitely see your 30-page rule.

Thanks for the education.

Wendy aka Quillfeather. said...

My favourite out of the bunch is the Shoreline. It hooked me straight away.

Those who entered should be mighty proud of themselves - and brave!

You certainly earn your money, Nathan!

Unrepentant Escapist said...

For the query, I voted for Unreality Chick (I like the title "Unreality Check" better, or "Unreality Chic", btw). For the sample, I voted Shoreline. #1 & #2 had problematic time jumps (if more than a day is passing on your first page, you're probably starting your novel in the first place.) #1 was a lot better and more interesting than I expected from the query. I don't know why you don't start the novel with a confrontation between your characters, though. That'd be a lot more interesting than just stalking around. #2 I didn't understand why it was so important to the main character that she not tell Jack at first and then tell Jack later, and I didn't want to stick around to find out.

#4 dumped me because the opening scene is cliche and because of grammar errors. It could almost have been the eavesdropping scenes from Harry Potter. Unreality Chick lost me because I didn't know what Kudzu was and had to look it up. More importantly, I felt like the character was telling about her traits, not showing. She was trying too hard to force me to like her.

I thought all the partials had potential, but they need a little work.

Shoreline had its share of minor glitches, but it's all the stuff you can iron out. It feels a lot like the Y.A. Fantasy I've read before, and I think readers of the genre will be able to jump right into it and swim around. Hands down the best. It was my second favorite in querying, and it didn't surprise me since I thought the original query was so clean.

mercedes said...

It's a little weird. When I read all the queries, I thought "Unreality Check" was the best. And the writing was good but I liked the writing in "I'm a Nobody" a lot more.

Still, I think, if I had to request a full from only one, I'd go with "Unreality Check" but I think both are pretty good.

Caledonia Lass said...

I have to admit, I chose the query for I'm a Nobody because it seemed the lesser of the cliches. Now, don't harsh on me for being harsh, I'm being honest here.
I liked all of the queries, but the fact that Nobody did not sound like a typical fantasy. It was not the strongest by far, but they all had their strengths.
Now, as I read through the stories, Shoreline stands out the most. I could not read far into much of them except Shoreline. While the grammatical errors and typos might be a result of copying over, they tend to throw me off. But if the story isn't strong enough to capture my attention despite slight mistakes, then forget it. Call me a typical reader. I love me some fantasy and YA literature. But I don't like having to wade through dull paragraphs to get to the good stuff. Which is making me re-think my own. I will go back now that I am not having to pretend to be an agent and give each of them a fair read, but Shoreline caught my attention the most. I actually got into it and placed it aside to read more later.
Good experiment, Nathan. I enjoyed it and look forward to the rest of the discussion. :D

Jude Hardin said...

To me, the writing itself is every bit as important as premise, plot, character development, etc. With that in mind, SHORELINE is clearly in a different league than the others.

Simon Hay Soul Healer said...

I made my decision by reading only the first few paragraphs. Unreality Chick first, Shoreline close second. I loved the first line in Shoreline. I wanted to read more.

Thanks for brave everyone.

The Pollinatrix said...

This has been so educational and interesting. Thank you, Nathan!

I voted for the Black Emeralds query but was disappointed with the partial. I agree with those who have said it feels like jumping into a complex movie half way through.

I'm not a YA person at all, so none of these stories appeal to me overmuch, but I voted for Unreality Chick today because I think it's the one that would sell best to that audience. As others have said, though, it does seem like a slightly younger audience than YA.

Soup said...

I ended up deciding between UNREALITY CHICK and SHORELINE, and chose SHORELINE in the end. Both had engaging stories and good writing, but as a teenager, the MC's voice in UNREALITY CHICK bothered me more and more as I read on because it was so out of date-- past the point of quirky. Also, the jokes and light-heartedness began to get tiring after five chapters. I would recommend UC's author to do some more research on how teenagers really converse.

Emily Anderson said...

I changed my vote to a query that wasn't even on my list.

Here's my constructive criticism on what I read (because that's my idea of being nice):

#1: Some of the sentence structures are awkward (ex: the second sentence didn't read like a fragment so I had to reread it). Tighten up the paragraphs about the locked doors to keep the plot paced, and then slow down through the next day to describe the setting and the MG, make us care for him. Make it clearer that Jennifer is the girl he saw and use his seeing her at school to describe her instead of telling us.

#2: I wanted to feel more intensely about the letter. There's a lot of telling about her party and life instead of showing. Jump right into her getting ready for her party or at her party so we feel her excitement about turning 18 and shut it down when the letter arrives, making us feel her fear and confusion. It's great that you have those two juxtaposed so use them stronger.

#3: My favorite opening line. I immediately felt pulled into the MG's story with her. I wasn't incitially clear about why she was at the beach and what she was doing, but overall a good, strong opener. It looses a little steam from there, a lot of description wandering in the MG's head without much going on. Keep up that opening pace.

#4: Give us some intensity in this opening discussion. There's a lot of description, which is good once you get a sense of the novel, but at this point I'm not sure who to focus on or root for or why this story is exciting. Balance the description with some action. I'd think about starting the story somewhere else, with something that has a bang.

#5: I don't want to be told the MG is nice from her telling about yearbook entries. It took me a little bit to get a sense of the humor. Start with it, as a way for her to write off those nice entries while she's climbing the tree mocking her lack of climbing skills. You can give us background while she's stuck in the tree kicking herself for going up there. The storm was a nice touch, but get there quicker. Give us as great an opener as you end the chapter with.

Thanks for doing this, Nathan. It was fun and I'm sure invaluable to the writers who were selected.

Kay said...

Wow, I was really surprised. Voted for BLACK EMERALDS on the query but SHORELINE for the partial.

Huh. Very interesting. I can see how agents jobs can be pretty complicated.


Bridget said...

Wow. I would stink as an agent. The query that I choose didn't match the opening chapter that I choose.

I am humbled before thee, O Great Agent Nathan. You have one seriously difficult job...not that I didn't think that before, it's just, you know, uh...even more evident. ;-)

Robin Constantine said...

Thanks brave souls!

I didn't pick Shoreline as my query, but it caught my attention today. It's engaging, well written - has just the right amount of snarky teen-speak without getting obnoxious. Could be commercially sucessful. jmho The query was a little muddled. It felt like too much had to be explained - but wow I would have missed out on a great story.

I picked I'm a Nobody for my query. Still think it has potential, but get me through the door faster. I might request revisions and offer to take another look. (wow, I think this agent for a day is going to my head, lol)

Nicely done everyone! Great experiment, Nathan.

robin said...

I thought Shoreline query wasn't great -- but the opening was well-written! However, my favorite query was also my favorite opening (Unreality Chick) -- but I think it's because humor is selling well right now. (I'd probably be likely to read either Shoreline or Unreality Chick on my own.)

Victoria Dixon said...

I must be some rare garden variety. I think like 3%-9% of your readers, Nathan. I thought "I'm a Nobody" dropped questions and foreshadowing and pulled the reader in, which I think is a good indicator of sales ability. I thought the horror-feel of "I Would Have Loved You Anyway" gave a nice sense of tension and again, made me somewhat interested in reading more even though I don't do horror. Kudos to the authors!

Kerry Gans said...

I liked the concept of all of them. I felt that the writing in the pages was in most cases stronger than in the query, so if I was an agent, I think my submission guidelines would be query + 5 pages.

That said, most could benefit greatly from hiring an editor prior to submissions, as they have many typos and grammar errors that I found distracting.

I tried to ignore the cosmetics, and ended up reading 2 entries all the way through, because I liked the voice. But UNREALITY CHICK got my vote because I loved the voice, got caught up in the action right away, and connected with the character immediately. It was also the cleanest as far as errors went.

Joe G said...

I tried to read at least a few pages into all of them and then I skipped around a bit in the pages. Long story short all the pages looked like how I imagined they would from the queries, which suggests to me that the query process works well enough.

I voted for Unreality Chick the first time and I think I commented that it came off a bit juvenile in the query. The pages proved me right. The voice is very cutesy, a younger girl's idea of how an older girl would act, with the emphasis on her fears, and her girlyness, and the boy liking her and all.

I thought the writing in Black Emeralds wasn't bad, and the story is clearly fleshed out, but the writing had no flow. It didn't carry my eye. I criticized the query for not hanging together or picking the best details to talk about. The pages felt the same way, the focus was off. Another work not ready to see the world yet.

Shoreline had the strongest voice, but you could stand to have a friend with an eye go over a paper copy ruthlessly with a red pen.

The first manuscript lost me at the beginning because I had no clue what was going on. Too vague, much like the query. The one with the serial killer was a little silly for me, which is how I felt about the query. Especially when the girl put the letter away. Again, the premise comes off forced.

All five needed work and I wouldn't be able to request them if I were an agent, but Shoreline was the closest, for me. There's definitely something there with that story. The right juxtaposition of magical girl with mythology and some sort of romance. I nitpick: does she really remember something that happened when she was five weeks old so clearly she can describe what she did in the water?

I flipped on Unreality Chick because of the maturity level... with the caveat that there's a level of talent inherent in the writing, and the humor has its heart in the right place.

Adam Heine said...

The queries and the partials just about matched in quality, I thought. Although I did feel like reading the queries biased me towards what to expect in the partials.

Take UNREALITY CHICK, for example. Yesterday I said the query had a good voice, an interesting setup, but a vague storyline. Likewise, I felt like the opening to the partial was AMAZING, but I started losing interest as things became more fantastic.

Was I reading the partial objectively? Honestly, I have no idea. I may have just seen what I expected to see because of the query. In any case, very interesting experiment.

wishnackha said...

Well, I do believe it's time for agents to do away with the dreaded query letter and just request 1st three chapters. In the time it took to read the queries, then the sample chapters, it would be quicker to just go straight to the ms.
Unreality chick was probably the closest in terms of voice when you compare the query to the ms, but the others? Not even close.

I didn't get passed the first page with most. Although there is great promise in each of them, I don't think any are ready for publication.

I voted Unreality chick because it felt as though, with some help from an editor, it was 'almost' publishable. I read the first chapter and will go back for more.
The dialogue was a bit clunky, and I did wish it started a bit earlier; to get to know the shy character better. But, it's the one for me.

Terri said...

I stand here ready to confess. The story I voted for in the query phase didn't even blip my radar in the 30 page phase.

The query I thought sounded weak, had fantastic first pages. It didn't get my vote, but I was very impressed.

My number two choice for query (and just barely number two) was my number one choice for pages. It was strong in the query phase and remarkable in the pages.

I won't say who I voted for in query stage, because I was disappointed with the actual prose.

However, my vote in the page phase was "Unreality Chick." Well done and I think has some bank in it.

Valerie Sloan said...

Once again I'm incredibly impressed by the bravery of these 5. Wow. GO YOU!

My vote still went to UNREALITY CHECK, but man, SHORELINE was a close second.

Sommer Leigh said...

This was an interesting experiment because for the query I chose Unreality Check as being the most interesting, most cohesive and best voice. Of the queries, Shoreline was the one that lost me.

But for the partials, I was kind of surprised how different some of the voices were in the query and book. This was the most apparent with I Would Have Loved You Anyway.

In the end, I think the partial that has the most polished feel and most readily publishable is Shoreline. While I was uninterested in the query, I really loved the voice, the pacing, the word choices, the dialogue, and the descriptions. I didn't give a hard editing read through, but I didn't see any real glaring grammar/spelling problems and there was no weird word usage that threw me off. Once I started reading Shoreline I felt like I was drawn into the story and did not emerge until I had finished all 30 pages. That means a lot to me.

Joan Kremer said...

Wow! What an eye-opener! Nathan, thanks so much for the time you've taken to run this "experiment." And a HUGE thanks to all you writers willing to put your queries and pages up on this experimental chopping block!

While it was fun to get a glimpse into the difficult life of an agent, I'm even more impressed with how much this process taught me.

First of all, being able to read both the queries and first 30 pages of five novels (that I didn't write!!) is a splendid way to see what works and what doesn't in the querying process. In fact, I almost feel like I should pay the five volunteer authors for providing these teaching materials!

Second, it was a good reminder of the wide range in readers' tastes. All five of these books got both kudos and criticisms; there is no formula for writing the perfect novel.

Third, reading the queries/pages, the blog posts, and all the comments has hammered in a crucial point: my query should match my book, and they should both be impeccably edited before going out.

Among the queries, I chose one that wasn't necessarily the best written or the cleverest, but described the most intriguing story (to me) with the most challenging conflict, a seemingly impossible one that would keep readers glued to the page. From the pages, I chose the same novel because the writing, while needing a good edit, gave me confidence that this author could fulfill the promise of the outlined story. (Both choices were for SHORELINE.)

I wish all five authors the very best in getting their novels published, and I have renewed awe for the job done by literary agents.

Brenda Drake said...

Thank you, Nathan, for a terrific learning experience. This was difficult, since there were a few that piqued my interest. Jeesh. Your job is crazy tough.

I chose UNREALITY CHICK because of the voice. And, with a few wrinkles ironed out, it would be a total winner.

mishupishu said...

This was a great exercise and really got me immersed in the agent's world. (I think I like it!)

I personally wouldn't request anything further for any of the projects. The only one that I could read beyond the first page was Shoreline (so that gets my vote), but after digesting it for a little while, I still think I would pass.

We all have our quirks and maybe I'm totally missing something because it seems like a lot of people really thought these were decent projects. I need the words to pull me into the page, devour me so that I can't get away, not simply tell me a good story. (and all of the stories sounded pretty good from the queries)

At the end of the day, it seems like the entire procedure boils down to a crapload of luck depending on whose eyes are on the page. Who knows if any of this really works but that's the system, until something pulls the rug out from under it.

Regan Leigh said...

I just wanted to add a little something.

I entered my own query and 30 pages to this contest. Mine had no hope of getting chosen since it's an adult genre book that was less represented. :)

BUT if mine were one of these five? Wow. I'd be so freaked out at this point. It takes a lot to put yourself on display as a writer. I hope that the participants in this experiment remember we've all been there. It sucks to hear the criticism.

I'd hate for them to be discouraged at all. This will only make their writing stronger! What a blessing to get so much feedback, even if it may me harsh at times.

Mmkay, that is all... :)

Mira said...

Regan - I was thinking the same thing. I think it's wonderful that folks contributed, and I hope they are finding this helpful and educational - and not discouraging!

As far as I can tell, the worst critique is - the piece needs some of editing, or didn't grab me etc. No one has run screaming out of the room - 'aaaggghhh, the pages, the pages, aaagggghhhh, aaggghhhh.'

Everything mentioned is workable and fixable - if the writer even agrees with the feedback.

I think all of these books have great potential, personally. And I would not say that if I didn't believe it.

Karen said...

I think it's pretty interesting. When I read the sample pages for the query I chose yesterday, I wasn't particularly interested. And it only took a page or two for me to realize that. The pages I liked best were for a query I wasn't too impressed by yesterday. It also happens to NOT be one of the top 2.

Nathan, I hope you'll give us a little insight into your thoughts on each query. I'd love to see where my insight rates compared to yours.

Claire Farrell said...

When I read the queries I thought Shoreline had the most promise so I voted for that one. I liked the idea of Black Emerald but for some reason I felt as though it wouldn't be pulled off.

I still feel the same today. Shoreline was the only partial I read until the end and the only one I'm keen to know more about. I enjoyed the writing style very much. I would genuinely like to read more of this one.

Black Emerald started at the wrong point for me. It was hard for me to settle into the story so I gave up. Someone else said it was like missing the first half of a film and I agree with that.

Nobody's query didn't do it justice, it was very vague. I quite liked the beginning of the partial but once the MC passed through the door, I found my interest waning. The dialogue didn't flow for me and I gave up after a few more pages.

I would have loved you, I had mixed reactions to the query. The idea had some promise but something put me off. The partial was hard for me to read, there was something clunky about it. I gave up pretty quickly.

Unreality Chick didn't appeal to me at all. I didn't particularly like the query and the voice of the partial irritated me. I couldn't finish it. I'm obviously not the target audience :)

I voted for Shoreline again. It's not that the others were bad, part of it is personal preference and part of it is what I feel is a need for a tighter partial. All queries will need some kind of an edit but for me, Shoreline was the most polished and the most engaging partial. It held my attention from the very start and kept me with it until the end.

Having to face reading 30 pages of different samples really forces you to be pickier than usual. I might have finished the others if I didn't have to read four more so I can see why an agent would only skim through the first few paragraphs and make a snap judgement. Interesting exercise and well done to everyone who sent in their queries and partials.

Mons said...

As you intended, we learned that a quality query does not a quality submission make - AND - the reverse is true. My favorite query was not my favorite submission, at all!

Anonymous said...

I was quite enraptured by the samples for Shoreline. I could see that being a hit and as a reader found myself disappointed when the sample ended. I chose its query yesterday for the creative premise, high marketability and evident character conflict and was glad to find the sample pages even better than the query attested to.

You can never edit enough and I would suggest that for each one. They all have great potential and some cuts will show that. (Although, in UC's case, I think there could be more added to it; though this might be personal taste more. I could see sects of the YA crowd preferring the faster pace.)

I've really gained a deeper level of understand of a literary agent's job. It's hard not to let personal preference shadow a work's level of marketability. This experiment has certainly made me pause and decide to give my own work another quadruple-over before the submission process.

Anonymous said...

Lol, perhaps I need more than a quadruple-over! *...'understanding'... not 'understand.

Steppe said...

As an agent I would politely reject all of them.

Sending a personal encouraging reply only to #1 to resubmit after expanding the current work or upon finishing the next.

I felt all the stories were pretending to be young people speaking to young people except author #1.

"INCLUDING... :Punctuation."

That's what grammar and spelling checkers were invented for.

That work {I'm A Nobody) seemed age appropriate plus talented even after detecting The Hemingway style staccato cross currents with a hoped for future willingness to wax poetic on small bits of detail and chapter resolutions and beginnings.

That work seemed to have a legitimate
YA to YA voice.

I only follow one YA author and she is very popular and seems to truly reach back into the horrors and fears of adolescence.

I'm not a YA fan my opinion should be considered in that context. I am an agent that needs to find a book I can sell. #1 might deliver a YA novel at some point in the future or continue on to adult genres. The rest seemed stuck between age levels.

I found all the works weren't dreamy enough and forcing me to accept I might lose something personal if I didn't finish the whole tale.
I went in knowing I would never see the completed work and accepted that premise as part of the exercise regretting it only for Author#1.

Hence polite rejection letters.

Got a ton of them myself.
Repeat after me.
Rejection is good.
Rejection is good.

Tori said...

Yesterday I voted for UNREALITY CHICK because I thought the idea would sell better and it had a good solid query...but in the back of my head I yearned to go with SHORELINE. That idea was so fresh to me, even if the query didn't grab me as much.

And something great happened today. SHORELINE proved that it DID have a good story to tell.

In the end though...I went with my gut. SHORELINE gets my vote. Honestly, it had me at the first sentence. The voice grabbed me and didn't let me go. And the conflict was there. Everything in me told me this would sell.

But don't get me wrong. I think UNREALITY CHICK could sell too. If I could I would vote for both. But it just seemed pretty obvious that SHORELINE had better writing.

Claude Forthomme said...

Like many others I changed my mind: the partial from another submission was far better than the query I had originally voted for. If I had been agent in a real life situation, following up only on the query I likes best, I would have made a MISTAKE: I wouldn't even seen the better partial!

Very, very INTERSTING!

This suggests that maybe something is wrong with the standard agent model (a single agent working on his own). Maybe agents should consider organizing their work differently - as a TEAM rather than a single individual, each ensconced in his office and reading for ever endless strings of queries and partials. It certainly would be easier on the agent - you'd know that where you missed out, your colleague might catch it.

The Pentagon has long known that TEAMWORK often gives better results than the efforts of single individuals trying to solve problems on their own. Then, occasionally, you have the genius that can't work in a team...but very occasionally! On the whole, teamwork generally works better.

BUT, there's always a but: teamwork poses problems of organization and management. A team can't be improvised from one day to the next. Rules have to be adopted to organize the work so that the whole thing doesn't degenerate into acrimonious battles to decide who's right and who's wrong. I won't go into it here. Business schools are full of good advice on how to organize this type of work...

May be literary agencies should think about it? It might help them identify the better writers - in the sense of writers most likely to appeal to a broad audience. In other words, TEAMWORK MIGHT BE THE BETTER WAY TO IDENTIFY BLOCKBUSTERS!

How about that for a SCIENTIFIC CONCLUSION? Mmmmmmmm....

Diana said...

If I could vote for two, it would be Shoreline and Unreality Check. BOTH are books I'd read all the way through in a heartbeat.

Tori said...

I think it is interesting. A well written query doesn't seem to always mean well written pages. UNREALITY CHICK had a great query, one that I really loved...and while SHORELINE'S query sucked the idea was something that really interested me. But yesterday I still picked UNREALITY CHICK at the query stage even though I wanted both. But now I see that my gut was right and SHORELINE...well, its closer to being ready for publication I think.

If I was an agent I would ask for fulls on both of these, but ultimately I would want to represent SHORELINE. This felt like a book to me and the pacing really seemed to work. UNREALITY CHICK rushed things too much and I really had problems with the fact that the teenagers were not really talking like teenagers.

All of these authors did a great job by the way!

Bron said...

These were posted overnight my time, so I ate them while scarfing down a bowl of cereal and keeping one eye on the clock so I wasn't late for work. It actually ended up being a good way to do it because I felt a bit how a busy agent must feel. Normally in something like this I'd read all of the pages, but I didn't have time to read through any that weren't grabbing me.

The query I voted for was also the excerpt I voted for: Unreality Chick. The voice came through really well and as someone else said, it was a good mixture of chick lit and fantasy.

I nearly voted for Black Emeralds for the query, but the excerpt didn't hook me. It felt like an infodump at the start, just with dialogue instead of straight-out telling. The dialogue felt a bit 'As you know Fred', with characters saying things for the benefit of the reader rather than each other. This author showed us in the query they can write, so I think this is just a case of starting the story in the wrong place and trying to get across a bit too much information first up.

Shoreline was the real surprise for me, because the query didn't really grab me but I read the excerpt all the way through. In the query the MC sounded too perfect, but the fact Nate doesn't like her in the book reduces her to something I think most teenage girls can relate to: crushing on a hot guy who's not interested (or appears not interested). There's other interesting elements to the story as well. It didn't quite hook me like Unreality Chick did, but it was certainly up there.

I Would Have Loved You Anyway jumped around too much at the beginning for my taste. We're at home with Presley, then we whirl through the party in a sentence, then the party is over and she's leaving... it's a lot to take in and I stopped reading there. I prefer beginnings that let you get into a scene.

I felt the same way about I'm a Nobody's excerpt as I did the query: sounds really promising, just needs some polish. I was confused during the beginning as to what was happening, just as I had been confused about exactly what was going on during the query. As I said, I think this story has a lot of promise, it just needs some clarification.

So now that I've finished dispensing my opinions... thank you brave writers for entering your work! I wasn't going to give feedback, but hopefully by reading through everyone's comments you'll come away with a stronger manuscript. You each deserve that.

Liesl said...

Wow. I completely changed my mind after reading pages. In the queries SHORELINE was probably on the bottom of the list, but to me it had the strongest pages.

So what I think is agents should at least ask for the first five to ten pages. They could read them all or be done by the first paragraph. I just don't think you can always make a sound judgment from just the query.

Thanks everyone for sharing. This was so educational!

JD Revene said...

I'm a Noboby, gets my vote (though it wasn't the query I picked, which was Black Emerald). This is the only one I'd ask to see more of--mind you YA's not my genre and perhaps I'm a harsh judge.

Claire Dawn said...

At query stage, my top 3 was Unreality Chick, I'm a Nobody and Shoreline. After reading the first 30, it's Unreality Chick, Shoreline and I'm a Nobody.

Unreality Chick really resonates with me, but I also think it's the closest to polished of the lot. Even though I'm a nobody is more my type of story, Shoreline edged it out because I felt it was closer to "finished" and saleable.

Claire Dawn said...

P.S. Nathan, thanks for this chance.

I've always appreciated how hard an agent's job must be, but after reading those 5, and thinking that they were, at worse, decent, it made me realise that decent work is often not good enough.

Another thing I found really difficult was reading 30 pages when I didn't really connect. On the story I really liked, 30 pages flew by. On another, 30 pages couldn't come fast enough. Also, I don't do well with a lot of suspense. I need to know what I'm working with, so readin 30 pages and still not being sure what's going on, would kill me.

Bravo Super Agent Man!

Jill Elizabeth said...

UNREALITY CHICK! This one was only my second pick at the query stage, but I think the pages stand in a league of their own. Definitely would want to keep reading this one.

Jill Elizabeth said...

Oops, and let me just add that I don't know how you do it, Nathan. I can see how there are so many manuscripts out there that have a great hook, but maybe the execution isn't quite there.

Anonymous said...

Since these were MG/YA novels, I asked my 13-year-old daughter to read along with me. My daughter didn't like any of them, but she thought I Am A Nobody and Unreality Chick had the most potential.

As for me, I agree with what someone else posted above, that Unreality Chick has the best voice, but that it doesn't start in the right place. We should get to know the MC a little more before this event, instead of getting an info dump through dialogue. Also, the dialogue contained way too much directed action.

The rest of the entries were just not quite there. I think I Am A Nobody needs to get more familiar with their characters and setting. It doesn't feel believable yet. Of the other three, Shoreline stood out to me the most, but mostly because I felt the voice was a bit forced. It sounded like what adults "think" teenager sound like.

I think there's something to be said for subtlety, which all of these seemed to be lacking. My daughter and I agreed that the authors' distrust of the reader's ability to read between the lines was off-putting.

Michael said...

I thought all of these were interesting.

I liked the pacing/suspense in I'm a Nobody. The premise for I Would Have Loved You Anyway is intersting. The Shoreline was well-written and could be captivating. Black Emeralds introduced some mystery that I was interested in reading more about. And Unreality Check was funny and different.

Ultimately I narrowed it down to I'm a Nobody and Unreality Check. I went with I'm a Nobody because I thought the fantasy element of it was different enough from what's out there to stick and it would have more broad-based appeal than the more quirky and likely niche Unreality Check.

Elizabeth S said...

Shoreline again. So for me, the queries predicted the pages perfectly.

I can still see the appeal of Unreality Chick - but it's not for me, and I don't think its pages are as strong as Shoreline's.

I would suggest to the author of Shoreline that you try to get more of Maya's voice into the query. And good luck; I'd like to read more.

Ishta Mercurio said...

Nathan, I have a newfound level of respect for your job, and my level of respect for agents was already pretty high. And after realizing that what I thought were the best queries didn't necessarily lead to what I thought were the strongest submissions, I have to say that I don't think the query process works at all. We should switch to a partial submission process.

Big thanks and congratulations to all submitting writers; this took guts, and I think everybody learned a lot from it. And the submissions were great. I sure have a long way to go with my own novels!

Ishta Mercurio said...

Oh - I voted for SHORELINE, by the way. I felt that it had the most marketable premise, style, and voice, and I also enjoyed it. I wanted to read more by the end of the submission.

That said, I thought all the submissions were pretty good, and some were very strong.

JDuncan said...

Hard to decide here. Issues with all five, but I think Shoreline and Unreality had the best writing. Kind of a toss up but I went with Shoreline.

Did the queries work? Hard to say, especially since YA isn't a genre I'd be working in anyway. Fairly obvious though that you can't always or perhaps even usually judge how the story will be based on the query. You need those initial pages. I was able to decide within a page or two if I thought I'd read on with the partial. Can't do that with every query of course, so getting a knack for looking beyond the query is essential to being an effective agent. Not a task I'd want, that's for sure.

Watery Tart said...

Very interesting experiment. Three of them (including the one I voted for yesterday) I couldn't keep reading.

Unreality Chick has the dubious distinction of being my 2nd choice on both scales--I might request a full, because I think the things that bugged me are because I am not the target audience.

Shoreline though, surprised me today--the query needs some work (even though I could tell yesterday it was my favorite CONCEPT) but I really liked the pages (maybe should have TRUSTED that I liked the concept more).

Patrice said...

I can't imagine how you find time to do all of this, Nathan, AND read a million blog comments a day!

Congrats to all the brave posters of queries and pages. I, for one, learned a lot.

katarinas mama said...

Shoreline....I just loved it.

The Wicked Lady said...

Even though I voted for Unreality Chick for the query, I liked the writing in Shoreline better. (Despite a number agreement error on the first page -- but even great writers make typos ;-)

Anonymous said...

all seems well, i like IM A NOBODY, very well written.

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