Nathan Bransford, Author


Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Query Critique Tuesday: Read your query out loud before sending


If you would like to nominate your query for a future Query Critique, please enter it in this thread in the Forums!

Also, if you'd like to test your editing chops, keep your eye on this area! I'll post the pages and queries a few days before a critique on the blog so you can see how your redline compares to mine.

Now then. Time for the Query Critique. First I'll present the query without comment, then I'll offer my thoughts and a redline. If you choose to offer your own thoughts, please be polite. We aim to be positive and helpful.

Random numbers were generated, and thanks to Michael Carroll, whose query is below:
Dear [Agent Name], 
After discovering your passion for education, through your work as a teacher, literary agent, and [Company], I think you would be the perfect fit to represent my manuscript. DOG GONE DOG is a humorous middle grade detective adventure about a 12-year-old inventor. 
Dewey “Mac” McClain is a desk-drumming, creative goofball. Through his love of science, and how cheap his mom is, he has learned to make inventions out of common items. After a former friend’s dog goes missing, Dewey decides to find the dog to repair the friendship. When partnered with loudmouth and overconfident Ched and Betty Bacon and feel like they have it solved until Betty’s dad is framed for the job. Now the three need to hurry and find the real thief, free Betty’s dad, and complete their school projects. 
The manuscript contains two parts: a narrative section (30,000 words) and THE HAM DETECTIVE MANUAL (5,500 words). The Detective Manual contains simple step-by-step directions to build STEM gadgets from common or inexpensive items. No project is too hard or too expensive, so all children can enjoy, experiment, and learn.  
In late 2015, 2,000 copies were printed through a partner publishing contract with Mascot Books. These were used to fulfill a Kickstarter campaign that was over 300% funded. The book was launched at World Maker Faire, where it was honored with an Editor’s Choice Award and an Educator’s Choice Award. Only a few hundred copies remain unsold. I have retained the rights to all content, characters, and artwork. 
As a third grade teacher, I see many students who are currently disenchanted with reading because of a lack of initially appealing books. I also see many students who don’t realize how interesting STEM can be. I would love to team with you to help put DOG GONE DOG, A DEWEY MAC MAKER MYSTERY into children’s hands everywhere. 
Sincerely,
Michael Carrol
www.deweymac.com 
I always like a good detective novel, and it sounds like there's a pretty fun story at the heart of this query. I also like the idea that it comes with a manual that kids could perhaps use for gadgets for their own detective work.

My concern about this query is that there are a lot of sentences that are a mouthful. What's the best way to figure out when your'e writing a mouthful? Read your query out loud to let your words fill your mouth.

Okay that sounded weird. But you know what I mean.

If you can't read your query smoothly out loud, chances are someone's not going to be able to read it smoothly.

Secondly, as agents articulated in a recent survey, just about anything other than the story in your query is extraneous. An agent doesn't need to know every detail of your self-publishing journey or what led you to write the book. It's enough to know to know whether it's been self-published or not, what your credits are but no worries if you don't have them, and that's basically that.

In this case, I worry a bit that the story feels a little bit rushed in favor of other details of the query. Take the time to make sure you're getting your story through.

Here's my redline:
Dear [Agent Name], 
After discovering your passion for education, through your work as a teacher, literary agent, and [Company], I think you would be the perfect fit to represent my manuscript. DOG GONE DOG is a humorous middle grade detective adventure about a 12-year-old inventor
Twelve-year-old Dewey “Mac” McClain is a desk-drumming [I'm not sure I know what this means], creative goofball. Through his love of science, and how cheap his mom is [Awkward phrasing - essentially this reads "Through how cheap his mom is he has learned to make inventions"], he has learned to make inventions out of common items. After a former friend’s dog goes missing [Who's the former friend? Be specific], Dewey decides to find the dog to repair the friendship. When partnered with loudmouth and overconfident Ched and Betty Bacon and feel like they have it solved until Betty’s dad is framed for the job [Mouthful - not really sure what this means]. Now the three need to hurry and find the real thief, free Betty’s dad, and complete their school projects [Which school projects? This paragraph feels a little rushed through]
The manuscript contains two parts: a narrative section (30,000 words) and THE HAM DETECTIVE MANUAL (5,500 words). The Detective Manual contains simple step-by-step directions to build STEM gadgets [What is a STEM gadget?] from common or inexpensive items. No project is too hard or too expensive, so all children can enjoy, experiment, and learn.  
I self-published a limited run of DOG GONE DOG in late 2015, 2,000 copies were printed through a partner publishing contract with Mascot Books. These were used to fulfill a Kickstarter campaign that was over 300% funded. The book was launched at World Maker Faire, where it was honored with an Editor’s Choice Award and an Educator’s Choice Award. Only a few hundred copies remain unsold. I have retained the rights to all content, characters, and artwork. 
As I am a third grade teacher, I see many students who are currently disenchanted with reading because of a lack of initially appealing books. I also see many students who don’t realize how interesting STEM can be. I would love to team with you to help put DOG GONE DOG, A DEWEY MAC MAKER MYSTERY into children’s hands everywhere. 
Sincerely,
Michael Carroll
www.deweymac.com 
 Thanks again to Michael Carroll!

I’m available for manuscript edits, query critiques, and consultations! And if you like this post, check out my guide to writing a novel.

Art: The Coal Black Hound by Sidney Paget






4 comments:

JOHN T. SHEA said...

An interesting critique of an interesting query.

You're not sure what desk drumming is, Nathan? Ask Jacob Wonderbar!

The author concentrates more on the non-fiction part of this hybrid book than the fictional story. His website is quite intriguing.

And thanks for a great pic by a great artist from a great story! One of the advantages of old style movie theaters and broadcast TV was that movies like the various adaptations of 'THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES' were show infrequently, the time between usually being long enough for me to forget Holmes' rational explanation of the hound and again imagine it to be a supernatural creature, if only for an hour or so.

Thanks to Michael Carroll and Nathan!

JOHN T. SHEA said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
JOHN T. SHEA said...

My second comment was an accidental duplicate. Sorry!

Anonymous said...

I think the issue with this one is that it's a bunch of sentences in a row that are structured as "when x, then y." While this isn't a bad thing to have in a query letter, a little variation can make it easier to read and follow.

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