Hope everyone had a lovely and fulfilling Memorial Day weekend. Speaking of fulfilled, you should see my Inbox! (I know, I know — forgive me, I’m rusty.)
I managed to spark a lot of confusion regarding my offer to critique queries after I’ve passed on them, namely, why did I offer to critique queries and then not critique a query? Well, you see, I’m going to do things a little differently. This is going to be more free-form. If someone asks to have their query reviewed, I might look past the query and try and elucidate why the premise of the novel didn’t work for me. Or something else. So I actually was offering advice in that post to the person who asked the question even though I didn’t critique the query.
As I outlined in a recent post, by the time many authors reach the query stage it’s often too late. Agent blogs often detail the nuances of query letters, when really a query letter should be treated as an afterthought – if a novel is not built on a solid, marketable, original idea, it doesn’t really matter whether the query is well-written or not. Conversely, if you just finished writing a wonderful book, it’s almost impossible to write a bad query letter. So I’m going to try and offer some info on what types of things catch my eye in a good and bad way in the hopes of making your next project succeed.
Now. That said, to further confuse matters I’m going to critique a query today.
The News Clown tells the story of Thor, a young news agency reporter, as he struggles to advance in the Bay City news industry. It is a fast-paced tale about the news biz, studded with sex, humor and tragedy.
Though ennui surely crops up from time to time, it is overwhelmingly a novel of action. The story submerges the reader in Thor’s news world of shootings and murders, car crashes and suicides, drug busts and fires. . . . It follows him through his shattering love affair with the ambitious lawyer Chrissy, the death of Heather, and his tangled relationship with the lonely editor Kate. . . .
In between, we encounter the antics of the war-launching, cross-dressing President Wolfgang G. Mnung . . . the suicide of rock star Christ Sunbeam . . . the execution of serial killer Stephen “Tex” Walker . . . the Lunabear Mind, Body & Spirit Expo in Colorado . . . and the Feed World Hunger Benefit with top Hollywood stars. . . .
And yes, much more. Above all, though, it is extremely well written. It has a style that combines the profane and the sublime, that mixes horror with the absurd. The result, I have been told, is a tasty and unusual — and very readable — elixir.
I invite you to consider representing me and this work. In the right hands, I think this book has a great chance of success.
This query fits into the mold of what I like to call the “Ingredients Query.” Ingredients Queries are extremely common. They provide a list of what’s in the book. Sometimes, like in this one, there are interesting parts of the book listed, other times it’s just a bare bones description.
But here’s the problem with Ingredients Queries: Sugar, butter, egg, baking soda, salt, flour, vanilla. Does that make you want to eat a cookie?
Ingredients Queries don’t tell the story. The story is what I’m looking for.