Saturday, March 10, 2012

Query help... Please?

It's getting to be that time... Yup, I'm going to be putting on my big girl panties at the end of the month and bracing myself for the barrage of rejections that will come when I start querying The Boyfriend Plague. This afternoon I played around with a query letter, and thought I'd post it here for all my super-smart blog-readers to tear into. So, go ahead! Tell me how to make this query shine...

Dear Agent of my dreams,

Things at home are rough for fifteen-year-old Livvie Quinn. After being cancer-free for almost ten years, her beloved older sister, Jules is sick again.

School isn’t much better. One by one her closest friends get boyfriends and have little time for Livvie – except to set her up on a series of disastrous blind dates.

Livvie seeks refuge in the art room, a place where her ability to see sounds and taste colors is something to be marveled at, not ridiculed. Also hiding in the art room is Bianca, object of scorn and derision throughout the school. As their friendship develops, Livvie realizes she needs Bianca in her life.

When their relationship is discovered, Livvie and Bianca become victims of cruelty more intense than even Bianca has experienced before. They are determined to stick together, but when the school authorities forbid the pair to attend the Winter Formal together, Livvie must decide if she will defy them and keep her relationship with Bianca in the public eye, risking expulsion and ridicule from her classmates.

With her mother pushing for a miracle cancer treatment, and her sister asking for help to end the pain once and for all, Livvie must choose between winning her mother’s attention and Jules’s life. But either choice is going to wreck havoc on her sanity.

The Boyfriend Plague is an 84 000 word contemporary YA novel that should appeal to readers who enjoyed Cris Beam’s I Am J and Cheryl Rainfields’s Scars.

My short stories have appeared in Halfway Down The Stairs, A Fly in Amber, Daily Flash Anthology, The Barrier Islands Review, Death Rattle, Drastic Measures and Residential Aliens, among others.

Per your submission requirements, you will find the first XXXX pages of the manuscript below. I would be delighted to send you further sample chapters, or the entire manuscript, at your request. Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you soon.



Any suggestions?


  1. You didn't write anything about the conflict with her mother. It's a pretty big theme to the story, is it possible to squeeze it in there anywhere?

  2. My 1 1/2 cents worth (keeping in mind you know I love this book and I'm just trying to help you sell it):
    Your query sets up the conflict nicely. It deals out the situation and brings Livvie to life as a character, but then at the end, the stakes and consequences are vague and don't pack the same punch they do in your story.

    You mention Jules' cancer in the first paragraph and then never again directly. And it ties back to the conflict with the mother that Amielia mentions. Maybe consider replacing the paragraph about winter formal?

    I don't know if I would delve into the friends here beyond the blind dates they set her up on. I know their friendship is central to the plot, but I don't know if you have time to explore that theme in so few words.

    Your wrap-up paragraphs are vague to someone who hasn't read the story. "Livvie must make some tough decisions." and "With her family making demands on her that she can’t live up to" don't really touch on how intense these decisions actually are. I would suggest spelling them out.

    'Livvie must decide if she will defy authority and keep her relationship with Bianca in the public eye - facing expulsion and/or ridicule from her school mates for the rest of her high school career' (Or something that spells out the stakes of her decision)

    The decision with Jules, I think the stakes are pretty clear, but you never tell here us that's looming. Tie it back to everything else going on in her life "With her mother pushing for a slim-chance cancer treatment and her sister asking her to help her end the pain once and for all, Livvie must choose between a parent's approval and Jules' life. Not to mention the havoc either choice will wreak on her own sanity' (or something with that same idea, but more clear)

    Things like that will help bring the power of your story into your query.

    Happy to help you over and over with your query - just let me know ^_^ And very best of luck to you!

  3. I sent my suggestions to you via email. Hope that was okay.

  4. I'm not familiar with your story so I hope my review is an objective one. The one thing that I notice is that Livvie comes across as a fairly passive character. Almost your entire description is about the things that happen to her and not things that she does. Try to give her a more active role in your query letter. Other than that, I think that Loralie makes some very good points, several of which are related to the passive vs. active theme. Good luck!

  5. I've made a few changes, so if you want to take another look, please feel free to rip into this version. I kind of feel like it doesn't hang together all that well...

  6. This is a really good start. I enjoyed reading about the relationship and I look forward to wanting to read of how it resolves. The only thing I noticed is the word count is near the end. You may want to shift it over to the beginning of the query, as this piece of info is usually the first thing an agent looks for in marketability.

    Good job with everything else, I enjoyed it! :)

  7. I haven't read your story, which maybe good since an agent will also not have read your story when they first get your query. These are just the thoughts I have as I read: I'm immediately confused about your title - a great title, I might add. I'm not sure its connection to the story you have just laid out in this query.

    The synopsis of your story also seems a little disjointed. The beginning and end are about the mother and sister. The middle are about a controversial relationship of Livvie's. How do all these things connect together? I know its a small amount of space to get all these laid out, but that's what I'm wondering as I read.