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  1. #1
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    YA SF Query Fourth attempt :)

    Hello!

    First - a huge thanks for the help I've received so far. I've made a few changes in this one:

    Thrown in a little more about the plot.
    Changed the name (finally). Lithia isn't toooo different to Terra, but it's a little more exotic, and Spielberg isn't using it for a new series (thanks John!).
    Added a line or two to help show that while the main character is light-hearted and funny, she's in quite a serious situation, and the tone of the novel follows that interplay between humor and danger.

    Please let me know what you think. Everyone has been amazingly helpful, so far. I can't quite believe I'm not paying for such good advice. Maybe some fed-exed tuna is in order.


    Dear Amazing Agent.

    I'm writing to you because of BLAH - personalized info. I'd love to send you my 91,000-word SF/romance, LITHIA, which follows seventeen-year-old Ellie Hartford as she discovers first love, and first contact.

    Two moons in the sky. A boy shouting in an alien language. This is the first of Ellie's visits to the planet Lithia. It's sudden, it's terrifying, it's – whoa – that guy totally has his shirt off. Catapulted through space against her will, Ellie becomes a frequent and bewildered traveler to a world of highly advanced, completely drool-worthy aliens.

    Oblivious to the significance of first contact, Ellie hurls herself into the longest long-distance relationship in the universe. Literally. While on Earth, she struggles to keep her visits a secret - and keep herself out of a straitjacket. Believing in aliens isn't so bad. Believing you're flying across the galaxy to date one? Recipe for a padded cell. Ellie's case for sanity isn't helped by her spontaneous outbursts in fluent Lithian, or her new, terrifying super-human health.

    What begins as a thrilling secret quickly becomes a desperate search for answers as a planet-killing asteroid is spotted hurtling towards Lithia. If Ellie can figure out how she's traveling there, she could help prevent a global catastrophe. If not, she might find herself in as much danger as the man, and the planet, she has come to love.

    LITHIA is Romeo and Juliet meets The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, only Ellie wouldn't be caught dead outside in a bathrobe. Or a dress. Black jeans all the way. LITHIA represents the first in a planned series which follows Ellie through humanity's adjustments to life in a not-so-quiet universe. (this line only for agents who mention they want to hear if the novel is part of a series)

    I'm an Australian, but my novel is set in the USA where I feel its natural audience lies. I would be happy to send you a synopsis and/or the full manuscript on your request.

    Thank you for your time and consideration,

    Em
    Last edited by Emily MacGowan; 05-10-2011 at 12:54 AM.



  2. #2
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    Emily,

    I've looked at this Q several times and just don't get a clear idea of how to suggest improvements.

    To me, it looks like you're got all the necessary parts in and did a good job. But...well, I guess, it just doesn't inspire. This is probably a question of taste, style and all those wiggly bits. So you may get some agent interest, but if you can see your way to a version that's just that extra touch bigger and better...I don't know.

    There are only three places I see potential for bigger and better, and all are subjective, just fodder for you.

    The first is the voice. You've voice in here, but for me it feels like voice light, like a standard sort of young adult voice. I'll just pull out the bits that read this way to me so you can assess easily.

    totally has his shirt off.
    completely drool-worthy
    Literally.
    Recipe for a padded cell.
    wouldn't be caught dead

    Each of these feels a bit too teeny-bopper to me, too common.

    Another thing that strikes me is how many times you rely on Q cliche sorts of phrases. Again, I'll pull them out.

    I'm writing to you because...
    follows...as she discovers...
    she struggles to...
    becomes a desperate search...
    If Ellie can figure out...she could... If not...

    I'm not saying any of these are necessarily bad, but the overall effect gets a bit bogged down in these tired phrases that get used over and over to move a plot along quickly.

    Last thing, you spend four or five sentences on Ellie's grasp on sanity, but none on what this romance means to her. None on this boy, guy, man (still don't like how you use all these different nouns).

    I think you're doing a good job here, I just hope you figure out how to ratchet it up a bit so that you really inspire agents to ask for the manuscript.

    The title, for me, isn't memorable. I see now that you're probably trying to find a title that works for the whole series. I would just caution you that, at the Q stage, the title is part of your marketing to an agent. You want something that sticks in an agent's mind, that calls up what's unique about your story. Titles change all the time through the agent/publishing and you don't need to worry about a series appropriate title at this stage.

    Anyway, hope something here is helpful.

  3. #3
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    "I'm writing to you because of BLAH - personalized info. I'd love to send you my 91,000-word SF/romance, LITHIA, which follows seventeen-year-old Ellie Hartford as she discovers first love, and first contact."

    ...and that's about as far as the average agent will get.

    You have one sentence or, if you're very clever, two of them to get the agent so interested that he or (mostly) she will keep reading. You have to hook their interest, which is why your opening sentence is called "the hook." Yours doesn't. You start off with personalizing stuph that isn't likely to catch their interest, then say that you want to send them your book. Believe me, any agent opening your email (or snail mail) is going to know that already; you don't start off by telling them what they already know.

    Your next paragraph starts off better; much better. You have what may be a good two-sentence hook. Cut your first paragraph and put the word-count down near the bottom, because the agent isn't going to care about that unless he/she's interested.

  4. #4
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    Talking

    Emily. As you know, I'm far from an expert lol. I like what you've written. I like the story. I like the voice. I agree with Joe about placement of that whole section with your word count at the beginning; it should be at the end. A couple of other concerns - - I think the voice is intrusive in one place. I'd remove part of the fourth sentence: it's - whoa -that guy totally has his shirt off. It just seems intrusive. I don't think it's needed; you have enough of the voice coming through in other places. And in the second paragraph... the believing in aliens part... it's too broken up.

    Two moons in the sky. A boy shouting in an alien language. This is the first of Ellie's visits to the planet Lithia. It's sudden, it's terrifying. Catapulted through space against her will, Ellie becomes a frequent and bewildered traveler to a world of highly advanced, completely drool-worthy aliens.

    Oblivious to the significance of first contact, Ellie hurls herself into the longest long-distance relationship in the universe. Literally. While on Earth, she struggles to keep her visits to Lithia?a secret - and keep herself out of a straitjacket. Believing in aliens isn't so bad. Believing you're flying across the galaxy to date one? Recipe for a padded cell. Ellie's case for sanity isn't helped by her spontaneous outbursts in fluent Lithian, or her new, terrifying super-human health.

    What begins as a thrilling secret quickly becomes a desperate search for answers as a planet-killing asteroid is spotted hurtling towards Lithia. If Ellie can figure out how she's traveling there, she could help prevent a global catastrophe. If not, she might find herself in as much danger as the man, and the planet, she has come to love.

    LITHIA is Romeo and Juliet meets The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, only Ellie wouldn't be caught dead outside in a bathrobe. Or evena dress. Black jeans all the way. LITHIA represents the first in a planned series which follows Ellie through humanity's adjustments to life in a not-so-quiet universe. (this line only for agents who mention they want to hear if the novel is part of a series)

    Just my opinion. Hope I was of some help. Good luck!!!

  5. #5
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    Hey guys,

    Some great advice there.

    Thanks CK - I know exactly what you mean about the wow factor. It may be a matter of a small series of submissions and seeing what I get back. I'm not sending it out immediately, but will come back to it soon and think about what you've said. The cliches do worry me. The title I will continue to think about. It's tough - I'm pulling a blank. My beta readers might be able to help. Re the voice - I think I've brushed on the teeny-bopperishness too much. I agree, I can see it now. I think if I cut drool-worth and think of something more imaginative, as well as "wouldn't be caught dead in" it might read better. I'll think of more quirky, Ellie-ish saying. Thankyou!

    Joe - thanks for the feedback. Some agents have mentioned in interviews that they like the personalised intros first. For those agents I will keep it at the top but I agree it's not the best start. I'll shift it as a default to lower in the query. Thanks!

    Tinman - thanks for the suggestions. I will keep looking at the voice. Some of your suggestions really work and I'll use them. Thank you so much for the input.

    Sorry for the rushed response - I'm in a library with low battery! Will have the net soon again!

  6. #6
    Tanya Thibodeau
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  7. #7
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    I'm writing to you because of BLAH - personalized info. I'd love to send you my 91,000-word SF/romance, LITHIA, which follows seventeen-year-old Ellie Hartford as she discovers first love, and first contact.

    Out. All of it.

  8. #8
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    "Catapulted through space..." is not sentence a fragment; it's an introductory phrase modifying the subject of the main clause "Ellie becomes a frequent and bewildered traveler...."

  9. #9
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    Oh, Tanya's just pissed that I took the time out of my day to try and help her with her query letter, for a second time. Apparently the best way to solve this is dig up a 4-month old thread and tear it apart.

    leslee - yeah, I'll be formatting the opening and closing based on what I can find out about individual agents' tastes. One expressely asked writers to say "This book is a X-000 word BLAH, and I'm writing to you because..." - but that's the exception, not the rule. Whatever I keep of that paragraph will live at the end, by default. Thanks for the re-emphasis, though, I'll be sending the query out in the next couple of weeks and it's good to get a refresher.

    - Oh and Tanya - mentioning I'm an Australian is important for the agent's tax purposes. Some don't take many international clients. I could leave it out and spring it on them later, but I figured it's more professional to be upfront. I'm also telling them that the US is the natural market because I don't want them thinking that I've exhausted the Australian agents and am only now looking abroad. An agent will completely understand that paragraph.
    Last edited by Emily MacGowan; 08-04-2011 at 08:57 PM.

  10. #10
    Tanya Thibodeau
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