Sunday, November 16, 2008

Query Clinic

Dear editorial anonymous,
I'm an English children's writer and I've always begun my query letters with 'I'm writing to ask if you will consider being my agent/publisher' but having read American blogs I can see the benefit of a more direct start with the mini-blurb. The problem is I'm not sure if I'm getting it right.
Hope you can help.

The most exciting day in Millie's life has finally arrived, the chance to meet her idol - TV conservationist Dr Midas. To the ten-year-old's surprise she discovers Midas has invented a time machine, and she's about to help test it.
Wow, that's pretty left-field.
Suddenly she is back in 1720, hanging around with pirates, a robot dog, mouthy parrots and mad monkeys. When Midas is called upon to be a hero - Millie quickly realising the man is not the same as his image - and it's up to her to ensure they stop the resurrection of Blackbeard and find a strange lost treasure.
'Dr Midas and the Pirates' is a fun adventure tale for 8-12 year olds (complete at 64,000 words) inspired by real events and set on St Mary's Island off Madagascar.
Cut "fun adventure tale for 8-12 year olds" (because I'm not going to believe you about 'fun' yet, and 'adventure' should be obvious from what you've already said) and replace it with "middle-grade novel". You'll sound much more professional.
I have used fascinating facts about the island in my storyline, these include local beliefs such as Vazimba (hairy pygmy land guardians), fadys (taboos) and the famadihana ceremony - where the Malagasy take their relatives’ bodies out of their tombs, clean and redress them as well as talking and dancing with them. My plot is based around the island’s wildlife, including lemurs and huge elephant bird eggs.
Ok, pirates still have some cache, but the trend is waning. And having realistic facts about Madagascar in your book is nice, but what I'm missing here is the significant appeal to children of this manuscript. (Children do not care about geography much.) Why are children going to be excited about it?
I am 33-years-old and work full time as a chief sub editor at the Liverpool Daily Post & Echo newspapers, in England. 'Dr Midas and the Pirates' was a winner in the Writers' and Artists' Yearbook novel competition and I won first prize in the Writers’ Advice Centre’s 2007 short story competition with my story 'Diversity.' I have featured in the local press and there was a double page feature about me in the January edition of Writers' Forum magazine. I also have my own website and a blog
I'm afraid I don't care how old you are, nor about any of these competitions and features in newspapers, because I'm unfamiliar with them.
I have completed a sequel to 'Pirates', 'Dr Midas and the Incas' and I am currently racing towards the finish line off my first draft of 'Dr Midas and the Khmers' set in Angkor, Cambodia.
I then plan to write a fourth Midas book set in Papua New Guinea involving diving, cannibals and Skull Island and a fifth set in Australia featuring Aborigines and dreamtime myths.
If you are interested I would be happy to send you a full outline and sample chapters or the full manuscript.
Telling me about the sequels you're already hurrying to finish is like counting your pterodactyls before your chicken eggs have hatched. Leave it out.

Overall, this is a decent query, but it needs some work before I'd call it requestable.


Chris Eldin said...

This sounds like Magic Tree House with an edge to it. I like it!
Good luck with it!

Anonymous said...

EA gave you some good advice.

Good luck with this!

I agree with EA to leave out the "working on a sequel line," as well. Maybe save that for when an agent wants to sign you, and then bring the sequel up as a possibility.

Also "my plot is based around real animal wildlife" stuff is something you definitely don't need. It's sort of a given that if you include animals that your description, etc of them will be accurate. Besides this is fiction, not journalism. :)

Susan Humphreys said...

Thanks everyone for your comments, I realy appreciate all the advice.

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