Monday, 5 March 2012

Query Tips. Get ready for the AGENT JUDGED CONTEST!

 Next month it's my blogiversary and to celebrate, I'm holding an agent-judged contest!!





It will be open to all MG and YA fiction, and to enter you'll need a completed manuscript and a query letter. This will be open to EVERYBODY - it doesn't matter if you've entered one of my competitions before.

Now I can't help you with the completed ms (not even if you bribe me with Rocket Dog shoes or orchids), but I can offer some QUERY TIPS so you have the best chance of winning one of the fabulous prizes.  

My first tip is this: Read the Query Shark blog. ALL OF IT. I'm a big fan of the Query Shark Formula, which goes like this (and no I don't have to look it up - it's committed to memory and internalised):

What does the mc want?

What's going to get in her way?

What choice/dilemma does she face?

What terrible thing is going to happen if she chooses A; what terrible thing is going to happen if she doesn't.

You can see how I used that formula here and I'm going to give you another example that will let me talk about what WON'T work too.

This is the query I wrote (and edited, and edited, re-wrote, deleted, wrote, edited, re-wrote and edited) for my first novel.


 Ana’s had her foot on the gas pedal of the self-destruct truck ever since her mother’s murder. In a last-chance foster placement before she turns eighteen, Ana vows to dust off her self-control and keep her big mouth shut. Blending in at school is easy. Even a spot of casual stalking can’t hurt - unless her new best friend is crushing on the boy in question too.
 
 When Ana overhears said gorgeous creature, Dev, talking with her own shrink, and about her no less, she ditches her new policy of thinking before acting. A recon mission takes Ana to the graveyard adjoining Dev’s place. Instead of answers, she gets a run in with a Dark Angel whose sole purpose is making Ana a permanent resident of the cemetery. Dev saves her life, and Ana learns her fascination stems from a link stronger than attraction; Dev is her Guardian Angel. Ana’s at the epicentre of a battle, and if she wants to save herself and Dev, she needs to find out why.
 
 As Ana’s schemes lead toward her final confrontation with the Dark Angel, she discovers Dev has concealed the real purpose behind his protection. If that’s not messed up enough, she finds out the angels are connected to the reason she’s spent a lifetime in foster care. To bring down the Dark Angel, Ana must make a choice: trust Dev and face her long-suppressed past, or sever their bond and shatter a love that would define her future.



*Blush*

And in case you're wondering, it got three requests for partials and seventy two rejections before I shelved it. The reason I'm showing you this is so that you can see that following the formula and writing what, if I'm honest, I still think is a half-decent query, is not the only thing that matters.

The reason this query failed is because the premise of the book wasn't unique enough. I hadn't read many YA books at the time and I didn't know this. 

I also think this query has a voice that wasn't present in the pages. Poor Ana - she just didn't have what it takes. 

There are lots of places where you can find out that your query should be about 250 words, and that you should type it straight into the email rather than copy/paste because that will screw with your formatting. I'm not going to repeat all that here.

What I am going to say is that you should use the tone and voice of your ms to write your query.

You should know what's out there on the shelves already.

And you should read agent's submission instructions and blogs - you can find out a lot about what they're looking for and what they've seen a lot of.



More details on the competition will follow soon! In the meantime, polish up your query, make sure your MG/YA ms is in the shape you want an agent to see it in, and tell anyone and everyone who writes to come and join in because there may be more than one agent judging, and there WILL be more than one prize : D


18 comments:

  1. Wow, how exciting, Ruth! And so nice to see your query that didn't work. It helps to see what doesn't work as much as what does sometimes.

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    1. Re. the query - I think so too.

      Re. the contest - SQUEAK! I'm really excited to be hosting it - it's going to be fun!

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  2. Super exciting! guess I'll have to polish up that query letter after all. Ugh. :)

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  3. How fun, Ruth!

    PS~ I STILL love your query (and Dev). :)

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    1. Alas, I still love him too but it was never meant to be. Do you know, I think my new boy Cam has a touch of Dev about him. I think you're going to like him : D

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  4. What an amazing competition!!! I'm sure you'll get a huge amount of entries. Wishing you the very best of luck for next month.

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    1. I hope so Amaleen. I'm looking forward to my very own slushpile! :D

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  5. Fun times! And yes, Steph, I still love Dev and Anna. It was a great book! Don't let Ruth tell you otherwise, people!

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    1. Aww, shucks : D

      This next one's going to be a million times better!

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  6. Thanks tor the contest and showing us a query that does and doesn't work. This should be a lot of fun.

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    1. You're welcome and I think so too!

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  7. I haven't been following you yet, but I am now! I'm really looking forward to your contest - and reading your future posts!

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    1. Thanks! I'll look forward to reading your entry :)

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  8. Eeeeeeee can't wait to send in my query :)

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    1. Further details about the comp coming soon!

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  9. Boy, this is going to be interesting!

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  10. I don’t think many of websites provide this type of information.
    Top 10 Agents - Tallahassee

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Please prove you are a robot. I'll be disappointed if you aren't.