Sunday, March 13, 2011

Share the Birthday Love Blogfest Post

Since finishing the first draft of my WIP, I've started trying to write a query letter. I know I'm still a long way away from querying anyone, but I figured it's going to take me a while to get it right. And it is. It's HARD!

Anyway, my query has been through a few iterations since the first version. My most recent version (only the part about the story) is under the tab 'Blood Dragon' above. I've had some feedback on Nathan Bransford's forum asking for more feedback, so I've tried to steer away from previous versions. I'm struggling with length (358 words!) and just the query in gerenal. Any feedback would be wonderful!

I will be getting around everyone's entries tomorrow morning. Can't wait to read them all! (I would have done this sooner, but my dad is in Japan so it's been a stressful day! He's ok though.)

QUERY: Blood Legacy (YA Fantasy)

Dear [Agent],

The people of Dereshan have waited centuries for their saviour, a child with two-toned eyes and the heir of the last dragon queen. But for Dani Strider, ignorant of her heritage after growing up on earth, the uncontrolled magic coursing through her is a curse. All it’s ever gotten her is loneliness.

When Dani wakes to strangers in her home the last thing she expects is to meet the family she thought were nonexistent. Her joy at the discovery is ripped away when they vanish, fading into the woods behind her house. The only evidence of their visit is a cryptic message: if he comes, you must follow.

Dani’s anger at the loss unleashes her magic and wreaks destruction on her surroundings. She wakes in a blast crater, a giant gray dog at her side, and an expression all too human in his eyes.

Dani follows the dog to Dereshan, only to discover he has a voice, an attitude, and far too many secrets. His help doesn’t come free; he wants to be healed and Dani’s the only one who can do it. What he means by that he refuses to tell.

The long-lived tyrant Vaddrin controls the world of Dereshan using fear and dark magic, and is soon to find the Dragons’ Histories, a weapon that will give him dominion over not just Dereshan, but all its parallel worlds, including Earth. According to an ancient prophecy, Dani’s the only one who can stop him, and he wants her dead.

Dani discovers her ancestors are the founding members of a society called the Kaardrivaal, the only opposing force against Vaddrin. If Dani bends to fate she will join the war against Vaddrin, and it will likely cost her life. But she is determined to choose her own path, and by doing so she may lose the one thing she’s always wanted: her chance to claim her place in the world.

BLOOD LEGACY is a young adult fantasy of approximately 84,000 words. It is a complete story with strong series potential. This is my first novel.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Kind regards,

Sari Webb


  1. Thanks Carol! Some great advice. I'm glad you liked the blast crater bit (it's one of my fave scenes in the book). I really need to take some time thinking about how to do this.

  2. Thanks Michelle! Great tips on places to cut. Every little bit helps.

  3. Thanks Gale. It doesn't matter if you're repeating advice. If more than one person says something I know it's something I need to work on!

  4. Hi Vicki, thank you so much for your tips. You were the first to say get rid of the 'first novel' line and heaps of people have agreed with you since :).

    I'm working on shortening too. It doesn't seem to be one of my strong points! I'll get there though.

  5. Thanks Tizzy! It's good to hear :)

  6. Thanks for the tips! Some great ideas for cutting and adding words. I really appreciate it!

  7. First of all, Sari, delete that sentence about this being your first novel. Why advertise that you're a newbie? It's the concept and writing that will get you requests, whether it's your first novel or your tenth.

    Second, you definitely need to shorten the synopsis of your novel. Try to get it down to 2 paragraphs. Take the most important plot thread, start with MC, inciting incident, goal, conflict and stakes and then flesh those out into 2 paragraphs.

    Good luck!

  8. Hi Sari. I don't know much about querying so I can't give you any technical advice. But if it helps, your description of the novel really makes me want to read it!

  9. Hi sari,

    I also like the sound of your novel. It is the sort of thing that i would pick up at the bookstore and read the back.

    I have no real experience with the query system yet, BUT, from my little knowledge i agree with Viki. It is a tad too long. the beginning of the query grabbed me but by the end i was skipping a couple of bits because i wanted to get to the end. It sounds awesome though!! really good. Try and make it a tad simpler. If they want to read the details they will ask for the book to be sent.

    I probably wouldn't put in the bit about your first novel either. (what does everyone else think?)


  10. Ooh, your book sounds great!

    Your query is nice and clear but yes, too long. I think C Tyler gives very good advice. I'd agree to take out the 'first novel' mention and the last paragraph completely. However I think the talking dog sounds interesting, if it were me I'd leave that in, as it's something specific and original. (but I think you can shorten it, perhaps start by leaving out the 'What he means by...' line) I'd take out 'approximately' 84,000 words, that's understood. Since it's YA I think you should tell us how old Dani is (But for 16-year-old Dani Strider...)

    Now not that I'm trying to take you in the wrong (lengthier) direction(!), but I'd like to know a tiny bit more about Dani before all this happens. At the moment I don't even know what country she lives in, or if she goes to school etc. And you say 'the family she thought were non-existent' so who does she (since she's presumably a teenager) live with before? Is she adopted or in care? Also, why has her magic brought her loneliness? What happened? What kind of magic? I think just a sentence here would help bring her alive more as a person, rather than just 'the chosen one'.

    Hope this is helpful, feel free to take it or leave it :)

  11. I actually think your first two paragraphs could be seriously condensed, and you could start where the actual action begins, i.e. "Dani Strider's only just found her family again when they are taken from her."

  12. I'm not great on query but I agree that it's too long and I found the beginning confusing. The actual story sound really interesting so I could want to know about it... I'm not sure why but “two-toned eyes” stands out to me. Could you think of another description? Do we need to know that for the query?

  13. Hi Sari! I really like the sound of this story! Your beginning is especially strong, although I agree that you could provide more details about why it has only brought her loneliness. Also, the dog part intrigued me, but then he seems to go away? I might shorten the end part and focus more on the inciting action, as that's what will grab a reader. Toward the last few paragraphs I caught myself beginning to skim. Maybe if you could re-structure it a little so that the information about Dereshan and the tyrant is shorter and at the beginning, then focus on Dani, her problems, the thrill of seeing her family and then her determination to help in the fight. By the end the reader is excited to see her enter this new world, and to discover what she will do.

    All in all, I'm intrigued. I'd want to see more. But publishers and agents have limited time, and they don't like long letters. Hope this helps!

    I'm glad to hear your Dad is okay! The situation in Japan is so horrible!

    ~ Bess

  14. Hi Sari, congrats on finishing your WiP, and you're in good company disliking query writing. It's tough to do well. I've heard to think of it as what you'd read on a book jacket flap. If it were a real book and someone opened the cover to read the flap and find out what it's about, what would it say?

    Your book sounds interesting; I like fantasy. :)
    I agree with another comment; don't say this is your first novel, and it's too long for busy agents. The middle part should be condensed or maybe simplified. Also, I think your "hook" with your main conflict should be more of a grabber first sentence. Agents need to be grabbed rapidly, and your opening is more leisurely (i.e. and sounds like a lot of fantasy novels). I think what you're saying is good--just condense and tighten it. Zero in on the main conflict. Also, be sure to describe details that would make this novel stand out from all the other fantasy novels out there.

    The awakening in the blast crater next to a dog is fascinating! I wonder if you could start there. Just a thought. You could/should probably pare down the background that led up to it in 1-3 sentences at most. Best of luck with this! Good start, keep going. :)

  15. I am an absolute completely newbie when it comes to queries, so I can't help you as much as everyone else. I too would be excited to read your story, especially when you mentioned that the dog had secrets. I think it's always fun when people are giving a short synopsis of their story and they say all sorts of things that leave you asking questions. I do agree with Vicki, shorter would be good. Don't give them too much information, leave them really interested.

  16. This is a very nice query. Your story is very interesting as well. I dread queries, but you look like you've done a great job. Best wishes.

  17. Hey Sari,

    I'm currently working on my first query as well. Aren't they hard to nail? Here's my two bits.

    You definitely need to cut out words. Tell me only what is necessary. Here's an example, "the last thing she expects is to meet the family she thought were nonexistent." You can cut that down to, "the last thing she expects is her nonexistent family."

    Or at the beginning, instead of the whole first line intro, you could cut it down to, "Dani never knew she was the long awaited Dereshan heir of the last dragon queen. The only thing her two-toned eyes and uncontrolled magic ever got her was loneliness."

    As for the end, I'd say "BLOOD LEGACY is an 84,000 word YA fantasy novel." I'd leave out the series comment and the first novel comment.

    And you don't need both the "Thank you for your time and consideration," and "Kind regards." I'd just stick with the first with a comma after it and then your name below. It's simple and it cuts down on words.

    Good luck with your revisions. :)

  18. Sari, I think your query is capably written. I just think you have too much story summary in your query--more than three hundred words. You don't have any room left to mention why you are contacting that agent or to include any comparables, i.e., this was written in the vein of (...). In a query letter, I think you need to summarize your plot in 1-2 paragraphs at most. You don't need to tell every twist and turn in the plot--major twists and turns are for your synopis and not your query. I didn't read others' comments first, so I apologize in advance if I'm repeating things others had said.

  19. Like Gale said, it is a lot about your summary. I don't have much experience with query letters, I haven't written on yet myself, but I think the things she mentioned should be included somewhere in there. You have to tell why your story is so different than every other YA fantasy book out there, but why they pick yours? Maybe elaborate on "the place in the world" part. That sounded interesting. I'm not trying to sound rude or anything, just trying to strike something in your heart. That way you're motivated to do it and prove what we all think, that the reader of the query letter should take the time to read your book. Well, I wish you luck and keep writing!

  20. Thanks Madeline. I'm glad you like the dog having secrets bit. It's one of the major sub-plots throughout the book. And yea, I definitely need to work on shortening!

  21. Good point. Two-toned eyes is just me trying to shove too much info into the query, yet again. Thanks for pointing it out :)