Query Attempt II

Dear Ms. Warren,

I appreciated your kind words on my blog and the invitation to query you. Thank you. And you’ll be pleased to know that I did not kill my husband.

City of the Dead was awarded Most Promising Manuscript at the Alaska Writers Guild fall conference, where I almost met you. Complete at 122,000 words, it is YA epic fantasy similar in style to Paolini’s Eragon and Lucas’s Shadow Moon.

The story follows Nahldria, an elfin princess training to be a night priestess. But a seemingly accidental death in her family places her next in line for the throne, dashing her hopes for the priesthood. An expanding war tears her from the capital and forces a difficult decision: with her nation and her world at stake, will she join the gods she thought she knew, or save the man she has grown to love?

I am a freelance writer and editor from Fairbanks Alaska. I teach writing to high school students throughout the state, and participate in writing groups locally and internationally. I have published a few short stories and received awards for both this story and others.

Thank you so much for you consideration.

Jill Marcotte


11 thoughts on “Query Attempt II

  1. First comment – Eragon is spelled with an ‘a’ I think.

    Second, would it maybe be worth mentioning the names of the awards you’ve won or the places you’ve been published? They might want to look into it (maybe).

    I like your quip at the beginning – both reminding her that you’ve been in contact and adds a bit of colour. And your “where I almost met you.” Both relevant and made me smile, which probably makes you more noticeable.

    As I said on that tweetery thing, I’m terribad at this type of thing but hope I’m even a little helpful. I am cheering you on like a crazy person though. I’m so excited it could be my own book being queried. xD

    Anyway, GOOD LUCK!

    • The publications aren’t at magazines that she probably would have heard of, and the awards are either also probably never heard of, or the two she was sitting there watching me receive. I erred on the side of being brief. Do you think that was a bad call?

  2. As per Celuth’s comment, I’m no pro at this either and my comments are mostly stylistic, but here goes! Blame brevity/typos on my phone 😀

    Love the line about not killing your hubs; maybe could flow better; you’ll be happy to know I didn’t kill…?

    Same with start of second paragraph; feel like it needs lead in – the story you’ve read about on my blog, CotD…? That is a terrible lead in, but maybe something?

    Is SoIaF a YA fantasy? Not that it matters too much, your point is still clear 🙂

    Same with start of third paragraph… In CotD, blah… Or, the story follows blah… Also, I really think you should add Nahldria’s name; brings us closer to the story, I think.

    Was N trying to be a goddess or a priestess? Of course i know how it turns out, but… Also, I’d change “longs to” – she doesn’t long to; she’s on her way when the story opens; I think that should be clear. Also, you can do better than longing 😉

    I’d switch learned to love for come to love (or something); learned makes it sound like she “accepts” him rather than actually falling in love with him.

    Agreed with Celuth about adding the names of your publications/affiliations.

    That’s it! Sorry again for the brevity; makes me sound like a jerk but my phone is horrible with WordPress sites >__>

    • Yeah, I just caught and changed the ‘goddess’ to ‘priestess’ a few minutes ago. SoFaI is def not YA, but I’ve been told it’s similar in style and setting. Maybe I should just drop this comp title and find one that’s YA instead. I agree that lead-ins are wonky and I’m totally stealing “You’ll be pleased to know I didn’t kill my husband.” But I’m still fence riding about the magazines. I’ll think about it, gather more opinions. They’re just little homegrown ezines and I’ve been told not to list titles unless I think they’d have heard of them. Thanks again! You guys are great!

    • I also feel like I should mention Enthiln sooner than I do. It doesn’t seem like much of a choice if we don’t realize there’s a guy until that point…

  3. Hi 😀

    I agree with the others: you should name at least one of the short stories/places it’s published.

    As for mentioning the fiancee, perhaps “…places her next in line for the throne, beholden to a prearranged marriage, dashing her hopes…” Or something similar. I might not be at my most grammatical right now.

    Other than that, I think it looks really solid and I approve 🙂

  4. Jill,

    I meant to comment on this sooner! I hope you haven’t sent it out yet, but if you have, that’s okay – take the notes into consideration for next time.

    We’ll start with the first problem: the introductory business goes on too long. Your actual query doesn’t start until three paragraphs in. I’d fix this by moving the business about the manuscript – CITY OF THE DEAD is a 122,000 word YA epic fantasy – to underneath your brief summary of the piece. The introduction of “I met you at the conference, I didn’t kill my husband, thank you for your blog post” is fine, but you should follow it with the pitch, not the statistics. She won’t care how long it is until she cares about your characters, plot, or idea. As Miss Snark, Janet Reid, and a zillion others say: get to the point, make your pitch. It’s what will hold their attention.

    Speaking of, the pitch for your manuscript is literally only one paragraph, and doesn’t answer the primary questions you want to answer in your query: who it’s about, what is in their way, and why it matters. You use a lot of abstract ideas, where it is the concrete things that will set your book apart.

    My comments on your pitch paragraph: What will make this stand out is the specifics about these things in your world. Princesses, priestesses, wars, losses, love – this thing is riddled with abstractions, and not a lot of concrete information about what makes your world unique and stand out. You want concrete information. Example, based on your paragraph, undoubtedly inaccurate but hopefully illustrating the point:

    Most elfin princesses dedicate their lives to dancing in the moonlight, playing music, flirting with princes, and flitting through the woods in clingy white gowns. Nahdria, spare daughter of King Teliss and Queen Thestorii, is just lucky she’s the ruling royalty’s younger child: it’s given her the freedom to pursue her training to become a night priestess, one of the warrior women dedicated to the goddess Sillinez, keeper of the moon.

    When her brother Mystarii dies in a strange hunting accident, Nahdria’s pulled from the priesthood, forced into a clingy white dress, and expected to sit prettily and flirt with the best of them. Worse, an expanding war against the neighboring sun-worshipers, the Aeliearan half-elf outcasts, forces the family out of the capitol and into exile in the summer palace. The only bright side to exile is spending more time with the young elfin lord, Alaie, who thinks as little of flowy gowns and hunting accidents as she does. Nahdria knows the goddess is on her side, because she’s been gifted with a vision. If she flees the palace, takes up arms, and fights in the city, there may be hope to end the war. But fleeing the palace will mean leaving Alaei, who she’s starting to love, and once she leaves, she knows there will be no going back. Nahdria must choose between the man of her dreams and the nation she has a sworn duty to protect – her happiness, or her gods.

    CITY OF THE DEAD is a 120,000 word Young Adult epic fantasy in the style of (do not compare yourself to a blockbuster artist/household name – it looks arrogant, even if it is true, and is a huge turn-off for literary agents, so sayeth Janet Reid, Miss Snark, and a good bajillion others). It won the Anchorage Writing Guild’s Most Promising Manuscript Award at the 2013 conference, where we met.

    I am a freelance writer and editor from Fairbanks Alaska. I teach writing to high school students throughout the state, and participate in writing groups locally and internationally (be concrete – the local NaNoWriMo chapter, the Anchorage Writing Guild, etc). I have published a few short stories and received awards for both this story and others. (You need to be concrete here. Even if she hasn’t heard of the publications or awards, it shows that you’ve been putting yourself out there. It doesn’t have to be Glimmer Train, or The New Yorker. It can be The Sunday Fairbanks Funny Page put out by the University Garden Club, honestly.)

    I don’t know where you learned to write query letters, but I would consider checking out the Absolute Write Watercooler thread, here, to see examples of queries that worked to snag agents: http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=92925

    Here’s the Query Shark (Janet Reid)’s comments on queries:http://queryshark.blogspot.com/

    Here’s Miss Snark’s formula, compiled by yWriter creator and brilliant Australian author Simon Haynyes: http://www.spacejock.com.au/QueryLetter.html

    And Nathan Bransford; http://blog.nathanbransford.com/2008/03/query-letter-mad-lib.html

    I’m not a pro, take this all with a grain of salt, but I will say I have done my research and I stand by my comments. Be more concrete, because it’s the details that make your novel stand out, not the generalities.

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