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Friday, September 10, 2010

Query Critique #1

My friend Jon, who works at a publishing house as a slush reader promised to read some of your guys' queries. Here is the first. Leave your comments and suggestions, I am sure Kay will appreciate them.

I’m sending THE BAD LUCK MAGNET -- a middle grade fantasy set in 1921, complete at 44,000 words. It was very common to start with a small description of your story at the beginning of a query letter, but unless I am hooked by the idea I don’t care for the title or the word count. At the same time, those can lead to a rejection themselves. Personally, I recommend sending the agent directly into the story.

Thirteen-year-old EMMA KLOKEN just knows she’s the unluckiest girl in the world. Just knows? I would recommend something along the lines of… “is the unluckiest girl in the world.” She could know, but really is she? The hook is interesting. But you are setting yourself up for another question which I want to see answered. I want to know why. Every time she turns around, her grandmother locks her in the broom closet -- even before she thinks about doing something wrong. Ok, I believe it would be very strange is her grandmother locks her is a closet every single time that she turns around. Does she lock her in the closet every time she sees her? Does she punish her in that way, or is she trying to let loose her own angst by taking it out on Emma? Just some things to think over. Emma wishes she was able to tell the old bat to go jump in a lake, but she daren’t. So she hats her grandma, but the conflict isn’t set up straight up and right in this query. There has to be more to her hate if she wants her own grandma stone cold, if you know what I mean.

When her family moves to Hardscrabble in the California Gold Country, Emma’s bad luck holds. I didn’t really hear of any bad luck in the first paragraph, other than her grandma locking her in a closet and I wouldn’t call that bad luck. Bad luck is when everything seems to mess up for you. But a nasty grandma isn’t luck its your family, and family you cannot change. The first girls she meets [NANCY and GLENDA] hold a grudge against her because they think Emma’s father ‘stole’ Nancy’s mother’s promotion. Here you mention bad luck again, but you don’t explain it. Why would two girls that are strangers hold a grudge against her because of something her parents did to one another. It doesn’t really make sense to me. You need more explanation and detail. Not a longer query, I am still recommending short but concise. When Nancy and Glenda take Emma for a picnic in the foothills, they throw her new bike down an abandoned mine shaft and ditch her. I still don’t see why they would do that to her. Because of her parents? Trying to rescue her bike, Emma slides into the mine where she encounters GRIMM, a hobgoblin, who rescues her.

When Emma learns Grimm was punished for helping her, she decides to go to Faery to rescue him. What is Faery? This should be mentioned WAY earlier. This IS the importance of the book I imagine. Not the way she got there but the adventure she will have there. Only problem, Nancy insists on joining her because Glenda has disappeared into Faery too. How exactly did that happen? I though they both ditched her?

Overall, I think you have a nice premise, but the query needs work. Not too much, but some rearranging will really make a difference. I wish you the best of luck!


Kay, thank you so much for sending in your query! I really like the premise as well and I am sorry I posted this so late. You can visit and FOLLOW Kay’s really awesome blog here: If anybody else would like their query critiqued by Jon, just e-mail me or comment and I will e-mail you and send it to him. :D

A toast to getting partials, manuscript requests and contracts for all of you guys!!!


  1. Kay does appreciate the critique of her query. Thank you ever so much. (And, the plug for her mouthy blog.)

    Actually, I'm wondering when I sent it too you. I've put Emma on the back burner because I have a couple other projects I'm working on ... plus revising another WIP.

    Thanks in advance for any comments since I'm trying to kick my marketing efforts into gear.

  2. Gosh, sorry it took so long to put up! I got off track and have not updated my blod for a while :(. You sent it on mond. 6/7/10.

  3. This is terrifically helpful! Thanks, Kay for donating the query.

    I think the premise is really interesting.

    It's great to see the kinds of things slush pile readers look for.