QUERY: The Son of the Spider (YA)

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Bartle001
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QUERY: The Son of the Spider (YA)

Post by Bartle001 » September 10th, 2010, 10:38 pm

Dear Ms. Jane Doe,

A street-fighting bookworm,
A dandified killer,
And a billion-pound inheritance—
That can go to only one….

 
It’s a common daydream that our humble origins are revealed to be false. We’re actually descended of wealth, privilege, and a hoary family name.  Let’s say it happens. An aristocrat comes to your door and tells you that you are noble-born, heir to an ancient estate and a grand family fortune!  THE SON OF THE SPIDER is about a fourteen-year-old boy for whom such a daydream has become rude reality:
 
Calvin MacAlastair, resident of Slum Lane, learns that he is the heir-apparent to the ancient Highland title of Thane of Murkendale Moor and the colossal, 600-year-old Castle Crustenburgh. Now a billionaire aristocrat, he finds himself surrounded on all sides by the strange and the deadly: mysterious albino servants, haunted hallways, chilling family secrets, and a way of life where the wrong mistake can cost him everything … even his life.
 
But the greatest danger of all is no ghostly, occult menace, but creepily solid: Dr. Denia Darkling, arachnologist, and her son, the Machiavellian Octavius Onus—dandy, polyglot, musical prodigy, master swordsman. A distant cousin to Calvin, Octavius comes to Crustenburgh with his own plans for the thanedom, plans which require that Calvin be removed … permanently.
 
THE SON OF THE SPIDER is the first book of a new four-volume YA series: The Chronicles of Murkendale Moor.  SPIDER has been professionally edited and is complete at 78,500 words.

Author Bio: I am a college graduate with four years of graduate work in philosophy.  I have worked as a teaching assistant, mortgage broker, and bookseller.  This is my first attempt at a published work.

Included is a brief synopsis and the first five pages of my manuscript. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,
Bartle001

FIRE AWAY!

Write2Me
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Re: QUERY: The Son of the Spider (YA)

Post by Write2Me » September 10th, 2010, 11:03 pm

i like the concept, but this definitely needs to be reworked.

First off the italicized part..you need to either remove it or make it the tagline, but in it's current form its not necessarily the best idea...i'm just not sure an agent would react well to it, as finicky as many are.

Also, don't mention the name of the book in the query until you get to the part where you talk about the book's length. You're trying to sell the concept and words are precious because the attention span of an agent is short.

You need to focus on Calvin from the first sentence. The story is about him, he's the protagonist, so make us care about his story. RIght now, I look at it as hm...seems cool but I don't quite connect with Calvin. Shape your concept of a normal person wishing/wanting to find out their rich around Calvin. We need to experience it from his side...is he poor...is he an orphan...does his life suck then its 'oh yes! i'm rich!'....those types of things strike chords, bringing your character to life.

Don't list! Avoid avoid! If anything, give us a small portal into his life. does he have wierd uncles who smell, does the food suck, is there a secret murder, give us something to say ohhh nice! I want to read! The list just throws out a bunch of stereotypical elements we can find in any book. Its your take on those elements that we should care about. Choose one or two items to describe/set the scene. Same with the whole 'swordsman, polyglot,'...you have to think like a 14 year old boy who has a PSP, and Ipod, and IPAD, and a TV. Sure he read harry potter, and percy jackson, but the back jackets of those books sounded cool. Engage the mind like a movie trailer does. How many times to people see sucky movies because the trailer packs in the coolest elements into a 2 minute visual orgy? Exactly. You have 250 words to make the agent salivate over the possibility that your book could become the next NYT best seller. They're out to get the 15%, and deal with movie rights, tv, etc when it comes to commercial YA.

check out yahighway.com under their query spotlight. It has some helpful stuff, especially the agent feedback. The query process sucks more than writing, so keep at it. I'm on my....what..30th version in 3 months? I doubt i'll ever be completely happy with the result haha.

Krista G.
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Re: QUERY: The Son of the Spider (YA)

Post by Krista G. » September 11th, 2010, 12:46 am

Write2Me made some good points. Here are a few more thoughts.
Bartle001 wrote:Dear Ms. Jane Doe,

A street-fighting bookworm,
A dandified killer,
And a billion-pound inheritance—
That can go to only one….
Yeah, I'm not wild about this, either. Why is it italicized? Why is it in verse form? If you really like it, keep it, but you might consider just trying it out as a sentence, as Write2Me suggested. As is, it comes across as gimmicky.
 
It’s a common daydream that our humble origins are revealed to be false. I don't like this sentence for a couple of reasons. First, you start with the wishy-washy subject "It." Then you throw in some passive voice("our humble origins are revealed..."). I'm honestly not sure how to fix this. You might just scrap this sentence altogether. We’re actually descended of wealth, privilege, and a hoary family name.  Let’s say it happens. An aristocrat comes to your door and tells you that you are noble-born, heir to an ancient estate and a grand family fortune! Don't think we need the exclamation point. THE SON OF THE SPIDER is about a fourteen-year-old boy for whom such a daydream has become rude reality: Actually, we could probably do without this whole paragraph. You've essentially given us a bunch of rhetorical questions that you've turned into statements. Your story really starts in the next paragraph, so that's where you should probably start the query.
 
Calvin MacAlastair (Maybe I've just seen HOME ALONE too many times (it's my mother's favorite Christmas film), but "Calvin MacAlastair" immediately reminded me of "Kevin McAllister"), resident of Slum Lane, learns that he is the heir-apparent to the ancient Highland title of Thane of Murkendale Moor and the colossal, 600-year-old Castle Crustenburgh. Now a billionaire aristocrat, he finds himself surrounded on all sides by the strange and the deadly: mysterious albino servants, haunted hallways, chilling family secrets, and a way of life where the wrong mistake can cost him everything … even his life. The list here didn't bother me as much as the second one, but you could still probably make this stronger.
 
But the greatest danger of all is no ghostly, occult menace, but creepily solid: Dr. Denia Darkling, arachnologist, and her son, the Machiavellian Octavius Onus—dandy, polyglot, musical prodigy, master swordsman. I agree with Write2Me here - you need to pick one of these attributes and go with it. If you really think all the descriptors are necessary, you could go with a statement that incorporates them, something like, "a dandified polyglot who's as good with a violin bow as he is with a sword." Although, to be honest, I have no idea what a polyglot is... A distant cousin to Calvin, Octavius comes to Crustenburgh with his own plans for the thanedom, plans which require that Calvin be removed … permanently. One ellipsis I was willing to overlook. Two on the same page is overkill.
 
THE SON OF THE SPIDER is the first book of a new four-volume YA series: The Chronicles of Murkendale Moor.  SPIDER has been professionally edited and is complete at 78,500 words. Agents are split on whether they want to hear about series potential or whether they just want you to stick with the one. Personally, I'd go with not mentioning it. You kind of look like a fruitcake if you've spent years writing these books and the agent takes one look at the first page and knows it won't sell. And honestly, if your book's good enough, most agents are going to assume you're going for a series in genre fiction. Also, I wouldn't mention that your book's been professionally edited. Unless the agent knows the editor personally and trusts his or her work, it won't do you much good. Just stick with the title and word count (which you'll want to round to the nearest thousand).

Author Bio: I am a college graduate with four years of graduate work in philosophy.  I have worked as a teaching assistant, mortgage broker, and bookseller.  This is my first attempt at a published work. I'm okay with a brief bio even if it doesn't relate to writing, but I'd strike that last sentence. First books can be rough (I'm not saying yours is (although mine definitely was:) )), so you generally don't want to broadcast this information to agents. Let them read it and love it and be awestruck when they find out it's the first thing you've ever written. Besides, if you don't give any publishing credits, they're going to assume it's your first book.

Included is a brief synopsis and the first five pages of my manuscript. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,
Bartle001
On the whole, I like the premise of the book - I just think you need to work on how you present it. Best of luck!
Author of THE REGENERATED MAN (G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers, Winter 2015)
Represented by Kate Schafer Testerman of kt literary
www.motherwrite.blogspot.com

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Bartle001
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Re: QUERY: The Son of the Spider (YA)

Post by Bartle001 » September 11th, 2010, 4:17 am

Dear Ms. Doe:
 
A street-fighting bookworm, a dandified killer, and a billion-pound inheritance—that can go to only one.

Fourteen-year-old Calvin MacAlastair, resident of Slum Lane, learns that he is the heir-apparent to the ancient Highland title of Thane of Murkendale Moor and the colossal, 600-year-old Castle Crustenburgh. Now a billionaire aristocrat, he finds himself surrounded on all sides by the strange and the deadly: mysterious albino servants, haunted hallways, chilling family secrets, and a way of life where the wrong mistake can cost him everything, even his life.
 
But the greatest danger of all is no ghostly, occult menace, but creepily solid: Dr. Denia Darkling, arachnologist, and her son, the scheming young genius, Octavius Onus. A distant cousin to Calvin, Octavius comes to Crustenburgh with his own plans for the thanedom, plans which require that Calvin be removed—permanently. Subjected to plot after spidery plot, Calvin and his family find their fortitude stretched to the breaking point. Ultimately, the two decide to settle their differences once and for all on the fencing strip.

Too bad for Calvin that Octavius is a master swordsman, and this duel is to the death.
 
THE SON OF THE SPIDER is a young adult novel and is complete at 79,000 words.

Author Bio: I am a college graduate with four years of graduate work in philosophy.  I have worked both as a mortgage broker and a bookseller.

Included is a brief synopsis and the first five pages of my manuscript. No need to return the sample pages; please recycle. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,
Bartle001
Last edited by Bartle001 on September 11th, 2010, 10:53 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Melyn
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Re: QUERY: The Son of the Spider (YA)

Post by Melyn » September 11th, 2010, 10:23 am

Hi Bartle001-

I liked how you revised the query, and I really like your premise, so I'm just chiming in with my thoughts here. I don't really think you should have included what the ending will be in the query. You told us it's going to be a swordfight, and I'm guessing there's about a 75% chance that the MC, Calvin, will win. Just because it isn't common for MCs to die in books. So why would the agent want to request the full manuscript if they can guess how it will end? Maybe you could end the pitch part earlier, so that we don't know what the ending will be; it's just a suggestion, so you don't have to use it.

I really love "street-fighting bookworm", except I'm not sure who it is. I'd also like to know how old Calvin is. Since it's YA, he's probably a teenager, but it'd be nice to include an age in there to give us a better mental picture of him.
My blog, Hills and Corkscrews: http://www.hillsandcorkscrews.com/

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Re: QUERY: The Son of the Spider (YA)

Post by Bartle001 » September 11th, 2010, 11:08 am

Thank you all. I value and contemplate every comment.
Melyn wrote: I don't really think you should have included what the ending will be in the query. You told us it's going to be a swordfight, and I'm guessing there's about a 75% chance that the MC, Calvin, will win. Just because it isn't common for MCs to die in books. So why would the agent want to request the full manuscript if they can guess how it will end?
Well, the agent can tell from the synopsis how SPIDER will end. And it doesn't end with the duel. Things are more complicated than that, but I didn't want to overfill the query with too much plot minutiae. The duel is a huge and important part of what happens, though. Does it seem okay now with that in mind?
Melyn wrote: I really love "street-fighting bookworm", except I'm not sure who it is. I'd also like to know how old Calvin is. Since it's YA, he's probably a teenager, but it'd be nice to include an age in there to give us a better mental picture of him.
1. Since Calvin is from "Slum Lane", I figured that was akin to the "streets" in "street-fighting". I was kind of supposing it could be inferred, since there are only two characters mentioned (Calvin and Octavius) in regard to which either "street-fighting bookworm" or "dandified killer" might refer. Do you still think that part needs clarification?

2. Yes, I agree. I've added the age.

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Re: QUERY: The Son of the Spider (YA)

Post by Write2Me » September 11th, 2010, 3:03 pm

I dunno its still a little bland. Would a 15 yr old kid read that and want to buy it? Thats really how agents look at queries in my opinion. Does the query speak to its target market in the right voice. Maybe try out the query on a relative who is in the market you want to target. It definitely helps. If the voice isnt there in the query, the agent assumes it isnt there in the book, unfortunately. I learned from lots of rejections of what I thought was a solid query.

my version: (just trying to make calvin more human...he's still a little too flat, but the query is definitely better)

Fourteen-year-old Calvin M is a scruffy pauper who lives on Slum Lane, where dreams of a better life die in the gutter-but not for Calvin. He learns that he is the heir apparent to a grand title, Thane of Murkendale Moore, and the title comes with some serious benefits. Inheriting a billion-pound fortune, Calvin is completely lost in his new world of high aristocracy. Living in the 600 yr old Castle Crustenburgh, a creepy place with haunted hallways and weird albino servants who warn him about the chilling family secrets, Calvin tries to learn more about his benefactors.

His rise to wealth doesn't go unnoticed. With billions to his name, Calvin's list of enemies is growing, but none are more dangerous than his own cousin. Octavius Onus. A brilliant genius with no conscience, Octavius travels to Crustenburgh with a masterful plan to acquire the fortune for his own devious purposes. Octavius is cunning enough to enlist other members of the family in a sinister plot to strip Calvin of his thanedom. With no one to trust around him, Calvin must prepare to fight for his life while trying to uncover the chilling truth about his family's history.

Something like that shows there's an adventure. No one cares if there's a duel, b/c if there adventure before the duel is boring, no agent would get past the first 50 pages. Just keep making it cooler. Try to view stuff in your minds eye, and put it on paper. What are the coolest parts of the book? Put that on the paper.

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Re: QUERY: The Son of the Spider (YA)

Post by Melyn » September 11th, 2010, 3:39 pm

Does it seem okay now with that in mind?
A little bit more. Maybe other critiquers have opinions on this? It might just be a matter of opinion.
Do you still think that part needs clarification?
Nope, I think it's good.

Write2Me- While I don't think rewriting the query the way you would have written it is necessarily going to help Bartle001, I agree with your suggestion of having someone in the age group read it. To me, the novel doesn't sound flat, and I think it would appeal to teens. There are a lot of YA books out there that don't appeal to teens and don't do well. I don't think Bartle's novel would be one of them, but it's still worth having a beta reader or two.

Bartle: I'm almost a teenager, and I read lots of YA and MG. If you want someone around the age of your target audience to read part of your novel, I'd be willing to.
My blog, Hills and Corkscrews: http://www.hillsandcorkscrews.com/

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Re: QUERY: The Son of the Spider (YA)

Post by Krista G. » September 11th, 2010, 7:29 pm

Bartle, I like the newer version better. I really like that last line ("Too bad for Calvin that Octavius is a master swordsman...") - I think it has a lot of personality - but I agree with Melyn that it gives the reader the feeling that you're giving too much away, even if it's not the ending of the book. Maybe if you eliminated the "Ultimately" in the previous paragraph? Not sure how much that would help, though.

Write2Me means well with the rewrite, but ultimately, the query should be yours - your words, your vision. I'm sure you know that, but it's worth repeating. Also, tastes are all subjective - as long as you write it well enough, some agents are probably going to like it and some aren't, and that's okay.
Author of THE REGENERATED MAN (G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers, Winter 2015)
Represented by Kate Schafer Testerman of kt literary
www.motherwrite.blogspot.com

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Bartle001
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Re: QUERY: The Son of the Spider (YA)

Post by Bartle001 » September 11th, 2010, 8:36 pm

Write2Me wrote: First off the italicized part..you need to either remove it or make it the tagline, but in it's current form its not necessarily the best idea...i'm just not sure an agent would react well to it, as finicky as many are.
Done.
Write2Me wrote: Also, don't mention the name of the book in the query until you get to the part where you talk about the book's length. You're trying to sell the concept and words are precious because the attention span of an agent is short.
Done.
Write2Me wrote: You need to focus on Calvin from the first sentence.
Done.
Write2Me wrote: Same with the whole 'swordsman, polyglot,'...you have to think like a 14 year old boy who has a PSP, and Ipod, and IPAD, and a TV. Sure he read harry potter, and percy jackson, but the back jackets of those books sounded cool. Engage the mind like a movie trailer does. How many times to people see sucky movies because the trailer packs in the coolest elements into a 2 minute visual orgy? Exactly. You have 250 words to make the agent salivate over the possibility that your book could become the next NYT best seller. They're out to get the 15%, and deal with movie rights, tv, etc when it comes to commercial YA.
Trying.
Write2Me wrote: check out yahighway.com under their query spotlight. It has some helpful stuff, especially the agent feedback.
Checked out. Thanks.

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Bartle001
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Re: QUERY: The Son of the Spider (YA)

Post by Bartle001 » September 11th, 2010, 8:39 pm

Krista G. wrote: On the whole, I like the premise of the book - I just think you need to work on how you present it. Best of luck!
Thanks Krista!

I feel I've vastly improved already.

Too bad I've already queried maybe fifty agents or more!

Feel free to check out my except and criticize me some more! I love it!

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