Query: Banana Suburb [YA]

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L-live
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Query: Banana Suburb [YA]

Post by L-live » June 23rd, 2011, 12:30 am

I actually worked on my query for two months already and having gotten prior feedback, decided to get more feedback from the folks here. So my bottom line is: I have tried my absolutely freaking best to not make your eyes burn and am on the verge of a mental breakdown [just kidding].

THIS IS THE EDITED QUERY. ORIGINAL QUERY IS BELOW. I PASTED THE EDITED VERSION HERE SO THAT FRESH EYES CAN HAVE THIS VERSION AS A FIRST IMPRESSION.


Most child prodigies burn out before they rise to any recognition, but Elizabeth “Liz” Choi refuses to let that happen.

Ever since Liz was little she has heard it all: she is a waste of music lessons, good isn’t good enough, Chinese people don’t play indie rock. While her classmates hang out at Tucson Mall, Liz practices piano for three hours a day. While other kids go to parties, Liz and her band send demos to record companies. Being Chinese-American, Liz has no choice but to achieve top marks in all subjects if she still wants to “make her terrible adolescent music”, according to her parents. The sweetest revenge is success, but landing a record deal all on her own terms is just so, so hard.

Change finally comes when Joe Suzuki, once a high school boy next door and now a real estate con artist, comes back with a credit card that never runs out and a handsome sardonic smirk. Liz’s load is lightened as she finds someone to complain to and confide in. Yet, as the year continues, Liz and her family and friends become increasingly polarized as she focuses solely on playing gigs. But it can’t matter now; Liz has already impressed Joe’s A&R friend and she is so close to proving that she is not “a waste of a human being”. However, it isn’t until the eve of Joe’s arrest when Liz sees her two-year ambition with lucidity. What if all she wanted was for someone to help her through the tough times?

Banana Suburb is a multicultural YA novel complete at 88,000 words.

Thank you for your consideration.



I would like to conduct a survey: would your gut instinct, based on this query, be enticed to know more?





I don't know. I'm just getting increasingly paranoid.
Last edited by L-live on July 19th, 2011, 12:52 am, edited 4 times in total.

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markimedes
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Re: Query: Banana Suburb [YA]

Post by markimedes » June 23rd, 2011, 1:53 pm

I've just joined, and I don't consider myself an expert or anything, but I'll give it a go.
L-live wrote:Most child prodigies burn out before they rise to any recognition, but Elizabeth “Liz” Choi refuses to let that happen.
Can one rise to recognition? Maybe you can, but it just sounded slightly odd to me. "...before they reach their potential..." perhaps?

While her classmates hang out at Tucson Mall, Liz practises piano for three hours a day. Is that a lot? I don't know. Maybe drop specifics: "Liz spends every last second of uncommitted time practising piano." While other kids go to parties, Liz and her band writes letters to record companies. Wouldn't they be sending demo recordings? Being Chinese-American, Liz has no choice but to achieve top marks on school days I like this snippet of stereotyping, but top marks at what on school days? Maybe "...top marks in every subject..." and hustle gigs in restaurants on week nights. I don't know if I'm just being really petty here, but I've not been in many restaurants where there are live bands (I'm in UK though). A man with an accordion, perhaps, but I see Liz and her band as a kind of rock group. Perhaps you need to say what kind of band they are if they are the kind that could play in a restaurant. Though her harsh but well intentioned parents warned her time and time again, Liz refuses to believe that Chinese-Americans will never write a radio hit or play a national tour. I may be naive, but are you sure this hasn't already happened? Maybe just up the stakes a little "...will never play a sell-out world tour." For Liz, this only pushes her harder to land a record deal and prove everybody wrong. Failure, in the Choi household, is unacceptable. Don't think you need the commas here. The sweetest revenge is success. What if you put these together? "Failure in the Choi household is unacceptable, and besides, success is the sweetest revenge."

However, the music industry is all about connections and sixteen-year-old Liz struggles to network with industry professionals. Change finally comes when Joe Suzuki, a Japanese-American man who befriended the girl years ago, why? how? This is in danger of sounding a little creepy comes back with a credit card that never runs out, shrewd hard headed advice, and a handsome sardonic smirk. This is confusing to me. I presume he's a famous musician, but he could just as easily be a drug lord or criminal mastermind. Through his recommendation to an A&R friend, Liz finally signs her record deal in the summer of her senior year. Just like that? Is there no further hardship? Is it just Liz, or her band too? However, it isn’t until the eve of Joe’s arrest so he is a criminal mastermind? that Liz, after gaining this sounds a little off, if you don't want to use "getting" try "acquiring" or something everything she once thought she wanted,"...everything she always wanted..." maybe? At the time she didn't THINK she wanted those things, she DID want those things realizes that she had never pursued a record deal at all. could be stronger, maybe "...realises what she'd been pursuing wasn't a record deal, but what was now behind bars." I'm assuming it's love she was pursuing?

Banana Suburb is a multicultural YA novel complete at 94,000 words. Please don't hate me, but this seems a little long for YA. Average is usually 50,000 - 80,000 for this genre.

Thank you for your consideration.
This is the first time I've done feedback, and so I probably don't know what the hell I'm talking about, but these were the points that stuck out to me. Overall, I like the idea. A good coming-of-age story, learning what matters most the hard way etc. My biggest gripe, I think, is I don't know exactly what her ambition is. Is she a prodigal piano player wanting solo success, or is she and her band the future of rock music?

I hope at least a little of what I've said helps.

Good luck.

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Re: Query: Banana Suburb [YA]

Post by L-live » June 23rd, 2011, 11:01 pm

Yes, I do need to rephrase the stereotyping Asian sell out world tour thing. Far East Movement is pretty big, but I guess being a girl in the Arizona suburbs isn't exactly in the middle of Hollywood.
Hmm, bars? They're too young. They do play frequently in less "legit places", so I shall go and replace "restaurant".
If it's not too confusing I would like to mention that Liz signs an independent deal without her band. However, that involves another sentence of explaining and I do want it to be as concise as possible. (See, even that sentence there ... baaaad.)
Also, oh my God no wonder something was just off! LOL. OF COURSE they're sending in demos, not huge ass letters bragging about how awesome they are! (And besides, these days wouldn't you use Facebook? lol) THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU.


Advice duly noted. :)



Edit: oh, Joe, oh, Joe. I wonder if keeping him promiscuous works in the query. [Also, I like how you note: "this is sounding creepy" ...] Also, there are lots of more hardships but for sake of word count I guess I didn't give enough information. However, I assure you, nothing vile happens.

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Re: Query: Banana Suburb [YA]

Post by glj » June 24th, 2011, 1:32 am

Most child prodigies burn out before they rise to any recognition, but Elizabeth “Liz” Choi refuses to let that happen.
I don't think you need a paragraph break.
While her classmates hang out at the Tucson Mall, Liz practises piano for three hours a day. While other kids go to parties, Liz and her band writeswrite letters to record companies. Being Chinese-American, Liz has no choice but to achieve top marks on school days and hustle gigs in restaurants on week nights. Though her harsh but well intentioned parents warnedwarn her time and time again, Liz refuses to believe that a Chinese-Americans will never cannot write aradio hits or play a national tours. For Liz, This only pushes her harder to land a record deal and prove everybody wrong. Failure, in the Choi household, is unacceptable in the Choi household. The sweetest revenge is success.

However, the music industry is all about connections and sixteen-year-old Liz struggles to network with industry professionals. Change finally comes when Joe Suzuki, a Japanese-American man who befriended the girl her years ago, comes back awkward wording, and implies that they had some relationship before for him to come back. with a credit card that never runs out, shrewd hard headed advice, and a handsome sardonic smirk. Through his recommendation to an A&R friend, Liz finallysigns her a record deal in the summer of her senior year. However, it isn’t until the eve of Joe’s arrest that Liz, after gaining everything she once thought she wanted, realizes that she had never pursued a record deal at all. Huh? So at the end of your query, you say that Liz wasn't doing all of these things? That is the way it came across to me. Yes, I understand that you mean that she learns that she doesn't want the things that she thought she wanted, but this is rather unclear.

Banana Suburb is a multicultural YA novel complete at 94,000 words.

Thank you for your consideration.

Clear and generally well written, but not very gripping, I'm afraid. I don't get any sense of Liz's dilemma. What obstacles will she have to surmount? This says that she struggles to succeed, then finds that it doesn't make her happy and fulfilled. Um. Not enticing. And it implies that there will not be anything more interesting if I were to read your manuscript. MAKE me want more.

The only conflict hinted at here is Liz's conflict with her parents. I assume that they don't like her career goal? Do they try to trip her up when success starts to come?

Does Joe's arrest cause a big problem for Liz? Does she have to sell her soul in some way to get Joe free and have the music career she wants? Now, that could be interesting.

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Re: Query: Banana Suburb [YA]

Post by maybegenius » June 24th, 2011, 1:08 pm

This is an off-hand comment, as I think the posters before me gave you great advice on the query itself. Take this with a grain of salt, but 94,000 words is on the long side for a debut YA novel, and it's VERY long for a contemporary YA novel. I'd just like you to be aware that agents may see that word count and shy away based on it alone. I can't tell you whether or not your novel needs to be that long, as it's your baby and only you can make that call, but unfortunately this is the reality of the YA market. The word count leaped out at me, so I imagine it'll probably leap out at agents, as well.

RE: venues for the band to play - maybe try researching popular music venues in the area where the story's set? I live in an area that has a LOT of underground music venues, many of which are "all ages," so teenagers can and do play there.
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wilderness
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Re: Query: Banana Suburb [YA]

Post by wilderness » June 25th, 2011, 6:58 pm

L-live wrote:I actually worked on my query for two months already and having gotten prior feedback, decided to get more feedback from the folks here. So my bottom line is: I have tried my absolutely freaking best to not make your eyes burn and am on the verge of a mental breakdown [just kidding]. Haha.


Most child prodigies burn out before they rise to any recognition, but Elizabeth “Liz” Liz Choi refuses to let that happen. We know Liz is short for Elizabeth.

While her classmates hang out at Tucson Mall, Liz practises (practices if you're American) piano for three hours a day. While other kids go to parties, Liz and her band write letters to record companies. Being Chinese-American, Liz has no choice but to achieve top marks on school days and hustle gigs in restaurants on week nights. I don't think this sounds right; a little too much stereo-typing. You could tweak it to make it sound a little more specific to her situation, e.g. "Liz's strict Chinese-American parents require she achieve top marks..." Though her harsh but well intentioned parents warned her time and time again, Liz refuses to believe that Chinese-Americans will never write a radio hit or play a national tour. For Liz, this only pushes her harder to land a record deal and prove everybody wrong. Failure, in the Choi household, is unacceptable. The sweetest revenge is success. If failure is unacceptable, shouldn't they believe she can achieve her dreams?

However, the music industry is all about connections and sixteen-year-old Liz struggles to network with industry professionals. Change finally comes when Joe Suzuki, a Japanese-American man who befriended the girl years ago, comes back with a credit card that never runs out, shrewd hard headed advice, and a handsome sardonic smirk. Not sure I find it believable that this man happens to have everything she wants. Even if it does turn out to be a scam, how did he know what she was obsessed with?Through his recommendation to an A&R friend, Liz finally signs her record deal in the summer of her senior year. However, it isn’t until the eve of Joe’s arrest that Liz, after gaining everything she once thought she wanted, realizes that she had never pursued a record deal at all. Not sure you should directly reveal that it was not a record deal. Also you should always end with a conflict -- leave your MC facing a tough choice or problem.

Banana Suburb is a multicultural YA novel complete at 94,000 words.

Thank you for your consideration.
Nice start. I really like reading multicultural YA and being an immigrant, I can definitely relate. However, it can be a bit tricky to make it unique at this point. There are so many stories about the immigrant experience and strict parents! The first paragraph seems very stereotypical; the second does not seem very believable. I'm not saying this can't work; just that you need to find a way to make us suspend our disbelief. Also, I think you need to ground Liz a bit, make her seem more like a real person than a stereotype. The small details can help with this. Hope that helps and good luck!!

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Re: Query: Banana Suburb [YA]

Post by L-live » June 26th, 2011, 3:22 pm

Thank you for all of your feedback. Finally I've derived the essence of the plot after months of trying to beef it up into something bigger than it really is. The main plot (the edited query's getting there, just hold on) is really this:

A prodigal Chinese-American girl is in pursuit of a record deal to escape her parents' and classmates' ridicule and the bleak Arizona suburbs. With the help of an old friend she reaps success - but begins to lose all the meaningful relationships around her. It isn't until his arrest that she realizes she must amend her selfish ways.

And so with this dried up blurb in mind (haha, Arizona ... desert ... dry ... LOL) I shall put my query here. Hopefully it's better than the last one. lol.


Most child prodigies burn out before they rise to any recognition, but Elizabeth “Liz” Choi refuses to let that happen.
I decided to keep the space because I think it adds more "punch".
While her classmates hang out at Tucson Mall, Liz practices piano for three hours a day. While other kids go to parties, Liz and her band send demos to record companies. Being Chinese-American, Liz has no choice but to achieve top marks in all subjects if she still wants to “make her terrible adolescent music”, according to her parents. Liz has no back plan either; as soon as she gets hold of a music industry big shot she’s going to ditch her college application for rock’n’roll. The sweetest revenge is success, but landing a record deal all on her own terms is just so, so hard.

Change finally comes when Joe Suzuki, a Japanese-American man who befriended her years ago, comes back with a credit card that never runs out and a handsome sardonic smirk. Suddenly Liz’s load is lightened as she finally finds someone to complain to and confide in. Yet, as the year continues, Liz and her family and friends are polarized in different directions as she takes on Joe’s arrogant attitude. But it doesn’t matter; Liz has already impressed Joe’s A&R friend with her songs and her plan was to ditch her parents and upgrade her friends anyway. However, it isn’t until the eve of his arrest when Liz realizes despairingly that she has lost everybody and about to lose this last friendship as well.

Banana Suburb is a multicultural YA novel complete at 94,000 words.

Thank you for your consideration.


Hopefully that's better! Now time for me to go around and critique people's queries! lol.

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Re: Query: Banana Suburb [YA]

Post by wilderness » June 26th, 2011, 4:12 pm

Much improved! I laughed out loud at the part about making her "terrible adolescent music." I think her relationship with Joe is better explained, and you leave us with a dilemma (who can she turn to?) at the end. Good luck!

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Re: Query: Banana Suburb [YA]

Post by L-live » June 26th, 2011, 11:41 pm

Thank you! LOL.
When I was approaching this forum I was like, "oh God ... I'm ready to face major crushing now" and bracing myself for another month of query revisions. I do hope that this is succinct enough to emerge out of the slushpile. (Sorry, I'm just not very coherent now.)
:)

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Re: Query: Banana Suburb [YA]

Post by akila » July 5th, 2011, 10:17 am

Most child prodigies burn out before they rise to any recognition, but Elizabeth “Liz” Choi refuses to let that happen.

While her classmates hang out at Tucson Mall, Liz practices piano for three hours a day. While other kids go to parties, Liz and her band send demos to record companies.
I agree with the others - I really think the first sentence should be combined with the next two sentences.
Being Chinese-American, Liz has no choice but to achieve top marks in all subjects if she still wants to “make her terrible adolescent music”, according to her parents. Liz has no back plan either; as soon as she gets hold of a music industry big shot she’s going to ditch her college application for rock’n’roll. The sweetest revenge is success, but landing a record deal all on her own terms is just so, so hard.
The next sentence is quite long so it's a bit hard to follow it and I think that "Chinese-American" is clunky-sounding. How about something like: "Liz's Chinese-born parents refuse to let her "make her terrible adolescent music" unless she achieves top marks in all subjects." I think "back plan" sounds very strange - do you mean backup plan?
Change finally comes when Joe Suzuki, a Japanese-American man who befriended her years ago, comes back with a credit card that never runs out and a handsome sardonic smirk. Suddenly Liz’s load is lightened as she finally finds someone to complain to and confide in.
Yet, as the year continues, Liz and her family and friends are polarized in different directions as she takes on Joe’s arrogant attitude.


I don't understand this sentence. Are you saying that she becomes influenced by Joe and becomes arrogant? If so, I think there must be a simpler way to say this.
But it doesn’t matter; Liz has already impressed Joe’s A&R friend with her songs and her plan was to ditch her parents and upgrade her friends anyway. However, it isn’t until the eve of his arrest when Liz realizes despairingly that she has lost everybody and about to lose this last friendship as well.

Banana Suburb is a multicultural YA novel complete at 94,000 words.

Thank you for your consideration.
By "last friendship," do you mean friendship with Joe? And why is he arrested?

I like the concept overall but the query left me a little confused throughout. I think clearing up some of these sentences will get you there! Good luck!

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Re: Query: Banana Suburb [YA]

Post by L-live » July 8th, 2011, 7:10 pm

Hi there! Yes, actually, after going on Agentquery (LOL) I derived this updated version.

Most child prodigies burn out before they rise to any recognition, but Elizabeth “Liz” Choi refuses to let that happen.

Ever since Liz was little she has heard it all: she is a waste of music lessons, good isn’t good enough, Chinese people don’t play indie rock. While her classmates hang out at Tucson Mall, Liz practices piano for three hours a day. While other kids go to parties, Liz and her band send demos to record companies. Being Chinese-American, Liz has no choice but to achieve top marks in all subjects if she still wants to “make her terrible adolescent music”, according to her parents. The sweetest revenge is success, but landing a record deal all on her own terms is just so, so hard.

Change finally comes when Joe Suzuki, a Japanese-American man who befriended her years ago, comes back with a credit card that never runs out and a handsome sardonic smirk. Liz’s load is lightened as she finds someone to complain to and confide in. Yet, as the year continues, Liz and her family and friends become increasingly polarized as she focuses solely on playing gigs. But it can’t matter now; Liz has already impressed Joe’s A&R friend and she is so close to proving that she is not “a waste of a human being”. However, it isn’t until the eve of Joe’s arrest when Liz realizes that all she wanted was someone to help her through the tough times.

Banana Suburb is a multicultural YA novel complete at 88,000 words.

Thank you for your consideration.

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Re: Query: Banana Suburb [YA]

Post by wilderness » July 15th, 2011, 9:49 pm

I like a lot of the tweaks, esp in the first (long) paragraph. I'd still remove Elizabeth and just call her Liz in the first sentence, though.

I liked the wording of the last sentence in the previous version better though. It seemed to have a stronger conflict.
However, it isn’t until the eve of his arrest when Liz realizes despairingly that she has lost everybody and about to lose this last friendship as well.
Hope that helps!

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Re: Query: Banana Suburb [YA]

Post by L-live » July 15th, 2011, 11:40 pm

Thank you! mwah. I do think that may be stronger; however, the peeps on the other forum indicated that Liz was 1. unlikeable 2. she deserved what she got and 3. the query, though concise, is not very enticing.
I worry about the enticing factor very much. I know that you can't please everyone with a query letter, but I don't want to misrepresent my book. At its core B.S. about the coming and going of the friendship between two "bananas" in the Arizona suburbs.
Truthfully, would you be enticed enough to request pages based on what I have right now? :/

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Re: Query: Banana Suburb [YA]

Post by wilderness » July 16th, 2011, 8:16 pm

L-live wrote:At its core B.S. about the coming and going of the friendship between two "bananas" in the Arizona suburbs.
Is it? It wasn't clear to me that her relationship with Joe was really a friendship...I guess the fact that he is an older man with a handsome sardonic smirk made me think that he was taking advantage of Liz. They don't seem to be on the same level, the way I think of friends.

One thing you might do to try to make her more likeable is to write the query in 1st person from Liz's POV and then change it back to third person later (changing it back to 3rd person is important of course). This technique could help you get more inside her head, tell us what she's thinking. Usually when a person knows deep down they are not behaving well, they lie to themselves and justify it somehow. So maybe some of her inner monologue might help with that.

Good luck!

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Re: Query: Banana Suburb [YA]

Post by L-live » July 16th, 2011, 11:42 pm

Looks like there's a widespread misconception that somehow this is about a girl with an abusive boyfriend. D:
Back to the drawing board.

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