Query critique -- Necklace of Tears

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askmonkey
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Query critique -- Necklace of Tears

Post by askmonkey » January 4th, 2010, 1:47 pm

Hi guys! Here is my query letter. I have had one positive response (out of two agents queried) but want to make it even better for further submissions. Please be honest-- I can handle it, I swear :)

Specific question: last line of first paragraph comparing to famous authors -- I truly think the plot and other elements of my novel are similar to a combination of these other two novels, but obviously my writing style is completely different. My critique group was worried that this line would come across as conceited (I definitely don't mean to say that I'm "the next" Philip Pullman or Avi) but I'd heard that some agents really like this because it does help you picture what the novel is like. I'd love to hear other people's opinions on this.

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Dear Name:

Necklace of Tears (52,000 words) is a YA historical fiction set in 11th century India. This was the time of the ruthless Chola kings and a time period rarely covered by history books. Weaving elements of Hindu mythology and Indian history into a high-seas adventure, the novel is reminiscent of The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi and The Ruby in the Smoke by Philip Pullman.

Samudradevi (aka Devi) is a 15-year-old merchant’s daughter who finds herself stranded in the middle of the Indian Ocean with only a pile of coconuts—and a mysterious sapphire necklace. She is soon rescued by the gruff, gruesome Captain Rodolfo and a ship full of foreigners. The only kindly soul on board is Erisudar, a storyteller who reveals that the captain is on a quest for a love charm to win over his true love.

The crew sails along the Indian coastline and Devi travels with them as she tries to figure out what triggered the mutiny on her father’s ship that left her stranded. Along the way, they meet Nilavan, an intriguing young man whose own father has been kidnapped by Prince Rajendra Chola. Nilavan’s story reminds Erisudar about a fabled love charm, and Devi realizes that her necklace—which she has kept hidden all along—is what both Prince Rajendra and Captain Rodolfo are looking for. After weeks at sea and a terrible storm, she is finally reunited with her father, who tells her the necklace is a family heirloom and a gift from her late mother. Now Devi is torn: should she keep the necklace for herself, give it to the terrible Captain Rodolfo who saved her life, or use it to save the handsome Nilavan’s father?

This novel is the culmination of a year of research, including a trip to India to visit some of the sites mentioned in the novel. My parents are from South India where Devi grew up—her hometown was the location of my parents’ first date. Currently, I am a full-time writer and my works-in-progress include: [info about this]

Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,

me

Krista G.
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Re: Query critique -- Necklace of Tears

Post by Krista G. » January 4th, 2010, 2:21 pm

askmonkey wrote:Dear Name:

Necklace of Tears (52,000 words) is a YA historical fiction set in 11th century India. This was the time of the ruthless Chola kings and a time period rarely covered by history books. Weaving elements of Hindu mythology and Indian history into a high-seas adventure, the novel is reminiscent of The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi and The Ruby in the Smoke by Philip Pullman. Rather than italicizing these titles, you might try putting them in all caps. That way the titles won't get lost in the formatting problems e-mails sometimes have.

Samudradevi (aka Devi) is a 15-year-old merchant’s daughter who finds herself stranded in the middle of the Indian Ocean with only a pile of coconuts—and a mysterious sapphire necklace. She is soon rescued by the gruff, gruesome Captain Rodolfo and a ship full of foreigners. The only kindly soul on board is Erisudar, a storyteller who reveals that the captain is on a quest for a love charm to win over his true love. One thing I noticed about your query was the abundance of character names. Here's a great example of a name you could cut. We don't need to know the storyteller's name, or even that the storyteller exists - just say something like, "She soon discovers that the captain is on a quest for a love charm to win over his true love," and leave it at that.

The crew sails along the Indian coastline and Devi travels with them as she tries to figure out what triggered the mutiny on her father’s ship that left her stranded. Along the way, they meet Nilavan, an intriguing young man whose own father has been kidnapped by Prince Rajendra Chola. This prince's name is probably unnecessary. Nilavan’s story reminds Erisudar about a fabled love charm, and Devi realizes that her necklace—which she has kept hidden all along—is what both Prince Rajendra and Captain Rodolfo are looking for. After weeks at sea and a terrible storm, she is finally reunited with her father, who tells her the necklace is a family heirloom and a gift from her late mother. Now Devi is torn: should she keep the necklace for herself, give it to the terrible Captain Rodolfo who saved her life, or use it to save the handsome Nilavan’s father?

This novel is the culmination of a year of research, including a trip to India to visit some of the sites mentioned in the novel. My parents are from South India where Devi grew up—her hometown was the location of my parents’ first date. Currently, I am a full-time writer and my works-in-progress include: [info about this] You don't need to waste words in your query on your works-in-progress. Most agents will assume you're working on something else, but they don't want to hear about it.

Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,

me
On the whole, your query is pretty good. All the character names tripped me up, but I already mentioned that. As far as your references to established authors in the opening paragraph, that's mostly a matter of personal taste. If you think they add to the query - and certainly if an agent suggests you do this in his or her submission guidelines - leave them in. Some agents expressly discourage this, so you'll want to take them out in that situation. But barring that, it's your call.
Author of THE REGENERATED MAN (G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers, Winter 2015)
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Re: Query critique -- Necklace of Tears

Post by saskia » January 4th, 2010, 3:41 pm

Hi askmonkey,

First I want to say that your book sounds very interesting. I have some comments but they are just my opinion and nothing major.

You have 4 paragraphs and I kind of think paragraph 1 should become paragraph 3. Just my opinion but I think getting right into the story is more interesting and then you can explain it later. I think mentioning the other authors and their books is fine and you don't say your book is just like those books.

I think the last paragraph is a little choppy. I would definitely cut the part about being a full time writer and the other works in progress; I think that sounds kind of amateurish although that is what you are trying to say you are not.

The last thing I want to ask you is - is this really a YA novel? The reason I ask this is I kind of think it might have a bigger audience as a middle grade. I have a kid and because of that I know a lot of kids and I just have a feeling that this subject will appeal more to middle grade readers. I could be wrong about that. Just something to think about.

Good luck - it sounds like a great book.

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Re: Query critique -- Necklace of Tears

Post by Yoshima » January 4th, 2010, 4:14 pm

I think you're fine mentioning the other books (as long as, like Krista G said, the agent doesn't say not to in their guidelines). You don't come across as a snob or anything. :) As for the query, all of the names tripped me up a little, too. Also, the phrase "a love charm to win over his true love" is kind of clunky. Instead of telling me it's a love charm (I can figure that out when you tell me it'll win his true love), tell me something else about the charm. Is it some special Indian magic? Has it been lost for a bajillion years? Other than that I think you did a great job and that your book sounds like an awesome adventure. Hope your positive response leads to something more! :)

askmonkey
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Re: Query critique -- Necklace of Tears

Post by askmonkey » January 4th, 2010, 4:35 pm

Thanks everyone for the feedback! I'll definitely use them for my revisions. It looks like everyone agrees about their being too many named characters. :)

some specific responses:
@ Krista G. and saskia -- I included the works in progress because I'd read somewhere (probably from one specific agent like that comment I mentioned about listing similar books) that agents like to see that you plan to be a "career author" rather than just a one-off writer. I thought listing other works might help address this since I don't have any published works (yet! fingers crossed!) but do have other manuscripts I'm excited about. But maybe it does make me look unprofessional.

@saski -- I'm pretty sure this is a YA novel just because the language and some of the ideas may be too sophisticated for a middle grade book. I do think the adventure/fantasy-ish aspects could be enjoyed by younger readers (and hopefully older ones too!), but I don't think marketing it as a middle grade quite fits.

@ Yoshima -- thanks for the kind words about the query. I'll think about adding more info about the "love charm". The problem is that all the captain knows is that he is looking for a love charm, and doesn't know any specifics about it. I'll work on it though because I think it is a good point. I haven't heard from the agent who requested a partial. They asked me to give them one month (with just the partial) before sending to other agents and the month is coming close to an end, so I'm not too hopeful. I'll definitely keep you posted if I have good news along the way!

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Re: Query critique -- Necklace of Tears

Post by Madaboutstories » January 4th, 2010, 7:32 pm

This story sounds like an fun adventure! Hope all the best for you!
To read a story is to breathe life into society-real or imagined, yet the imagined comes out of the truth.

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Re: Query critique -- Necklace of Tears

Post by Mountain Lion » January 5th, 2010, 11:15 pm

Hi,
Just to confuse you, I liked the character names. It gives the query flavor and authenticity. I made a few editing suggestions and pose a few questions. I think naming the other books is helpful.

Necklace of Tears (52,000 words) is a YA historical fiction set in 11th century India. This was the time of the ruthless Chola kings and is rarely covered by history books. Weaving elements of Hindu mythology and Indian history into a high-seas adventure, the novel is reminiscent of The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi and The Ruby in the Smoke by Philip Pullman.

After a mutiny aboard her father’s ship, fifteen year old Samudradevi (aka Devi) finds herself stranded (odd phrase. Is she abandoned there, dumped, cast ashore? Is there a term of art that you can use?) (on an island?) in the middle of the Indian Ocean with only a pile of coconuts and a mysterious sapphire necklace. She is rescued by the gruff, gruesome (these adjectives don't work for me, is there something more telling?) Captain Rodolfo and a ship full of foreigners. The only kindly soul on board is Erisudar, a storyteller who reveals that the captain is on a quest for a mystical charm (talismen?, amulet?) to win his true love.

As Devi travels with the ship along the Indian coastline, she tries to figure out what triggered the mutiny on her father’s ship. Along the way, she meets Nilavan, an intriguing young man whose own father has been kidnapped by Prince Rajendra Chola (why? How does this relate to the necklace? It sounds like he needs the necklace to free his father?). Nilavan’s story reminds Erisudar about a fabled love charm, and Devi realizes that her necklace—which she has kept hidden all along—is what both Prince Rajendra and Captain Rodolfo seek.

After weeks at sea and a terrible storm, Devi is reunited with her father. She learns that her the necklace is a family heirloom and a gift from her late mother. Now Devi is torn: should she keep the necklace, give it to the terrible Captain Rodolfo who saved her life, or use it to save Nilavan’s father? (I like this set up. It's what a query should do.)

This novel is the culmination of a year of research, including a trip to India to visit sites mentioned in the novel. My parents are from South India where Devi grew up—her hometown was the location of my parents’ first date. Currently, I am a full-time writer and my works-in-progress include: [info about this]

Good luck. It sounds like a book I would enjoy.
ML

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OneChoice1
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Re: Query critique -- Necklace of Tears

Post by OneChoice1 » January 6th, 2010, 2:50 am

For a moment there i thought you were going to reveal which choice Devi picked. I like the title and the story itself. Sounds like a good read. Good luck!

askmonkey wrote:Dear Name:

Necklace of Tears (52,000 words) is a YA historical fiction set in 11th century India. This was the time of the ruthless Chola kings and a time period rarely covered by history books. Weaving elements of Hindu mythology and Indian history into a high-seas adventure, the novel is reminiscent of The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi and The Ruby in the Smoke by Philip Pullman. (As long as the titles are well-known and the Agents don't say anything against it, i think it's fine.)

Samudradevi (aka Devi) is a 15-year-old merchant’s daughter who finds herself stranded in the middle of the Indian Ocean with only a pile of coconuts—and a mysterious sapphire necklace. (I don't think you need that "--" that's between "coconuts" and "and".) She is soon rescued by the gruff, gruesome (Maybe just use one adjective to sum him all up.) Captain Rodolfo and a ship (It is Rodolfo's ship right? If so, maybe say "his" instead of "a".) full of foreigners. The only kindly (Kind.) soul on board is Erisudar, a storyteller who reveals that the captain is on a quest for a love charm to win over his true love. (Is Erisudar a main character? If not, there's no need to mention that he was the one that revealed it. Just say something like: On board, it is revealed to Devi that the captain is on a quest for a love charm to win over his true love.)

The crew sails along the Indian coastline and Devi travels with them as she tries to figure out what triggered the mutiny on her father’s ship that left her stranded. (Suggestion: Devi travels with the crew along the Indian coastline as she tries to figure out what triggered the mutiny on her father’s ship that left her stranded.) Along the way, they meet Nilavan, an intriguing young man whose own father has been kidnapped by Prince Rajendra Chola. (Who? I think you should just cut it right after "kidnapped") Nilavan’s story reminds Erisudar about a fabled love charm, and Devi realizes that her necklace—which she has kept hidden all along—is what both Prince Rajendra and Captain Rodolfo are looking for. (Maybe: helps bring to light the importance of Devi's sapphire necklace. Maybe add a little more detail about the necklace.) After weeks at sea and a terrible storm, she is finally reunited with her father, who tells her the necklace is a family heirloom and a gift from her late mother. Now Devi is torn: should she keep the necklace for herself, give it to the terrible Captain Rodolfo who saved her life, or use it to save the handsome Nilavan’s father?

This novel is the culmination of a year of research, including a trip to India to visit some of the sites mentioned in the novel. My parents are from South India where Devi grew up her hometown was the location of my parents’ first date. (That is sweet, but the comment about your parents' first date is irrelevant.) Currently, I am a full-time writer and my works-in-progress include: [info about this] (Just focus on this novel.)

Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,

me
Jesus loves.

askmonkey
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Re: Query critique -- Necklace of Tears

Post by askmonkey » January 6th, 2010, 12:17 pm

Thanks everyone for the comments!

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Re: Query critique -- Necklace of Tears

Post by charity_bradford » January 13th, 2010, 2:07 pm

I think your story idea sounds wonderful and you are on the right track. I don't really have much to add to the great advice that has been given. I just want to bullet what I agreed with the most for emphasis:
  • I do agree that the long list of names is distracting. I've always heard you should keep it simple and confined to 2 or 3 of the main characters.
  • I also agree with Saskia that your first paragraph should be moved down to become #3.


My question is this, when listing other works in progress, do they want them to be related novels such as series books? I am working on my query and listed that I have the next book in the series in outline form and the complete history of my antagonist in draft form at 50K. I never thought about listing some of my other ideas. I have so many I would not attempt it anyway.
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Re: Query critique -- Necklace of Tears

Post by ivanpope » February 9th, 2010, 1:54 pm

askmonkey wrote:
Samudradevi (aka Devi) is a 15-year-old merchant’s daughter who finds herself stranded in the middle of the Indian Ocean with only a pile of coconuts—and a mysterious sapphire necklace. She is soon rescued by the gruff, gruesome Captain Rodolfo and a ship full of foreigners. The only kindly soul on board is Erisudar, a storyteller who reveals that the captain is on a quest for a love charm to win over his true love.

The crew sails along the Indian coastline and Devi travels with them as she tries to figure out what triggered the mutiny on her father’s ship that left her stranded. Along the way, they meet Nilavan, an intriguing young man whose own father has been kidnapped by Prince Rajendra Chola. Nilavan’s story reminds Erisudar about a fabled love charm, and Devi realizes that her necklace—which she has kept hidden all along—is what both Prince Rajendra and Captain Rodolfo are looking for. After weeks at sea and a terrible storm, she is finally reunited with her father, who tells her the necklace is a family heirloom and a gift from her late mother. Now Devi is torn: should she keep the necklace for herself, give it to the terrible Captain Rodolfo who saved her life, or use it to save the handsome Nilavan’s father?
And ...
It seems a bit thin ... does she just make a decision or is there more story?

askmonkey
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Re: Query critique -- Necklace of Tears

Post by askmonkey » May 21st, 2012, 8:39 pm

Thanks everyone for your feedback! I ended up landing an agent with my revised query, so yay! We're in the process of submitting right now. Fingers crossed!

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Re: Query critique -- Necklace of Tears

Post by Sleeping Beauty » May 21st, 2012, 11:08 pm

Fantastic, askmonkey! It's always good to hear stories like this, and now people can examine your query to see what made it stand out! All the best with your submissions!

askmonkey
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Re: Query critique -- Necklace of Tears

Post by askmonkey » May 22nd, 2012, 1:05 pm

Here is the query letter I ended up with. My critique group does a query letter day now and then where we each write query letters for each other. This letter is a pastiche of lines I liked from other people's attempts:

Necklace of Tears (53,000 words) is a YA historical fiction set in 11th century India, the time of the ruthless South Indian Chola kings. Weaving elements of Hindu mythology and Indian history into a romantic adventure, the novel would appeal to fans of The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi or The Ruby in the Smoke by Philip Pullman.

Samudradevi (Devi) is a 15-year-old merchant’s daughter who finds herself stranded in the middle of the Indian Ocean with only a pile of coconuts—and a mysterious sapphire necklace. Rescued by the gruff, gruesome Captain Scar and his foreign crew, Devi tries to settle into ship life and bide her time until she can find her way home to her father. Though she is unable to speak the sailors’ language, she soon befriends an old storyteller, the only Indian aboard, who tells her that the captain is on a quest to find the “tears” that will win back the heart of his true love.

As they travel from port to port down the Indian coast, the air is thick with rumors of the 500 Guild, a ruthless band of merchants who work for Prince Rajendra Chola. Then, Devi meets Nilavan, a handsome young man desperately trying to rescue his father from the clutches of the Guild. With Nilavan’s help, Devi pieces together clues that lead her to suspect that all of their problems, including Captain Scar’s, are tied to the beautiful sapphire necklace she carries hidden in her sari. But with the 500 Guild closing in, Devi must unravel the necklace’s secrets to save herself and those she loves.

This novel is the culmination of a year of research, including a trip to India to visit some of the sites mentioned in the novel. My parents are from South India where Devi grew up—her hometown was the location of my parents’ first date. Currently, I am a full-time writer and a member of SCBWI. My works-in-progress include: Cloudreader, a middle grade fantasy based on my travels to an old astronomical observatory in North India and Landwalker, a young adult sci-fi/post-apocalyptic novel.

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