REVISED QUERY (post 22) - MG - THE MODERN CAVEBOY'S GUIDE...

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michelleimason
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REVISED QUERY (post 22) - MG - THE MODERN CAVEBOY'S GUIDE...

Post by michelleimason » June 14th, 2011, 12:43 pm

Hi everyone. So far the only people who've critiqued this query letter have also read my novel, so I'm looking for feedback from people who aren't familiar with the story before I start sending it to agents. I generally put the personalization at the top. This version is for agents who have a more general interest in MG boy books. Thanks in advance for your help!

Dear Agent:

Since you’ve expressed an interest in middle grade boy books, I thought you might like ESCAPE FROM THE UNDERGROUND CITY, a middle grade adventure novel complete at 44,600 words.

Lynching, hanging and a pit of poisonous snakes top thirteen-year-old Ethan Williams’ list of “10 Ways to Kill Winston Stanford.” And it would be justice, not murder. After all, Winston purposely trapped 50 people – including Ethan’s pregnant mother – in the Underground City. Too bad Winston’s already dead.

However, escape trumps revenge, and Winston’s journals give Ethan the means to leave the city and find the father he’s never met. With help from his sister and best friend, Ethan ventures into the Deep Caves, sure anything is better than staying trapped in the Underground City. But he couldn’t anticipate the secrets the caves harbor. Or how much they want to stay hidden.

A member of SCBWI and the St. Louis Writers Guild, I’ve honed my writing skills through online and local conferences and workshops. I hold a bachelor’s degree in English and practiced public relations for 10 years.

Thank you in advance for considering ESCAPE FROM THE UNDERGROUND CITY. I would love the opportunity to send a partial or full manuscript for your review. I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,
Michelle Mason
Last edited by michelleimason on September 17th, 2011, 3:15 pm, edited 6 times in total.

gilesth
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Re: QUERY - MG Adventure - ESCAPE FROM THE UNDERGROUND CITY

Post by gilesth » June 14th, 2011, 2:20 pm

michelleimason wrote: Dear Agent:

Since you’ve expressed an interest in middle grade boy books, I thought you might like ESCAPE FROM THE UNDERGROUND CITY, a middle grade adventure novel complete at 44,600 words. Put this paragraph at the end. Conventional wisdom states that your story should come first.

Lynching, hanging and a pit of poisonous snakes top thirteen-year-old Ethan Williams’ list of “10 Ways to Kill Winston Stanford.” And it would be justice, not murder. After all, Winston purposely trapped 50 people – including Ethan’s pregnant mother – in the Underground City. Too bad Winston’s already dead. This is background. If the story is about the escape, focus on that. A desire for revenge aimed at a dead man, while important to the book, isn't important here.

However, escape trumps revenge, and Winston’s journals give Ethan the means to leave the city and find the father he’s never met. With help from his sister and best friend, Ethan ventures into the Deep Caves, sure anything is better than staying trapped in the Underground City. But he couldn’t anticipate the secrets the caves harbor. Or how much they want to stay hidden. I don't know what your book is about. Start by telling me: Who is your MC? What does your MC want/need? What are the consequences of failure?

As A member of SCBWI and the St. Louis Writers Guild, I’ve honed my writing skills through online and local conferences and workshops. I hold a bachelor’s degree in English and practiced public relations for 10 years. Do you have experience as an author? And is it in the genre you're writing in now? If not, then this info won't be relevant to most agents.

Thank you in advance for considering ESCAPE FROM THE UNDERGROUND CITY Keep this simple. Just say "Thank you for considering my work.". I would love the opportunity to send a partial or full manuscript for your review. I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,
Michelle Mason
I hope this helps. Don't get discouraged :). All of the advice I gave you is the same advice I've received over the years. Good luck!

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Re: QUERY - MG Adventure - ESCAPE FROM THE UNDERGROUND CITY

Post by Nicole R » June 14th, 2011, 2:22 pm

Sounds like a neat concept, Michelle! I loved City of Ember and this seems similar. The query did leave me with a few questions. I tracked line-by-line comments below. Overall though, I think you're pretty close. Good luck!
michelleimason wrote: Dear Agent:

Since you’ve expressed an interest in middle grade boy books, I thought you might like ESCAPE FROM THE UNDERGROUND CITY, a middle grade adventure novel complete at 44,600 words.

Lynching, hanging and a pit of poisonous snakes top thirteen-year-old Ethan Williams’ list of “10 Ways to Kill Winston Stanford.” When I read this, I assumed Winston was Ethan's age, but I'm not sure that's accurate especially given the last line of this paragraph about Winston already being dead. You might want to add a detail or two about how Ethan and Winston are connected. And it would be justice, not murder. After all, Winston purposely trapped 50 people – including Ethan’s pregnant mother – in the Underground City. How did he trap them and where do people currently live on this world? Too bad Winston’s already dead.

However, escape trumps revenge, and Winston’s journals give Ethan the means to leave the city and find the father he’s never met. Prior to this sentence, it seemed like Ethan wasn't trapped with them. Is he one of the 50 people who are trapped? If so, you probably want to clarify that in the first paragraph. With help from his sister and best friend, Are they also trapped? If so, what's the importance of calling out Ethan's mom in first paragraph? She's never mentioned again in the query, and it sounds like most of the characters are trapped with her anyway. Ethan ventures into the Deep Caves, sure anything is better than staying trapped in the Underground City. This is where I think a few world-building details could help. What makes the Underground City so bad and how is it related to the Deep Caves? Do they hold some sort of power? Why would Ethan go into the caves rather than trying to make the surface? You hint at secrets and I don't think you need to add much here, just a few more specifics to set the context. But he couldn’t anticipate the secrets the caves harbor. Or how much they want to stay hidden.

A member of SCBWI and the St. Louis Writers Guild, I’ve honed my writing skills through online and local conferences and workshops. I hold a bachelor’s degree in English and practiced public relations for 10 years.

Thank you in advance for considering ESCAPE FROM THE UNDERGROUND CITY. I would love the opportunity to send a partial or full manuscript for your review. I look forward to hearing from you.

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Re: QUERY - MG Adventure - ESCAPE FROM THE UNDERGROUND CITY

Post by Krista G. » June 14th, 2011, 6:59 pm

michelleimason wrote:Dear Agent:

Since you’ve expressed an interest in middle grade boy books, I thought you might like ESCAPE FROM THE UNDERGROUND CITY, a middle grade adventure novel complete at 44,600 words. I believe the industry convention is to round to the nearest thousand on the word count. And as for sticking this paragraph at the bottom, I think you can leave it at the top if you like it better. Our very own Nathan Bransford put his personalization at the top, and he's probably not a bad example:)

Lynching, hanging and a pit of poisonous snakes top thirteen-year-old Ethan Williams’ list of “10 Ways to Kill Winston Stanford.” The end of this paragraph redeems Ethan a little, but right off the bat, he doesn't come across as a very likable character. This feels a little heavy for an MG novel. And it would be justice, not murder. After all, Winston purposely trapped 50 people – including Ethan’s pregnant mother – in the Underground City. Too bad Winston’s already dead.

However, escape trumps revenge (Not sure how this relates), and Winston’s journals give Ethan the means to leave the city and find the father he’s never met. Oh, okay, so Ethan would rather escape than get revenge. But isn't Winston already dead? I thought he couldn't get revenge... With help from his sister and best friend, Ethan ventures into the Deep Caves, sure anything is better than staying trapped in the Underground City. But he couldn’t anticipate the secrets the caves harbor. Or how much they want to stay hidden. Ooh, I love this ending. I love the idea that the caves are a living, breathing character.

A member of SCBWI and the St. Louis Writers Guild, I’ve honed my writing skills through online and local conferences and workshops. I hold a bachelor’s degree in English and practiced public relations for 10 years.

Thank you in advance for considering ESCAPE FROM THE UNDERGROUND CITY. I would love the opportunity to send a partial or full manuscript for your review. I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,
Michelle Mason
My only major gripe is that Ethan doesn't come across as very sympathetic with all his talk of murdering Winston in various and sundry ways. Also, I wanted to know a little more about this Winston and his journals and why he seems to be the key to everything. And is this underground city still supposed to be on Earth, in present day? You might want to make that a little clearer. (Might. I'm not sure it's a vitally important detail, but if you could find a way to work it in, it might clarify a few things.)

Good luck with this! Someone else said it reminded them of CITY OF EMBER, and it reminded me of GREGOR THE OVERLANDER (in the opposite direction, since Gregor starts topside and goes underground). GREGOR THE OVERLANDER was the debut novel of one Suzanne Collins, so I think you're in good company:)
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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Re: QUERY - MG Adventure - ESCAPE FROM THE UNDERGROUND CITY

Post by ReginaZ » June 14th, 2011, 10:37 pm

Your query is short and sweet.

Since you’ve expressed an interest in middle grade boy books, I think, it is understood. Maybe, compare your book with the books the agent repped. It will prove you have done your research I thought you might like. ESCAPE FROM THE UNDERGROUND CITY, a middle grade adventure novel complete at 44,600 words.

Lynching, hanging and a pit of poisonous snakes top thirteen-year-old Ethan Williams’ list of “10 Ways to Kill Winston Stanford.” And it would be justice, not murder. After all, Winston purposely trapped 50 people – including Ethan’s pregnant mother – in the Underground City where tell us little about the danger prevail in the city. I want to know why he traps 50 people. . Too bad Winston’s already dead. I feel somewhat cheated. How? Is it a normal death?

However, escape trumps revenge, and Winston’s journals give Ethan the means to leave the city and find the father he’s never met. With help from his sister and best friend, Ethan ventures into the Deep Caves, tell us little bit about the evil deep caves sure anything is better than staying trapped in the Underground City. But he couldn’t anticipate the secrets the caves harbor. Or how much they want to stay hidden.

Thirteen-year-old Ethan Williams is on a mission to release 50 people including his pregnant mother trapped in an Underground City. The evil leader of the city, Winston Stanford is dead and the escape route is sealed. Ethan discovers Winston’s journal that details the way out, and with the help of his sister and friend, he advances along with his team as far as to the Deep Caves only to find that is far more dangerous than Underground City. Deep Caves harbor secrets and if the Ethan and his team stumble upon them, they are dead.


A member of SCBWI and the St. Louis Writers Guild, I’ve honed my writing skills through online and local conferences and workshops. I hold a bachelor’s degree in English and practiced public relations for 10 years.

Thank you in advance for considering ESCAPE FROM THE UNDERGROUND CITY. I would love the opportunity to send a partial or full manuscript for your review. I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,
Michelle Mason

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Re: QUERY - MG Adventure - ESCAPE FROM THE UNDERGROUND CITY

Post by michelleimason » June 15th, 2011, 10:47 am

Thanks everyone! This is why it's so helpful to have people who don't know the story read it because I'm definitely not being clear on some of the situation. I'm going to revise and post a new one in the next day or so. I appreciate the feedback!

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Re: REVISING QUERY/PLS WAIT TO COMMENT - MG Adventure -

Post by michelleimason » June 15th, 2011, 4:18 pm

Ok, here's a new version. Everyone's comments are so helpful! I was trying to incorporate something from the novel (Ethan's lists) into the query, and it just doesn't work here, so I've gone a different direction.

I plan to base whether the personalization is at the top or the bottom on the agent's preferences. For now I'll keep it at the top as most of the ones I've researched do want to know up front why you're querying them. And if I have read books the agent represents, I'll include something about that in this section.

As for the bio paragraph, I struggle with it. I'll probably change it depending on the agent, too. Some want to know about memberships and even give preference to SCBWI members. The PR reference is more to show I can be useful on the marketing/publicity side down the road.

Funny about the CITY OF EMBER and GREG THE OVERLANDER references. I've read the first and have the second on my TBR list.

Let me know if this version still leaves you with questions. Thanks!


Dear Agent:

Since you’ve expressed an interest in middle grade boy books, I thought you might like ESCAPE FROM THE UNDERGROUND CITY, a middle grade adventure novel complete at 45,000 words.

Thirteen-year-old Ethan Williams can sum up his life in one word: trapped. Born in a city buried underground, he’s never seen the sun, ridden a bike or, most importantly, met his father. And he just found out it wasn’t an accident.

It’s all there in the journals kept by the Underground City’s founder, Winston Stanford. He staged the “earthquake” that trapped 50 people and made sure no one on the surface knew where to look for them, all so he could test the city’s sustainability for one year. Then he went and died before he could end the experiment.

But the journals also provide a way out of the trap – a map and instructions that show the path through the Deep Caves to the surface. Ethan convinces his sister and best friend to help him escape and rescue everyone else. They venture into the Deep Caves, sure anything is better than staying where they are. But they couldn’t anticipate the secrets the caves harbor. Or how much they want to stay hidden. And if they fail, they’ll be trapped in a place much worse than the Underground City.

ESCAPE FROM THE UNDERGROUND CITY stands alone but has series potential. I would love the opportunity to send a partial or full manuscript for your review.

A member of SCBWI and the St. Louis Writers Guild, I’ve honed my writing skills through online and local conferences and workshops. I hold a bachelor’s degree in English and practiced public relations for 10 years.

Thank you for considering. I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,
Michelle Mason

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Re: REVISING QUERY/PLS WAIT TO COMMENT - MG Adventure -

Post by Krista G. » June 15th, 2011, 4:41 pm

michelleimason wrote:Dear Agent:

Since you’ve expressed an interest in middle grade boy books, I thought you might like ESCAPE FROM THE UNDERGROUND CITY, a middle grade adventure novel complete at 45,000 words.

Thirteen-year-old Ethan Williams can sum up his life in one word: trapped. Born in a city buried underground, he’s never seen the sun, ridden a bike or, most importantly, met his father. And he just found out it wasn’t an accident.

It’s all there in the journals kept by the Underground City’s founder, Winston Stanford. He staged the “earthquake” that trapped 50 people and made sure no one on the surface knew where to look for them, all so he could test the city’s sustainability for one year. Then he went and died before he could end the experiment.

But the journals also provide a way out of the trap – a map and instructions that show the path through the Deep Caves to the surface. Ethan convinces his sister and best friend to help him escape and rescue everyone else. They venture into the Deep Caves, sure anything is better than staying where they are. But they couldn’t anticipate the secrets the caves harbor. Or how much they want to stay hidden. And if they fail, they’ll be trapped in a place much worse than the Underground City.

ESCAPE FROM THE UNDERGROUND CITY stands alone but has series potential. I would love the opportunity to send a partial or full manuscript for your review.

A member of SCBWI and the St. Louis Writers Guild, I’ve honed my writing skills through online and local conferences and workshops. I hold a bachelor’s degree in English and practiced public relations for 10 years.

Thank you for considering. I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,
Michelle Mason
Yes, yes, YES! I'm sure others will have some line-by-line suggestions, and you should definitely take those into account, but this is so much clearer than the last version. Including those backstory tidbits really answered all my questions. If this isn't there, it's awfully, awfully close. Good 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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Re: QUERY Revised 6/15 - MG - ESCAPE FROM THE UNDERGROUND CITY

Post by ReginaZ » June 15th, 2011, 10:42 pm

Crystal Clear and a sure hit. 8-)

Is Deep caves controlled by someone? Maybe, you give us a hint about the Deep Caves and its secrets.

-Regina

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Re: QUERY Revised 6/15 - MG - ESCAPE FROM THE UNDERGROUND CITY

Post by michelleimason » June 16th, 2011, 9:28 am

Thanks, Regina! I've thought about how much to give away in the query about what's in the caves. If they request the MS, I want them to be really surprised at what the kids find when they reach a certain point, so I don't want to say what it is in the query. I'm hoping this is intriguing enough to make them want to find out!

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Re: QUERY Revised 6/15 - MG - ESCAPE FROM THE UNDERGROUND CITY

Post by Nicole R » June 16th, 2011, 5:55 pm

Michelle, this version is awesome! Nicely done. I love the opening line!

My only line edit would be to explain why Ethan has never met his father.
...or met his father, who still lives on the surface.
...or met his father, who wasn't trapped with the rest of them.

I also had a weird nit-picky question - only because I read your first version too. Isn't Ethan's mom pregnant? Has she remarried or something? Cause Dad's not around. And is Ethan's sister older than him or do they have different dads? In your first query, I figured Ethan had only been trapped for a few months or years. When I found out that Ethan was actually born underground, I started wondering about the logistics of the whole "never met his father" thing.

These aren't details you need to worry about for the query - you've just made me curious, which is a very good thing! :D

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Re: QUERY Revised 6/15 - MG - ESCAPE FROM THE UNDERGROUND CITY

Post by Anna Geletka » June 16th, 2011, 7:25 pm

This is really cool! I just had a couple of thoughts, below in italics.


Since you’ve expressed an interest in middle grade boy books, is this standard phrasing? Otherwise I might use 'middle grade books for boys' - though I don't know if I like the idea of marketing books for boys or girls specifically I thought you might like ESCAPE FROM THE UNDERGROUND CITY, a middle grade adventure novel complete at 45,000 words.

Thirteen-year-old Ethan Williams can sum up his life in one word: trapped. Born in a city buried underground, he’s never seen the sun, ridden a bike or, most importantly, met his father. And he just found out it wasn’t an accident. This confused me at first. It wasn't an accident that he's never met his father? Also, you never state that people thought the burial WAS an accident. When I first read the query, I thought that the city was intentionally built underground, like tunnels or something. Perhaps a rephrasing, something like 'And he just found out that the city's burial wasn't the accident that it's claimed to be.

It’s all there in the journals kept by the Underground City’s founder, Winston Stanford. He staged the “earthquake” that trapped 50 people and made sure no one on the surface knew where to look for them, all so he could test the city’s sustainability [for one year]. cut, unnecessary Then he went and died before he could end the experiment.

But the journals also provide a way out of the trap – a map and instructions that show the path through the Deep Caves to the surface. Ethan convinces his sister and best friend to help him escape and rescue everyone else. They venture into the Deep Caves, sure anything is better than staying where they are. But they couldn’t anticipate the secrets the caves harbor. Or how much they want to stay hidden. And if they fail, they’ll be trapped in a place much worse than the Underground City.

ESCAPE FROM THE UNDERGROUND CITY stands alone but has series potential. I would love the opportunity to send a partial or full manuscript for your review. query shark always makes fun of statements like this last one. Of COURSE you want to send your manuscript to the agent! Goes without saying.

This is a really cool concept, Michelle! Good luck!

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Re: QUERY Revised 6/15 - MG - ESCAPE FROM THE UNDERGROUND CITY

Post by michelleimason » June 17th, 2011, 10:32 am

Nicole, when I wrote the first version, I intended to get across that his mother was pregnant with HIM when they were trapped. That's why he's never met his father. And his sister is older. The backstory is they were all supposed to come and his dad got stuck at work. But I don't want to cram all of that into the query.

Anna, there are a number of agents who use the term "middle grade boy books." I'll be personalizing this section to each agent and use whatever term they have in terms of what they're looking for or represent. I'll fix that second line. The city was built on purpose, but everyone believed the entrapment was an accident. I can see how you read it as connected to his dad.

Thanks all!

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Re: QUERY Revised 6/15 - MG - ESCAPE FROM THE UNDERGROUND CITY

Post by Nicole R » June 17th, 2011, 4:19 pm

Hahaha - thanks for clarifying the whole pregnancy thing, Michelle. Your meaning is MUCH clearer in the second query. :D Best of luck with this story!

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