Jun 19, 2009

QUERY- UNTOUCHED

Dear Agent,

Diagnosed as terminal, Gwendolyn Hayes had ten years to prepare herself for death. What she never expected was Death to arrive in the form of model-turned-reaper Glory. When Gwen fights for a second chance at life, Glory promises one- in exchange for Gwen acting as a death angel. Gwen's task seems easy: touch and collect three souls, and life will be hers.

And perhaps her task would have been easy, if Gwen's former best friend and childhood crush James Connolly hadn't made an appearance on her 'to kill' list. Now touching James is the only thing standing between her and her second chance, but can she really take his life to jump start her own?

The decision is hers, but the situation is complicated. Especially when old feelings resurface and Gwen and James realize they're falling in love with one another. Their love is a dangerous one, though, accompanied by the knowledge that an accidental touch, a careless bump, or even a single forbidden kiss will end life, start life, and separate them for good.

[Personalization & Bio]

Untouched is a YA contemporary fantasy complete at 75,000 words. The entire manuscript is available upon request. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

12 comments:

B.E. Sanderson said...

Some early morning thoughts (sorry they're so long):

It sounds like you've got an interesting premise here, but you need to tighten the letter up. (a wordy query makes agents think your manuscript is wordy, too.) For instance, try something like: "Terminally-ill Gwen Hayes had ten years to prepare for the end, but she never dreamed Death looked like a super model." Or whatever aspects of that paragraph are absolutely crucial to your snag an agent's interest.

How crucial is the name Glory? How necessary is it to say James was her former best friend as well as childhood crush? We know the situation is complicated - you show how, so you don't need to say it.

I was a little stunned to see Untouched listed as a YA contemporary fantasy. Nothing about this query says YA to me, and I'm not sure contemporary fantasy works either. (But I stink at genre.) The beginning paragraph made me think women's lit, but the rest almost reads like paranormal romance. Maybe someone else in the comments can hit the genre better for you.

Good luck. The book sounds like it could be really interesting.

Rick Daley said...

Picking the right genre can be simple. Just think like a reader:

If you went to buy your book at the bookstore, where would you go to look for it?

Bookstores are divided up into sections. Where would you go to look for your funny but heartwarming tale of love? Humor, literary fiction, or romance?

Go to a couple bookstores and look at the books on the shelves where you think yours should be. When you get there, pick a couple and read the jacket copy. Think about your query, and think about your manuscript:

Does it fit in? And more importantly, does it stand out?

ejalvey said...

I thought it was a good query, but I have not gotten a single request from any of the queries I've sent to agents, so I may not be the best judge. It sparked my interest, and I would have requested more.

Bane of Anubis said...

Hi. The premise seems interesting to me, as well, but I agree with B.E. that it seems more paranormal romance (she is, after all, playing a succubus) than YA (based on your query, perhaps not the book itself). The storyline also reminds me of 'Pushing Daisies' to some extent (not sure if this bad, good, neutral, or whatever, but that was my first thought as I read paragraph 3)...

Definitely agree that some tightening can occur - e.g. "The decision is hers, but the situation is complicated." This line's unneeded, IMO, b/c you show us before and after both points. Also, things like "they're falling in love with one another." try to eliminate excessive explanation (i.e., "with one another" - it's strongly enough implied, IMO). The use of the word "accompanied" in paragraph 3 also strikes me as a bit off ("accompanied by the knowledge that" could be replaced w/ "because").

Finally, one larger issue with me is ten years to prepare herself for death - ten years is a really long terminal illness and doesn't strike the urgency that it might if, say, she had six months to live, IMO - if this is something that's well-defined in your book, I might consider just removing the time-frame from the query... "Diagnosed as termingal, Gwendolyn Hays is preparing for death...." or something.

Overall, though, I think you've got the right skeleton for your query and just need some minor tweaks.

John said...

I thought you could leave out the reference to ten years in the first sentence. It didn't seem essential to the rest of the plot, and it was one of the things that made me, like BES, think the story was about adults. If the characters are younger, it would help to give some indication of their ages. Still, I think this query has a lot going for it.

hope101 said...

Agree about the points already made--in particular the ten-year time frame. To increase urgency, even if the illness has been prolonged, I think I'd emphasize that her time is running out at present.

Anonymous said...

Just a minor addition to other comments -- in the paranormal and urban fantasy world, there may be a really strong connection between the name "Glory" and the Big Bad on one of the season of Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Might want to reconsider the name (also b/c it's easily confused with "Gwen" by a skimming reader).

For the query, you don't need the name at all -- when the terminal protagonist is given a second chance at life, she is up for the challenge until she finds out she has to kill a loved one. Doesn't matter who gives her the second chance, only that she has one, and that it's not the unadulterated good thing it sounds like.

scott g.f. bailey said...

Like Anonymous, I also thought immediately of Buffy when I read the name Glory. This also sort of reminds me of the HBO show "Dead Like Me," but I don't think that matters.

I do think you can combine paragraphs 2 and 3, because paragraph 2 is mostly repetitive filler. And I'd definitely change the question that ends paragraph 2 into a statement: "Gwen must decide if she can take James' life to jump start her own." Don't ask about the conflict, assert what the conflict is.

"terminal" what? I get that Gwen is meeting Glory at the *end* of the ten years of illness, but I agree with others that you should be more specific that the story starts at her death.

Does James know that if they touch, he's dead?

Barb said...

This is very good. It's a book that I would really enjoy reading. I think this would be a great query with some tightening. A quick example to show what I mean...

Diagnosed as terminal, Gwendolyn Hayes has prepared herself for death. What she never expected was Death to arrive in the form of model-turned-reaper. When Gwen fights for another chance at life, Death promises one - in exchange for Gwen acting as a death angel. A task that seems easy: touch and collect three souls.

And perhaps her task would be easy. But Gwen's former childhood crush James Connolly is on her 'to kill' list. Touching James is the only thing standing between her and her second chance, but can she really take his life to jump start her own?

The decision is complicated. Old feelings resurface as Gwen and James realize they're falling in love. Their feelings are dangerous ones, accompanied by the knowledge that an accidental touch, a careless bump, or even a single forbidden kiss will end life, start life, and separate them for good.

Also, I too wondered if James Knew about the touching, otherwise how could it be avoided?

Stephanie said...

I like the idea of this. I can see this becoming a movie too.

I did have one quibble & it came right away: "terminal." All life is terminal; I'd rather know specifically what her malady is and then the term might be something more like "end-stage renal cancer" or whatever is killing her. Specificity is good :)

Julie said...

I agree with what someone else said in the sense that I want to know two things about the main character from this query.

1. Why is she dying?
2. How old is she?

But other than that, Wow! This was the best query I have read so far! You can't go wrong with the impossible forbidden love and the whole sexual tension "If I touch I could kill you" theme.

Look how well it worked for Stephenie Meyer with Twilight!

Anonymous said...

I think the query shows promise. The one thing I'm wondering...will the whole book be about them not touching? You need a twist in the story, a way out for your main character besides killing her boyfriend and more antagonists. Otherwise it comes off as a remake of Pushing up Daisies. I know with the number of people in this world that the same idea can come to many of us at once...but best to know that there's a similar story already out there.