Sep 15, 2009

QUERY - The Broadwater Challenges

Dear Agent,

Congratulations on your recent success with _________________ by __________. Perhaps you would be interested in our project.

Imagine Watership Down with dragons instead of rabbits. That’s The Broadwater Challenges, our approximately 69,000-word middle-grade fantasy novel.

Harold may be the son of a dragon king, but he sure doesn’t feel like one. He doesn’t want any part of the Three Challenges, the dangerous competition that the six dragon kings have set up for their heirs. He didn’t mean to pick that fight with T’Roc, the menacing son of his own father’s chief rival. He didn’t expect to fall for Rosewing, the beautiful daughter of another king. He doesn’t know what he did to make Canus, the leader of the outlaw Clanless Ones, angry enough to want to kill him. And then there’s that kraken on the loose, hunting dragons and threatening his family. Of course, Harold could ignore it all and nap on the beach. But sometimes being the son of the king means doing what you have to do, not what you want to do.

We have several published short stories to our credit, including one of Harold’s earlier adventures in [name redated], a fantasy/sci-fi magazine for children. Both of us are members of the New Jersey Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. In fact, The Broadwater Challenges won an NJSCBWI Award for Best Young Adult Fantasy. While it was written as a standalone novel, we also have outlines for two sequels.

Please be advised that this is a simultaneous submission. We can provide sample chapters or the full manuscript upon request.

Thank you for your consideration.


P.S. - I know that an actual query would not have a P.S., but I do have a specific question about our query. Harold is a slightly overweight vegetarian dragon. This fact, of course, causes some serious problems for him throughout the novel. We do not mention that anywhere in the query. Should we?


Bane of Anubis said...

Hey Us,

I'm digging the query...good voice, good credentials, good conflict. There are a couple of very minor changes I might make (making the 1st paragraph tie recent projects to your project with a bit more conviction -- i.e., no perhaps; cut 'approximately'; perhaps cut the Canus part b/c you've got a lot of names already).

For your PS - I wouldn't include the vegetarian part b/c you've already got enough stuff going on.

Anyhoo, very nice. As always, TWAGOS.

Terry said...

Yes, include the overweight, vegetarian part -- it's fun, and to me the most interesting part of the query.

Donna Hole said...

Really is snappy and funny. I think kids will love it!

Maybe you do want to put that he is overweight and vegetarian when you introduce Harold, it gives him a reason why he doesn't want to participate in the Three Challenges.

Instead of listing all Harold's mistakes, however, maybe you should focus on the point of the competition (why it happens, what the prize is) and what the consquences of not competing would be. Then list one or two of his strongest adversaries (another popular dragonlet and/or something emotional - fear of flying for example) that Harold has to overcome.

Your credentials are awesome! Because you have so many for this project alone, you could easily just list those. Maybe start with "The Broadwater Challenges won . ." and list where else it has been published. (That it is a childrens sci/fi magazine is probably unnecessary.)

I also wouldn't recommend stating that this has been queried to several agents at the same time. I have no doubt you will get requests for partials from this, but until you do, you don't really have a reason to pressure a prospective agent into a quick yes/no decision. If they feel they are part of a "form" query, they may pass.

The fact that it has won an award and been previously published will have them all chomping at the keyboard.

Wait for it.


Ryan said...

I think that the best way to "imply" that you're sending out multiple submissions is to say that a "copy" of the full ms is available upon request.

Other notes about the query, I was just wondering where the hook and conclusion was for the 3rd paragraph. Most of it feels like set up to me. Nothing really hooked me with it.

I like the personalization with the agent, but I think the congratulations is a little bit like kissing up to the agent, and that it shouldn't be right at the top of the query.

I wouldn't include the part about him being overweight unless it is absolutely critical for the main plot line. And, if there is anything in the 3rd paragraph that isn't critical to the main plot I would cut it out.

I don't mean to sound like I disliked the query, I just have a tendency to be harder on the things I like than those I dislike.

Natalie and Rick Nuttall said...

I liked the query, but I agree with Ryan about moving the paragraphs around and the vegetarian dragon (even though that's an awesome plot line!).

Happy hunting!


Vipul said...

I actually really like the part about the overweight, vegetarian dragon. It's a great hook and sets the query apart from other sci-fi, and also humanizes the protagonist in a way that is readily identifiable. It also captures the spirit of the story in a concise, unique way. I would use it in the hook or the first paragraph. Sounds like a great story!

Gina said...

´Harold may be the son of a dragon king, but he sure doesn’t feel like one.´ - I think right after this would be an ideal place to bring in the fact that he´s slightly overweight and vegetarian.
I´d definitely mention it, as it makes Harold stand out. It mightn´t appear to be critical to the plot, but it´s critical to your MC´s personality, and therefore by extension to the way he deals with whatever the plot throws at him.

gj said...

I'm also in the "mention the overweight vegetarianism" camp. It's a quick bit of characterization, stronger than what the protagonist does NOT want (since it implies what he DOES want, which is to continue to veg out, so to speak).

Anonymous said...

Thanks for all your comments!

So far, we've had very little luck generating enthusaim for even, when I found this site and great advise on other queries, I thought it could not hurt for you wonderful people to look at it too!

Ryan, never apologize for sounding harsh. That's kind of what we need right now.

When we revise, we will repost.

Thanks, Us

Gina said...

Sorry to hear that, and hard to believe in view of your story and creds.
Maybe it is the query then?

Try making Harold sound more positive. Nearly all verbs associated with him are negative. Maybe you can somehow convey his inner journey from lazy kid to hero (I presume that´s what it is) without making him sound totally negative in the first place.

I also didn´t really get the Watership Down comparison. I take it Harold is an amalgamation of Fiver and Hazel, character-wise?

Scott said...

Love the query. Your voice definitely shines through.

RCWriterGirl said...

I would get rid of the first paragraph, "congratulations..."

I'm not familiar with middle-grade fantasy, so this comparison did nothing to help me. Unless you're sure this is a book the agent is familiar with, I'd delete the reference (and if Watership Down is like the Twilight of the Middle grade fantasy genre, I'll feel really silly).

I liked your paragraph about the story. That was great and intriguting. I'd be tempted to lead with that, rather than the title and word count.

Lastly, I don't think you need to include that Harold is an overweight vegetarian dragon. You said he's the son of a "dragon king," so that should indicate he's a dragon. I'm not sure the overweightness matters in the query at this point.