Sep 2, 2010

Off the Edge Query

Dear (Agent):

Nineteen-year-old Eden Anderson is beautiful, popular, and well endowed. Her adventurous personality and perfect figure makes her the envy of many girls from her small town in Idaho. But Eden is unexpectedly single and always leery of attention from the opposite sex after enduring a life-time of unwanted eyeball body scans and inappropriate comments. After finding the “man of her dreams,” she is dumped and discarded like yesterday’s paper when she won’t take their relationship to the next step—physically.

When Eden’s parents send her to live with her cousin, Claire, for the summer on the North Shore of Hawaii, the last thing she wants is to think about the male species. But Claire puts “Operation Eden” into play from day one, and tries setting her up with beach-volleyball-surfers hoping her cousin will find someone like her own Adonis-like boyfriend. Eden has no intention of indulging her cousin’s desires and only wants to relax on the beach while preparing her brain to start college in the fall.

Everything changes when Eden meets Noa, the mysterious playboy back from college and the one boy who can never be hers. She’s determined to have him, but only in her fantasy—the safest place for her beaten-down heart. When the charming Noa takes a sudden interest in Eden, she’s right to doubt his intentions—his reputation for being a "player" is as deep and never-ending as his pocket change, and she’s not willing to take that train again. Not to mention his “supposed” lunatic ex-girlfriend is stalking her. She tries her best to keep their relationship in the ‘just friends’ category, but Noa's good looks, charming attitude, and constant attention proves this a difficult task. When Eden agrees to accompany him on a sailing trip to Maui, she finds herself jumping off cliffs (something she swore she would never do again), swimming with sharks, and braving a storm that threatens to sink their tiny sailboat. Eden falls hard for the charming playboy, but it might not matter when an unexpected accident will most surely take everything away, including her life.

Eden’s summer adventure in Hawaii starts as a journey of escape, but follows deeper paths of real love and self-discovery. Come join Eden as she spends an adventurous summer in Paradise discovering if taking the leap of love is worth the risk. Told in Eden’s distinctive voice, at turns sarcastic and sensitive, “Off the Edge” is a complete 96,000 word young adult novel.

I spent five years as a tour-guide in Hawaii gaining knowledge of the island, culture, and expectations of typical tourists. Based on my real-life adventures while attending Brigham Young University Hawaii on the North Shore of Oahu, “Off the Edge” brings to life the everyday insecurities that young adults face with heartbreak, love, and lose.


Mesmerix said...

The character and conflict are clearly presented in this query. This is a very good thing.

The problem is also clear, excess. This query is way too long. It clocks in around 450+ words, which is double where you need to be. 200-300 for a query, max. Shorter is better. All that black text makes people not want to read, which is sad because you have such a good love story here.

You need to cut words. Here is what I suggest.

1) Cut any backstory. Start the query where the book starts. We don't need details on her previous breakup unless that's where the book starts, which I'm guessing it doesn't. You can jump right in and say, "Eden Anderson is beautiful, popular, and scared to recover from a recent heartbreak." Then go right into Noa.

2) This sounds like a romance novel, and not a YA book. YA's could read it, and it doesn't need to have explicit content to be in the romance genre, but you're writing a love story, IE: Romance. Focus your query purely on that: Eden and Noa, the struggles they face.

3) Cut the last 2 paragraphs entirely. The bit about "Come join Eden" is not what you want to do. You're telling me that this is in her distinctive voice, not showing me through your query. Then, in the final paragraph, you give me all these details which are completely unnecessary.

Cut them and state, "Eden's summer adventure in Hawaii starts as a journey of escape, but ends in self-discovery, where taking a leap of love may be worth the risk. Thank you for your consideration."

That's it. Simple. Everything else is just excess. Doing this will cut down significantly on your word count. You may also want to consider breaking up paragraphs 1-3 a bit for more white space on the page. That is, of course, after you cut all the excess words from those sentences as well.

The query is strong. The content is there, just trim back the fat and you'll be ready to go.

Belinda said...

Some big plusses here: exotic setting, realistic scenario, and the potential for love and disaster! Great. Problem is, I had to sift to get there. In my head, I threw out most of the first paragraph keeping only the points that she’s good-looking and that she’s been hurt.
Second paragraph, same thing. I threw out the bit about the cousin’s Adonis-like boyfriend and simplified to Eden only wants to relax and get ready for college. Did the cousin set up Eden and Noa? If not, more of paragraph two went out the door for me.
Paragraph three, I kicked out the bit about her beaten-down heart and simplified the rest into more concise sentences. That last sentence really threw me. It will most surely kill her? If it does, bummer, because this looks like something I’d want a happy ending to. If it doesn’t, then maybe hint that there’s mortal danger as a teaser but reword that last line.
This is a very wordy query (and maybe an even more wordy review, sorry), but the story is there and your familiarity with the exotic place you’re writing is certainly a plus. Make sure you use that to really “wow” with setting. Good luck and good story!

Zee Lemke said...

I agree with the above. Too many words!

But also sometimes the wrong words, and those are more deadly. Even in Hawaii, I don't think people actually surf on beach volleyballs. Noa being charming doesn't "prove" things difficult, it MAKES things difficult. You also call him a playboy way more times than we need. We got it the first time.

I'm actually not sure I'd read this yet. I haven't picked up on why I should root for Noa. I still want to shove him off the boat in the storm. I mean being me I'd probably kiss him first, but I wouldn't be looking for (or giving!) happy endings. Does he do anything in the story to redeem himself? It's also okay to leave us with the implication that maybe there's more to him... maybe it'll come across better once I can see past Eden's bosoms.

Erin A said...

Thanks for all your great feedback. Funny thing, I actually have been corresponding with on of my rejection agents and she said the same thing--wrong genre and too long. I guess I will revamp and look into Womens Fiction.

So do you think the book itself sounds interesting? I've had 10 beta readers from age 16-42 and they all love it (some are rereading it for the 3rd time--they are in love with my hero, Noa). And yes, Zee, he does have issues and you will wish you were on the boat, in the middle of the ocean, under the full moon, instead of chucking him off the edge (lol). I will revise and repost. Thanks for all your help!

Mesmerix said...

Erin: I think you will be surprised how wonderful the query sounds once you cut through the excess. Right now, all the interesting stuff is buried in the query. It's there, just need to trim off the fat to get to the meat.

Erin A said...

I'm soooo confused, cuz my reject agent told me it's too young to be WF and to old to be YA--so where do I fit in? I don't want to change the age, it has to do with the story.

Dominique said...

On the upside, you've certainly got your voice to show through in your query, which is definitely important. On the downside, your query runs too long. It really shouldn't exceed 250 words, max at 300.

To tighten, I'd suggest cutting your back story down to the essentials, mainly that she got dumped by a guy who only wanted her for her body. Pick up in Hawaii.

Another place you could cut is the second to last paragraph. Almost all of that can go. For example, you don't need to tell them the POV. That's what sample pages are for. Also, as a general principle, when a query feels compelled to say that it's clever/sarcastic/satirical/whatever, that's often a sign that it really isn't. Show, don't tell. Your pages, again, should carry that info for you.

Can't wait to see the revision.

Belinda said...


I'm no expert, but I'd say take the advice we get about any critique: if MULTIPLE people say the same thing, then change.

Clean up the query and resubmit somewhere else. You could call it "romance" and let the agent decide they think it's YA (or not).

College age is a bit old for YA as I understand it, but this certainly has smart older teen girl appeal.

Go with your gut and don't let ONE agent get you doubting. If they're willing to talk to you about why, they think your work is worthwhile.

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Yes, don't despair.

You've got me interested in how this story runs, and I dislike the genre. So obviously you're doing something right.

Erin A said...

Went from 450 words to 182--wow!

Can't wait to see what you guys think wen it gets reposted