Apr 14, 2009

Query- Hollow

Dear [Agent's Name]:

[Personalized paragraph if this agent likes such things]

After Malayka sees her parents kill each other mere feet away from her, guilt threatens to overwhelm her - the guilt threatens the wall she's built around herself to survive all the disappointment and pain she's suffered through in her life. Malayka blames herself for her mother's death. After all, her mother picked the fatal fight because of her. Malayka's father had always started and finished the many fights that came before the last one.

At their parents' funeral, Malayka and C.J. meet the aunt, uncle and cousin they are to live with now for the first time. When they arrive in Blue Crest, Virginia, Malayka is forced into a new life of privilege many would love, but she doesn't want it. Malayka, who deals with the past by not dealing with it and who deals with emotion by not allowing herself to feel any, will be stripped of her defenses. While trying to find a way to be normal and blend in, she will find that the past she seeks to avoid continually plagues her present. When a visitor from her past shows up and threatens to destroy her hopes for a normal future, she is forced to realize that ignoring the past is not a viable way of putting it behind her.

HOLLOW is a 78,000-word multicultural young adult novel. It is a coming-of-age story with plot twists similar to those of a psychological thriller. This is a story about how domestic violence affects an entire family. It is also about healing and moving on after experiencing tragedy in life.

There is potential for both a prequel and a sequel, but HOLLOW is capable of standing on its own. Currently, I do not have any published work to my credit. I hope you have enjoyed learning a little about HOLLOW. Have a wonderful day.

Thank you,

Nicole Green
[Contact Info Redacted]


Rick Daley said...

"At their parents' funeral, Malayka and C.J. meet the aunt, uncle and cousin they are to live with now for the first time."

Change to:
"At their parents' funeral, Malayka and her [little or big] brother meet for the first time the relatives they are to live with now."

Reasons: You don't want to list too many names, it can get confusing. Moving "for the first time" after meet implies that they are meeting for the first time, otherwise it is implied they are living with them for the first time bu may have actually met before.

In the rest of the description, try to revise it and repeat words less often. For example, "past" is used four times. This makes me think you can condense the description down some and give it a better flow, and free up some room for a more specific description of the conflict with the visitor.

I don't think you need the descriptions after "78,000 word multicultural young adult novel." It sounds like there are many layers, which is fine, but it can also read as indecisive...is it YA or a thriller? Also, the description of the plot should show what the story is about, i.e. domestic violence, healing, etc. You don't need to tell the agent unless it is something that truly sets your works apart from novels with similar themes.

Don't mention that you aren't published, it will be apparent when you don't list any publishing credentials, but you don't want to call specific attention to the fact.

I think mentioning room for prequel and sequel is OK, but close with a simple "Thank you for your time and consideration.


Good luck!

ND_Green said...

Thanks, Rick! Great points. Also, thanks for starting this blog. It's a great resource.

Anonymous said...

Hi Nicole,

I write multicultural fiction also.
Your title HOLLOW is great, and I can see the double meaning. The next thing would be to get your query to reflect the power of your title and to let your voice (which is your character's voice shine through)

Your query reads like a list of things that happen in the book, but some very emotional things happen to her.

One thing you may want to do is not list everything, because then your story reads more like a synopsis than a query, and a query is to get the agent's attention so that they request pages or your manuscript.

This is powerful -
After Malayka sees her parents kill each other -
The addition of how many feet should be edited out.
So might I humbly suggest -
After Malayka sees her parents kill each other, guilt becomes another brick in the wall she's built around herself (or for herself, its up to you)

Just a suggestion, but it's what I got out of your paragragh.

Now, the middle is something I would edit also.
What I saw as the important events are when she goes to live with relatives that are middle-class
(I agree with Rick, too many names here and the agent will get confused, you don't want that)
but because of past hurt, she's unable to move forward, in other words, "her past is always present"

You can use this if you want, I really enjoy doing this kind of stuff.

Now, to move on, you state
HOLLOW is a 78,000-word multicultural young adult novel.

You can just say HOLLOW is a
78,000 word multicultural YA novel.

(Without the hyphen)

Or just YA novel, because while the characters are of color, her pain is universal, any one should be able to relate.

Here's the hard part. You'll have to reduce your novel to two or three crucial sentences. It's the hook.

Take a look at these top sellers:

Thirteen Reason Why - Before committing suicide a girl records and sends explanatory audiotapes to 13 people.

The Hunger Games - In a dystopian future, a girl fights for survival on live TV

Wintergirls - A life-and-death story of anorexia.

The Book Thief - A girl saves books from Nazi burning and shares them with a Jewish man in hiding

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian - A boy leaves his reservation for an all-white school

Diary of A Wimpy Kid - A boy records the hazards of adolescent life.

The Summoning - A girl who sees ghosts is locked up.

The Kite Runner - An epic tale of fathers and sons, of friendship and betrayal, that takes us from Afghanistan in the final days of the monarchy to the atrocities of the present.

See how strong they are? Well yours can be just as strong. And remember, this is what you're up against, so take your time.

As far as the last part, I'd end with;
Sample pages and the full manuscript are available.
Thank you for your time and your consideration,
You want to keep it businesslike.

Also, no need to tell them about a sequel, when you have to sell the first one. If you would like more of my input (LOL probably not) I'll be here all week.

Agent XXX

ND_Green said...

Thanks, Agent XXX, for taking the time to read and give such a detailed critique. I'll definitely keep them in mind as I revise the letter.

Kez said...

I thought there was too much psychological stuff here and not enough plot. It sounded like the book would downplay the drama and be full of telling-not-showing.