Apr 14, 2009


Dear _______,

I'm seeking representation for my YA sci-fi novel, SOCIAL UPGRADE, complete at 75,000 words.

Max Foster's 16th birthday isn't quite what he expected. Maybe it's the insanely advanced phone his quirky uncle gives him, or the discovery that he has two identical brothers living in...well, they aren't exactly in the Boston area. Or it could be the holographic snakes that no one else can see wreaking havoc at his Starbucks.

Now Max and his newfound brothers Liam and Gabe are in the "game"- at least, that's what Uncle Renard calls it- a mission to stop the wi-fi breeding snakes from spreading a deadly virus that's already claimed thousands of lives around the world. Armed with their phones, they can travel to any city threatened with an outbreak using the TeleTransitSystem, and download any skill they need thanks to the handy Ad-I (Additional Intelligence) widget.

But when they find the source of the virus- a program designed by a scientist-turned-religious zealot- the three boys also discover who- or what- they really are. The program wasn't intended to kill humans...it was designed to kill them. And they may be mankind's only hope for survival.

I'm an ESL teacher, and SOCIAL UPGRADE is my first novel.
I appreciate your time and consideration!


Unknown said...

I'm not an experienced query critiquer, but I'll give this a try anyway. :)

Your query looks really good. I can't speak for agents, but I would definitely read your novel, and it looks like it should appeal to today's teenagers too.

I'd lose the first paragraph though. I've heard that you should start a query with some sort of hook instead of just saying that you're seeking representation. You can just put the title and word count somewhere else.

Also, you probably don't need to mention your job, since it doesn't seem relevant to the topic of the novel.

Other than the above, I have no real criticisms. I like your lively writing style, and the premise is very creative. Good luck with this!

Michelle Schusterman said...

Thank you Paul!!!

ryan field said...

I thought this was good. Well written.

I lurk here all the time, and I hate negative comments on blogs so I don't make them. But when something is good it should be praised.

Rick Daley said...


Your professional opinion is always welcome here.

I try to read all of the comments, and I've been impressed that they are almost 100% snark-free and constructive.

Lara said...

start with the conflict as a hook, "Max has an unusual 16th birthday when he discovers only he can see the holographic snakes attacking his Starbucks..."
Leave the seeking represntation part until the end.
Interesting story idea.

Michelle Schusterman said...

Thanks to everyone for your help.

I'll move the first sentence with the title/word count to the end and start with the hook.

Thanks! :)

Anette J Kres said...

This doesn’t really read like a query letter. It’s got a lot of set up and you’re holding back all your cards. Its okay for an agent to know what actually happens in your book. This reads more like what they’d print on the back of your published book to hook readers in without giving spoilers.

The two brothers in some other dimension (I’m guessing, since you didn’t tell us) is definitely something that needs to stay. That and the phones seem key. But nearly everything else that’s not directly tied to the conflict is just extra. The quirky uncle is cool too, but after you revise, you might want to seriously consider if he’s important enough to keep in the query.

What drives Max, what stands in his way, what his goal is and why he’s going for it? Instead of hedging around your antagonist and giving us gimmick lines, I think you need to be straight forward. THEN I need to know what actually happens. The only thing I’m getting now is that the boys play on their phones. The teleporting and Ad-I widget are definitely cool, but it’s all very vague. The boys teleport to an infected city, download skills, and…. what? How do they fight these snakes? What obstacles do they have to overcome?

If this is all seeming overwhelming, then you’re feeling exactly like I was at this point. But I found something that helped me, so I’ll share it with you. It’s Nathan Bransford’s query madlib. Plug your story’s info in, then start fiddling around, adding quirks like the Ad-I widget later. But this should give you the skeleton of your query, so you can flesh it out in the right shape:

[protagonist name] is a [description of protagonist] living in [setting]. But when [complicating incident], [protagonist name] must [protagonist's quest] and [verb] [villain] in order to [protagonist's goal].

It probably won’t come out looking like that after all your tweaking, but trust me, this helped my query a ton. It’ll probably do the same for yours. Of course, you can toss all this out the window if it doesn't suit you.

Best of luck!

Kez said...

The thing I didn't like was the 'not in the Boston area' line. Either tell us where they are or not at all!