Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Query Critique Wednesday - Denise's Queries!

Good Morning! Today we have TWO picture book queries from Denise. Wow!

For those of you who are new, here's how this thing works. I post queries from the brave souls who email them to m, along with my feedback on what's working and what isn't and how to make them shiny and bright. Then, you guys throw in your own two cents in the comments! The only rules are that you have to be honest, AND you have to be nice. No slamming or flaming, guys.

Let's get this party started!

Denise's first query is:

DearMr/Mrs_________,


Geared toward the 4-8 year old market, PHEWIE HUGHIE is a humorous 486 word children's picture book.

Hughie loves his toots and the louder the better and Hughie thought everyone should love his toots. Well, Hughie has a hard time finding someone to appreciate his wonderful ability until two children come to an important dinner and Hughie is told to remember his manners.  Mayham happens after Hughie realizes he just can’t hold it in.  What’s a boy to do? 

I am a member of SCBWI Canada East, and the SCBWI picture book and middle grade groups. I look forward to hearing from you.  Thank you for taking the time to consider PHEWIE HUGHIE.  Please note, this is a multiple submission.

Sincerely,

There's a lot to like about this concept - fart-loving boys! - and the basic elements of the query are there, which is good, but I think the descriptive paragraph needs some clarification. Here it is with my feedback in red:

Dear Mr/Mrs________,

Geared toward the 4-8 year old market, PHEWIE HUGHIE LOVE THE TITLE! Is this a rhyming book? If it is, you should say so. is a humorous 486 word children's picture book.

This is kind of an abrupt start. If you're going to open with the housekeeping - which is totally fine, and which a lot of agents and editors prefer - I'd recommend prefacing it with a bit of personalised stuff: I saw you at x conference/read x interview/whatever and because you said y, I'm sending you my manuscript....

Hughie loves his toots and the louder the better and Hughie thought everyone should love his toots.  This is a run-on sentence. Since the last portion is implied, I think this query can do without it. Love the idea of a kid who loves his own farts! This is every little boy's dream. Well, Hughie has a hard time finding someone to appreciate his wonderful ability until two children come to an important dinner This  raises some questions - why important? Why important with KIDS present? - and feels a little awkward. Maybe try reframing the inciting incident to eliminate those gaps and focus on the really crucial element: Hughie now has an audience for his farts. and Hughie is told to remember his manners.  Mayham Typo: Mayhem. happens after Hughie realizes he just can’t hold it in.  What’s a boy to do? Instead of ending with a rhetorical question, which some people don't mind but a lot of people dislike, maybe hint at where this goes: do the kids love his farts? Hate them? Join in?

I'd also include some comparatives here: this book will appeal to fans of A book, B book, and C book. It's good to give the person you're querying an idea of where your book will fit into the marketplace, and it gives him or her more ammunition to use if your book goes to acquisition. Another good place for comparatives is at the end of the first paragraph.

I am a member of SCBWI Canada East Good to include this!, and the SCBWI picture book and middle grade groups I am not aware of these groups. Do you mean the critique groups? In which case you should mention that they are critique groups, and mention the Canada East part, since different regions have their own groups. Or skip the critique group part - many have said they don't need to know about it. I look forward to hearing from you.  Thank you for taking the time to consider PHEWIE HUGHIE.  Please note, this is a multiple submission. Great closing.

Sincerely,


All together, not a bad query. With some reworking in the middle there, I think Denise will be ready to go.

And here's her second query:

Dear Mr/Mrs________,

Geared toward the 6-12 year old market, MALLIGA’S RAINBOW is a touching 927 word children's picture storybook.

Malliga and her Amma (mother) shared many memories, but the most memorable to Malliga was when they would play who could find the rainbow after a rain. After losing her Amma, Malliga has trouble facing the ache in her heart.  Her Appa (father) helps her and together they find a way to help Malliga one stitch at a time.

I am a member of SCBWI Canada East, and the SCBWI picture book and middle grade groups. I look forward to hearing from you. 
Thank you for taking the time to consider MALLIGA’S RAINBOW.  Please note, this is an exclusive submission.
Sincerely,

This, in my opinion, a pretty strong query already. I have some comments, but very few. Here's my feedback in red:

Dear Mr/Mrs________,

Geared toward the 6-12 year old market, MALLIGA’S RAINBOW You excel at titles. is a touching 927 word children's picture storybook. You've put yourself in the danger zone here. "Picture storybook" is a phrase usually equated with books like Beatrix Potter's TALES OF PETER RABBIT or A.A. Milne's WINNIE THE POOH, and while those books sell steadily, I have heard it said by editors and agents that that's more because people want to share their childhood memories with their kids than because the current market demands more stories like those. Books for young kids are now either picture books or chapter books. Your word count puts it into the picture book category - chapter books are typically 5,000-10,000 words - but your age range says chapter book or novel. I suspect that this is actually better aimed at the 4-6-ish market. (Don't be afraid to write books about death and loss for little kids; they need them as much as older kids do.)

Also: I have the same comment about the opening paragraph as in the last query.

Malliga and her Amma (mother) shared many memories, but the most memorable to Malliga
Memorable is repetitive - maybe "Malliga's favorite"? was when they would play who could find the rainbow after a rain. After losing her Amma, Malliga has trouble facing the ache in her heart.  Her Appa (father) helps her and together they find a way to help Malliga one stitch at a time. I love this last part. This is a great paragraph! Super job. It's clear that Malliga has a cultural background, so I would say what that background is somehow, so it will be easier to imagine how to market this book.

I am a member of SCBWI Canada East, and the SCBWI picture book and middle grade groups. I look forward to hearing from you. Same comment as in the other query.
Thank you for taking the time to consider MALLIGA’S RAINBOW.  Please note, this is an exclusive submission. You don't really need to say that it's an exclusive submission; in fact, they usually assume that a submission is exclusive unless you say that it is simultaneous. However, you may wish to put a time limit on the exclusivity: "While this is an exclusive submission, I will send it to other agents/editors if I haven't heard from you in x months." I've read that something in the neighborhood of 3-6 months is typical.
Sincerely,


Despite the sea of red - sorry, Denise! - this is actually, in my opinion, a really good query. The most important section - the descriptive paragraph - is really solid. There were just a couple things that took a lot of explaining at the beginning and end!

Do you have your own comments? Ideas? Thoughts? Share them in the comments! Let's help Denise out!

And be sure to come back on FRIDAY for a giveaway!

7 comments:

  1. testing... still won't let me comment

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  2. Well, same thing was happening, until I remembered internet explorer. It worked, thankfully :)

    Thanks so much, Ishta. I can't wait to get to work on my query. Phewie Hughie was originally in rhyme, but now it's prose as it just wasn't working out. Hope that's ok.

    I wasn't sure where to put Malliga's Rainbow because of it's length and because it dealt with death, but you mentioned it's ok :) You knew exactly what I was thinking and I feel better about that now. It's a tad bit sad, but I really think it'll help kids.

    Thanks so much for helping me, Ishta. I'll get busy sharing it now :)

    Love,
    Denise of Ingleside, PEI

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  3. I don't have much to offer beyond what Ishta said, except that I might remove the "well" from the first query where it says "Well, Hughie has a hard time finding someone to appreciate his wonderful ability" - I think it might be stronger without that. I really love the sound of Malliga's Rainbow - it sounds like a poignant and meaningful story. Good luck!

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  4. Ishta covered it really well. I love the beautiful wording you use to describe the story

    and since I have one about dealing with death too it would be great to swap them at the same time :)

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  5. I just love the two titles and your concepts.

    I also always learn so much from Ishta's comments. Thank you, ladies. I would definitely retain Maliga's Rainbow as a picture book and pitch it this way.

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  6. Wendy J. WhittinghamSeptember 27, 2012 at 8:45 AM

    Wow, two very different sounding and intriguing story lines.

    I think Ishta has pretty much nailed it, except I found one line was almost a tongue twister with all the M's.

    "Malliga and her Amma (mother) shared many memories, but the most memorable to Malliga..."

    Overall, I really love the premise of Malliga's Rainbow - I've read it and it's one of my fav's. The word count may be a little high. Perhaps see if you can tighten it up a tad more.

    Good luck Denise!

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  7. Thanks so much for the kind thoughts and comments, everyone :)

    and thank you, Ishta for all your help ... muchly appreciated.

    Love,
    Denise

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