Monday, December 19, 2011

On the Seventh Day of Querymas

For the stranded citizens of the Nile Runner space colony, their life flashes in front of their eyes every second of every day, in the form of bright red digits counting down.  It took me a moment to realize this is a countdown because initially I assumed it's their actual life flashing before their eyes ala near death experience.  I think I would reword "their life flashes in front of their eyes" and rework the structure of the sentence for clarity.

16-year-old Sixteen year-old Xavier Vasquez wonders if he’ll be able to make anything out of the rest of his short life. I'm 95% sure that you should never start a sentence with a number in numeral form, but I'm too lazy to look it up.  Anyone know for sure?
Though outwardly cheerful, he harbors a dark secret: in less than a year his countdown reaches zero and he will draw his final breath of life support with no possibly of getting more. His brilliant scientist of a father cannot help him, because he, like everyone in the settlement has an expiration date. So his father can't help him because he is dying too or because it's inevitable or because he won't?

After an attack on the colony from the planet’s grotesque alien inhabitants, Xavier sets out on a mission to find a way to stop his countdown and make contact with a strangely silent earth. However, when the planet starts to decay around them at an accelerating rate, Xavier fears that he may not even have until his countdown runs out to complete his mission.  There's so much going on in this paragraph.  I started to give you more feedback, but frankly it just makes me want to read the book.  So maybe you should leave it as is!

Faced with his approaching death, Xavier has a difficult decision to make: permanently reverse his countdown or save a dying planet and the lives of friend and foe alike. This is simply restating what you've said earlier.  Your last paragraph peaks my interest, and I strongly recommend you leave off there.  That last sentence "Xavier fears that he may not even have until his countdown runs out to complete his mission" is a much better cliffhanger!

COUNTDOWN is a work of YA Science Fiction and is complete at 80,000 words.

I am a German teacher and author of the YA Fantasy novels “The Canticle Kingdom” and “The Last Archangel”. (Bonneville Books, 2010, 2011) I have also contributed short stories and articles to such magazines as “Allegory”, “Mindflights” and “The New Era”. Add some personalization here.

A copy of the completed manuscript is available upon request. Thank you for your time and consideration.

I think this is in relatively good shape.  I want to see that first sentence cleaned up a bit and I want the last sentence cut, but the heart of the query is compelling and well-written.  I would guess a number of agents would be interested in this.  Best of luck!

Note:  I don't want to pick on this author, but I do want to make something clear for those of you querying and about to query.  This is the second submission I received with an attached file.  Never, never, never send a query letter as an attachment.  Don't attach anything!  The letter, sample pages, and anything else the agency requests should be pasted into the body of the email.  If they request a partial or full, you may send an attachment unless they request it via a submission service or snail mail.  

Now I'm about the give you one of the most important pieces of info for querying ever, so pay attention!  Most mail services will cut off an email of a certain length (about 8-10 pages of text)!  Supposedly when gmail does this there is a link that allows the recipient to view the rest of the message.  I can tell you from experience that's not always the case.  To avoid having your message cut off you need to paste your letter in, select the text and click on "plain text" in the formatting bar.  You may have to go in and manually adjust your text a bit.  I was pretty lucky because the agent whose sample got cut off was Mollie!  Clearly she liked what she saw enough to request the rest, but I shudder to think what would have happened .... well, you get the idea!


  1. Thank you very much for critiquing my letter. Great advice! I'll be sure not to send things as attachments anymore. Have a great holiday season.

  2. Thanks for the tip about formatting--I had no idea!