The query is one of the hardest parts of writing a book. Even if you aren’t looking for an agent or a publisher you will write something similar. The query is, essentially, the back-of-book blurb with an additional paragraph containing personal details (previous publications, relevant platform, word count, ect). I picked this one to critique because it is written by an author who has a disability (something I can relate to because of Ehlers-Danlos), and because it’s romantic suspense, which is one of my favorite things to read.
The original query is in black, my notes are in red, and my rewrite is at the bottom.
Dear [Agent Name],
Christine was born with only three fingers on her left hand, a minor issue in most people’s eyes but to Christine it’s huge. Ever since a mean girl This reference feels dated and I recommend cutting it unless this person becomes a reoccurring character. Remember, it can take several years for a book to hit the shelves and On Trend today is dated in a few years. told her, “Christine, don’t deceive The word GIRL implies young, and deceive isn’t a word I associate with kids yourself. No man will ever want to put a ring on that hand,” she has believed she is disqualified This strikes me as an odd word choice, but if it’s in keeping with the tone of the book, it’s fine. from being loved. She had one serious relationship in her life, but it ended badly. She has accepted that she will never be loved. What is Christine’s motivation? What is she doing with her life while she isn’t falling in love? I’d like to see that.
Then she meets Paul. White space is our friend! This is not normally a trick I use for queries, but this is a sentence that needs the space to have impact.
Paul does not This isn’t a formal letter, go ahead and use contractions. care about her hand. Christine begins to hope that she has a chance at love. When a beautiful woman makes a very forward pass at Paul, all of Christine’s insecurities resurface and she walks out on Paul, fearing that he would wake up one day and regret being with her. She had already been betrayed once. She refused to let it happen again. Her heart could not take it. If their relationship was going to end, it would be by her choice, in her timing. I don’t love the fact that you’re describing her running away without stopping to figure out what is happening. If I read this on the back of a book, I’d pass, even if it is well-written. I recommend giving her a stronger reason for leaving.She accepts a job out of state and starts packing to move.
Heartbroken and believing that Christine is gone, Paul is without hope until he discovers that the out of state job Christine was heading to had fallen through. With hope renewed, he buys an engagement ring for Christine even while she still refuses to speak to him. Paul has a secretive national security job that sometimes puts him in danger. See, this is a big deal. Unpack this! His secrets can be the reason Christine doubted him. He is accustomed to taking chances and succeeding even when the odds are stacked against him.
While many forces, including Christine’s stubbornness and a violent drug cartel that wants Paul dead, seem determined to keep them apart, Paul is determined that they will be together. This is promising! 🙂
WITH THIS RING, a romance, is 66,000 HUGE PROBLEM!!! For an adult romance novel you need a minimum of 70,000 words. Very few agents or editors will even give this manuscript a chance because the word count is too low (the high end is 100,000 words for romance and 120,000 for epic fantasy/SF – just FYI). You need to go through your manuscript and find places where you glossed over the action or skipped some details and get those words in there. words long. Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.
THE REWRITE – I didn’t have a copy of the novel so I made up as many facts as I had to…
Successful lawyer Christine SURNAME is on a partnership track at a prestigious law firm and she doesn’t plan on little things like love, or being born missing two fingers, hold her back. This presents Christine’s circumstances and driving motivation. Not that there aren’t a few offers on the table, it’s just that she’s been burned before and she doesn’t need another heartbreak. Her incredibly hunky neighbor, Paul SURNAME, hasn’t let her cold shoulder stop him from trying to win her heart. From homemade sushi to fried plantains, Paul’s been dipping into his family cookbook trying to find the way to Christine’s heart, and it’s working. This introduces the love interest and the interpersonal conflict as of Page 1.
In between stories about his Jamaican grandmother feuding with his Vietnamese aunts over the proper way to cure a cold sore Paul has left out one, very important, personal detail There was a note in the original query and Paul being Black/Asian and I tried to work it into the query. He’s an undercover CIA agent on the verge of breaking open the biggest case in agency history. Senators, cartel leaders, and a Canadian ambassador… it’s going to make headlines. But when Christine walks in on him talking to his handler, things go south, fast. Here the big conflict is introduced.
When a job offer from a dirty judge puts Christine in the center of his case, Paul decides it’s time to tell Christine the truth. He’s madly in love with her, he wants their honeymoon to be in Italy, and if she isn’t careful her career-making case is going to end with her in a shallow grave. Paul has the ring all picked out, now all he needs is for Christine to give him a second chance. And here the stakes are set. The reader knows it will only be True Love that keeps the couple alive, and we’re excited to see how it all plays out
WITH THIS RING, a romance, is 75,000 words long. Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.
Well, Readers, would you pick up this book?
Leave your responses, suggestions, and encouragements for the author in the comments below!