#TeamVenom Query Tips

pitchwars, writing

SURPRISE! This blog post contains the dual-voices of Pitch Wars Co-Mentors #Team Venom (aka Kim and Francesca)!

NMCv

Welcome to the first of our #TeamVenom series, a weekly co-post dedicated to helping Pitch Wars hopefuls and querying writers in their search for mentorship and representation. In the upcoming weeks, we will be sharing our best tips for the PW application requirements, including crafting a query letter, synopsis, etc. If you’re interested in our mentor wishlist, stick around for the Pitch Wars Mentor blog hop where we’ll be listing everything we would kill to have in our inbox and what we offer as mentors.

Lettuce start out with a short intro about ourselves. We are extremely excited and honored to be chosen as YA mentors for Pitch Wars 2018. The event itself is an inspiring mentor program that has changed the lives of so many. If you’re new to the PW realm and have no idea what we are talking about and just came here for the query tips, you can find some extremely helpful and detailed information here.

#TeamVenom is a YA co-mentor team that includes:

  • Kimberly Vale (Follow her on Twitter)
    – Writer
    – Teacher
    – Mother
    – Gamer
    – Pitch Wars 2017 Mentee
    – Represented by Amelia Appel at Triada US

  • Francesca Flores (Follow her on Twitter)
    – Writer
    – Dancer, Trapeze Artist
    – Linguist
    – Traveler
    – Reader with Foreshadow: A Serial YA Anthology
    – Represented by Peter Knapp at Park Literary & Media

If you’d like to know a bit more about us, please view our mentor bios on the Pitch Wars site or wait for the mentor blog-hop in mid-August!


THE QUERY

For this blog post, we will specifically be talking about the query.

Whether you’re submitting for Pitch Wars or you’re querying agents, you need a good query letter. This is often the first thing agents see from you. The query is usually split between the pitch, the novel info, and the author info. Below we’ll break down each part and provide examples, along with a full example of an effective query letter. After reading this post, if you’re querying with a multi-pov novel and aren’t sure how to incorporate the different character motives and how they tie to the central plot, you may find a previous post of Kim’s helpful.

PARTS OF A QUERY:

  1. Hook/Pitch: This is the meat of the query and is usually between 200-300 words. An effective pitch shows a character we care about, their goal, what’s preventing them from reaching that goal (internally & externally), and the consequences that face them. If you have all of this, the agent will see that you have a coherent plot with an intriguing protagonist. Now, to make it sound fresh and appealing, our number one tip is to be specific.

    NOT SPECIFIC:- The world will end.
    Terrible things will happen.
    – She will be tested.

    SPECIFIC:
    Her family will be killed if she doesn’t work for the mafia.
    – He loses his home in a fire and his brother gets kidnapped.
    – They’ll have to decide between the love for each other and the love for their country.

    Being specific will help you bring out what makes your novel original and interesting. For example, “they used magic” is significantly less interesting than “they rose skeletons from the earth and animated them to do their bidding.” Of course, don’t go into so much detail that you present subplots and extra information that we don’t need in order to know what the story is about. Everything mentioned in the query should tie to the central conflict.

  2. Novel info: Audience, genre, word count, title, and applicable comps are all pieces that should be included in your query. The standard format includes this after the pitch, however, some agents prefer this in the beginning of the query. Research not only the guidelines at an agent’s agency, but also what they prefer (look through blog interviews, twitter posts, etc).

    Audience – young adult, adult, new adult, middle grade, chapter/children’s books, picture books. Audience describes the average age range of readers to whom your book should be marketed. It helps in placing your book on a shelf in a bookstore.

    Genre
    -This is typically your umbrella genre, like fantasy, contemporary, science fiction, historical fiction, etc. You can be specific and list your exact sub-genre (for example, western romance or urban fantasy), but it’s not necessary.

    Word Count
    Make sure this fits into your genre’s guidelines. There are usually exceptions, like how a YA fantasy is typically longer than a YA contemporary. Use math and round your word count to the nearest thousand. For example, if your novel is 75,678 words, you can just round up to 76,000.

    COMPS
    These should be books related to your own. Try to use comparative titles from recent releases (published within the past couple years is best) to display that you read in the genre you’re writing and you know what’s currently being sold. The comps can be related to your book in many different ways, including similar concept, writing style, character dynamics, world, etc. Try to keep your comps in the same genre and audience as your book. However, if you have, for example, a book that uses gem magic and has gangs and conspiracies but you don’t know what to comp it to for YA, you could say a “YA Jade City”. Do your best to stay away from overused comps like Harry Potter and The Hunger Games, or even more recent releases like Six of Crows (because it has been used so often in YA fantasy), unless it is extremely similar…like a heist novel.

  3. Author info – It’s good to include any previous publications, rewards, etc. But if you don’t have these, do not fear, just put a little bit about yourself. Maybe your job, maybe that you’re a student, or maybe that you have other projects in [insert genre/audience]. No need to say this is your first book or that you haven’t been published before (if you don’t mention another book, it will be assumed you haven’t been published).
  4. We’ve provided a few more links below if you’re interested to learn more about crafting an effective query:

    NYBookEditors – How to Write a Darn Good Query Letter

    Jane Friedman – Query Letters

    Writers Digest – Query Tips


MOCK QUERY EXAMPLE

For the purpose of Pitch Wars, we will be addressing this query letter with ‘Dear Mentor’. The applications for mentorship do not allow for personalization, but will be sent to the appropriate mentors based on the application form. When querying an agent, DO NOT PUT ‘DEAR AGENT.’ Instead, personalize. (Hint: Most agents prefer their first names as opposed to Mr. or Mrs. Smith).

Dear Mentor,

When her mother died in a shipwreck years ago, Ariel, a seventeen-year-old mermaid, was forbidden from swimming near the ocean surface. Curious about the humans she’s been kept away from her whole life, she disobeys her father and ventures near the surface, soon witnessing a ship catching fire. She rescues a human boy, who is enraptured by her voice, but returns to the sea before he sees her.

After a fight with her father, who discovers her hidden trove of human inventions collected from sunken ships, Ariel flees his rage and encounters the banished sea witch, Ursula. The sorceress offers the mermaid a deal: she’ll give Ariel legs to walk the earth and win the heart of the human boy. The catch: Ariel must give up her voice. Before Ariel’s time runs out, she must share true love’s first kiss with the boy or the sea witch will keep the mermaid’s poor unfortunate soul for herself.

THE LITTLE MERMAID is a YA fantasy complete at 85,000 words and features themes of freedom, love, and acceptance. It has the romance of BEAUTY AND THE BEAST with a villain comparable to MALEFICENT. In addition, I’ve completed four other YA fantasy projects. I am currently a student at Disney University, studying merpeople history and creative writing.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

Judy Hopps


We hope you were able to improve your query letter using our tips! Check back next week for our synopsis guide.

– Kimberly & Francessssca

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