A Very Happy Query Days!

By Julie Kazimer

*Keep reading for a very special holiday gift from me to you! No skipping ahead or you’ll be on the naughty list.

Oh, the holidays. Goodwill toward our fellow man. Gingerbread houses. A half-finished novel left over from NaNoWriMo. And of course, the dreaded New Year’s Resolution.

I bet I know what yours is. No, I’m not psychic (or any variation on the word like psychotic).  I know what your resolution is because you’re a writer, and we all want one thing—peace on Earth, but barring that, we’d love a major book deal with a movie franchise, and a few million readers.

Not a lot to ask, but how can our New Year’s Resolution get us there?

It all starts with a query.

Every year, for many years, my resolution was to query agents and editors in a quest for the aforementioned book deal. And every year, for so many years, I’d quit by February. Why? Because I was either being rejected outright or ignored.

Looking back, it makes complete sense.

There wasn’t anything wrong with my novels (for the most part). But there was something very wrong with how I was approaching those agents and editors. My queries sucked. Bad.

This past month, I was asked to judge a writing contest where the writers provided a query with their submission. It occurred to me while reading the queries that they all fell into three categories:

1)       Well written, interesting, unique concept, and appropriate for the agent/editor. A winning query. One guaranteed to pique the interest of an agent enough for a partial or full request.

2)      Well written, but lacking spark, either with voice or concept. These queries only get a request if the sample pages included are far more interesting.

3)      Poorly written (structure, grammar, typos, run-ons, etc), which, no matter how great the concept is, can’t be overcome.  No requests.

Sadly my queries often fell into the 3rd option. That’s why I’m going to give you a special gift (or not so special depending on your viewpoint). I’m offering to critique your query before you get ready to hit send in the New Year.

Here’s the deal, you can post your query in the comments, and I will read it, and comment on things I would change. Why would you listen to me, you might ask? Because I’ve made every query mistake known to writers. I’ve written hundreds, read double that, and am willing to read yours, for free.

If you are worried about someone stealing your idea if you post your query, you can email it to me at jkazimer at msn.com. If you’re worried about me stealing your idea, I’m terribly offended and think I might cry, right after I finish plagiarizing JK Rowlings.

This gift only will last from today until December 12th. So get to posting those queries, and, if you read the other queries and would like to comment on either the query or what I’ve said about it, please do so. It takes a village…minus all that reindeer poop.

Happy Holidays!

———————————

J.A. (Julie) Kazimer lives in Denver, CO. Novels include CURSES! A F***ed-Up Fairy Tale, Holy Socks & Dirtier Demons, Dope Sick: A Love Story and FROGGY STYLE as well as the forthcoming book, The Assassin’s Heart. J.A. spent years spilling drinks as a bartender and then stalked people while working as a private investigator. For more about Julie, visit her website and blog.

Connect with Julie on Twitter and Facebook.

22 thoughts on “A Very Happy Query Days!

  1. Chris Pitchford

    This is brilliant! I wanted to right “FABU” but it’s too early for that. ANYWAY, here goes, and thanks in advance…

    In the far future, an ordinary grunt designated only as 5002 battles against alien forces using the largest weapon ever built, the Leviathan. While defying death in the form of re-animated soldiers, murderous traps and battlefield nukes, 5002 also struggles to discover his origins. Before he can uncover his past he will have to face the malfunctioning hive-mind of the artificial intelligence that controls the Leviathan with an unlikely ally: a virtual version of himself, the source from which he was cloned and the driver of the mad plots that promoted him.

    Once installed as the commander of the Leviathan, he uncovers crimes by the human hegemony on a galactic scale. But the enemies arrayed against humanity combine their forces and the Leviathan and its base, the Behemoth, stand isolated against the galaxy. To survive, the soldiers must overcome their own weaknesses as well as their enemies, and a weapon of war may become the key to galactic peace.

    The complete novel of speculative fiction, FIRST LEVIATHAN, at 105,000 words, tells how a soldier of the far future changes the galaxy, one battle at a time, in the biggest weapon humans ever created. Creating a mix between classics like Robert Heinlein’s STARSHIP TROOPERS and Joseph Conrad’s HEART OF DARKNESS while expanding on the weird in recent novels like China Mieville’s SCAR, FIRST LEVIATHAN is the first of a planned series to add dimensions of math, science, equality and liberalism to military sci-fi. The author, living in a neighborhood known for a state mental hospital and a cemetery, wonders where he might end up first. He is also a member of Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers and when not writing, is trying to program his own artificial hive-mind, as one does.

    Your time and attention to this matter are greatly appreciated.

    Reply
    1. Julie Kazimer

      Thank you, Chris, for being first up and for such an interesting and intriguing book. Remember, my thoughts here are just things that jumped out at me or that I might change. I honestly don’t see anything ‘wrong’ with the query. Right structure. Got me interested. Well written.

      The things I might work on would be the third paragraph. This is your tagline: FIRST LEVIATHAN, at 105,000 words, tells how a soldier of the far future changes the galaxy, one battle at a time, in the biggest weapon humans ever created. It is a very good one. So I wonder why it is buried in the third paragraph? The way the query reads now, I don’t know what I’m getting into off the bat. Having know the tag line, I might’ve felt more comfortable.

      I like the comparison books, but I wonder if there is just too much? I really love the bit about the author, it shows your voice and humor.

      Okay, two more little things. I found myself wondering who/what the grunt is. Is he human? I thought he was IA until I read the clone part.

      And the last thing is the transition into paragraph 2. It jarred me. I wondered how he’d suddenly become a commander when he was a grunt a few sentences ago, and how that is connected.

      Overall, a solid, well written query. I wish you the very best of luck!

      Reply
      1. Chris Pitchford

        You are AMAZING! Thanks for the help—I plan on starting querying this novel next month, so this offer and your advice is perfectly timed.

        Reply
  2. Patricia Stoltey

    Julie, this is a great idea and you are a gem for making the offer. I’ll toddle over to Facebook and Twitter and spread the word.

    Reply
  3. Dean K Miller

    And all I’ve heard is how cold and dark your heart is. Bah Humbug on those lying bastards! You’re so awesome to do this and I won’t be bothering you with a query. (I have enough rejection in my life already. How many times have I asked you to buy my unfinished, unreleased book, anyway?) This is my small gift to you. You’re the best.

    Reply
  4. Karla Jay

    Here you go, Julie! I’d love your opinion!
    I am submitting a query to see if you’d like to represent my mainstream novel, A Shot at Justice. I believe it investigates a strong moral dilemma, similar to other popular books such as
    Gone Girl and Defending Jacob.

    My story introduces Wyatt Dardin, whose violent childhood is in the past, or so he thinks. His happy existence as a 33 year-old artist and junkyard owner in rural Ohio is turned upside down when Wyatt accidently kills a man, a pet abuser, who Wyatt
    confronts. In a near panic, Wyatt buries the abuser behind the junkyard. The
    injustice of the country’s 1997 anemic legal system emotionally drags Wyatt
    back to his childhood, where he had no choice in his father’s vicious actions.
    Now as a person who has volition, the only weighty questions become, what is
    morally right and what can be called fair retribution?

    He creates a fictitious group, VAPA – Vigilantes Against Pet Abuse, – and confronts a rancher in Texas,hoping to understand other abusers. To understand his dead father. He kills the rancher in a confrontation. He feels his two killings are enough. Meanwhile
    he’s searching for his mother and trying to keep his reporter girlfriend at
    arm’s length from his dark tendencies. A chance encounter with a delusional man
    thrusts Wyatt and his loved ones into harm’s way. The man begins killing in the
    name of VAPA and zeros in on Wyatt’s mother, a former cat-hoarder, legally a
    pet abuser. The delusional man torches her home, inciting Wyatt. When the man
    shows up at Wyatt’s junkyard, he harms Wyatt’s girlfriend and attacks Wyatt’s
    dogs, killing one. Wyatt kills him.

    The police pin the VAPA killings on the delusional guy, while Wyatt puts aside personal guilt he has been harboring for his actions, allowing a sense of justification to settle in.
    He knows life will not return to normal, his girlfriend has left, and his mother is delusional. He will still sell paintings, still go for long runs and when abusers surface across the country, he will have no choice but to do what feels right – he will head their way.

    The novel is approximately 91,000 words. I have written fiction and nonfiction for twenty years, winning several magazine and conference contests for short story and screenplay. I write 2 blogs on learning and education and I have had a newspaper column for four years. An avid public speaker, I represent myself well in front of all audiences and I’m proficient with all social media.

    Reply
    1. Julie Kazimer

      Hi Karla,

      Thanks for playing along! Okay, I’m a huge pet lover, as I’m betting you are, so please know how grateful and appreciative I am for Wyatt’s plight. This is well written and interesting. Just a few things I would look at:

      The first one is, breaking the plot (and we’re only talking BIG IDEA plot) down into one paragraph. You have a lot going on, but an agent/editor wants to know the major theme, and quickly. I’d think about which is more important, his struggle to understand his father or the actual actions like the murders.

      Not that you can do anything or should do anything about this, but many agents/editors will be afraid of taking on a pet abuse. Just an FYI. I’m sure you can find the right fit though.

      I love the way you slipped in the comparisons. Very smooth.

      Great job. Thanks for sharing and best of luck!

      Reply
      1. Karla Jay

        Julie! You are right about keeping the main theme in one paragraph. I’ll work on that. I also understand I’ve written a novel that will be controversial! I’m not afraid! Thank you ma’am for you expert opinion!

        Reply
    2. Julie Kazimer

      Oh, and consider cutting I believe in the opening. You know it. It absolutely does! Now be strong and tell the world!

      Reply
  5. Dave Kelley

    I have a 75,000 word Contemporary Mainstream Fiction project for your consideration. It is titled Second Chances.

    Second grade teacher Connie Meriwether has been assaulted by her boyfriend, had her car smashed up by a hit and run driver, and contracted lung cancer even though shenever smoked. Why? Because bad things happen to good people.

    Industrialist Pat Buttress has sold defective products, exploited his employees, and run many businesses with unsafe working conditions, all for huge profits. Why? Because good things happen to bad people.

    Smiley the herding dog had a wonderful life until his human family died in a plane crash that was indirectly caused by Pat Buttress. When Smiley’s family doesn’t come back, Smiley is stolen by a dogfighting gang and his happy life is turned upside down. Why? Because innocent animals are at the mercy of whoever adopts them.

    But what if Earth is only the first planet created and, as such, the most primitive? What if everyone who dies is born into a new life on another, more advanced planet? What if people learned from the mistakes they made in their first lives and carried that knowledge with them to the second place; a place of Second Chances?

    In Heaven and beyond, three very different lives converge
    and reshape themselves. Follow the good, the bad, and the innocent in a quest for peace, love, and redemption. All they need, all they want, are Second Chances.

    Reply
    1. Julie Kazimer

      Dave, thank you for playing along. Wow. Just wow. Love the concept. Solid query too. Two things, one, it needs a good edit for typos and such. Secondly, I’m thinking you might be better served by making non-question statements in the second to last paragraph. Or less of them.

      Also, is this a three character sort of tale or is there one protagonist who stands out? If there is, you might want to weave them into the other two. The dog part nearly made me cry. Great job! Best of luck!

      Reply
        1. Julie Kazimer

          I would snatch it up in a heartbeat based on the query idea. The potential is amazing. I hope we’ll all be reading it very soon.

          Reply
  6. Jim Heskett

    It’s hard to call it youthful indiscretion when you’re pushing thirty.

    A decade of treading bourbon lands Micah Campbell in detox, surrounded by vomit-sodden junkies in scrubs. When a convulsing fellow patient nearly dies from alcohol withdrawal, Micah sees a reflection of his future self. Relapse means death, or worse.

    If he can repair his broken relationships, he can become the kind of person deserving of sobriety. But someone from Micah’s past isn’t willing to forgive. This unidentified person starts spreading lies to Micah’s ex, stealing from his parents, and falsifying documents at Micah’s job.

    Micah tries to get on with his life, but his efforts stall. His ex-girlfriend screens his calls. His parents hide the fine china when he’s around. His boss looks for any excuse to fire him.

    Micah dreads slipping back into the hell of his old life, but his anonymous attacker keeps pushing him there. No support equals no progress, and no progress equals a leap off the cliff. Unless he can find and stop the engineer of these lies, he’s going to find himself drowning inside a bottle.

    AIRBAG SCARS is 86,000 words of psychological suspense.

    Thanks for the advice!

    Reply
    1. Julie Kazimer

      Hi Jim, thanks for being a willing victim. Love the opening line. It sets up the query well. Good overall. I would request pages.

      Somethings to think about:

      The things this unidentified person is doing are bad. Really bad. But I have no sense of why. Yeah, we understand that alcoholics do terrible things when drinking, but what did Micah do to make someone do such bad things? Some examples might help. As it read snow, the unidentified person seems insane at best, and that’s just not compelling enough. Plus, I automatically think, it’s a woman by the use of person, so you might have a look at pronoun use.

      Great job! I hope to read the book soon!

      Reply

Leave a Reply