Thursday, December 1, 2011

Query Critique: Art and Demons (two things Kathleen likes!)

My comments are bolded and in brackets. Some general comments follow at the end of the query.

Disclaimer: My comments represent my own personal opinions. Others may disagree.

Dear Agent,

Sage [love the name] sits alone at school with her pencils and sketchpad, drawing portraits of the souls whose voices pound against her skull. When she’s finished, the sketches come alive before her eyes, telling the stories of their deaths. [I'm kind of curious about this and I realized that the why is never really hinted at. Are they any and all ghosts? Ghosts with unfinished business or who died violently? Why do they tell her stories of their death? Do they want something from her?]

When she meets Aden, the new employee at the local art store, her life takes an unexpected turn [I’d avoid phrases like “unexpected turn” in a query. They may be true, but they do come off sounding a bit stilted and cliché]. Not only is he interested in her, but the phantoms in her head disappear whenever he’s around. [It’s interesting—and totally relevant to the query—that he seems to be a white noise that blocks out the ghosts, BUT because we’ve gotten no indication of how she feels about the ghosts up to this point, this feels a bit like telling. I would try to work in her emotions prior to the introduction of Aden. If you do, I think his strange power and her attraction to it will feel more compelling.]. She becomes more and more dependent on him while working on a landscape mural in the back of the store for her art class. [I don’t think you need to say that she’s working on the mural for art class. It doesn't seem that interesting.] It’s not until she’s away from him, however, that the dead fight back. [I like the idea of the ghosts fighting back but am curious about how/what they would do.] There’s something dark about the sweet and caring Aden, and the ghosts don’t like it.

After Sage is attacked by a demonic soul, she learns that Aden is a shadow [This is quite neat], a slave to one of the three rulers of Hell. When Aden offers sanity in exchange for her soul [Why does he want it? Is there no good to him at all? Any inner conflict about taking poor Sage’s soul?], she must figure out if she’s willing to pay the price for the silence she craves.

SILENCE [I hate to say this BUT I would rethink your title. While it’s true that you can’t copyright a book title, Becca Fitzpatrick’s Hush, Hush series is hugely popular and its subject matter is somewhat similar to yours. The most recent book is called SILENCE.] is a 102,000 word paranormal young adult novel. It is intended to be the first in a trilogy [This is dicey. Some people will tell you that the first book should be able to stand alone and that you should mention it has series potential, BUT in YA--especially anything urban fantasy or paranormal--trilogies are so common that I think it's fine.]. I have been a member of Thurber House’s Young Writer’s Studio for three years [I dithered a bit on whether or not you should include this. In the end, I think most agents based in NY would be aware of what it is, so I don’t think it hurts anything to leave it in.]. SILENCE has also received a positive review from an editor at HarperCollins publishers through inkpop, their critique site.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Overall, I think the query is quite strong, but it could benefit from some slight tweaking.

Regarding the story itself: I LOVE the concept. I love that her drawings are a link to the dead and that part of her attraction to Aden is that he helps her tune out the voices. Aden’s origins are quite interesting and a nice change from angel stories. This is a book I would definitely be interested in reading.

Best of luck!


Kathleen Peacock is a semi-reformed vampire addict and unapologetic geek who has taken to writing about werewolves and who wants to marry the Wizard Howl. Her debut, HEMLOCK, will be published by Katherine Tegen Books, an imprint of HarperCollins, on May 8, 2012. Visit her website at


  1. I agree with all of Kathleen's comments. I'm also wondering if mentioning Harper Collins is a good idea. Maybe they gave a positive critique, but I can only assume they rejected it in the end (otherwise you wouldn't need to query). Mentioning rejections, even polite ones, isn't usually a good idea.

  2. Anne: I debated about that too, but my understanding is that inkpop is a user-driven critique site in which editors sometimes take part, so I don't think this would be quite the same as a rejection. (Although I admit it's probably a gray area and if someone who is more familiar with the site can weigh in, that'd be great.)

  3. Inkpop is a critique site based on user feedback for the most part. Users get to 'pick' their favorite projects, and the writings are ranked on the website based on the number of picks each project has received. Every month, editors from HarperCollins take the top 5 projects from the Fiction, Short Story, and Poetry categories and review them, providing the author with constructive feedback.

    There's only been one novel, Leigh Fallon's Carrier of the Mark, that was offered publication through the site. Other members have been published, like Wendy Higgin's Sweet Evil coming in 2012, but they took their own direction after receiving their editors' comments while on inkpop.

  4. If I read a description of this book on Goodreads, I'd go pick it up tomorrow. Best of luck with your project!

  5. I have to say this is Awesome! All the best dear....

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