Saturday, December 3, 2011

Query Critique: YA Fantasy

Dear Agent,

Kanis Luthorn is your typical lost soul. As one of the last pure humans, he Kanis Luthorn should be maintaining his secrecy from the vampires that hunt his people, but one can only hide for so long [This is a better hook! But what specific event pushes him to fight? Is it when they catch and murder his family? Be specific about the catalyst.] before being pushed to fight. The path of liberty is not an easy one: the vampires catch and murder Kanis’s family, he almost dies crossing a desert, and he is pushed into a revolution bent on freedom, torn from the only girl he’s ever loved. [I would cut this – it reads like a list of things that happen – and expand on the important parts below.]

He becomes one of the few human members of a militia of mutated misfits with nothing to lose. They are not afraid to fight the vampires, for they carry the secrets of an ancient philosophy. The mutants train Kanis to become a lethal spear man, teaching him to lose his fear of death and open his mind [How?]. He meets an un-mutated [human?] girl named Sahanna, and is over come by his feelings for her. The two start to fall in love, but their adoration for one another is halted when they are forced to attack the vampires on their home turf. [I’m not quite sure what this means – are they physically separated when they go attack the vampires? Does only Kanis go?] It is in the In the heat of battle when Kanis realizes he’d rather die than go back to hiding, as he embraces the warrior within himself, vowing to only rest once the king of the vampires is dead. [Maybe add one more sentence here about how Kanis plans to do this and what he risks? Does he have to leave Sahanna behind? Does he want revenge for his family? The stakes are clearly huge here; bring that out more.]

A CALL TO ARMS is a proposed three-part young adult paranormal fantasy with series potential, complete at 93,000 words. With a full scale map, a variety of never before seen creatures, and a plot in the tradition of Stephen Kings’s, THE STAND, this novel will entertain anyone who has ever been thrilled by an epic fantasy and rejoiced upon reading of alien beings. [This is well-written, but I feel like it’s a really lofty comparison. Can you compare to some contemporary YA fantasies to show you know the market?]

Since I was ten years old and my father read me tales of Ulysses and the Cyclops, I have been hopelessly devoted to heroic stories. After majoring in history in college, I went on to work as a volunteer coordinator in a homeless shelter in 2009. In 2011 I was awarded first place in an essay contest from The Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library in Indianapolis, Indiana. The essay can be found at: [I would cut all of this, since it’s not relevant to YA fantasy. Also, be sure to add details about why you are querying this particular agent. Do you love other YA fantasy she reps, her blog, etc?]

Thank you for your consideration.

Notes: Queries are tough. I think you know the bones of your story, and it sounds like a great adventure with a compelling hero. But to catch an agent’s attention, I think you need to tighten it up and be more specific about Kanis’s journey. I hope my notes are helpful to you. Thanks for sharing this with me and the Nightstand readers!

Jessica Spotswood is the author of BORN WICKED, the first book in the Cahill Witch Chronicles, coming Feb. 7, 2012 from Putnam. She likes reading stories about independent girls who still get in a fair amount of swoony kissing, so that's what she tries to write. She lives in Washington, DC with her playwright husband and a cuddly cat named Monkey.

Currently on her nightstand: PRETTY CROOKED by Elisa Ludwig.


  1. Excellent points ... this sounds like a great story! Tightening up the query would give it a much better chance to hook an agent.

  2. Posting it is very needed because every human being today want this information. Keep it up. Good luck and thanks for posting.
    printing services