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Covers, Blurbs, 1st Line, Query > query letter for YA fantasy-mystery

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message 1: by Kat (last edited Mar 12, 2018 01:19AM) (new)

Kat Green | 10 comments Hello
I would love some feedback on my query letter for a YA fantasy novel below:
Thanks! Kat

Dear X

I’m writing to seek representation for my first novel, The Synesthesiat, a YA fantasy-mystery set at a Britsh holiday resort in the late 1990s.

13-year-old Margot, her overbearing sister Clara and new friends Jake and Zac discover a Synesthesiat - a forest clearing that reveals a person’s emotions as colours and allows feelings to be transferred between people. Afterwards, they receive anonymous notes explaining that they have been chosen to ‘nurture’ their secret.

At first, it seems wonderful but soon Margot realises she has feelings she doesn’t want to show the others. When they attempt to cure a friend’s depression by transferring happiness to her, the dark side of the mystery note-writer and the Synesthesiat is revealed. Margot knows they must find out how to destroy the Synesthesiat but this means discovering disturbing truths about each other, which may ruin their friendship forever.

I completed a PhD in psychology because I love discovering how our minds work and why people think and act in the way they do. I enjoyed writing up my 70,000-word thesis so much that I became a medical writer. Unfortunately, writing about drug trials isn’t nearly as fun as writing about people. Now I work part-time and spend my spare time writing YA fiction.

My degrees and experience working with young people have informed my depiction of the teenage characters and how they experience and express emotions, particularly Zac, who has autism, and Rachel, who experiences depression.

I am especially excited to write to you, as I know you are looking for contemporary novels with a classic feel and powerful stories with a touch of magic. In The Synesthesiat, I aimed to create the sense of mystery, magic and adventure that I loved in children’s classics (The Famous Five, The Butterfly Lion, Mary Poppins) and incorporate this with modern, authentic teenage voices.

I enclose my opening chapter and a synopsis and I look forward to hearing from you.

Kind regards,

message 2: by Keith (new)

Keith Oxenrider (mitakeet) | 1166 comments You need to have someone proof your query: 'Britsh'

You tell us how long your thesis is, but not your novel. A query is asking for representation, so that's redundant. I suggest opening with this:

"The Synesthesiat, an XK word YA fantasy-mystery set at a British holiday resort in the late 1990s."

Numbers are written out, _particularly_ if they start a sentence.

I'm not particularly sold on your blurb, but I also don't read in the genre, so others may offer better advice. It's the 'right' length, being 124 words when 100-150 are considered idea. This means you could add some additional flavor.

You name Clara, Jake and Zac once. Generally you only name characters in a blurb if they show up more than once. You could go with 'sister and friends' instead.

While I think it's important you mention you have a PhD in psychology, I think most of the rest of that paragraph is irrelevant detail, particularly the length of your thesis and that you became an unhappy medical writer. I suggest you delete that paragraph, as well as the one following, and put in this instead:

"My PhD in psychology and experience working with young people have informed my depiction of the teenage characters and how they experience and express emotions, particularly those who have autism or experience depression."

I feel sure "I am especially excited to write to you" adds nothing. If you delete that and start with "I know you..." you're probably better off.

I think you have good raw material for the query, though. Hopefully someone with experience with the genre can weigh in on your blurb. If you'd care to PM me, I can send you some links in my blog on writing blurbs that might help.

Good luck!

message 3: by Kat (new)

Kat Green | 10 comments thanks so much for such a thorough review - really helpful!

message 4: by Natasha (new)

Natasha Cirisano | 46 comments I think this is a very good premise for a story. I read a lot of this genre, and it doesn’t sound like anything already on the market that I know of. I would probably start reading pages just because of the unique idea. That said, I think there are things you can do to make this query shine as bright as the concept.

Basically, it seems like you have some crucial information kind of orbiting your blurb right now that would make the query stronger if it was more integrated into the plot summary.


Rather than telling me the setting, I would try a version where you weave it into your blurb more seamlessly. How can you show me British resort in the 1990s rather than telling me at the beginning? How does the setting play into the story? For example, maybe Margot’s parents forced her to go on this boring family trip to a hoity-toity British resort in the middle of nowhere with no MTV. Without Nirvana and Alanis Morrissette to pass the time, she starts wandering around the hotel grounds with her new friends, Jake and Zac.

So that’s probably the most obvious, cliche example ever. But the second you give some known 90’s cue (like music), the reader will understand the setting and it’s relationship to the story. If you say the setting is a hotel, but the whole query focuses on a forest, I’m kind of confused about how those two things are related and I don’t get a strong visual of the setting. But tell me it’s remote British resort surrounded by lush forest property? BOOM. Visual appears. My writing professor used to say that “you want the thing to flush, like a toilet.” Which is simultaneously the worst and best analogy for flow that I’ve ever heard. But I think that’s what you have to do. Make the setting and the plot FLUSH!


To me, the fact that one of the characters has autism and the other has depression is super crucial to your query. You’ve got two characters with emotions that can be seen as “abnormal” or “wrong” by the rest of society. Suddenly, they find a clearing that puts these feelings on center stage. The other characters are either going to reject them…or empathize with them on a deeper level. THAT is tension that makes me want to read!

I liked that you bring Rachel’s depression into the query as a conflict mechanism – the characters try to “cure” her only to make things worse. How does Zac’s autism affect his journey? Is this something that you can bring into the query? Not in an “exploit autism as a plot point” way. More that, just like with the setting, it feels stronger to weave information into the story pitch like you did with Rachel, rather than dropping it at the end.

If the character is thirteen, it sounds more like a middle grade novel than a YA novel. As an avid reader of this genre, I’ve found most protagonists are 15-17. So high school age rather than middle school age. (Young Adult readers will read books about characters who are older or the same age, but they don’t tend to read down.)

I know that your references to children’s classics are more for the sense of mystery and adventure, but reading “Mary Poppins” and the words “children’s classics” throws me off a bit from the target market. YA obviously has a fantasy sub-genre, but it’s a bit on the darker side to appeal to the teenage demographic, who are growing up and starting to shed their own innocence. Your references lean more young and/or whimsical, so they might be unselling your story a bit from a YA market perspective. (If this project is YA and not middle grade. If it turns out to be middle grade, these references are more appropriate.) Either way, I would search for books on the market today that look similar to yours instead of referencing your childhood favorites. The market is evolving fast and you don’t want to appear off-base or dated!

I understand the word in the context of the book, but I think a different title could sell the story harder. From a practical perspective, the current title is an unfamiliar term that’s kind of difficult to pronounce or spell. That means your young readers might have a harder time asking for it at a bookstore, hashtagging it, etc. This story seems like it’s ripe for a title that’s bit catchier and “stickier.” Something that refers to the idea without saying it outright. For example, The Girl from Everywhere (a book about a time traveller) or Six of Crows (a heist story with six main characters). I guess I feel like right now the title is a little on-the-nose for a mystery book, you know?

Anyway, the reason I’m writing all this is because I think you have something really cool here and I want it to win! You have one of the most important things this message board can’t fix or hand you: an original idea. At this point, it’s about drawing out the novel’s selling points from every angle (characters, setting, catchy title, right genre, current related titles). I would read pages!

message 5: by Kat (new)

Kat Green | 10 comments Hi Natasha
Thanks so much for such thorough feedback, this is so helpful and it makes me really happy that you like my idea!

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