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message 1: by Eric (new)

Eric Peterson | 20 comments Dear Agent:

*Insert message based on the agent*

Eric Peterson sits isolated in the darkness of his room, a knife gripped in his hand. Yet he’s not alone. Every 40 seconds, a life is lost to suicide. He’s next, tick tock tick tock, unless he can find the answer to, “Why bother?”

Eric’s mother drags him away from his friends in order to chase her next love interest. Next stop Iron Mountain, population 8,000. His depression is in full swing, cutting scars decorate his arm. When he meets Jessica, everything changes. His heart flutters while his depression softens. She is the answer to the question, the path to happiness. However she is guarded by a teenager suffering from psychosis. Alex will stop at nothing to tear Eric away from his prized possession. Tick tock.

Taking place in the Upper Peninsula during the spring of 2005, Pupfish is a YA romance at 56,000 words. This book will serve as a message to those battling depression that they are not alone. And to parents who may truly never understand what their children are experiencing. In the time you read this, another life has been lost. Tick. Tock.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


message 2: by Keith (new)

Keith Oxenrider (mitakeet) | 1167 comments For me, this feels half public service announcement and half fiction query. If you can find an agent/publisher focused on YA suicide, then it might work, but for me it feels like you should focus on the plot element.

I find the jump from the first paragraph to the second jarring. A dark room, evidently seconds from suicide, then Boom! we're being dragged off. I think you need some sort of transition.

Is any part of this autobiographical? I ask because your name on Goodreads is the same as the MC. If it isn't, I think it's a needless source of confusion. If it is, it might be worth a sentence or two in your query to say so, and why.

On the one hand, I like the repetition of the 'tick tock,' on the other hand I hate it. That probably means it's an effective element at attracting attention and making it memorable, but memorable isn't always a good thing. Perhaps you'll get other recommendations and can get a consensus one way or another.

You probably need editing, I feel like you're missing a number of commas and could have some contractions.

Good luck!


message 3: by J.R. (last edited Jun 06, 2018 05:39AM) (new)

J.R. Alcyone | 303 comments Querying is a rough process, so I'm going to be blunt.

1) I agree with Keith. Your query reads almost like a PSA. Your interest in preventing teen suicide is admirable. However, that alone, IMO, is not enough for an agent to want to represent your story.

2) I read YA, and my reaction to your query was "ho-hum, another novel about an angsty teen who has a bad parent, thinks his life is awful, and contemplates suicide." I think you need to figure out and focus on what element of your story is unique and special to capture an agent's attention. You might also want to take a look at romance queries. I felt like there wasn't enough emphasis on the relationship between Jessica and Eric.

3) I'm bipolar, and, frankly, I'm tired of mentally ill people being depicted as the "bad guy." It's overdone, it's cliche, and it adds to the societal stigma surrounding having these disorders. That might not be your intention, but that was my gut reaction to your characterization of Alex. It also seemed to contravene your purpose, which is to help prevent suicide. (Stigma is why a lot of people don't seek help, and mental illness is a factor in most suicides.)

Good luck!


message 4: by Carmen (new)

Carmen | 7 comments I agree with these other comments, and I also think your main character cannot be so passive in your query.


message 5: by Eric (new)

Eric Peterson | 20 comments Thank you for the comments about the PSA, not the intention but reading your comments I see how was interpreted as so. This book is a little bit autobiographical, the events in the first half of the book did in fact happen in my youth.

To Jen, thank you for being blunt, I did not mean to make fun of mentally ill people or depict them in a wrong way what so ever.

New attempt below, hoping to capture the interaction between Eric and Jessica more.

Taking place in the Upper Peninsula during the spring of 2005, Pupfish is a YA Romance novel at 56,000 words. The book is a tribute to the darkest time in my life and to the one who got away. My hope is Pupfish will resonate with teenagers suffering from depression.

Trapped in a dark spiral of depression, Eric Peterson searches for the answer to the question, “Why bother?” His mother chasing love interests from city to city has caused Eric to give up on friends, isolating him completely.

When they move to Iron Mountain, Eric closes his eyes and asks for a sign he’s meant to live. As if an answer to him, Jessica enters his life. She’s a tall, curvy, blonde haired girl whose smile pierces the brick wall of Eric’s depression. When she is around, he doesn’t feel like a freak nor does he attempt to hide the scars decorating his arm.

Flirting catches her attention; his poems bring that gorgeous smile to her lips, even on bad days. She longs to discover the romantic hiding scared behind Eric’s troubled eyes. When she asks him for a dance, and time with him slows to a stop, she knows she has to know more about him – including meeting his mother.

With Eric’s depression on the back burner, and her family giving Eric a warm place to call home, he feels immortal. However Alex, Jessica’s ex, refuses to let his love be stolen from him and forms a plan to drive a wedge between the two. Meanwhile Eric’s mother has separated from her boyfriend and begun the hunt for her next squeeze. Time is running out…


message 6: by Keith (new)

Keith Oxenrider (mitakeet) | 1167 comments I like it _much_ better, but, at 226 words, it's 'too long' (the supposed sweet spot is 100-150 words). I do think it can be tightened up without losing anything, and possibly making it stronger. If I can make time later, I'll give it a try and see if I can help with that.

BTW, UP == Michigan? That might not be obvious and probably is worth stating.

Minor quibble: "She longs to discover the romantic" is hopping heads in your blurb. When you describe a character's thoughts/emotions, the reader is inside that character's head. Hopping heads, then, is moving this POV around. It's generally considered a 'bad thing' and absolutely should be avoided in the blurb. Where switching POVs is accepted is in romances, which I don't get the impression yours is. If so, you need to play up Jessica's POV.

Another thing a query needs is comps, or comparable books that you feel yours should be shelved with. Not too famous, but not too obscure (and you thought finishing your novel was the hard part ;-).

Do you have anything about you that stands out and might interest an agent/publisher? Obviously, any good writing credits should be included, but if you have something really interesting about yourself (e.g., won a Nobel prize or something) mention it. Don't cram something in there just to have something, though.

Do you have a social media presence as an author? I've read that the very first think an agent/publisher will do if they want to request a full MS is to Google your author name to see your social media footprint. Beyond the ability to help sell books, it gives you a way to directly interact with your readers, so should be considered an important investment in your future as an author.


message 7: by Eric (new)

Eric Peterson | 20 comments I'll look into the comparable books aspect to see if I can come up with something. As far as my accomplishments, writing credits etc, I'm currently unpublished and don't have anything significant to note so I plan to just keep it to the story at hand. I just don't want to put something just to have something like you said.

I do have a website and an active twitter presence. Are you implying it might be something to note in the query? I wasn't planning on it but since I don't have writing credits maybe I should?


message 8: by Keith (new)

Keith Oxenrider (mitakeet) | 1167 comments If you've got lots of followers who might be eager to buy your book, absolutely. Particularly if you've been talking about your novel writing journey and have had lots of interest.


message 9: by Keith (new)

Keith Oxenrider (mitakeet) | 1167 comments My attempt, 131 words:



Trapped in a dark spiral of depression, Eric Peterson searches for the answer to the question: “Why bother living?” He’s given up on friends because his mother chases her love interests from city to city, completely isolating him.

Arriving at Iron Mountain, Eric asks for a sign. As if in response, Jessica arrives. A tall, curvy, blonde whose smile pierces the brick wall of Eric’s depression.

Flirting catches her attention. His poems bring a gorgeous smile to her lips. When she asks him for a dance, time slows to a stop.

But then she wants to meet his mother.

And her ex, refusing to let his love be stolen, drives a wedge between them.

Then Eric’s mom tires of her boyfriend and is ready to move on.

Time is running out…


message 10: by J.R. (last edited Jun 08, 2018 05:58PM) (new)

J.R. Alcyone | 303 comments I liked your second try much better, Eric. It gave me a much better sense of your story and characters.

(Other than that, listen to Keith, he knows a ton about writing blurbs.)

You mention the story being partly autobiographical ... Depending on how much you'd be willing to share about yourself (and that's a very personal choice) if the autobiographical part is you've personally struggled with depression, that could be used as a potential selling point for your book. It is hard for people who have never been clinically depressed to truly understand what depression is like. Whether that is something which should be included in a query, though, is a difficult question. As a reader, if I knew the author had suffered from depression, it would make me more likely to read their novel.

Otherwise, with the tragic death of Anthony Bourdain (and Kate Spade), I hope we're going to see more interest directed towards suicide awareness and prevention in the coming months. My WIP tackles mental illness & depression & suicide, too, although I'm planning to take the indie route. (You're far braver than me to stick your toe in the querying pool.)

Good luck! If you manage to get traditionally published, or ultimately go the indie route, drop me a line. I'd like to read your story.


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