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Beyond the Book-Query Comps

In my previous article, I promised to post the evolution of the query that ultimately resulted in an offer from an agent. I’ve only posted the hook paragraphs because the hook is the most important part of the query, and it’s the only part of the query I revised. The word count stated is for the excerpt, not the entire query. I hope comparing the examples that follow will help you as you write your own query.

Query 1

Word count-259
Sent to15 agents 1 editor (on a whim)
Requests-Agents 0   Editor 1 full

 

Seventeen-year-old Jersey Alexa (Jax) Mason is allergic to drama. Unfortunately, from the moment her boyfriend dumps her on a crowded dance floor, drama follows Jax around like an unwanted stray. Amanda Rosenbaum’s reappearance and rumors of her time in the “looney bin” provide a welcome distraction. Jax doesn’t get that the real drama is just beginning.

Amanda ran away when she was seventeen and Jax was four. Thirteen years later, Amanda returns to their sleepy town of Rudds Mill to live with her mother. Jax escapes to Amanda’s moss-covered patio when things get tense at home. She’s drawn to the fragile, unstable Amanda despite the fact that they spar over everything. Amanda has one foot in this world; the rest of her lives in a dark place inside her mind. But she’s aware of things that Jax has never considered. Important things about hope and life. And she knows all about the secrets Jax hides. How can someone so lost in her own world see inside of Jax’s?  

Ethan, the new guy in town, starts hanging out on Amanda’s patio too. Chemistry sparks between him and Jax, but Amanda cryptically predicts they’re not meant to be. They try to blow her off. Amanda’s crazy after all. And she can’t always be right. As summer marches towards autumn, Amanda slips deeper inside herself, battling her mysterious past. Jax and Ethan need to save her before she disappears altogether.

 Query 2

Word count-232
Sent to12 agents 
Requests-0

Seventeen-year-old Jersey Alexa (Jax) Mason is allergic to drama. But that’s what she gets when her boyfriend dumps her on a crowded dance floor. She would have preferred a text message. Amanda Rosenbaum’s reappearance and rumors of her time in the “looney bin” help take Jax’s mind off the break-up drama.
Amanda ran away when she was seventeen and Jax was four. Thirteen years later, Amanda returns to their sleepy town of Rudds Mill to live with her mother. Jax escapes to Amanda’s moss-covered patio when things get tense at home. She’s drawn to the fragile, unstable Amanda despite the fact that they spar over everything. Amanda has one foot in this world; the rest of her lives in a dark place inside her mind. But she’s aware of things that Jax has never considered. Important things about hope and life. And she knows all about the secrets Jax hides. How can someone so lost in her own world see inside of Jax’s?
Ethan, the new guy in town, starts hanging out on Amanda’s patio too. Chemistry sparks between him and Jax, but Amanda cryptically predicts they’re not meant to be. They try to blow her off. Amanda’s crazy after all. And she can’t always be right. As summer marches towards autumn, Amanda slips deeper inside herself, battling her mysterious past. Jax and Ethan need to save her before she disappears altogether.

Query 3

Word count-232
Sent to2 agents 
Requests-1

This query was the same as Query 2 but with the added line: A YA editor at St. Martin’s Press recently requested the full manuscript.

Query 4

Word count-233
Sent to-9 agents 
Requests-1

Seventeen-year-old Jersey Alexa (Jax) Mason is allergic to drama. But from the moment her boyfriend dumps her on a crowded dance floor, drama follows Jax around like an unwanted stray.
Distraction arrives in the form of Amanda Rosenbaum. She ran away when she was seventeen. Her reappearance thirteen years later wakes the sleepy town of Rudds Mill where rumors whisper of time spent in the “looney bin.” Jax is drawn to the fragile, unstable Amanda despite the fact that they spar over everything. Amanda has one foot in this world; the rest of her lives in a dark place inside her mind. But she’s aware of things that Jax has never considered. Important things about hope and life. And she knows the secrets Jax hides. How can someone so lost in her own world see inside of Jax’s?

Jax escapes to the Rosenbaum’s moss-covered patio when things get tense at home. Ethan, the new guy in town, starts hanging out there too. Chemistry sparks between him and Jax, but Amanda cryptically predicts they’re not meant to be. They try to blow her off. She’s crazy after all. As summer marches towards autumn, Jax uncovers a terrible secret Amanda hides, and Amanda withdraws inside of herself, battling her mysterious past. Jax and Ethan need to save her before she disappears from reality altogether and ends up back in the dreaded looney bin. Or worse.

Query 5

Word count-205
Sent to-4 agents 
Requests-1

Seventeen-year-old Jersey Alexa “Jax” Mason is allergic to drama. But from the moment her boyfriend dumps her on a crowded dance floor, drama follows Jax around like an unwanted stray.
Distraction arrives in the form of Amanda Rosenbaum. She ran away when she was seventeen. Her reappearance thirteen years later wakes the sleepy town of Rudds Mill and rumors whisper of her time spent in the “looney bin.” Jax is drawn to the fragile, unstable Amanda despite the fact that they spar over everything. Amanda has one foot in this world, the rest of her lives in a dark place. But she’s aware of things that Jax has never considered. Important things about hope and life. And she knows all about Jax’s secrets. How can someone so lost in her own world see inside of Jax’s?

Jax’s dreams of a peaceful summer vanish after she overhears her parents fighting; they’re hiding something that may rip the family apart and destroy Jax’s beloved home. She escapes to the Rosenbaum’s moss-covered patio when things get tense.  As summer marches towards autumn, Amanda withdraws from reality, battling her mysterious past. Jax is the only one she trusts to help her. But can Jax save Amanda without losing herself?

Query 6

Word count-264
Sent to-3 agents 
Requests-0

Seventeen-year-old Jersey Alexa “Jax” Mason is allergic to drama. But from the moment Amanda Rosenbaum returns to the sleepy town of Rudds Mill, drama follows Jax around like an unwanted stray.
That’s about the time Jax’s life takes a header into a dumpster. Her parents are going to split if they don’t kill each other first. Jax’s sister makes her swear not to tell anyone she’s pregnant. And instead of professing his undying love, Jax’s boyfriend breaks up with her on a crowded dance floor.

Jax escapes to the Rosenbaum’s moss-covered patio where Amanda spends most of her time. Amanda ran away thirteen years ago, but she’s back and living with her mother. Rumor has it that she spent some time in the loony bin. She is a little off—she never leaves her yard, she’s fascinated by daisies and poetry, and her conversations remind Jax of a Picasso painting: chaotically deep. That’s okay though. Amanda’s idiosyncrasies are easier to deal with than family Armageddon. The fact that she and Jax spar over everything drives Jax crazy, but not enough to stay away.
Jax doesn’t get that Amanda’s battling her past until she finds Amanda with a bruised and bloodied forehead trying to bash out the memories. Amanda begins to slide deeper into her own world. She imagines visits in the night from the mysterious Daisy, and claims to hear the voice of Eddie, her lost love.
Jax needs to save Amanda from a trip back to the dreaded psych ward. Or worse. But while she’s trying to save Amanda’s life, hers falls apart.

After the confusing response to Query 1 (a request from editor but none from agents), I sent Query 1 to Query Drill for a critique. Three months later and after I’d sent out Query 6 to three agents, I received this response from Query Drill—I need something that stands out to love a query: the writer’s voice, a great plot or (preferably) both. Your voice is the standard I’m-a-querying-author voice, which doesn’t automatically mean a rejection–at least, it wouldn’t for me, if I were an agent. What *does* result in a rejection is nothing for me to sink my teeth into. Don’t be coy! It prompted me to write Query 7. 

 Query 7

Word count-282
Sent to-24 agents 
Requests-4 full
Offers of representation-1
Seventeen-year-old Jersey Alexa “Jax” Mason is allergic to drama. But from the first day of summer vacation, drama follows Jax around like an unwanted stray.
 
That’s the day she meets Amanda Rosenbaum. Amanda ran away thirteen years ago. She’s returned to the sleepy town of Rudds Mill to live with her mother. Rumor has it she spent some time in the psych ward. Fragile Amanda is a little off—she’s afraid to leave her yard, she’s fascinated by daisies and poetry, and her conversations remind Jax of a Picasso painting: chaotically deep.
 
Soon after vacation begins, Jax’s boyfriend Bryan breaks up with her. He needs to get his head together and doesn’t want his shit to affect her. The noble intention is wasted; his shit’s affecting her anyway.
 
When Bryan stalks her thoughts, Jax escapes to the Rosenbaum’s moss-covered patio to spar with Amanda over literature, music and life. Enter Ethan, Amanda’s new neighbor, who starts hanging around on Amanda’s patio too. He’s just the guy to take Jax’s heart off Bryan. Ethan’s the future, but he has a few secrets of his own. Bryan’s the past, but he still manages to tangle up Jax’s life.
 
Jax is so busy dealing with male-induced Armageddon, she doesn’t pay much attention to Amanda’s talk of a little girl appearing to her, and of visits in the night from her lost love. It’s not until she finds Amanda with a bruised and bloodied forehead trying to bash out her past that she realizes Amanda’s headed back to the psych ward. Or worse. Jax is the only one Amanda trusts to help her. But sometimes things that are broken can’t be fixed, no matter how hard you try.
 
I sent seventy queries. It would have been easy to give up after the first ten rejections. Believe me, there were times I considered it. But I knew the rejections were easier to bear than giving up on my dream would be. 
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17 comments on “Beyond the Book-Query Comps

  1. Very interesting how you presented this Dawne. I enjoyed it. It reminded of a newspaper reporter revising an article to fit into a column.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What an education for the rest of us. The evolution from query 1 to query 7 is fascinating. One can only imagine the blood, sweat, and tears that went into all that querying.

    Like

  3. the progression from the first query to the last is very interesting. I’m glad you finally caught someone’s eye 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks for sharing your journey 🙂

    Like

  5. I am so impressed with you and with your blog. It’s my favorite one I follow. Congratulations on scoring the agent, that is such a Big Deal. These two Query posts have been informative and helpful. I wish you well with your book and am looking forward to reading it and, hopefully, going into a Barnes & Noble and buying it off the shelf.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m impressed with your perseverance and your eventual success. I can see why the last query won the day. I hear your writer’s voice and it is delicious! My initial though was that all the synopses were a bit long, but the longest one was the best one. Interesting!

    Liked by 1 person

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