Friday, December 18, 2015

Feedback Request



I hope I am not overstaying my welcome, but I sent out my first batch of queries (about 25) and got back... one partial request, 24 silence/rejections. I know it's not that many sent, but I read on a few sites that if you dont get a 25% request rate, the query is not good. I found this website so helpful in getting me to where my query is now, so I am hoping you can take a look one more time to see where I might be going wrong? Thanks!


Dear ......,

Sixteen-year-old Theia Bryar knows she’s being kidnapped. What she doesn’t realize is that her abductor is taking her home. On an island inhabited by the Naturae, people who can control earth, air, fire or water, Theia learns why the sun always shines when she’s happy, while thunder answers her cries of anger. She is the daughter of Mother Nature, and has power over all four elements.

With humans desecrating the Earth, the Naturae have been deprived of seen their health and powers diminish. But Theia remains strong, thanks to her father’s human blood keeping the illness that grips the pure Naturae at bay. She’s the only one who can stop the devastation of nature, and has been brought back to the island to do just that.

Immersed in a new world, Theia’s thrilled to get to know her birth mother and learn how to harness the elements, from controlling the tides to conducting lightning. She’s quick to develop new friendships, while exploring a budding romance with Holt, a fascinating yet enigmatic islander.

Although she makes new friends on the island, But soon Theia discovers that life on the island is not as perfect as it seems. Not all of her friends can be trusted, Mother Nature forbids the distraction of a romance with Holt, and Theia misses the father and half-sister she left behind. And then she stumbles onto a terrible secret. Mother Nature doesn’t just want to heal the Earth— she wants to eliminate the threat of humanity completely. And she intends to steal Theia’s powers to do so.

EARTH EYES is a paranormal YA novel which puts a dark twist on the usual perceptions of Mother Nature. It is a standalone novel with series potential complete at 52,000 words.


Notes

I don't think the query is necessarily the problem. Dumping the red and using the blue might be an improvement. And might leave you room for a few sentences about how Theia plans to thwart Mother Nature. But the main problem may be the agents' belief that young adults won't consider a book in which Mother Nature is a main character all that alluring. Maybe if she were a goddess such as Themis or Pomona. Of course you wouldn't want Themis unless you changed Theia to Annie, which I recommend.

Or maybe this is more suited for younger readers. What makes this book too mature for a 12-year-old? Would everything be changed if Theia were 14? 

14 comments:

Mister Furkles said...

After EE's edits, it's down to about 165 words. As far as I can tell, it's setup until she stumbles on the terrible secret. But then you only devote 28 words to the main conflict. We never hear what happens after that.

Here is an exercise to try: (1) Assume the reader already knows the setup, (2) now describe the plot's main points in about 150 words or less. (3) Then after trimming, go back and put in just enough setup to get to the main conflict.

Also, did you send EE your first page(s)? Maybe you started the story in the wrong (i.e. boring) place.

Author said...

There is a lot of romance scenes and it's too dark for MG readers.. there are bloody and sacrificial scenes. I love the idea of Mother Nature and don't feel ready to change her to a goddess. Now all agents require first pages along with the query so it's hard to know too if maybe that's where I'm going wrong! Should I emphasize more the romance maybe?

Anonymous said...

EE will take your first 150-200 words, which is the first page, and we'll all let you know if we'd read beyond that.

52K is a bit on the short side for YA, which might also be a contributing factor.

You might want to try to find more agents who only want a query, to see if that's really the issue.

Good Luck

Author said...

MF-- I dont see anywhere that EE takes first pages?

Here is a slight edit, took some out and added a bit at the end, what do you guys think??

Abducted to an island inhabited by the Naturae, people who can control earth, air, fire or water, sixteen-year-old Theia learns why the sun always shines when she’s happy, while thunder answers her cries of anger. She is the daughter of Mother Nature, and has power over all four elements.

Immersed in a new world, Theia’s thrilled to get to know her birth mother and learn how to harness the elements, from controlling the tides to conducting lightning. She’s quick to develop new friendships, while exploring a budding romance with Holt, a fascinating yet enigmatic islander.

But soon Theia discovers that life on the island is not as perfect as it seems. Traitors masquerade as friends, Mother Nature forbids the distraction of a romance with Holt, and Theia misses the father and half-sister she left behind. And then she stumbles onto a terrible secret. Mother Nature doesn’t just want to heal the Earth— she wants to eliminate the threat of the human race completely. And she intends to use Theia as a blood sacrifice to do so.

Now Theia must figure out who she can trust, and how she can use her newfound powers, to save herself and stop the devolution of humanity.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

" I read on a few sites that if you dont get a 25% request rate, the query is not good"

Well, that's one possibility. The other possibility is that the query is just fine, but that what you've written doesn't sound salable to the person reading the query. This is a much bigger factor than many people realize; in fact, it's the main factor. If you've written something that's just not going to sell, then it won't matter if your query is the most brilliant query ever written.

If I recall correctly, nearly everybody suggested you lose the name Mother Nature. Nonetheless, I see that name remained unlost. That's your choice, obviously. But at a guess, it's just possible some agents are having the same reaction to it that we did.

I'll go ahead and segue from that into the larger issue. Flexibility is really, really important in working with a publisher. If you feel you can't make the change that seems to be getting in your way here, perhaps it's time to put this aside and write something else.

EE, no, Mother Nature would not go over with middle grade readers either.

Evil Editor said...

What about first-graders? Surely they would be willing to read about Mother Nature?

Click in the sidebar on "Continue an opening" or "Submit to Evil Editor" for info on submitting an opening to EE.

Minion 621 said...

fwiw, I still don't get why calling her "Mother Nature" would be a bad thing. It's not like it's a phrase nobody uses anymore (unless it is, in which case... may I remind you I live under a rock :] )

I second getting right to the conflict and checking the writing.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

EE, it would probably work with the first graders, but it would be a hard sell to their parents.

Anonymous said...

Regarding the updated query posted in the comments,
I don't think it adds anything to the edits EE suggested, and it doesn't progress the conflict any, which is the only change the commenters were suggesting. Also, try to start more sentences with the subject, not a clause.

If you want to see if "Mother Nature" is causing the problem, try sending out some queries with a different name. If you can't bear the thought of changing it, and that is the issue, then save this book for when you already have a readership or self-publish.

Evil Editor said...

To a high school student used to reading about mature subjects like bullying and sexting and drinking and drugs and pregnancy, a book in which the main character's mother is Mother Nature, may seem as mature as one where her parent is Father Time. Or Mother Goose. Or maybe not. One way to find out: someone ask a few young adults if they'd be drawn to a book in which Mother Nature is one of the characters.

Mister Furkles said...

Author,

Twenty-four rejections out of twenty-five queries. My my. As bad as it seems, Steve Berry claims eighty-five rejections before his first novel was accepted. Since then he has had several best sellers. But more important than the New York Times bestseller list: I like them.

So keep writing and keep querying too.

Try a query based on the romance angle. You may as well try a hundred before giving up on this novel. Meanwhile, write the next one.

InkAndPixelClub said...

Author,

I feel like you've been convinced throughout the query writing process that "Mother Nature is the bad guy" is a really strong hook. I'm not so sure it is. That's not to say that your story isn't good, but I'm never t convinced that the reinterpretation of Mother Nature is going to make you stand out from the crowd in a way that will land you an agent or a publishing deal. Mother Nature just isn't a super well defined character in pop culture. I don't think I've ever seen her portrayed as "evil" before, but I don't have such a good sense of who she normall is and what she normally does to feel shocked or intrigued by seeing her as the main antagonist here. My first thought when I hear "Mother Nature" is of the character from the Smurfs animated series, which is neither current nor helping the perception that Mother Nature is more for the kiddies than the YA audience.

You can keep the character exactly the same, but I'd consider giving her a new name, at least for the query. You can still mention that she's the creature that human know as Mother Nature - and mand be she's been known by other names too - but I'd try making it more of a cool side detail than the main draw of the story, assuming you include it at all.

How much of the book happens before Theia figures out that her mother plans to wipe out humanity no how much is after that point? I share Mister Furkles' concern that the query is too setup heavy and the main conflict doesn't come until the very end. If the revelation about Mom doesn't comes before the halfway point of the book, you'll want to refocus the query and get into what Theia tries to stop her mother. Who's helping her and who's trying to stop her aside from Mom? If it takes more than half the book for Theia to figure out what her mother is up to, maybe the story needs some revision. Or you need to show what exciting things are happening before Theia discover's Mom's true motives. Learning to control nature powers and making friends could make for fun reading for a while, but conflict is going to be what drives the story.

It is possible that your story just isn't standing out in an already crowded field. It's hard to tell from just the query, but you've got some pretty standard elements: seemingly ordinary girl who turns out to have magical heritage, a mysterious but intriguing love interest, and a world threatening problem only the girl can solve. If you've got anything beyond the unique antagonist that's going to look like a fresh twist on the formula, see if you can get it in the query.

Good luck!

AA said...

I was trying to figure out why this isn't working at all for me, so I made this mash-up version to study. Just for the purposes of this test, here it is.

Sixteen-year-old Theia Bryar knows she’s being kidnapped. What she doesn’t realize is that her abductor is taking her home. On an island inhabited by the Naturae, people who can control earth, air, fire or water, Theia learns why the sun always shines when she’s happy, while thunder answers her cries of anger. She is the daughter of Mother Nature, and has power over all four elements.

With humans desecrating the Earth, the Naturae have seen their health and powers diminish. But Theia remains strong, thanks to her father’s human blood keeping the illness that grips the pure Naturae at bay. She’s the only one who can stop the devastation of nature, and has been brought back to the island to do just that.

Immersed in a new world, Theia’s thrilled to get to know her birth mother and learn how to harness the elements, from controlling the tides to conducting lightning. She’s quick to develop new friendships, while exploring a budding romance with Holt, a fascinating yet enigmatic islander. 

But soon Theia discovers that life on the island is not as perfect as it seems. Traitors masquerade as friends, Mother Nature forbids the distraction of a romance with Holt, and Theia misses the father and half-sister she left behind. And then she stumbles onto a terrible secret. Mother Nature doesn’t just want to heal the Earth— she wants to eliminate the threat of the human race completely. And she intends to use Theia as a blood sacrifice to do so. 

Now Theia must figure out who she can trust, and how she can use her newfound powers, to save herself and stop the devolution of humanity.

Using this, I can see right away that the main problem lies in the lack of agency of the MC. First, she's abducted. She learns stuff. (But doesn't actually DO anything yet.) She “develops” friendships and “explores” romance. Not in the sense of actual exploring a territory, more like “learns about.” Then she “discovers” (meaning learns) that life there isn't perfect. She misses people. And “stumbles” into a secret - again meaning “learns.” Now Thea has to figure something out. That means think about it.

All your protagonist does is LEARNS and THINKS. It's very passive and comes across as boring.
I see suggestions that she does other things here, especially cool things with her powers. But, for some reason, you're not writing about those things.

I've seen this over and over in queries and I'm not sure where it comes from. I'd suggest your rewrite focus on anything that makes it seem like action is happening in your book.

SB said...

Or it may be that agents think "teen girl discovers she has superpowers and is the daughter of someone really, really important and powerful, and it's up to her and her alone to save the world" has been done to death by this point.