Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Query Crit #10

Dear Awesome Agent,

I've been following you on Twitter and saw that you represent Urban Fantasy and you like chocolate. I would like to submit my 67,000 word adult Urban Fantasy THE SHIFTING DARKNESS for your consideration.

For twenty-four year old, Sidney Lake, hunting down the monsters of NYC is as commonplace as buying a cup of coffee and the morning newspaper from the cart on the corner. 

When a strange corpse is found on an abandoned subway platform and a board member conjures a demon he can’t control, it’s Sidney’s job to keep those caffeinated New Yorkers focused on their morning crossword puzzle instead of what’s going on around them.

In the process of investigating the origins of the John Doe from the subway platform, Sidney gets attacked by two creatures that are supposed to have been extinct for centuries. Before she can manage to put a bullet through its head, one of the creatures sinks its teeth into her shoulder. Sidney wins the fight, but now her own humanity is called into question.

She turns to her boss, mentor, and sometimes lover, Mitch Harris for help and comfort. Mitch doesn’t have the answers, but he knows someone who might. Mr. Dimitrius has information about what and who Sidney is, but it’s vastly different from anything she could have imagined. 

I believe that the owner of your local bookstore might recommend THE SHIFTING DARKNESS to someone who enjoys a gory procedural mystery like Chelsea Cain's Gretchen Lowell series with a twist of the paranormal, like Laurell K. Hamilton writes.


  1. While I like the voice of your query, I think that it doesn't give enough specific information so I don't feel like I know enough about your world to differentiate it from another urban fantasy novel. What kind of monsters does Sidney hunt? vampires, werewolves, ghosts, demons, etc? Knowing more about the world can help the reader understand and care more about what happens to Sidney when she gets bitten. Also, is Mr. Dimitrius a monster creature himself or is he human? And other than the mention of Mitch being a love interest he doesn't add much to the query since it's not even he who can help Sidney. I'm clear on who your heroine is but not really on what the stakes and consequences are for her, will the bite she received eventually kill her? Does she have powers emerging because of it? Will she suddenly be viewed as dangerous because of whatever Mr. Dimitrius says she is?

    Over I think a little more specificity will help your query.

  2. This definitely sounds interesting, but I agree with A.J. I think you need a little more meat in this query.

    What is the central conflict? Is it hunting down the monsters of NYC, or is it the fact that she's been bitten?

    What has bitten her? You say her humanity is called into question but give no reasons why. Is she having mood swings and irritability, or is she attacking innocent people and sprouting lumps all over her body?

    Who is Mr. Dimitrius? What does he have to do with the plot? I have a feeling he may be important to the story, but I'm not sure. If you're going to mention someone by name in a query, do it early on.

    Also, some of your phrases could be substituted for single words. "In the process of investigating" could just be "While investigating, ..." "Before she can manage to put a bullet in its head" could be "Before putting a bullet in its head, ..." I know I sound nit-picky, but you've only got 250 words in a query, and if those phrases can be substituted for more "meat," I think you'll have a pretty good query.

    Good luck!

  3. Okay, put me on your pre-order list. :p

    A.J. & Mark both bring up some good points. Listen to them.

    My other thought is this sounds a lot like "Men in Black". Nothing wrong with that, but you may want to acknowledge it a bit. As far as I know, there's nothing wrong with using movies in your comparables.

  4. Your story sounds great! I think the thing that throws me off is in the second paragraph. I understand the body is what leads to her getting bitten, but what does the demon-summoning board member have to do with it?

    Everyone else has offered other advice that's good, too. With a little tightening on your phrases, you could give us just a little more detail of what Sydney faces and how Mr. Dimitrius fits in the middle of it all.

  5. I liked this a lot. The items that tripped up other people above didn't bother me (go subjectivity! :P), but the one thing that REALLY stood out to me was the opening. A lot of email programs give a preview of the first few words of emails (Gmail, for example) before they're read, so having "I've been following you..." as the opening could very well send an agent reaching for the delete button without even opening it! You might want to try putting your hook first instead and saving the personalization for later in the query. :)