Monday, February 01, 2016

Query Wins, Losses

I've mentioned QueryShark before, the blog run by literary agent Janet Reid in which writers send query letters for her to critique. It's a great exercise, and many people send in multiple drafts until they get one that will work. I love this site for a lot of reasons: behind the scenes book creation stuff, picking apart writing on a very fine level, and tiny previews of books--three of my favorite things!

Recently, two books popped up in Netgalley that I had first read about on QueryShark.  I have a weird ability to retain book premises, so I noticed right away, and I'm reading them both.  This happened last year with one book, too, so I decided to go back to some of my favorite queries and see if I could find them on Goodreads or Amazon.

It was amazing--I very quickly found a whole bunch of them.  Not surprisingly,  my favorites were mostly the ones that the Shark gave the thumbs-up to, either in a first draft or after multiple revisions.  The more I looked for, the more I found, which was really pretty exciting.  Not all of them are right up my reading alley, but I do think I'll probably give most of them a shot, at least out of a sense of internet fellowship.

Here's what I've got!

Into the Dim, by Janet B. Taylor.  I'm reading this one right now, an ARC from Netgalley.  The Query Shark post is from 2010, and there are a decent number of changes from that version in the book.  The book isn't quite delivering on the final version of the query--the voice, in particular, is very different--but I'm going to review it soon. That should get its own post in a couple of days.

The Girl from Everywhere, by Heidi Heilig.  This was on QueryShark in 2013, and it's another one that I was really excited about when I read it.  This is another ARC that I have from Netgalley, and I can already tell a dozen pages in that it's going to be really good.  The writing is excellent, anyway, and I'm already fond of at least three characters. I'll write more about this one when I finish it, too.

Premeditated, by Josin McQuein, is another QS post from 2010 (actually, the very next one after Into the Dim).  I read that one last year, actually, after QS herself posted that its publication had been announced. I reviewed it then; the book didn't quite live up to the really excellent premise and blurb.  But the blurb--which was basically the query letter--was irresistable.

Comedy of Terrors is another one I remembered from the blurb--there was a castle with an idiot whose job it is to take the blame for things, but somehow he ends up having to save the world?  Basically it sounded like a slapstickier version of Christopher Moore's Fool, which, as we all know, is My Favorite Book, so this one stuck in my head.  Turns out it's been published, and the author is named Graeme Smith.  Don't think I'm not going to investigate.

Ooh, and Waypoint Kangaroo is coming soon, too!  This one, by Curtis Chen, I remembered only that it was a guy who was kind of an inept smuggler with a special talent--control of a pocket universe, allowing him to move things around undetectably.  I was thinking how useful that would be just the other day; I'm thrilled to see the book is coming out this year!

Nine Days is a mystery by Minerva Koenig about an ex-criminal in witness protection whose handler is killed and whose new boss is suspected of the crime.  There's a lot more to it, of course, but the selling point is really the voice of the query, which is sharp and funny.  If the novel reads anything like the query, the fact that I don't usually ready mysteries will be no problem.

So yeah, QueryShark's best queries actually have a pretty excellent record of getting published.  And I love the throughline of finding out how the stories of these novels ended.  I'll review as many as I can, starting with Into the Dim later this week. 

Thanks, QueryShark!

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