Query Help!

I need your help. Yes, you, the one scrolling past my post. No, I’m not asking for money. I need your opinion. Your honest opinion.

Below is my query letter. If you don’t know what is query letter is, it’s a short, engaging clip that outlines your novel and hopefully captures the attention of an (agent/publisher/whatever). It’s been likened to the blurb on the back of a book that gets a reader’s attention.

I would like your opinion on whether this query sounds interesting, or would be something you would read. I’ve spent a lot of time studying Query Shark‘s advice and rules, and cut things even when it hurt, hoping to make a better query. In the end, only one rule remains: does is capture your attention. (If it’s not your genre – well then I guess I’ve struck out immediately. Tell me that too!)


Since the death of her sister by magical means, Fairian has devoted her life to finding answers. But answers are hard to come by when everyone ignores anything even remotely resembling the word magic. With everything from Parliament re-writing history to her mother breathing down her neck with the slightest infraction of propriety, investigation is just a mite difficult.

Luckily for Fairian, the new city she moved to happens to have someone who can answer her questions. Unfortunately, he wants nothing to do with her and refuses her entrance into his dangerous and subversive world. That might have something to do with the fact that he’s the biggest mystery of all.

Nothing is going to end up quite like Fairian expects. Her obstinate search for answers is going to attract the very wrong kind of attention, both magical and human. It’s going to take all of her cleverness and all of his inhumane power to get her through this alive.

Of course, there are things worse than death. And here, they’re everywhere.

Written from Fairian’s perspective, INITIUM is a completed 120,000 word Steampunk.


Thoughts? Questions? Criticisms? Please?

About R. K. Brainerd

I've been writing since my pre-teens, mostly in the realm of fantasy and sci-fi. Taking interesting concepts and dropping complex characters into fantastical worlds is my jam. I also raise dairy goats and herd cats, the evidence of which can be found on my Instagram. Welcome to the adventure. View all posts by R. K. Brainerd

34 responses to “Query Help!

  • dushonok

    >> does is capture your attention
    well I think it does 🙂 I think it is written in a very professional manner, which does not seem to be very unique though. I did read it with interest, but it reminded me of queries/reviews/excerpts of some other books. While reading I had an impression I had read it already somewhere else. I do not know whether it is good or bad.
    Hope it helps 🙂 Good luck with the book!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Aspire to Fly

      You’re right, it does read a bit “forum.” Hmm. I wonder if it is because I was working too hard follow the rules of a good query, or if my novel itself is too similar to others. I know that in my query I did focus more on elements that would resonate with people; maybe I need to tone those down more to focus upon the more unique attributes.

      Thank you so much for responding! I really, really appreciate it! And thank you for the luck 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  • ToddMedicii

    I like it, it grabs my attention. The first sentence on the last paragraph I’d take out. It’s vague but it still kind of spoils people because they know to expect the opposite of whatever she’s expecting. A plot-twist is only good if it’s a twist.

    Liked by 3 people

  • c0ral33

    Well, the fact that I was actually scrolling past and you caught me (😉) grabbed my attention. ‘You scrolling past’ lol

    If you are really looking for the opinion of scrolling strangers I’ve been told that queries need to be short and snappy. An agent should be able to read it before making it through a drive through.
    My suggestion(take it or leave it) shorten it up a bit and leave us guessing.

    ‘…but answers are hard to come by in this new city where everyone avoids anything magic. Everyone that is except for (Character name) who has obvious inhuman power, yet refuses to even acknowledge her existence.

    It will take everything fairion has to get out of this search alive.
    But, there are worse things than death…and they are everywhere.

    Or something like that maybe.

    Ps. I would read it. Sounds pretty cool. Good luck ☺️

    Liked by 3 people

    • Aspire to Fly

      Very, very true. Sometimes it’s difficult to see where else to shorten when so much shortening has already occurred (in my brain, anyway)! I will think through what you’ve said and see what I can do here.

      Thank you so much for stopping and reading! 😀 I really appreciate it. Seriously, thank you.

      Liked by 1 person

  • c0ral33

    You’re welcome. I hope it helps, best of luck on your writing journey. Have a beautiful day.

    Liked by 1 person

  • Moongazer

    Hi, as a reader of books, you had me at the first sentence when you used the words “magical means”. I felt my interest intensify at “re-writing history”.
    But I have to agree with the other commenters because you lost me a bit when you mentioned the one who can help her.
    I think I would have said something like “IF she can find him” or “IF she can persuade him to” – so it hints at difficulties but doesnt give more detail.
    Same with the plot twists. But as it is a query letter and not a book blurb I would use the phrase “plot twists” and then elaborate a little in terms of maybe location eg “from the halls of parliament to darkened alleys to scenes that Hollywood wishes it could dream up” kind of thing.

    But then I have yet to write a query letter, so these are just my thoughts.
    But I reckon I would buy your book, it sounds right up my street 🙂
    I wish you success!

    Liked by 1 person

  • American Writers Exposed

    Just completed a conference with one of Writer’s Digests contributors @ChuckSambuchino and querying was one of the classes. Specifically he stated a query consists of three parts on a single page/single spaced, 1st part genre/word count…2nd part 2-9 sentences about your story (preferable 3-6)…3rd part your bio as it consists to your writing. We will be blogging more about it soon on American Writers Exposed. Much <3! PS..re-writing ours as we speak 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Aspire to Fly

      Weird! I’ve been hearing a lot more emphasis on the hook being the first thing, and the specifics of the book at the end with the author bio. I’ve read some winning queries that start with something like “I thought you might be interested in this work because…” and then the repped genre and so forth. I find it so interesting the differences in query advice and what specific agents and publishers like overall.

      How was that conference!?

      Liked by 2 people

  • Emily

    Interesting premise. I think your first paragraph is what needs the most work even though I think you have a great start. The first sentence is interesting, but I thought the magical means part felt a bit awkward. Maybe try “by magical events” or “a magical catastrophe” “magical beings” or something of that nature instead–more specific I suppose. Or even “the death of her sister in supernatural/magical/unexplainable circumstances” (pick one adjective of course). I just feel the word means there is a bit confusing.
    The second sentence has too many generalizations in my opinion. Something more along the lines of “come by when people often are unwilling to recognize magic around them” or “humans often ignore anything outside the realm of science”. I’m not sure, I thought all the “everyone” “anything” followed by “everything” in the next sentence felt like a bit much.
    Third sentence I like with Parliament rewriting history, although I’d maybe say they’re taking measure to cover up history rather than actually rewriting it (I picture Parliament members sitting with history books in their laps rewriting when you say that). I also think her mother breathing down her neck should be “for the slightest infraction” rather than “with”. And I think the mite is probably used in jest, but it seems a bit silly after all you’ve listed standing in her way.
    Also, last section seems a bit strange “here they’re everywhere”– where is here? The story? It just seems a tad bit odd in terms of phrasing. Maybe “in Fairian’s journey they’re everywhere” or something like that.

    In case you can’t tell I’m a very nitpicky person when it comes to editing/revising for other people. However, it sounds like you have a really interesting story premise! I’d say it just needs to be highlighted with less dancing around the issue. As interesting as the suspense is, I think you lose something in being so vague about some of these plot points. Your story sounds more unique if you highlight the actual points of it, not just the generals that have been done before.

    I also don’t know a lot about query format, but I feel like I’ve usually seen a hook segment explaining your total product (genre, word count), a summary segment, and some form of conclusion, but I could be making that up. If you’ve researched it and this is what they look like good for you!

    Best of luck!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Aspire to Fly

      I LOVE all your nitpicky comments! This is perfect. I was worried about the first vague sentence (first paragraph, second sentence) myself, and the rest of your pointers about making things clearer is very helpful. And especially thank you for the “for the slightest infraction,” instead of the “with” – I’m not sure where that “with” came from but I’ve been fiddling with that sentence for so long that for some reason I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with it.

      Thank you again for your “nit-picky” response. 😉 It’s what I’m looking for and wanting. I really appreciate the time and thinking you took!

      Liked by 2 people

  • American Writers Exposed

    PS..Your hook is a must and should be your number 1 sentence/part 2…give us a follow as we’d like input.advice, support on every experience relating to all subjects just like this. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  • TheRickhitch

    Well, as always, I am late on this one.

    “Of course, there are things worse than death. And here, they’re everywhere.”

    While this truly tickles curiosity (“what things might be worse than death? I want to know”), try sticking to sentences that don’t leave any ??? in the reader’s head.

    My only suggestion is:

    Stop following rules. Stop thinking about what the agents want to read. Stop changing your voice because others tell you it sounds right this way and it doesn’t sound right that way.

    You are standing in front of a good friend, a family member, etc… they want to know what your new book is about. What do you do? You don’t think about rules. You get excited. You can’t wait to tell them all about Fairian and her journey. Of course, even this would have its little 3-act structure.

    1. “What’s it titled?” asks your friend.

    – Initium!

    2. “Sounds nice. What else? Is it a thriller?”

    – No! It’s … and it’s similar to the books…. “…” … “…”

    3. “Oh! I read that book once! Loved it. Tell me more!”

    – It’s about Fairian …… …. And then ….. and then …… boom.

    Anyway, you do get my point.

    So when you write, close your eyes and imagine pitching it to a friend at a coffee shop.
    Just to make the whole process easier.

    Other than that, it is fine as it is. Good luck –


    Liked by 1 person

    • Aspire to Fly

      That is totally okay! Thank you for replying in the first place. 🙂 And it’s apparently taken me two days to reply to you, so there we have it.

      You’re right about the worrying about rules too much. I struggled so much with the first query I wrote (about a different story) that I ended up really sticking to them, here. I like the friend in the coffee shop tool! I haven’t thought about that one in a while, that should definitely help with it being more organic…

      Thank you for the luck. I really appreciate the help!!


  • tastehitch

    Just wondering through. I think someone mentioned it already but where/when is it set? I want to see the character as part of a wider world.

    Having said that, I writing as a reader rather than a publisher/agent/actual writer.

    Good luck with it all – sounds like an interesting premise.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Aspire to Fly

      It’s set in an alternate world where history is backwards: the environment has already collapsed, the civil rights movements haven’t occurred yet, and the Americas haven’t been found. I really struggled with including it (originally it was the start of the query), but eventually cut it and started with the point of contention for the character. I feel like I should include it but I’m not sure how without making the query drag.

      Liked by 1 person

  • jenchristopherson

    Is this a fantasy love story? That’s what your query brings to mind for me… I agree with the others, but I thought you should know it reads like a fantasy romance blurb right now.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Aspire to Fly

      Hmm. Well there are those elements, for sure. Why romance though?

      (Thank you for your comments! 🙂 )


      • jenchristopherson

        It wasn’t explicitly romantic, but had romantic tones to it. He’s being stubbornly protective and she needs to do what will put her at risk. That’s romantic… In my opinion, of course!
        After I posted that, I realized it was just a bit of the tone and the adventure was awesome! I would read it, when it comes out!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Aspire to Fly

        Ah, that makes sense! Was just curious how it came across. It makes me so happy to hear you would read it! 😀 I’ll definitely be posting when it’s out… 😉


  • knightwitch

    Well, looks like I’m really late to this game, but the “you scrolling past” caught me 😉 I have to agree with most of the other comments here. Of course, being opinionated myself, I will give you mine too.

    It does read like it will be more romance than mystery… Here’s a girl struggling with X, here’s a guy with answers, they clash but she needs his help, etc.

    I agree with the idea that “by magical means” could be worded better. It’s a bit too vague but overall it still grabs you making you wonder what exactly “magical means” means.

    “…ignores anything even remotely resembling the word magic.” I don’t believe you mean to say “the word magic” but rather simply “magic” alone. Your character is searching for magic the noun, not magic the word. It could also use emphasis – italicize magic if you leave the rest of the sentence worded this way.

    “With everything from Parliament re-writing history to her mother breathing down her neck with the slightest infraction of propriety, investigation is just a mite difficult.” This sentence caused a double-take. I was taught to reword any sentence that makes you stumble over the meaning, even if the meaning seems to be self evident. In this case, I have several suggestions:
    –I suggest replacing “Parliament” with “those in power” or something similar to encourage the question of what sort of people have the power to do such a thing. Parliament already evokes images and assumptions based on the real world and our current perspective on it.
    –I agree with the “with the slightest infraction” rewrite another commenter noted.
    –Also, “investigation is just a mite difficult” is one of those should-be-self-evident cases that almost isn’t. Although you’ve said she’s looking for answers, this is first time you’ve called it an investigation which can evoke an entirely different idea in people’s minds. I suggest “investigating magic is just a mite difficult” for clarity.

    “Luckily for Fairian, the new city she moved to happens to have someone who can answer her questions. Unfortunately, he wants nothing to do with her and refuses her entrance into his dangerous and subversive world. That might have something to do with the fact that he’s the biggest mystery of all.”
    –Oh boy. I’m sorry I would completely rewrite this all around. There’s the suggestion of a mystery subculture and a potentially interesting character, but it definitely sounds like a detour (since your response to this idea was surprise) toward romance. Even if you want to include this guy with the answers mystery on the query, I would start out mentioning the subculture then enter powerful character that may have all the answers she’s searching for but refuses to help or something. I don’t know if that’s much help.

    “Nothing is going to end up quite like Fairian expects.” SPOILER ALERT! take this out, you’ve already lost some interest because “oh it’s just a typical plot twist”.

    “…attract the very wrong kind of attention, both magical and human.” The word “very” sounds wrong here, unnecessary or misused. Also, this sentence supposes magical and human are opposites here. Rather you may want to say “magical and mundane” or “magic users and humans”.

    “Of course, there are things worse than death. And here, they’re everywhere.” Where? What’s this new city she moved to? Or do you mean “here” in shadows of a subculture? You also seem to be alluding to creatures or people “worse than death”. You may want to also clarify something about dangerous creatures, people or places above. Great ending line. Similar to lots of others out there, sure, but it’s still a great grabber!

    Overall I’m intrigued. I hope this critique helps you, even if you’ve already completed your query and didn’t need my input for this particular effort. Good luck!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Aspire to Fly

      Oh, I can always use more help. 😉 I’m still working on edits now, so your advice is still in time!

      Okay, perfect. Thank you for pointing out the issues with “magical means,” and “the word magic.” I do like using the word Parliament because I’m afraid “those in power” sounds like generalization (which I need to work on! Ha!)… but I could be wrong there.

      It is true there is romantic element, but by no means do I want it to seem like the main part of the story. Their interactions are critical, true. I was just mostly curious how that came across, since JenChristopherson pointed it out. But yes, more focus on the subculture and move to him a little later… got it 😉

      Alright, nobody likes my spoiler alert line! Taking it out, taking it out… And yes, “very” is a filter word anyway and I should have known better! Also, clarify where “here” is… actually, I have a better idea for the ending line I could use…

      Thank you so, so much for your advice and thoughts! I appreciate you very (<–Ha) much! And thank you for the luck 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • knightwitch

        Great! Don’t forget the number one thing: this is YOUR story so ultimately this has to sound good and right to you. Learn from others, of course, take in whatever you can. Just know if you’re not happy with it, then it’s gotta change no matter what anybody else says. Likewise if you’re happy with it and “feels right” then go with it! Your intuition always has your best interests at heart 😉

        Liked by 1 person

      • Aspire to Fly

        Exactly! Always take advice with everything in perspective 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

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