We are so grateful to our agent panel for critiquing these entries. We would also like to give a shout-out to the authors for being brave and willing to improve.
Entry #4: EVERYDAY ELLIE[CG1]
Ellie’s[CG3] beloved dog Rosie needs an operation. Mom says surgery is too expensive, but Ellie won’t take no for an answer.[CG4]
Her money-making plan?
After Ellie buys a camera and tri-pod, she starts Everyday [CG5] Ellie, a channel focusing on DIY crafts. With the opportunity to make money from advertising[CG6], Ellie hopes to give Rosie a new chance at life.
Without her mother’s knowledge, Ellie grows her channel. She gains admirers, including a talent agent who encourages her to film a sponsorship video. Three days after emailing the video, the agent promises to meet Ellie at the county fair.
It’s Ellie’s chance to make it big as a YouTuber and earn money for Rosie’s operation, yet something doesn’t feel quite right.
Especially when the agent tells Ellie to come alone.[RP1][CG7]
My middle grade contemporary manuscript EVERYDAY ELLIE is complete at 57,000 words[CG8]. Thank you for your consideration.
[RP1] I really like this query for the most part—it tells me who Ellie (with the DIY crafts) what she wants the most (for Rosie to get her operation) and what she’ll do to get it. I would wonder what you mean by “sponsorship video,” and would want that cleared up, but would keep reading. My one reservation: this sentence is really ominous. I would want a little better idea where this was headed, so I was prepared, if that makes sense.
[CG1] I would consider retitling something that has more compelling or strong implications or allusions. This is a rather neutral title that doesn’t do anything to make a reader interested in reading. Even “Ellie Everyday” would be a bit more compelling – but I think there is probably a better title out there!
[CG2] Introduce your query – title, audience, word count, a one line pitch should precede your longer pitch,
[CG3] We need a little more contextual information, perhaps a personality trait or at last her age.
[CG4] This introduction makes me think that the books skews to the younger middle grade audience.
[CG5] Retitle for same reasons.
[CG6] This sounds like an upper middle grade concept and doesn’t jibe with the opening sentence to me.
[CG7] Ack! A compelling final cliff hanger. Again, there is some back and forth here re: who the target audience is – I can’t tell whether this is meant for lower or upper middle grade. The language and some of the plot points feel more juvenile, but other plots points feel more mature.
[CG8] High word count for a lower middle grade audience. An agent would note this because it’s a sign that either the author isn’t super savvy about the business of publishing and the word count expectations, or that the book hasn’t been fully edited yet.
Filming a decent video wasn’t supposed to be this hard. I held up my phone, panned around my bedroom, and described my crafts: The pink and blue dresser drawers I decorated with leftover paint from the basement, the pillow I designed by hot gluing yarn to form the word “Smile”, and my headboard, which I created by painting foam boards with chalkboard paint.
“What do you think, Rosie girl?” I helped my dog onto my bed and stroked her snowy curls. “Think I could put my videos up on YouTube like Crafty Carlie?”
Rosie tucked her head to her furry chest.
“I know. Mine are awful.” I replayed my video. It was blurry and the sound was muffled, probably because Dad bought me an old-model phone after Mom yelled that no way on God’s green Earth could we afford a fancy schmancy iPhone, since, according to her, I just needed to send an occasional text or call 9-1-1 if the house was on fire.
“Ellie?” Mom knocked before peeking inside my bedroom. She clutched her grocery store coupon organizer, a purple accordion file.
I buried my phone under my Smile pillow.
“What are you up to?”
Mom gripped her coupons. “Can you help me pick beans? I need to get to the store.” Inside my head I could still hear Mom screaming that money didn’t grow on trees, and how extras—like the expensive dog food Dad bought to help Rosie’s stiff joints—was way outside our budget.[RP1]
[RP1] I like the voice in this sample, and how her mother is introduced, and that money is a real factor in their lives, which introduces rich potential for conflict. I would read on!
[CG1] I feel sort of neutral about the writing as well. I would consider using a passage that showed off a strong voice or a compelling protagonist a little more.
Rebecca Podos: I’d be happy to request the first three chapters of EVERYDAY ELLIE. PAGES
Clelia Gore: PASS