Monday, December 18, 2017

Query Critique Winner

Patrice is the lucky winner of this month's query critique.  Yay, Patrice!  Below is her original query:

Dear Ms. Pestritto,
Before my 2,000-mile walk across New Zealand, I did not expect to encounter electric fences with barbed wire, knee-deep mud, life-threatening tides and more sheep than people. Now, I long for those things.

Between Each Step: A Married Couple’s Thru Hike On New Zealand’s Te Araroa, is a 62,000-word completed travel memoir that will appeal universally to backpackers and armchair adventurers hungry for trail life in an exotic locale.

Through Between Each Step, readers will feel every blister, see every view on Te Araroa and be warmed by the hospitality of the Kiwi people that my husband and I encountered during our 2014-2015 thru hike. This book is a play-by-play of trail life, a tour of New Zealand and a peek into an unconventional marriage. My lighthearted writing offers a seasoned backpacker’s perspective on a rugged trail that is gaining notoriety. The very personal and immediate tone allows readers to be in my head as if the challenges and rewards were their own. Readers will learn that the newly created trail isn’t perfect, but a slow, methodical plod on foot from one end of New Zealand to the other is a surefire way to experience the country’s natural environment, culture, history and people.

In 2011, New Zealand opened the continuous footpath, stretching roughly 2,000 miles from the top of the North Island to the bottom of the South Island. A mere thirty people attempted Te Araroa the year it opened. Currently, there are more than 300 Te Araroa walkers making their attempt for the 2017-18 season.

Given Te Araroa is a subject matter barely covered as a travel memoir and exploding in popularity among backpackers, Between Each Step: A Married Couple’s Thru Hike On New Zealand’s Te Araroa willentice a widespread audience. Besides the thousands of thru and section hikers who have walked on Te Araroa during its five years of existence, there are many more at home dreaming of visiting New Zealand. Statistics from the Outdoor Recreation Participation Topline Report show that more than 10 million people went backpacking in 2016.

Writing and backpacking are equally important passions for me. As a freelance writer, my 20-year writing profile is versatile—from health care news reporting to magazine features. I have more than 6,000 trail miles under my (hip)belt and have been a public speaker and writer for Backpacker Magazine. Previously I’ve published articles and blog posts for gear companies, as well as given presentations, on New Zealand’s Te Araroa, establishing myself as an authority on the international trail. I plan to continue this momentum to actively promote and boost sales of my travel memoir using a number of marketing tactics.

Thank you so much for your time and consideration. I would love to send you a full book proposal and sample chapters, if you are interested. Happy holidays and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Sincerely,
Patrice

And here is my critique:

Dear Ms. Pestritto,


Before my 2,000-mile walk across New Zealand, I did not expect to encounter electric fences with barbed wire, knee-deep mud, life-threatening tides and more sheep than people. Now, I long for those things. [Instead of this opening, which feels very general, I would include something more personal to you experience and exciting!  The added part in blue I am making up, since I am not familiar with your story, but you'll get the idea of what I mean.] It had been over a month since we first began our impetuous adventure hiking Te Araroa, and besides my husband, the only others on the trail were sheep.  The sweeping, wild backdrops were like a balm to my soul and an indicator of just how life-changing this experience would be. 

Between Each Step: A Married Couple’s Thru Hike On New Zealand’s Te Araroa, is a 62,000-word completed travel memoir that will appeal universally to backpackers and armchair adventurers hungry for trail life in an exotic locale.  In 2011, New Zealand opened the continuous footpath, stretching roughly 2,000 miles from the top of the North Island to the bottom of the South Island. A mere thirty people attempted Te Araroa the year it opened. Currently, there are more than 300 Te Araroa walkers making their attempt for the 2017-18 season. 

Through Between Each Step, readers will feel every blister, see every view on Te Araroa and be warmed by the hospitality of the Kiwi people that my husband and I encountered during our 2014-2015 thru hike. This book is a play-by-play of trail life, a tour of New Zealand and a peek into an unconventional marriage. My lighthearted writing offers a seasoned backpacker’s perspective on a rugged trail that is gaining notoriety. The very personal and immediate tone allows readers to be in my head as if the challenges and rewards were their own. Readers will learn that the newly created trail isn’t perfect, but a slow, methodical plod on foot from one end of New Zealand to the other is a surefire way to experience the country’s natural environment, culture, history and people. [This also is too general.  Instead of telling me about the memoir here, give me specific examples of what I will read.] My lighthearted writing offers a seasoned backpacker’s perspective on a rugged trail that is gaining notoriety.  Our trip along Te Araroa is one that readers will eagerly devour.  From spending time hunting with the Kiwi people, to nearly drowning in the middle of the night, we experience many physical challenges and spiritual realizations a la Cheryl Strayed's WILD. 
In 2011, New Zealand opened the continuous footpath, stretching roughly 2,000 miles from the top of the North Island to the bottom of the South Island. A mere thirty people attempted Te Araroa the year it opened. Currently, there are more than 300 Te Araroa walkers making their attempt for the 2017-18 season. [I moved this sooner.] 

Given Te Araroa is a subject matter barely covered as a travel memoir and exploding in popularity among backpackers, Between Each Step: A Married Couple’s Thru Hike On New Zealand’s Te Araroa will entice a widespread audience. Besides the thousands of thru and section hikers who have walked on Te Araroa during its five years of existence, there are many more at home dreaming of visiting New Zealand. Statistics from the Outdoor Recreation Participation Topline Report show that more than 10 million people went backpacking in 2016. [This would also be an excellent place to include comp titles to show other popular books in this genre that have done well in the market!] 

Writing and backpacking are equally important passions for me. As a freelance writer, my 20-year writing profile is versatile—from health care news reporting to magazine features. I have more than 6,000 trail miles under my (hip)belt and have been a public speaker and writer for Backpacker Magazine. Previously I’ve published articles and blog posts for gear companies, as well as given presentations, on New Zealand’s Te Araroa, establishing myself as an authority on the international trail. I plan to continue this momentum to actively promote and boost sales of my travel memoir using a number of marketing tactics. 
Thank you so much for your time and consideration. I would love to send you a full book proposal and sample chapters, if you are interested. Happy holidays and I look forward to hearing from you soon.  

Sincerely,Patrice


I like the substance of this query a lot but, as you will see in my notes, I feel like it currently reads a bit too long and a bit too general.  I want to get more personal examples of the book and of what you experience, so that I know how the memoir will read and am compelled to ask for more.  I hope my thoughts are helpful--you have a good start and I think adding more detail and trimming extraneous telling will bring it to the next level!

Best of luck!  And everyone, chime in with comments below!

13 comments:

  1. I agree with Carrie, the original is too long. Interesting subject matter and well written, but too long. Best of luck to you, Patrice!

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  2. How exciting to win!! Thanks Carrie! And, your feedback is VERY helpful and I will implement those suggestions. I look forward to hearing from others too.

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  3. There are definitely a couple of paragraphs that can be shortened and condensed and I like how Patrice mentioned the statistics about hiking in New Zealand and outdoor recreation in general---based on what I see on social media, NZ is becoming quite popular with a lot of outdoor enthusiasts, not just thru-hikers.

    I would caution anyone on using Wild as a comparison. Cheryl was not a thru-hiker and while many people go on long distance hikes for various reasons, not all of them are because of Cheryl or to have the same experience as she did.

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  4. I agree this sounds like a unique memoir because the trail itself is fairly new and unknown. Everyone knows about the Appalachian and Pacific Crest trails but most people probably don't know about the New Zealand trail, so this will appeal to people in the backpacking/travel world. I agree with Mitsi, Wild is kind of "over played" and the comparison might make your story feel derivative rather than unique.

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  5. Intriguing entry with a lot of promise. Ok first I’ll admit I’m an aspiring adventurist so the story itself and what it can share about the trail life has me interested. I think the edits make it more so — as it seems the edits are making the underlying story much clearer and more engaging. I’d continue you in that direction — detail should be to add to the picture in the readers mind or to make the story more vivid and personal. Tuck the information into there. Lot of promise in this material. I’d like to read it!

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  6. I'm an avid reader of hiking memoirs and there are none I have found on this trail. I think that is a unique selling point. Also from blogs I have read, this trail is particularly brutal in terms of muddy forest and road walks. What fails most thru hiking memoirs is a diary type of writing, so I liked the touches of "unconventional marriage" and anything else that would show the difference between this and a typical footpath. I also agree with others, I don't necessarily think comparison with Wild should be avoided, because to many it is their only experience with a longish trail, but that book is very different in terms that it really isn't about the trail at all, but how the writer used the trail to overcome tragedy (if this memoir uses this same tactic, it would be valid). I agree the original was too long. This one feels more focused.

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  7. I like the edits and agree it should be a bit shorter. I think the first line is great drawing in the reader right away. I love hiking and dream about long distance trails. There are so many books out there about the Appalachian Trail and Pacific Crest Trail, but hearing about this trail and New Zealand ... what a great way to explore such a beautiful country. I would compare this book more to Jon Krakauer's Into the Wild than Cheryl Strayed's Wild. This sounds more about adventure and discovering new places, like Chris McCandless, than curing your demons and hiking a section of a trail to do so. When is this being published? I'd buy it!!

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  8. I have been waiting to read a book about this trail since I first learned of its existence, back in 2012. I love some of the edits to shorten as long as it doesn't take Patrice's voice out of it. I'm not sure I would mention Cheryl Strayed's book at all - does there have to be a comparison? I love Patrice's writing. All of the personal stories, triumphs and struggles are going to be a great read. It will also be nice to read about a different trail. The market is saturated with books about the PCT and the Appalachian Trail. Thru hiking books make me smile and I can't wait to buy this book!

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  9. Smart edits here. To the point, but designed to a) deliver the hook that makes you want to read the book, b) develop the atmosphere and adventure of the story and c) explain why this would be popular with the target market and why she is the author to do it. While I do also tend to stay away from author or title comparisons personally, I also understand that this is pretty much a standard requirement for most agents/publishers.

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  10. It seems like Patrice is a naturally gifted writer. I’d love to read your book!

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  11. I agree with Elizabeth - lose the reference to Cheryl Strand's Wild. Otherwise, I agree with the edits to shorten the letter. I think the opening paragraph still needs a little work. I'm confident that Patrice can come up with an intriguing start to the letter.

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  12. I am roped in for sure. I want to hear more about Patrice's adventures and others that you met on the trail or possibly did not meet when in need. I am an adventure hiker and favor thru hikes. New Zealand is a beautiful place full of nature.

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  13. Thank you everyone for all your thoughtful comments!! Lots of great advice that I needed. And Carrie awarded me with the "Author Treatment," which is the best Christmas gift ever! Thank you Carrie for running this contest and hope you enjoy the 3 chapters I e-mailed you.

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