Query Hack: Critique #7 – Adult Science Fiction, Ft. Literary Agent Apprentice, Kaitlyn Johnson

Guest Critique on Query Hack: Kaitlyn Johnson of the Corvisiero Literary Agency

Heya, writers! I am so excited to share the special treat we have in store for you guys this week on Query Hack.

Kaitlyn Johnson, Literary Agent Apprentice of the Corvisiero Literary Agency, has provided her feedback on the latest query, an adult science fiction.

For more information about Kaitlyn and the genres/age groups she’s actively seeking, please visit her agency page.

Without further ado, let’s jump into this week’s query!



Dear Query Hack,

After an asteroid destroys Earth, killing her family, geneticist Dr. Zera Lewin is stranded in space with the remains of humanity and determined to survive. Her project to 3D bioprint animal species was supposed to be small, nothing earth-shattering. Now that Earth is uninhabitable, Zera’s research is the key to sustaining human life through terraforming new planets.

  • How did they escape Earth? Were they in an exodus ship, were certain people picked to leave Earth before the impact? Clarify this.

The military chooses to terraform a planet populated by a civilization of humanoid aliens, destroying the aliens’ layered homogenous cities so Zera’s work can be used to create a new home for humanity. Not all humans agree with the alien massacre. With protests all over the station, Zera is prompted to make a choice: her humanity or the survival of the human race.

  • This is a good paragraph. Gives great stakes and shows the conflict in the story. However, this feels like the end paragraph of a query, not the middle. This means there are probably extra details below that would be best in the synopsis.

The protests breed a rebel faction among the humans. Collaborating with the aliens, they believe human salvation lies in preserving the planet and coexisting with its people. Zera’s work is crucial to prevent the aliens’ eventual extermination by the human military, but Zera just wants to save humanity.

  • Confused. Above, you said her work would destroy the aliens’ homes. Now, you’re staying it’s necessary to prevent the aliens’ extermination. How can these two concepts coexist in your story?

The rebels threaten to kill Zera’s friends, leaving her with only a 3D-bioprinted mini-pig as a companion, unless she creates another genetic key to bioprint the aliens and save them from extinction. If Zera saves her friends and creates the key, then humanity could die lost in space; if she doesn’t, her work will be responsible for the xenocide of an entire sentient species.

  • This and the above paragraph would be best in the synopsis. There, you can flesh these out and give a deeper description of how this is handled in the story and how Zera confronts such difficulties.

Intended to be a standalone novel with series potential, VIRIDESCENCE is an 87,000 word adult science fiction story with a similar thematic appeal to Orson Scott Card’s Ender series and Paolo Bacigalupi’s “The Windup Girl” and voice as Peter Newman’s “The Vagrant.” With a strong female STEM protagonist, biracial and LGBT romantic relationships, and a 3D bioprinted mini-pig named Bacon, VIRIDESCENCE may be a good fit for your list.

  • The sentence with your comps got confusing real fast. Try to simplify this so the agent doesn’t have so many names, titles, and descriptions flung at them all at once.
  • Does the lead engage in any romance? If so, the love interest should be at least mentioned in the above query, especially if that character influences Zera’s eventual actions.
  • Some agents prefer this to be the first paragraph, along with a sentence of why you believe this agent is a good fit for your manuscript.

I earned a Bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing and was awarded a Scholastic Silver Key for a non-fiction piece in high school. I also briefly worked for a small non-fiction press and currently run the #Fri1st themed writing hashtag on Twitter and a blog series, Characters in the Cosmos, featuring character interviews from science fiction, fantasy, and speculative fiction writers in the Twitter community. Thank you for your time and consideration.

  • I would delete the following section of your second to last paragraph: “… featuring character interviews from science fiction, fantasy, and speculative fiction writers in the Twitter community.” Keep it short and sweet: bachelors, award, worked for press, and currently run hashtag and blog series. (Keep the details you mentioned, I’m just summarizing here.) =]