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Query & First Chapter Critiques: How It Works

(Photo by Ylanite Koppens at

Did I mention how much I like query letters and first chapters? I like to read them and edit them. Then read them again and edit some more. When language is so compressed (and so essential at grabbing the reader’s attention), it feels like a delightful, complex little puzzle. And puzzles can be solved.

I’m in the minority on this, I know. Maybe you hate query writing or maybe you’ve been staring at yours for so long, you want to throw your computer out the window. Maybe you have edited your first chapter so many times you can’t see straight (or can’t remember which version you are working on anymore). I’ve been there. A lot.

Here’s what else I know: you care about your project more than you sometimes want to admit. This book you’re working on is more than just a book. It is more than just a pipe dream or fleeting hobby. When you imagine the future, it includes you holding this book, signing the inside cover for your best friend, snapping bookstore selfies. You see your book in someone else’s hands. Whatever your book future looks like, I see it for you, too. I want this dream for you so bad.

We need more books in the world, more stories, and we need more authors who are supported by a rich community of writers. We need your story. Your book.

That’s where I come in. All writers benefit from another pair of eyes and guess what I’ve got? (Answer: eyes). I read and edit for a living (buy me a beer and you’ll hear all about the English teacher workload). I have to also mention that I had pretty good luck with my own querying experience, too.

Friend, I’ve got you covered.

Here’s how it works if you’re interested:

I joke about red pens and gold stars, but really, we’ll keep it simple. First, you send me your document(s) via email. Then, within a week (unless it’s final exams and then I may need more time), I send you the following:

  • An extensive email with an overview of comments using my PSQ (Praise, Suggest, Question) process.

  • Your document saved with my comments (using the “track changes” feature in Word)

  • A document of resources and links, depending on where you are in the journey.

My comments range from things like “Bad-ass title” and “Holy shit, I didn’t see that coming,” to the slightly more professional suggestions about punctuation placement and dialogue tags. Conversational, friendly, and teacherly is what you can expect. Still, I’m not going to let anything slide. It’s not in my nature to do anything half-ass, especially when it comes to your work. This means we might go back and forth via email troubleshooting writing challenges or asking questions. (That’s my other favorite part).

Note: I’m not going to give you an extension line edit of your work or diagram sentences with you (that’s a different kind of editing), but because of my job, I can’t help but point out grammatical stuff. That’s what I mean by the “teacher treatment.” I am focusing on the bigger picture and making suggestions about how to really hook the reader (agent, editor, etc.). Clarity and grammar are often part of that bigger picture, too.

You still with me?

I’m a teacher so you know I have rules. Let’s call them “standard guidelines” instead. That sounds less severe.

  • Click the Paypal button on the Writing and Editing Services page for which “service” you are looking for.

  • First, you will get an email from me (give me a few hours if I’m in class or, you know, sleeping), asking you for more information from you.

I will ask what your main concerns and struggles are, as well as what you want me to focus on. (We all have struggles or weaknesses; I want to make sure I help you with your particular concerns.)

  • Next, you’ll email your draft(s) to me as Word attachment (.doc or .docx) so I can download, save, and edit it on my computer with “track changes.”

  • Then, I get to work.

The cost to you:

  • Query: $25 (another 25 for any full-scale revisions you want me to critique

  • First chapter: $50

  • Query + first chapter: $65 (they go hand in hand—why not tackle them both at once?)

Let me finish by telling you what I tell my students. There is nothing wrong with asking for help. Seeking out another pair of eyes on your work is part of the process—for all writers. I want to be part of your journey, even in this little way, giving you teacher-level feedback on one part of your project.

If you want to chat more or if you have questions, shoot me a message. I look forward to hearing from you soon. I’m stocking up on coffee and chocolate while I wait.

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