Here's my current query:
Dear <--whomever it's aimed at-->:
Locarno didn't want to do anything other than study sorcery. Neither did he want to take the role of mankind's savior; but, unwillingly, he became our only hope against Dies Irae. Dies Irae, a secret society, wants to destroy civilization--if they can reduce man to a state of barbarism they believe God will destroy the world. By undertaking a magical ritual that will enhance his power, Locarno can defeat Dies Irae. However the process is flawed: it'll cost him his soul, and his soul wants to be reunited with his body. Should body and soul reunite, all his power will be lost and Dies Irae cannot be stopped.
MEMORIES OF THE DEAD, a young adult/fantasy novel, is complete at 72,000 words.
Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.
And here's what they pared it down to:
Sixteen-year-old Locarno always wanted to study sorcery with his grandfather. Taking on the role of mankind's savior never entered his mind. But when a secret society, working to reduce mankind to a state of barbarism, threatens to destroy the world, Locarno searches for a way to defeat them.
Locarno discovers a magic ritual that will enhance his power. But the process is flawed and will cost him his soul.
Now he must learn if he is strong enough to keep his soul from reuniting with his body. If that happens, his new-found powers will be lost. If it doesn't, he will join the ranks of the undead as their new leader.
A terrible choice for a sixteen-year-old...give up his soul to save the world, or save himself and watch mankind be destroyed.
Doesn't sound like I wrote the second one, does it? You know why? Because I didn't write it. More proof of that which I said earlier: no two authors can share voice.
Their advice comes down to this: talk about (only, it seems) the main character, and refer to the "bad guy" only in passing.