1. DubPat
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    DubPat Member

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    draft query

    Discussion in 'Query & Cover Letter Critique' started by DubPat, Dec 1, 2013.

    I would like to have constructive advice on my proposed query letter. It fits onto an A4 page with room for addresses and contact details

    'Dear Mr A Gent

    I recognise by your website that you represent writers of historical fiction and fantasy. My book, ‘Devereux’, is an historical fantasy and complete at 113,000 words. I have in mind for it to be the first in a series of books entitled ‘The Annals of Clan Devereux’.


    ‘Philip Carmichael has extraordinary talents but he is not yet aware of them. While spelunking in Deepwell, he falls to an undiscovered cavern and finds alien remains. He searches the body and removes two strange bracelets. Squinting against a sudden flash, a searing pain rushes through him and Philip disappears.

    He awakes in the 11th century bewildered and sees that the alien is barely alive. It touches his mind and attempts to inform Philip what has happened. While he struggles to understand the alien’s meanings, it dies. Its spirit bonds with Philip, slowly bringing forth his hidden abilities.
    Philip sets up camp in the cavern and realises he can manufacture exceptional merchandise incorporating alien materials. He sets out on a path of discovery when introducing himself and his goods to the medieval populace of Gloucestershire. The spirit guides and assists Philip with all tasks, giving him the belief he will find a means to return to the 20th century.
    Philip never enquires of the spirit why it has arrived on Earth; the thought to do so fades from his mind when close to the body. In fact, the alien spirit has its own agenda; an agenda involving the expected one, Philip Carmichael.’


    I am new to writing and the more I typed, the more my hunger grows. I don’t have any published works; however, I have a fondness for medieval history and fantasy which drove me to begin writing. As mentioned in my introduction, Devereux has been written with a series in mind. I researched in depth the historical facts within the book therefore maintaining a flow that will continue through to the next volumes.

    I include my contact details and wait patiently for your response.

    Regards

    Pat J Kane'
     
  2. lex
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    lex Contributing Member

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    'Dear Mr A Gent

    I recognise by your website that you represent writers of historical fiction and fantasy. I don't think you need to say that. It's fine to have a reason for approaching a specific agent and fine to mention it, but "I've seen your website" isn't a great one, I think? My book, ‘Devereux’, is an historical fantasy I like that but many people will prefer "a" to "an" - just saying! and complete at 113,000 words. I have in mind for it to be the first I think you need to know whether it's the first in a series, not just "have it in mind for it to be". Why not just say "It's the first in a series of ..."? in a series of books entitled ‘The Annals of Clan Devereux’.


    ‘Philip Carmichael has extraordinary talents but he is not yet aware of them. While spelunking in Deepwell, he falls to an undiscovered cavern and finds alien remains. He searches the body Body? Then you need to have said "the remains of an alien" or "an alien skeleton" or whatever in the previous sentence? "Alien remains" isn't the same thing as "the remains of an alien" and removes two strange bracelets. Squinting against a sudden flash, a searing pain rushes through him and Philip disappears. Bad sentence-construction, here, I'm afraid: it isn't the searing pain that was squinting, but that's what you've actually said.

    He awakes in the 11th century bewildered and sees that the alien is barely alive. It touches his mind and attempts to inform Philip what has happened. While he struggles to understand the alien’s meanings, it dies. Its spirit bonds with Philip, slowly bringing forth his hidden abilities. Too much detail - not sure you need most of this para?
    Philip sets up camp in the cavern why? and realises he can manufacture exceptional merchandise incorporating alien materials. He sets out on a path of discovery when introducing himself and his goods to the medieval populace of Gloucestershire. The spirit guides and assists Philip with all tasks, giving him the belief he will find a means to return to the 20th century.
    Philip never enquires of the spirit why it has arrived on Earth; the thought to do so fades from his mind when close to the body. In fact, the alien spirit has its own agenda; an agenda involving the expected one, Philip Carmichael.’ Where's the compelling conflict?


    I am new to writing and the more I typed ("typed"?) , the more my hunger grows. I don’t have any published works; tautology, here: you won't have, if you're new to writing. Not sure you should specify this. however, I have a fondness "fondness" perhaps not a strong enough word? for medieval history and fantasy which drove me to begin writing. As mentioned in my introduction, Devereux has been written with a series in mind. You don't need to repeat it. I researched in depth the historical facts within the book therefore maintaining a flow that will continue through to the next volumes. Fine, but put this together with the first mention that it's a series?

    I include my contact details you can just include them (below your name): no need to specify that you're including them and wait patiently for your response.
    What about "I seek representation for this and my future work. Thank you for your consideration and time" instead of all this?

    Regards

    Pat J Kane'
    =========================================

    Pat, I think your big issue here, if there is one, is that you haven't made it sound enough like something that's a really compelling story. I think you need to re-write the middle section of the query, where you summarise the plot.

    May I recommend a website you might find really interesting and helpful? http://queryshark.blogspot.com
     
  3. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I suggest you look through query samples to get a taste of what professional queries should look like. Query Shark, the link the above poster gave you, is excellent. You should look at it :)

    For right now, your query screams "I'm an amateur" and unfortunately that statement means only one thing for most agents, who are flooded with manuscripts, and that is: "Don't read it!" I've read pieces written by agents who admit to trying to get rid of the manuscript at the first possible opportunity. As such, you do NOT want to announce you're new to writing. You haven't been published? That's fine, but don't draw attention to it. Just don't mention it at all.

    Delete the ENTIRE section about your fondness for writing, the series, the research. Delete it. That's the part that screams amateur more than any other part. Nobody cares, unfortunately. You've written an entire book and submitted it in the hopes of it getting published - telling the agent you have a fondness for writing is a waste of words and space. One would certainly hope you had a fondness for writing considering the submission.

    The research - unless you have a recognised qualification for the area of history you include, or perhaps worked in the field related to this period of history, it's not worth mentioning. What does an agent care? One would assume you did your best internet research and at best read a few books around the subject - that's great, now how do I know you read the reliable sources? How do I know you didn't just pick up the first blog post you stumbled upon and used the patchy info in it as historical facts? The answer is, I don't, and you certainly don't have the space to prove that you've actually researched properly. So, unless you have credentials that could prove once and for all you know exactly what you're talking about, don't mention it at all. Again, every agent would fully expect you to have researched properly - it's taken for granted. Thus, you mentioning it is a waste of words and space.

    As for the query itself - you haven't shown me what the story is about. You gave the premise, but that's not all you need to show. You need to show the compelling conflict, and there is none. So far I know a kid becomes skilled at making tools and there's an alien involved. That's it. That's not a story. You give too many irrelevant details, for example, a searing flash of light and the bracelets - who cares? The bracelets have no significance, or at least none that you have shown (and unless it directly impacts on the main conflict, cut it altogether. And if it does impact upon it, then you must show me how it does so). The light is irrelevant - he is teleported, fine, but the light and pain etc are details that don't belong in a query.

    You must bear in mind, this is a business. This is not university. Agents are not tutors looking for your hidden potential and talent waiting to nurture you into something great. It is not a place to grow. It is a place for writers who are already grown and ready, the potential and talent no longer hidden. Agents are looking for someone ready to be pushed out and sold. In short, they don't care how passionate you are (because, let's face it, you don't think every single submission they ever get are from writers who are all equally, if not more, passionate than you?). They don't really care how you came to writing - why would they need to know this? How does that mean your writing is good enough to sell?

    Right now, your query reads like a university personal statement. Cut the crap and tell me why your story is the absolute most amazing thing the agent has ever seen (by that, I do not mean use fluff and padding and exaggerated words. You need to do this by purely good and down to earth writing that shows exactly what your story is in a succinct and yet engaging manner), and don't second guess yourself by drawing attention to your inexperience.

    All the best of luck.

    PS. Fluff and padding would be words such as: "Demons from his past will come to haunt him" or "Nothing could have prepared him for what came next" and other such sentences that basically tells you nothing concrete and are used solely to set up atmosphere. Do not do this.

    PPS. Don't mention it's a series. You can say so once the agent has shown interest and perhaps signed you - in that event, a series might be a good thing because it's always good to have more books ready to sell. But for right now, a series scares agents. A series from a newbie is not usually a good thing. The agent doesn't know if even your first book would sell, and if it doesn't, you can say bye-bye to the rest of your series because they won't take it on. For right now, mentioning a series is really a case of trying to run before you've learnt to walk. I'd take it out.
     
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2013
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  4. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    you said it all for me, mckk... thanks!
     
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  5. JayG
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    JayG Banned Contributor

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    What you're doing is trying to write a mini synopsis. But if you could meaningfully give the flow in 200 words it wouldn't be much of a story, would it? And because it's rushed it's reads as sketchy and incomplete.

    First, you need to decide what the story is about. And by that I don't mean the plot, but theme. It might be, "Be careful what you wish for," or "learning to trust." But that's what you build your query on. You need mention emotional issues and consequences, not facts and plot:

    George Budd, in all innocence, has made a pact with the devil, thinking it was a simple sports bet. Now, he has six short months to get himself ready to compete against the best athletes on the planet, or die. And no matter how hard he trains, one thing is certain. The devil is going to cheat.

    We know who. We know the stakes. We know the penalty for failure. We know there's a deadline. And, we know the real problem he must solve.

    That was only fifty-seven words. At the end did you want to know more about George's problem? If you did, the blurb was successful, because the only purpose of the blurb is to make the reader turn to page one and give your writing an audition.
     
  6. graphospasm
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    graphospasm Senior Member

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    For helpful advice, examples of reworked queries, and insight into how good queries work, check out Query Shark! I've found the site immensely helpful. I learn best by example so the site is just what I needed to write an effective query letter.

    http://queryshark.blogspot.com/
     
  7. Alix465
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    Alix465 Banned

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    It is necessary to keep it short and professional and make it sound intriguing.
     

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