1. Published on Amazon? If you have a book, e-book, or audiobook available on Amazon.com, we'll promote it on WritingForums.org for free. Simply add your book to our Member Publications section. Add your book here or read the full announcement.
    Dismiss Notice
  1. doggiedude

    doggiedude Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Feb 15, 2016
    Messages:
    1,466
    Likes Received:
    1,261
    Location:
    Florida, USA, Earth, The Sol System

    Query Letter How's this work for creating interest?

    Discussion in 'Query & Cover Letter Critique' started by doggiedude, Dec 1, 2016.

    Skip to post 9 for changes
    On to post 17 for the newest


    Below is an attempt at a query letter for my latest disaster. :)
    While it isn't present, assume there will be a closing paragraph touting the reasons I'm contacting the specific agent.



    I’m seeking representation for Shabin, an 82,000-word young adult novel set in the far future. The universe is teeming with life, but so far the only sign of another sentient species comes from the Herodians who died out long ago.

    Born on planet Rhime, seventeen-year-old Jason Shabin is the heir to a corporate owned and operated world. For hundreds of years, his family has been using their genetically altered DNA to manipulate people with an unusual psychic form of communication. The original patriarch slipped portions of Herodian DNA into the family line. His grandfather used the power to buy the planet and create an empire. His unstable biomechanical father wields it to crush the competition and expand profits. Jason wanders his solitary life manipulating the serving girls.

    When his father, the Emperor murders Jason’s uncle, he panics. Fearing he’s next, Jason convinces cargo pilot Sparrow to take him off the planet. Jason had always known he enjoyed the protection of the empire and lived a sheltered life, but he didn’t realize just how dangerous things would become without the Imperial Guard at his side. Thieves quickly steal a sample of his secret DNA. Jason must cross galaxies using the Mirre to track down the thieves before they can create more people with the ability. When he finds out who is behind the theft, Jason needs to take responsibility and bluff his way to stopping an interplanetary war.

    Any suggestions? Comments? Random meanderings?
     
    Last edited: Dec 2, 2016
  2. antlad

    antlad Banned

    Joined:
    Nov 28, 2016
    Messages:
    297
    Likes Received:
    97
    I once read that when contacting an agent/publisher, the synopsis should be written similarly to what would be on the back of the book to hook the reader.

    This doesn't hook me. It isn't 'exciting' enough to spur interest in me.

    To me this doesn't make sense. If the family tree relies on manipulating others, why does he need to bluff?

    I would say overall punch it up a little, make it a bit exciting, and drop a couple hints that makes someone want to keep going to find it.
    A lot of times it is a small thing that grabs my attention and makes me push through to get to that thing, usually to see how it was handled.

    I am assuming by the use of names, that this is a YA novel.
     
    doggiedude likes this.
  3. doggiedude

    doggiedude Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Feb 15, 2016
    Messages:
    1,466
    Likes Received:
    1,261
    Location:
    Florida, USA, Earth, The Sol System
    Perhaps I need to be more specific. For the first time in his life, he's using his power to affect things that have severe consequences. The bluffing comes from the fact that he begins wielding authority over people that he doesn't actually command.
     
  4. antlad

    antlad Banned

    Joined:
    Nov 28, 2016
    Messages:
    297
    Likes Received:
    97
    I would suggest asking any who have read your book to write a synopsis. Then cut, chop, mix, and match.

    Would that letter hook you into reading 82k words?
    Would that letter hook you into reading 82k words if you were forced to read novels all day for your job?
     
  5. mrieder79

    mrieder79 Not a ground squirrel

    Joined:
    Jul 3, 2013
    Messages:
    447
    Likes Received:
    295
    Location:
    Uyumbe
    Hi.

    Right now it doesn't grab me. There is too much background and very little that highlights stakes, or conflict. You need the conflict at the beginning. First line. It should be right there glaring at the agent. You don't want to start out with word count or something redundant like saying you are looking for representation. That's gonna draw a mental, "well, duh!" from the agent--not the response you are looking for.

    You need to take every bit of energy, tension, conflict, love, hate, jealousy, greed--every bit of feeling that lives in your book and compress it to about 250 words. Hard as hell, I know, but that's how it is.

    More detailed commentary below. Hope it helps and best of luck!




    I’m seeking representation for Shabin, an 82,000-word young adult novel set in the far future.
    This goes at the end. And drop the "I'm seeking representation." It's redundant.

    The universe is teeming with life, but so far the only sign of another sentient species comes from the Herodians who died out long ago.
    I would lose this.

    Born on planet Rhime, seventeen-year-old Jason Shabin is the heir to a corporate owned and operated world. For hundreds of years, his family has been using their genetically altered DNA to manipulate people with an unusual psychic form of communication. The original patriarch slipped portions of Herodian DNA into the family line. His grandfather used the power to buy the planet and create an empire. His unstable biomechanical father wields it to crush the competition and expand profits. Jason wanders his solitary life manipulating the serving girls.
    This whole paragraph is background. You dont' want this in a query. Put in just enough background to make the stakes understandable.

    When his father, the Emperor murders Jason’s uncle, he panics. Fearing he’s next, Jason convinces cargo pilot Sparrow to take him off the planet.
    Boo yah! This is where the money is. This should be your first sentence. This is where the energy lives and where the story starts. It has conflict and it's the first sentence of the query that caught my interest. Put this first.

    Jason had always known he enjoyed the protection of the empire and lived a sheltered life, but he didn’t realize just how dangerous things would become without the Imperial Guard at his side.
    This strikes me as more background and kills the momentum you were starting to build.

    Thieves quickly steal a sample of his secret DNA. Jason must cross galaxies using the Mirre to track down the thieves before they can create more people with the ability. When he finds out who is behind the theft, Jason needs to take responsibility and bluff his way to stopping an interplanetary war.
    This is more good stuff. It has energy.

    I think you need to highlight the stakes more clearly. I get it, Jason has to stop an interplanetary war, and that's a good start, but its too impersonal. There are wars all the time. People are always dying. Why does Jason care about this particular war? Does it threaten his mother? daugher? only son? pseudo-bionic half-twin? Why should we care about the war?
     
    doggiedude likes this.
  6. BayView

    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2014
    Messages:
    6,247
    Likes Received:
    5,751
    I agree that the first two paragraphs are shaky and things pick up at the third. Remember that the point of a query letter isn't to give prospective agents a totally clear picture of what's happening in your book; the point of a query letter is to get the agents to read your sample pages. (And the point of the sample pages is to get the agent to read your full MS).

    So I'd ease off on the explanation and try to play up the emotion, conflict, drama, etc.
     
    doggiedude likes this.
  7. doggiedude

    doggiedude Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Feb 15, 2016
    Messages:
    1,466
    Likes Received:
    1,261
    Location:
    Florida, USA, Earth, The Sol System
    Looks like its back to the drawing board.
    Thanx
     
  8. Denegroth

    Denegroth Banned Supporter

    Joined:
    Nov 20, 2016
    Messages:
    178
    Likes Received:
    79
    Location:
    South Florida
    The first paragraph doesn't make sense; literally. Slice it off and you've got something. You "buried the lead". Put the invitation to represent at the end. Agents know why you sent this. It isn't like they think it might be chocolate chip cookies from their aunt Sadie.
     
  9. doggiedude

    doggiedude Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Feb 15, 2016
    Messages:
    1,466
    Likes Received:
    1,261
    Location:
    Florida, USA, Earth, The Sol System
    Here's an update

    I've seen various formatting suggestions for query letters. Plenty of them recommend the first paragraph be the title of the story, word count, and genre only. Others use it at the end. I'm not entirely sure it really matters either way.
    Thanx for the suggestions all.


    When his biomechanical father, the Emperor murders Jason’s uncle, he panics. Fearing he’s next, Jason convinces cargo pilot Sparrow to take him off corpocratic planet Rhime. He’d always known he enjoyed the protection of the empire and lived a sheltered life, but he didn’t realize just how dangerous things would become without the Imperial Guard at his side.

    Thieves quickly steal a sample of his alien-enriched DNA. Thinking it’s only a rival company, Jason uses his family’s psychic power to track them across galaxies and hires a mercenary to aid him when they catch up. Unfortunately, instead of finding corporate espionage at the end of the trail, he lands in the middle of an interplanetary invasion with a barbaric government seeking to enhance their soldiers with the power. For the first time in his life, his use of the Mirre will have real consequences.

    While stuck on a backwater tourist planet, Jason needs to bluff his way into authority over the Rhime Ambassador, stop a war, and get the stolen DNA back before he can return home to confront his father. If he succeeds, perhaps Sparrow will stop calling him an idiot and sleep with him.
     
  10. Denegroth

    Denegroth Banned Supporter

    Joined:
    Nov 20, 2016
    Messages:
    178
    Likes Received:
    79
    Location:
    South Florida
    The last sentence needs work, it doesn't match the hyperbolic style of the first paragraphs. You need to go through it and try to change anything that seems to refer to Star Wars (Imperial Guard, for instance) to something else. As soon as an agent is flagged it's a Star Wars ripoff, he'll trash it without reading further.

    It is more catchy. You're getting a feel for the condensed, drama you need to grab someone's attention.
     
  11. 123456789

    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2012
    Messages:
    6,601
    Likes Received:
    3,264
    I'm no editor, but the writing skill displayed in this query does not give me much confidence in the writing of the actual story. The first sentence is very poorly structured, even if we added in what I'm assuming is a missing word after "father." Aside from some awkward and or basic sentence structures, the thing in it's entirely lacks (to me) a strong voice.
     
  12. jannert

    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    8,157
    Likes Received:
    7,693
    Location:
    Scotland
    If Jason is your POV character, I'd start with him. Forget all the worldbuilding stuff. What is Jason's immediate problem that he needs to solve? What will happen to him if he doesn't solve it? What is the jeopardy here? Inject a bit of his personality into the mix, if you can. Make the reader identify with his situation.

    You've written this more as if it's a synopsis. That's not what you need for a query letter.

    I'd advise you to trek to a bookstore and read the back cover blurbs on the books in your genre. Nothing else will give you a better idea of what tone to take here. A query letter is almost exactly like a back-cover blurb. It's what induces the reader (or potential agent) to open the book. It's like a movie trailer. It's got to generate excitement and interest, not give background information.
     
    Last edited: Dec 2, 2016
  13. BayView

    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2014
    Messages:
    6,247
    Likes Received:
    5,751
    I feel like it's still a bit too plot/setting focused, telling me more than I need to know about some aspects, and less than I need about other parts (like why Jason assumes he's next when his father murders his uncle).

    I'm terrible at queries, but for me it often helps to try to boil the book down to a line or two and then only add the details that are needed to answer the essential questions. Maybe that's where the trend for log lines came from?

    But if you were going to boil this down into a single line, would it be something like A young prince is the only one who can stop an intergalactic invasion? Or something else?
     
  14. matwoolf

    matwoolf Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 21, 2012
    Messages:
    2,526
    Likes Received:
    2,436
    Location:
    Brighton Heights
    Jason Prince and cargo pilot Jack Sparrow take off aboard a rocket ship into deepest space. Will they escape the clutches of evil corpocratic planet Rhime, or the hired assassins of the interstellar Conformoration? Join their crew, ride the pages of Doggiedude's Escape From Planet Accountant.
     
    jannert and 123456789 like this.
  15. EnginEsq

    EnginEsq Senior Member

    Joined:
    Oct 29, 2016
    Messages:
    176
    Likes Received:
    114
    In a galaxy ruled by greed and treachery, two young men who despise each other discover they're the only ones they can trust. As they flee the frying pan for the fire, only Jason's coveted talents and Sparrow's backstreet wisdom can save them and millions of others from a horrifying fate.

    Edit: changed "world dominated" to "galaxy ruled"
     
    jannert and matwoolf like this.
  16. doggiedude

    doggiedude Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Feb 15, 2016
    Messages:
    1,466
    Likes Received:
    1,261
    Location:
    Florida, USA, Earth, The Sol System
    I'm gonna bang my head on the keyboard a few thousand more times.
    Be back in a little while with another revision.
    On a happier note, yesterday I participated in #Pitmad on Twitter and got two responses. One from an agent & one from a small publisher (Dancing Lemur)
    So at least for those two, I should at least be granted the privilege of being placed on the top of the slush pile. :p


    This was my pitch
    Murder, stolen DNA & a crazed Emperor. Prince Jason crosses galaxies to keep the family’s psychic power from starting a war #Pitmad #SFF #YA
     
    jannert and 123456789 like this.
  17. doggiedude

    doggiedude Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Feb 15, 2016
    Messages:
    1,466
    Likes Received:
    1,261
    Location:
    Florida, USA, Earth, The Sol System
    One more time with feeling.


    I’m seeking representation for Shabin, an 82,000-word young adult novel set in the far future.

    The origins of the Mirre has been kept secret for hundreds of years. While the psychic ability is nothing so convenient as telepathy or brash like mind control, it does allow Prince Jason to manipulate people. The Shabin family has built a corporate owned planetary empire using the power.

    Seventeen-year-old Jason cares little for government oversight or business management. He’d much prefer to jump into his simulator and play games or use the Mirre to fondle the serving girls. He’d never been close to his unstable father, but when the Emperor murders Jason’s only friend, he runs.

    Leaving planet Rhime and his responsibilities behind, Jason’s journey quickly turns to disaster when someone steals a sample of his DNA. Besides granting the Shabin family the means to crush the competition in business, the uncertainty of exactly what the Mirre is has kept planet Rhime independent and unmolested by invaders.

    Prince Jason needs to step up and accept responsibility for his mistake. Chasing the thieves across galaxies, he uses the Mirre to track the culprits down. When his trail ends, he finds himself on a recently colonized planet in the process of invasion from a barbaric foreign government. If the Pegasus military develops an army of soldiers all capable of using the Mirre, billions will die in the ensuing wars.

    Shabin is written in the traditional young hero’s journey style with a quick pace of escalating events along with a side plot of falling in love. Fans of Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan saga should also enjoy this story.
     
  18. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2015
    Messages:
    4,656
    Likes Received:
    5,576
    Location:
    London, UK
    Obligatory caveat that I suck at queries etc etc

    The things I want to be interested in are:
    • The protagonist
    • The antagonist
    • The stakes
    • The goal
    So, your protagonist (described as a hero) sexually molests servants? And I'm meant to root for him and his romance after that? Reject! To be honest, if all the rest of the query was amazing, I would still reject for that. I don't want to spend 80k words with this dick unless he's the victim in a horror novel and I know for a fact he'll die horribly.

    The antagonist is either the Emporer or the thief invaders. Beyond that I know nothing about them, and because Jason is a sexual predator I don't care which of them wins the fight.

    The stakes are that billions of people in the galaxy might die. Counter-intuitively, smaller stakes (like one person's disgrace) are usually much more effective than global ones (billions of faceless people will die). I still don't really care whether Jason wins or loses.

    Jason's goal is to get the thieves so the secret of the Mirre isn't revealed (I think - this isn't too clear). You haven't really explained what the Mirre is (you've told me what it's NOT, but not what it is) so this doesn't mean anything to me and I'm still not rooting for Jason.

    I'd reject.
     
    doggiedude likes this.
  19. doggiedude

    doggiedude Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Feb 15, 2016
    Messages:
    1,466
    Likes Received:
    1,261
    Location:
    Florida, USA, Earth, The Sol System
    @Tenderiser I'm gonna send you an email asking for some more specific advice.
     
  20. big soft moose

    big soft moose Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Aug 1, 2016
    Messages:
    2,288
    Likes Received:
    1,667
    Location:
    Driving a tractuur in ciduur countree
    I'm not as bothered by his fondling of servant girls - so long as he grows up from being this shallow in the course of the story.

    However as its currently written you have him jumping in his simulator to do it ( I know what you meant , but that's not what you said)

    That aside it still feels quite waffly , which doesn't sell your abilities as a writer to me (note that i'm not saying your writing is anything of the sort, but based purely on this letter it could be concluded that it was

    I might be inclined to edit like this (with the proviso that I don't have a lot of experience with queries)

    "I’m seeking representation for Shabin, an 82,000-word young adult novel set far in the future.

    The Shabin family have a psychic power to manipulate people known as the Mirre, and have used it to build a corporate owned planetary empire. Their son Prince Jason cares little for his responsibilities preferring to use his powers for his own pleasure

    When his only friend is murdered by the unstable Emperor, Jason is forced to flee his home world, but his journey quickly turns to disaster when thieves steal a sample of his DNA, giving them the ability to create clones with the same psychic powers.

    Jason must pursue the thieves across galaxies, using his powers to track them down. Should he fail the Pegasus military will develop an army of soldiers capable of using the Mirre, and billions of innocents will die.

    Shabin is written in the traditional young hero’s journey style with a quick pace of escalating events. Fans of Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan saga will enjoy this story.
    "
     
    jannert and doggiedude like this.
  21. matwoolf

    matwoolf Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 21, 2012
    Messages:
    2,526
    Likes Received:
    2,436
    Location:
    Brighton Heights
    Yeah...he does...deal with it, granny.
     
    doggiedude likes this.
  22. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2015
    Messages:
    4,656
    Likes Received:
    5,576
    Location:
    London, UK
    In my day, young men were respectful to grannies :mad:

    Would you like a Werther's Original?
     
    doggiedude and matwoolf like this.
  23. doggiedude

    doggiedude Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Feb 15, 2016
    Messages:
    1,466
    Likes Received:
    1,261
    Location:
    Florida, USA, Earth, The Sol System
    Perhaps I didn't word that quite right. There's no molestation going on.
     
  24. big soft moose

    big soft moose Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Aug 1, 2016
    Messages:
    2,288
    Likes Received:
    1,667
    Location:
    Driving a tractuur in ciduur countree
    using psychic powers to fondle them without their consent pretty much amounts to sexual assault ... of course a young man in his position probably doesnt actually need psychic ability to seduce the servants
     
    BayView likes this.
  25. matwoolf

    matwoolf Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 21, 2012
    Messages:
    2,526
    Likes Received:
    2,436
    Location:
    Brighton Heights
    service the servants, ach..
     

Share This Page