1. Bocere
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    Bocere Member

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    Query Letter Query letter, current state: meh

    Discussion in 'Query & Cover Letter Critique' started by Bocere, Oct 8, 2015.

    Hello all!

    I have been querying agents for the past few weeks and I have gotten no love. Like seriously, zip. Lots of form letter rejections, no requests for material, etc. etc.

    So I went back to the drawing board, read a lot of query critiques in here and on blogs and took another stab at it. Since there are a painfully finite number of agents in this world (and an even more finite number that represent my genre) I definitely want to make sure I'm putting my best foot forward this time.

    NOTE: The story is multi-viewpoint, but for the sake of brevity and clarity I have focused the query only on the most prominent MC. Not sure if this needs to be changed?



    Dear (Insert Mr./Ms. Agent Name)

    For the past five hundred years the land of Feardswic has been far too quiet. Once mortal enemies, the Eastern and Western Realms live side-by-side in harmony, but in this age of peace they have become complacent… and vulnerable. When a ruthless Queen and her mysterious army seize control of the East with ease, both Realms find themselves forced into war once again.

    Shaped by this increasingly chaotic and distrustful world is Radella, a roguish Seeker with a dark past and a darker secret. She possesses the Sight, the feared power of the Shadow Goddess – an association that makes her mere existence a crime punishable by death. In the wake of the Queen's invasion, Radella is hired by the all-powerful Council of Matriarchs to find an ancient and powerful relic they believe the Queen desires. The last hope for the end of her tyrannical reign and the return of normalcy to Feardswic lies in the relic's destruction, but Radella has other ideas. Deep-rooted injustices have festered in silence beneath Feardswic’s once-tranquil exterior for centuries and she has no intention of allowing that to continue. Armed with a sharp tongue, sharper daggers and, of course, her greatest secret Radella may just have the means to change the fate of Feardswic forever, and she refuses to miss her chance.

    This epic fantasy novel, titled SHADOWSIGHT: THE SEEKER, is the first installment of a four book series following Radella’s quest to bring her idea of justice to Feardswic no matter the cost. The completed work stands at just over 77,000 words.

    (Insert personalized information about why I am querying this particular agent)

    I sincerely thank you for your time and consideration and look forward to hearing from you.


    Thank you guys so much for taking the time out to read this bad boy! Please be as brutal as you need to be, I'm sure still needs some work! :)
     
  2. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Bearing in mind I've never queried an agent and have probably read the same advice articles as you, what jumped out at me is it's quite wordy. There's a lot of detail that doesn't mean a lot out of context. You want to tell them enough for them to get a gist for your story but leave enough mystery for them to want to request more material. Suggestions below:

    I don't get much of a sense of tone from this. Is it dark or humorous, for example?
     
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  3. Bocere
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    Bocere Member

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    It never occurred to me to leave her secret as a secret in the Query Letter...but the more I think about it the more sense that makes haha. Especially since it is difficult to explain both the power and its implications without getting clunky in such a short-winded format as this.. why not leave that as a tantalizing mystery?

    The story is quite dark, so I have been struggling to get the tone into the query. Most of the example queries I read where the heading was emblazoned with "OUTSTANDING TONE" were more humorous in nature, so I have had a lot of difficulty with tone. If anyone knows of a good example they can point me in the direction of that would be wonderful!
     
  4. rainy_summerday
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    rainy_summerday Active Member

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    No offense, but from my days as an editor, I must say that I probably would feel as if somebody was trolling me had I received such a letter. I don't know how things are done where you live - it might be different. But where I come from, it's bad form to start in the middle of things. Introduce your project in a short paragraph, then give a summary of the crucial details. It's quite a bother when you have to re-read a letter/mail from the very beginning, because the details you NEED to know first are at the bottom of the page.

    1. Address
    2. State your request and offer general information that the agent/editor needs to know (working title, length, genre(s), also specific elements)
    3. Short content outline
    4. Personal background and reason why you applied to this agent/publisher (the latter is optional. It makes your request more round, but everybody knows that the reason why you applied is not because you are deeply infatuated with this agent's/publisher's work, but because you send out lots and lots of requests, and this is one of them)

    This is more professional, and it makes the agent/editor happier. Quid pro quo. Make the work easy for the agent/editor, then they will be in a better mood to consider your query.
     
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  5. Bocere
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    Bocere Member

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    See, it's funny you say this! Because that was how I initially had mine, with a little intro, then a little info about why I wanted to query this agent, and then my little mini summary, but I saw so many "successful examples" that just jumped right in that I was like, "hmm, maybe I should try that!"

    I initially had the essence of my third paragraph in this posted example first:

    "I am currently seeking representation for a 77,000 word epic fantasy novel titled SHADOWSIGHT: THE SEEKER..." etc. etc. - would you recommend returning to this format, then? I'm definitely not opposed to that in any way shape or form.
     
  6. Bocere
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    Bocere Member

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    Alright friends, let's try this on for size! :p slightly adjusted rewrite here - hopefully less "troll-y," since that is horrifically far from what I'm going for haha.


    Dear (Insert Mr./Ms. Agent Name)

    I am currently seeking representation for my epic fantasy novel, SHADOWSIGHT: THE SEEKER. The work stands complete at 77,000 words and is the first in a four-book series following a shrewd runaway named Radella on her quest to bring justice to the troubled land of Feardswic.

    For the past five hundred years Feardswic has been far too quiet. Once mortal enemies, the Eastern and Western Realms live side-by-side in harmony, but in this age of peace they have become complacent… and vulnerable. When a ruthless Queen and her mysterious army seize control of the East with ease, both Realms find themselves forced into war once again.

    Shaped by this increasingly chaotic and distrustful world is Radella, a roguish loner with a dark past and a darker secret. To scrape a living in the criminal underworld of the West’s capitol she works as a Seeker, finding and selling illicit materials to the more dubious citizens of the Realm. In the wake of the Queen's invasion, Radella is hired to find an ancient and powerful relic - the last hope for the end of her tyrannical reign and the return of normalcy to Feardswic… but Radella has other ideas. Armed with a sharp tongue, sharper daggers and, of course, her greatest secret Radella may just have the means to change the fate of Feardswic forever, and she refuses to miss her chance.

    (Insert personalized info about why I am querying this agent)

    I sincerely thank you for your time and consideration and look forward to hearing from you.

    What do we think? Step in the right direction maybe?
     
  7. rainy_summerday
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    rainy_summerday Active Member

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    I see. Well, it is certainly one way to grab the agent's attention. But I wonder if the risk of it backfiring isn't greater than the possible gain. It is very boring to read twenty or thirty letters all structured the same and asking for your support. It is repetitive. But if a letter is chaotic, and you have trouble understanding what the novel is about, it is very annoying. The "normal" approach is easier to deal with. That's my opinion. The agent in question might disagree :)

    One more thing:
    Don't go for the series from the start. Although you can mention that the novel holds the possibility of expanding it into a series. Right now, taking you on is a gamble since you are not a well-known author yet. It's important that your story could stand alone, otherwise it will be very hard to find a publisher. Agents know that, too.

    I think your latest attempt is much improved in comparison to the first one.
     
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  8. Bocere
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    Bocere Member

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    I'm going the "normal" route on everything query-related if possible - not looking to take a risk like that with my life's dream haha. I'm glad this one reads better - I honestly liked this format a lot better too, I just have no experience in this, no resources to ask outside of this forum, and wasn't sure what the norms were.

    The issue of the series is definitely one I am painfully aware of, but unfortunately it is a bit inescapable in my story, as the first book is not able to stand alone - the plot does not conclude at its end. I began the story intending for it to be one book, but quickly realized there was way too much there for one book, so I divided it up. I know I'm asking a lot either way, but I figure I might have a better chance pitching four 70k word books as a series than I would pitching one 250k+ book as a stand-alone haha. A bit of a lose-lose on my end, but hopefully someone's willing to roll the dice with me.
     
  9. Aerisfullofwhimsy
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    Aerisfullofwhimsy Member

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    I like your second attempt of the query letter better. However, I want to second rainy-summerday and agree that pitching it as a series might scare some off. But you do what you want because you may get someone who is looking for a series. BTW, your story sounds really interesting and fun too.
     
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  10. Bocere
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    Bocere Member

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    Thank you! Hopefully it ends up going somewhere haha

    After some serious thought today I have decided to take a break from querying and try to rework the entire story so the first book could stand alone if need be. It suddenly hit me today how I could do that, which will take a billion years of editing, but I'm excited to try. I know it will increase my marketability if it's a stand alone with room to grow instead of a series that's locked into being a series.
     
  11. Aerisfullofwhimsy
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    Aerisfullofwhimsy Member

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    Are you sure you want to do that? Just make sure you don't over edit it or change it, to fit our suggestions. Have you posted any of this story in the workshop yet? Just curious.
     
  12. Bocere
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    Bocere Member

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    I haven't yet - still a newbie here haha but yeah I'm pretty sure - I've been wrestling a lot with editing the second book, which is weird because I usually love editing, and a few days ago I discovered that I think one of my main characters is actually unnecessary. SO, if I cut them and essentially cut the second book how it stands it opens up a new option for the ending of book 1. In my mind it will always be a series (and regardless of what happens in publishing I will write the whole darn thing), but if it absolutely had to go that way with this new ending I have in mind book one COULD stand alone.

    Besides, if I really hate my edits I can always go back to the original way :) I always save multiple versions of my books juuuuust in case haha
     
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  13. Aerisfullofwhimsy
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    Aerisfullofwhimsy Member

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    Oh, okay. I'm a newbie too, I just don't want to give advice that could possibly mess up someone's work. Good idea saving multiple copies, in different drafts (why do I never do that?)
     
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  14. Bocere
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    Bocere Member

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    No worries! If I disagreed with your comments I'd stand a little stronger, but at the core of it I know you guys are right :) Time to shake things up a little bit!

    And yeah, with the drafts, I did it on accident once while moving a flash drive back and forth between multiple computers and I've never gone back haha. Any major decision or change that I make splits off in different drafts like mini parallel universes of my book.
     
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  15. Aerisfullofwhimsy
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    Aerisfullofwhimsy Member

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    You're lucky, I never have happy accidents, just badly mixed drinks or children. Good luck with the reworking of your story, I bet it will be interesting and fun for you :)
     
    Last edited: Oct 9, 2015
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  16. rainy_summerday
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    rainy_summerday Active Member

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    Good luck with your editing! It can be tough, but it will be much easier to pitch it that way. But I also think you are right to save the earlier draft. There is no guarantee that this will work. There never is.
     
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  17. Jackie B
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    Jackie B New Member

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    I am no expert, just someone struggling with my own query.
     
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  18. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    One thought: It seems to me that your second paragraph is saying approximately the same thing several times.

    (1) far too quiet.
    (2) side-by-side in harmony
    (3) age of peace
    (4) complacent

    I realize that there are different nuances, but all the same, with the very small amount of space that you have, it may be better to compress the message.

    Similarly, war is mentioned a couple of times.

    I also feel that there are a few too many adjectives, some of which don't earn their keep, and some of which do but which form a possibly problematic pattern. I'm not saying that they all need to go--some of them can't go without a complete rewrite of their section--but I think that some consideration is called for. The adjectives that make me say "hmm" are

    chaotic, distrustful
    roguish
    dark, darker
    ancient
    powerful
    tyrannical
    sharp, sharper
    greatest

    Purely as an example, I think that the use of "dark" and "darker" makes the use of "sharp" and "sharper" problematic. A possible rewrite of that could be

    Armed with her profession, her daggers, and a sharp tongue, Radella...

    This doesn't work yet--"profession" doesn't tie back to the Seeker talent clearly enough, but it's just a quickly-assembled example. I'm NOT saying that adjectives are bad, I'm just saying that the pattern of "adjective noun" and "adjective and adjective noun" feels a little too pronounced.
     
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  19. ADreamer
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    ADreamer Banned Sock-Puppet

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    Step 1 - get rid of that intro. Goodness me, so clichéd any publisher worth his or her salt would toss this the moment they open the cover. That sort of theme has been beaten to death to such extent it no longer resembles a "horse".

    ...

    In fact, I was going to do pointers, but rereading this a few times all I can say is rework the entire thing. It smacks of overworked [and often poorly used] themes. Unless you have some sort of a rep to your name 90% of publishers are not going to care for such a clichéd storyline and as such a clichéd book. Your book may not be clichéd but publishers want something to jump out at them, they don't want to waste their time skimming through a book to see if it is worth publishing. If you can't nab their attention in the first two or three paragraphs, it won't work.

    Five hundred years ago peace finally came to the land of Feardswic. After centuries of fighting the Eastern and Western Realms had laid aside their differences, seeking to prosper in a time of peace. Trade flourished. New discoveries were made. The people were happy, content and ... vulnerable.

    To the north of ++_, capital of the Western/Eastern realms, Radella struggles to make do. Born to a family of Seekers she is different even amongst her fellows. An outcast amongst the outcasts of society. Unwanted and undesired she carries with her a dark past, and an even darker secret.

    But now war has come once again to the land of Feardswic. Lead by Queen ++_, and her terrifying Knights, the East/West army is as unstoppable as they are merciless. This is a time that even the rogues can find work.

    Hired by the Council of Matriarchs Radella learns of a powerful relic that may just bring a stop to the madness. Or will it? All is not what it seems to be. Torn between duty and a quest for vengeance Radella will uncover something that will change Feardswic forever.


    And onwards. I'd rewrite further but I am merely adding without knowing your storyline.

    Or

    Five hundred years ago peace finally came to the land of Feardswic. After centuries of fighting the Eastern and Western Realms had laid aside their differences, seeking to prosper in a time of peace. Trade flourished. New discoveries were made. The people were happy, content and ... vulnerable. For lurking under the serene quiet, a darkness / evil / something was festering.

    It was a darkness that Radella's father / mother / uncle had warned her about. It was this darkness that father/mother/uncle had died to protect her from - this is still clichéd, but without knowing the story it's the best I can offer. Born in the village of ++, to a family of Seekers, she was, after all, different even amongst her fellows. An outcast amongst the outcasts of society. Unwanted and undesired she carries with her a dark past, and an even darker secret.

    But now things have changed. War has come once again with Feardswic. Lead by Queen ++_, the armies of East/West march tirelessly onwards. Here even the rogues can find work. Hired by the Council of Matriarchs Radella learns of a powerful relic that may just bring a stop to the madness. Or will it? All is not what it seems to be. Torn between duty and a quest for vengeance Radella will uncover something that will change Feardswic forever.



    This is an okay example of a good query letter. Not the best but you can definitely use it for pointers.
    http://www.writersdigest.com/online-editor/how-to-write-the-perfect-query-letter
     
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2015
  20. Bocere
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    Bocere Member

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    I thank you all for your feedback and will keep it in mind when I go back to querying. As stated above I am completely reworking my entire story though, so I apologize that the query as it stands will no longer be even remotely relevant when I complete my edits. Sorry if I've wasted anyone's time with this, I'm still extremely new to this whole process and just trying to figure it out. I'm fully aware that the above sucks at this point and part of the reason was flaws in the story itself.
     
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  21. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    I'm not skilled in query letters yet so I'll refrain from general comments there. But unless this is a tongue in cheek story, in my opinion I suggest you change the name, Feardswic.

    The image it conjures up in my mind is of a comical realm. Images are critical in a query letter (and in our stories) because the recipient reads the letter before seeing a sample of your writing.
     

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