1. Corbyn
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    Corbyn Lost in my own head Contributor

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    Query Letter draft

    Discussion in 'Publishing' started by Corbyn, Aug 22, 2016.

    Below I'm posting a copy of a query letter draft. I'm not actually going to submit this query letter to an agent. This was homework of a sort for an upcoming workshop on query letters. I've never written a query letter and we were given only minimal instruction to get something ready to critique for the workshop. I don't even have a finished WIP that might be anywhere near ready to query. But I decided to do it anyway. I'll be taking this before a group of seasoned writers, and some who've already been associated with the publishing industry in some way. I don't want to go into this workshop feeling like the noob that I am, and so I decided to do my work up then share it here. Any thoughts or comments are greatly appreciated as I have no idea what I'm doing.
    Edit/ I'm attaching a new mock up as a response to this thread.
    ---------------------------------------

    Dear Ms. Leuck,


    Recently in looking over Spencerhill Associates site it came to my attention that you are seeking new adult fantasy authors, and I would like to introduce you to my novel Tanglewood.


    Tanglewood is set in Texas in the year 2077 and follows Synder Acker, a woman who has lost her family, the one person she trusted, and nearly her sanity while trying to survive a viral outbreak that has decimated humanity. Having survived an attack at the hands of other humans in which she lost her only ally, Synder has given up hope and left the city. Along the way she meets Nat Bawgs and rescues him from a group of zombies. After they talk, Synder realizes there are far more survivors than she thought. Weary and about to run, she’s knocked unconscious and delivered to Tanglewood, by Bawgs and a group of his outriders.


    Untrusting of people, she plans to get out of town, while the getting is good. Before she can run, Synder is persuaded to stay, by the town doctor Matt Briar, and a young teenager named Al Kilpatrick. Al takes the stranger under her wing, showing her that not all people are bad they form a friendship. Along the way, Syn meets other town’s people she forms attachments too including Al’s older brother Oran and is forced to become a town member or leave the settlement.


    After a supply run goes horribly wrong, Al goes missing and unable to bear another loss, Synder offers to help look for the girl. She quickly finds out that not only does the settlement have its own dark secrets, but so does Matt Briar, who has been involved in illegal activities. With lives on the line, including Al’s Matt must be stopped at any cost.


    Tanglewood is a story about underdogs, and how humanity can persist in the darkest of places, none of which more dark than the human heart. It’s full of nonstop action, conflict, and unique characters that will leave readers turning page after page, wanting to know what happens next.


    Thank you for your time. I’ve enclosed the first five pages of Tanglewood as an attachment to this email, as per your website’s guidelines.


    Sincerely,
     
    Last edited: Aug 23, 2016
  2. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    You're a little comma happy, in general. Take a closer look at your sentence structure.

    A little wordy in general, too. Try to boil things down as much as possible. For example, your first paragraph could be rewritten as:

    Your website shows that you're looking for adult fantasy authors and I think you might be interested in my novel, Tanglewood.​

    And then the convention seems to be that you just dive into the summary without lines like Tanglewood is set in Texas. Try something like:

    It's Texas, 2077, and Snyder Ackerman has lost almost everything. The outbreak took her family, and the savage post-viral world took her only ally. Now she has escaped the city alone, only to find more trouble. etc.​

    And based on what I've reading, I'm not quite sure what your main story is. Stopping Matt? If so, I'd give a bit more attention to him, a bit less to the names and details of the other characters.

    And it's generally considered bad form to include the "readers turning page after page," stuff. Any author can say that--you need to show them you can do it.

    Good luck with this (I love post-apocalyptic stories!)
     
  3. Corbyn
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    Corbyn Lost in my own head Contributor

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    Part of the problem I'm having with this letter is that I've seen too many suggestions for what you should or should not do. I think a good bit of it is subjective as a result, and most of what I've seen reads more like a book blurb, so that's what I've tried to do with this version. Thanks in advance for all the help.
    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Dear Ms. Leuck,


    Your website show’s your accepting adult fantasy submissions, and I think you might be interested in my novel, Tanglewood. My novel is a 73,000-word dystopian fantasy that reads like The Walking Dead meets Firefly.


    Synder Acker is a survivor who’s learned there are worse things than zombies roaming the wastes of America. Like other survivors, she’s lost everything even her only ally, but there’s always been a line she wouldn’t cross. Every day she wakes up hell bent to leave the devastation of the city behind her even if it means abandoning her own humanity in the process.


    Before she can leave Synder is knocked out by a survivor who drags her into the last settlement in the area Tanglewood. Once there, she meets Matt Briar and begins to believe that maybe not all of humanity is as lost as she feels. When a young girl goes missing, the disappearance pits Synder against the one man she thought she could trust. Will she be able to save the girl, or will Tanglewood bury her along with the rest of its secrets?


    Tanglewood is a story about how humanity can persist in the darkest of places, none of which darker than the human heart. It should fit in well with the criteria mentioned on your site as it does feature a return to an older society structure, few scientific tools, and who doesn’t love a good zombie western?


    Thank you for your time. I’ve enclosed the first five pages of Tanglewood as an attachment to this email, as per your website’s guidelines.
     
  4. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    As usual, I'm trying to put myself in an agent's shoes to read this.

    Thoughts:
    • I wouldn't mention the word 'dystopian' unless this agent has specified it. Dystopian is a really hard sell right now. Maybe try 'post-apocalyptic' or just leave it as fantasy? Urban fantasy, maybe? I don't know the sub-genres well.
    • Then the genre stuff gets confused all over when you call it a western. Again, not a genre I know well, but I wouldn't get an inkling from your query that this book is a western.
    • I don't get any hint of Synder's personality, and I'd really like one. Same with Matt - why does she like him?
    • The zombies are mentioned in the first sentence and then never appear again. I imagine they play a bigger part in the novel?
    • I don't know what the central conflict is. Is it Synder trying to stay moral and human in a dystopian world? Is it her feelings for Matt vs her fear that he's a murderer? The two paragraphs of your query don't mesh, for me.
    I feel like I have a sense of your setting but not your characters or conflicts... and the setting is probably the least important of the three.

    P.S. You have my sympathies. Query hell is, well, hell.
     
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  5. Corbyn
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    Corbyn Lost in my own head Contributor

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    Yes, yes it is hell, and again it's soooo subjective and such a fine line that I'm having difficulties with it. So much so that it's hard to focus on just grammar because I feel like I'm leaving soo much out, but the stuff I've read doesn't really want a lot of character story, but more situation. It's very frustrating. so I've attached another go below. I'm not sure what else to do except rewrite until it's at least plausible.
    --------------------------------------------------------------

    Your website show’s you’re accepting adult fantasy submissions, and I think you might be interested in my novel, Tanglewood. It is a 73,000-word fantasy that could be described as a mashup of The Walking Dead meets Firefly.


    Synder Acker is a survivor who’s learned that sometimes her fellow survivors are far worse than the zombies that now populate America. After a brutal attack at the hands of humans and the death of her only ally, she is left to try to make her way out of the remnants of the city she once called home. Isolated she spends weeks meticulously working her way from the center of the city to the far outskirts, where few zombie packs roam, and fewer survivors ever make it out alive.


    Snyder’s meets Nate Bawgs along the way and is taken to a survivor settlement. There she is given sanctuary for seven days, but with an attack on the settlement, Nate Bawgs death, and the loss of precious supplies Synder’s loyalty is put to question. After one of her new friends go missing; she begins to look harder at the town doctor— Matt Briar, and outriders for answers. The secrets she finds in the settlement will leave Synder questioning her sanity, and what little of humanity remains in the world.


    Tanglewood is a story about how humanity can persist in the darkest of places, none of which is darker than the human heart. It should fit in well with the criteria mentioned on your site as it does feature a return to an older society structure, few scientific tools or transportation, and who doesn’t love a good zombie story?


    Thank you for your time. I’ve enclosed the first five pages of Tanglewood as an attachment to this email, as per your website’s guidelines.
     
  6. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Okay, some of the content may be subjective, but the grammar really isn't. @Tenderiser showed you how to fix that first sentence - you need to get it under control. It poisons my impression of the whole rest of the query.

    And, on second reading, I don't really think a genre being listed on a website is unique enough to deserve top billing in a query letter. I'd go with a simple:

    I'm seeking representation for my 75 ooo work fantasy novel, Tanglewood.​

    And then for your second last paragraph - do the criteria on the site actually include "a return to an older society structure" and "few scientific tools or transportation"? That's a really specific subset of fiction. If the criteria are really there, I'd consider bumping that up to your first paragraph in place of the Firefly stuff.

    For my taste, the "who doesn't love a good zombie story" is kind of asking for trouble (ie. a response of "me"), and it doesn't really seem to fit your query, since you seem to be downplaying the risk of the zombies and focusing on the human threat.
     
  7. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Hmm... I'm still not getting a feel for the core conflict--what the story is actually about. She's only allowed to stay in the sanctuary for a week anyway, so doesn't she have bigger worries on her mind than the weird things going on there? Like, isn't she more preoccupied with how she'll survive once she's thrown out?

    How far into the novel is it before she arrives at Tanglewood?
     
  8. Corbyn
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    Corbyn Lost in my own head Contributor

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    @BayView
    I did take Tenderiser's suggestion on that first sentence, if it's still that big of a problem for you as a reader then I need to gut it and go with a different approach if the first sentence is that bothersome nobody is going to want to or will read through the rest of it.

    @ Tenderiser My mc arrives in Tanglewood early in the story. She's given sanctuary and offered the chance to stay if she wants it. She does decide to stay and in the process makes more friends there, but when one of them dies and another goes missing, she realizes she's uniquely able to help aid in the search due to the time she spent in the town. During the course of the search, she uncovers a plot not only to horde supplies and power to barter with other survivors but someone in the town has been using the settlement for human experimentation.

    *This probably would've been so much easier for me had I picked any other WIP to do it on!
     
  9. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Why is there still an apostrophe on "show's"?
     
  10. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Well, there's your hook! I mean for me, anyway... I don't read fantasy, so take with a big pinch of salt. But damn, that sentence would make me want to read your book.
     
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  11. Corbyn
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    Corbyn Lost in my own head Contributor

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    No, you're right. It is, everything else is just filler.
     
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  12. Corbyn
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    Corbyn Lost in my own head Contributor

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    Not sure if I just missed it, or if it's from the copy and paste out of grammarly archive, but it's not in my word file. Double checked it just incase. Thanks for pointing it out.
     
    Last edited: Aug 24, 2016

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