1. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Contributor

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    Query Letter Query letter - losing the will to live

    Discussion in 'Query & Cover Letter Critique' started by Tenderiser, Jan 21, 2016.

    Help!

    I've changed the character names so it's not searchable.

    Dear Anne A Gent

    After twelve years of avoiding physical contact, Jane Doe finally wants someone to touch her – and he’s determined to stay out of reach.

    John Stag is honest about being a liar. He’s open that he has a Big Bad Secret, and if he revealed it she’d want nothing to do with him. But she can’t help trusting him, enough to overcome the fear that’s crippled her dreams since she was a child.

    John is determined to stay away, and Jane is determined not to let his secrets scupper her one and only chance at love. Neither of them will give in, until John’s worst nightmares come true - his explosive secret detonates, and Jane is caught in the blast. Now that she’s had fingers burned, will she ever want to touch him again?

    GREAT TITLE is a 90,000 word, dual-perspective contemporary romance.

    Any feedback is welcome. My aim was to give a good feel for the stakes and conflict - at least, as good a feel as you can get in 200 words.
     
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  2. psychotick
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    psychotick Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hi,

    My thought is that it's good but you could zing the language a little more like a blurb.

    So:

    "After twelve years of avoiding physical contact, Jane Doe finally wants someone to touch her – unfortunately he’s determined not to be touched."

    And the "big bad" secret strikes me as a little melodramatic. So:

    "He’s open that he has a dark secret, and if she learned it she’d run."

    Then on to:

    "But what does she do when he's the only man she's ever wanted enough to overcome the crippling fear that’s haunted her since she was a child?"

    Then:

    "Neither of them will give in, until John’s worst nightmares come true - his secret explodes, and Jane is caught in the blast."

    Just some thoughts.

    Cheers, Greg.
     
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  3. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Contributor

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    Thanks, Greg. I had versions with much more 'voice' but I was afraid they came off as trying too hard.
     
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  4. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    It feels a bit vague to me - I mean, I've got a heroine who doesn't want to be touched and a hero with a big secret, but I have no idea what either of those things is. I get that you don't want to give TOO much away, but I feel like an agent would need more than this to get a rough idea of what the story's actually about.

    And the metaphors feel a little mixed to me - like, the fear has crippled her dreams - well, the fear has crippled her, maybe, more than her dreams? And then if all that happens to Jane is that her fingers get burned, was his secret really that explosive? Could it be "now that she's been damaged by the blast" or "burned" or "caught in the fallout" or anything that's a bit more dramatic than burned fingers?
     
  5. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Contributor

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    I had one with a few more details which, dammit, I don't seem to have saved. It was something like:

    Dear Anne A Gent

    After twelve years of avoiding physical contact, Jane Doe finally wants someone to touch her – and he’s determined to stay out of reach.

    John Stag seems to be the total package: funny, kind, intelligent. So why does he live off microwave meals-for-one? Where did he get those strange scars? Why does he seem to have a personality transplant during every business trip? And why, when he's the only one she can touch, won't he just let them be together?

    John is determined to stay away, and Jane is determined not to let his secrets scupper her one and only chance at love. Neither of them will give in, until John’s worst nightmares come true - his explosive secret detonates, and Jane is caught in the blast. Now that she’s had fingers burned, will she ever want to touch him again?

    GREAT TITLE is a 90,000 word, dual-perspective contemporary romance.

    But meh. I don't like ANY of my approximately 10 million versions. Any detail I pick out either seems to raise more questions, or needs too much context/explanation to mean anything. Man, summarising is hard.
     
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  6. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    It feels like it's a romantic suspense... is it?

    If it's a straight up contemporary, maybe dial down the suspense elements. But if it's a suspense, I'd dial them up!

    Maybe a few more specific scenes from the book - Jane thinks John is perfect until she comes over unexpectedly and...X?

    I don't know - you're right - summarizing is from hell.
     
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  7. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Contributor

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    Nope! This is another of my problems - reflecting the tone of the book in a few short paragraphs. There are suspense elements but it certainly doesn't fit the suspense formula, and if people picked it up expecting a lot of action they would be disappointed. For the betas who've read it all, their first adjective for it is "funny", though there are some scenes that are suspenseful.

    The ones where I tried for funny were just cringey. I would read it and think "this author is trying too hard, and they aren't funny at all." This is a draft-y one:

    When a six-foot-five colleague bats a cricket ball into Jane’s side, she’s more afraid of going to hospital than getting a rib lodged into a kidney (which, to be fair, she isn’t sure is possible). Doctors mean examinations, and examinations mean being touched, and being touched makes her skin burn like angry fire ants are burrowing into her bones.

    The giant with the cricket bat, John Stag, is so annoyingly persist that she gives in and allows him to take her to hospital. Despite this unreasonable behaviour, she can’t wait to see him again – especially since, as a director in the firm, he might be her ticket to a new career away from her creep of a boss.

    As they get to know each other over low-budget monster movies and Lebanese food, Jane gets more than a job reference - she’s falling for him. Hard enough that she’s overcoming her fears and discovering just how pleasurable touch can be. But it’s John who’s really determined to stay out of reach, refusing to divulge the Big Bad Secret that forces him to be alone.
     
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  8. BookLover
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    I didn't like the first sentence because I felt like "someone" was too vague. I interpreted someone to be anyone, and that makes the part after the dash nonsensical. "Jane Doe wants someone (anyone) to touch her - and he's determined to stay out of reach." Wait, who's determined to stay out of reach? It confused me right out of the gate. Maybe try something like "After twelve years of avoiding physical contact, Jane Doe has finally found a man she wants to be touched by, but that man's determined to stay out of reach." I don't know. Something like that.

    I like the one you posted above better. At least it tells me a little bit about the story.
     
  9. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    This one 'feels' better to me, not that I know anything about query letters.

    Aren't we supposed to give away the ending in these things, though? I read that somewhere, but for all I know, it was wrong.
     
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  10. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Contributor

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    That's the synopsis, which is causing me a whole other heartache. :D

    So far, it's looking like a 'voicier' one might serve me better.
     
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  11. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    Someone posted a link (on this forum somewhere) to a site with a bunch of query letter examples. Have you compared what you have to those? Wish I could be of more help in finding it (I thought I'd saved the link, but can't find it).
     
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  12. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Contributor

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    I've read hundreds of them, but there doesn't seem to be any defining characteristics or formula that makes a good query.

    I just want something that makes them want to read the first three chapters. I think what people will like about my story, if they read it, is the humour and voice. But how to get that into 200 words...?
     
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  13. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    Ah! Humour. Yeah, I have that problem, too.

    After reading as many contemporary humour novels as I could find (Asprin, Scalzi, Moore, etc.) as well as that grand master, Twain, I've come to the conclusion that humour isn't so much the gag-a-minute I originally thought it was. It's more like: a story with funny bits, but the rest of the time, it's a normal novel.

    With that in mind, I think you've put across that it's humourous in much the same way as those novels I mentioned above... funny bits, but pretty much a normal story otherwise. That should (IMHO) be enough to get that point across so the agent will read your synopsis.

    But, like my sig says, I'm not a published author, so don't take anything I say as authoritarian. :)
     
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2016
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  14. LinnyV
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    LinnyV Contributing Member

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    I haven't read much of the comments above but this is a romance @Tenderiser and the first version, you're not catching me. The second version, I'm not interested. But if either were a blurb of a novel, I would not pick it up. Don't hit me!

    In either case, I didn't want to know more about John Stag and I think that's the problem for me. When I read a romance, I need to be interested in the hero before I buy.

    Maybe stronger and more direct language? You have "John Stag is honest about being a liar". I would have gone with "John Stag is a liar".

    I've no experience with query letters so ignore me.
     
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  15. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Contributor

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    Duh, I'm so stupid. Of course I need to give a hint of the protagonists' personalities. *hits herself*

    I asked the two finished beta readers what they would pick out as the book's USP, or what they would say if they were trying to convince a friend to read it. So now, I've come up with version 1,000,001:

    Dear Anne A Gent

    After twelve years of avoiding physical contact, Jane Doe finally wants someone to touch her – and he’s determined to stay out of reach.

    Jane can’t escape her dead-end job when her creep of a boss gives her the kind of reference a banana factory would give a monkey. When she meets company director John Stag at a cricket match, he may be her ticket to freedom – he definitely owes her a favour, having just ploughed a cricket ball into her ribs at 90 miles an hour.

    Since the death of his father eight years ago, John has avoided relationships and he’s even estranged from his twin sister. But in his guilt, he can’t refuse to keep Jane company while she recovers from her broken ribs. It’s not like anything can happen: she’s literally untouchable.

    Jane, smitten by his dry wit and calming self-assurance, is overcoming the fear of a lifetime. When they give in to the mounting tension and kiss, John is furious at losing control and tells her the truth – they can’t be together because he’s a liar with a secret that could destroy both their lives.

    John is determined to stay away, and Jane is determined not to let his secrets scupper her one and only chance at love. Neither of them will give in, until John’s worst nightmares come true - his explosive secret detonates, and Jane is caught in the blast. Now that she’s been burned, will she ever want to touch him again?
     
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  16. dedebird
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    wow I read that last one you posted first before I read the others and WOW it's almost like a completely different story! The last one you posted made me want to read it, I would buy that book. The other ones are just the tiniest bit boring, but the last one is great!
     
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  17. LinnyV
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    LinnyV Contributing Member

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    I'm sure it's me @Tenderiser, but your last one is more informative but not necessarily better. It's a bit "wordy" for what it's trying to tell me... Do I really need to know some of the stuff you're telling me? eg. "creep of a boss gives her the kind of reference a banana factory would give a monkey"

    Not getting the stakes and conflict other than some vague reference that John Stag has a secret that doesn't capture my interest, made worst by the fact that it's related to an estranged sibling, but I am beginning to understand your frustration.

    Again, ignore me...I can't help myself sometimes.

    Also, I'm not saying you need to tell us what John Stag's secret is but it's everything around it that should add weight that he has got a secret worth knowing about. Not sure I make any sense really but just trying to help!
     
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2016
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  18. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Contributor

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    The stakes for her is that this is her only chance at love, because he's the only one she isn't afraid to be intimate with. He's also her best chance to get away from her boss bullying her. The stakes for him are that this secret can destroy his life, and everybody's who's close to him. The conflict is that she's determined to have him and he's determined not to be had. I don't know if I'm failing to get that across, or if I am but they're just not stakey-enough?
     
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  19. LinnyV
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    LinnyV Contributing Member

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    I'm not needing you to explain to me what the stake and conflicts are because I understand that. What I am trying to say is I'm not feeling stakes and conflict. It's not presented in a way that is compelling to me...
     
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2016
  20. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Contributor

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    Sorry, I didn't mean to be patronising, I just wasn't sure where I was going wrong! I'm now sure I'd rather write another novel than have to do a query.
     
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  21. LinnyV
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    LinnyV Contributing Member

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    It's just my opinion and I'm treating your query letter the way I am treating a cover letter where I want the potential employer to want to read my résumé. I actually have no idea what a query letter entails and there are published authors here that will hopefully assist.

    I would hope this would be the fun bit after all the hard work... So don't be disheartened, I only thought to comment because your subject mentioned 'losing the will to live'. Seems, I'm not helping at all. :-(

    For what it's worth, I threw together something as far as what I kind of had in mind so do not take it literally. Please keep in mind I am making stuff up and I have not read your story yet. I don't normally attempt to re-write other people's stuff but thought this might be helpful, or not, since you seem to be struggling in your current rut. It is also just a query letter and not your actual story, so hopefully it's ok to do so. Just treating this as a cover letter someone asked for help on and I have a habit of re-jigging people's cover letters in the past. ;-)

    Dear Anne A Gent

    Jane is untouchable. For twelve years she has lived her life avoiding physical contact and is burdened by her anxieties. Working in a dead-end job, her greatest daily challenge is that of avoiding her sleazy supervisor.

    It takes a nasty comment and a cricket ball slamming in her ribs at 90 miles an hour to change her course and bring her into contact with the charismatic company director, John Stag.

    The attraction is instant. Forced together during Jane's recuperation, they fight their growing need for intimacy, which tests Jane's fears and brings forth the dangers of John's secret past.

    Neither of them will give in, until John’s worst nightmares come true - his explosive secret detonates, his lies unravel and Jane is caught in the blast.

    Now that she’s been burned, will she ever want to touch him again?
     
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2016
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  22. Mckk
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    This one sounds more interesting, I think :) This one jogged my memory that I've read your synopsis of this book, whereas the other queries you posted on the same book didn't. Which tells me this one is probably better!
     
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  23. Viridian
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    Viridian Contributing Member Supporter

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    Hi @Tenderiser. I've read through them all and have to agree that none really stand out, and some do sound too wordy. BUT, what you wrote above, trying to explain whats going in, IS catching, this would grab my attention. If you could somehow rewrite this as your query I think it would work much better.
     
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  24. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Contributor

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    I'm so lost. I just don't know where I'm going wrong. Language too plain, language too much? Too much detail, not enough? Too melodramatic, too boring?

    I really don't know what to do. If I could pay someone to write this for me, I would. And I'm a tightwad. :D
     
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  25. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Queries suck, no doubt about it.

    You can try sending it out to a few agents, maybe not your top picks, and see if you get any response. If you don't, then keep working on it. If you do, then... yay!

    Also, maybe remember that the query doesn't actually have to accurately represent your story. I mean, it shouldn't be totally different, but the main goal is to get the agent to want to read your work. So it might help to think of it more as advertising copy rather than story summary? Does that make any sort of sense?
     
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