1. Quan Williams

    Quan Williams New Member

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    High Fantasy Query letter

    Discussion in 'Query & Cover Letter Critique' started by Quan Williams, Oct 19, 2021.

    Hey all, can you let me know if this query letter is compelling, and if not, what I can do to make it better? thanks.

    Hello!

    I found you through MSWishlist, and saw you were looking for a High Fantasy story featuring BIPOC. That is actually a perfect fit for my 111, 714 word story Return of the Tyrant, where a berzerker hero, a runaway princess, a deposed tyrant and a fallen knight trek through a war-torn countryside to stop a rampaging death cult. Many of the central characters are based on Latin, Arab and African cultures.

    A year has passed since Princess Aleka and her berzerker champion Zion deposed the mad tyrant Vladimir. She lives a quiet life with Zion on his farm, far away from the burdens and responsibilities of being the sole heir to the throne. One day she must return and fulfill her duties to her people, but she’ll put that off for as long as she can.

    That all changes when Vladimir reappears, not seeking vengeance but instead begging for help. Vladimir has had visions of an eldritch world-consuming horror. His resources are too depleted to deal with such a threat alone, so he is seeking the strongest warriors he knows to help. That would be Zion and Aleka. Vladimir wants to rule the world, not see it destroyed.

    They are joined by errant knight Amin and young hunter Cora, both looking to rescue loved ones from a growing death cult that worships this horror and are seeking ways to summon it.

    They need reinforcements, but Aleka would rather appeal to Amin’s legion of knights for help than go home and ask her mother. This means a trek through a ravaged, war-torn countryside, full of ruins of lost civilizations and relics of extinct species. They will cross paths with the last of the fearsome Glarnox beasts, and the corpse-filled ruins of the Numaal mountain pass. They will fight to save the subterranean Cratogs from extinction at the hands of the cult, and must solve the mystery of what happened at the legendary battle of five legions to escape a watery tomb. And then they must do battle with a demidemon in her enchanted forest to gain passage to Amin’s headquarters…where they must warn his fellow knights of an impending assault by the cult.

    I am an African-American writer, and I have already had four novels published. I wrote and illustrated a webcomic for three years, and I was an entertainment journalist for the Michigan Daily Newspaper. I studied creative writing under the tutelage of Jonis Agee (Strange Angels, South of Resurrection) and Tish O’Dowd (Floaters). I also maintain a weekly writing advice blog.

    The first few pages and a complete synopsis is available upon request. I thank you for your time and look forward to your response.
     
  2. Friedrich Kugelschreiber

    Friedrich Kugelschreiber epic gamer Contributor

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    this looks pretty great, would definitely read

    BIPOC people? Not sure how that word operates; does it function as a noun?

    Might just do a colon or an m-dash

    so he is seeking the strongest warriors he knows to help: Zion and Aleka.

    and is seeking ways to summon it
     
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  3. Idiosyncratic

    Idiosyncratic Member

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    Overall, I think the underlying premise of the Query, 'people who deposed a tyrant must now work with that same tyrant to stop a cult from summoning an eldrich horror' is a phenomenal hook, it really has the potential to make an interesting story.

    However, the mechanics of the query are letting you down. The wording in many places is a bit clumsy, and the plot section is all over the place. I strongly recommend you read some examples of successful high fantasy queries before giving this a rewrite, to see how others handle the issues of many important characters or sweeping adventure plots, as well as to get a feel for the query specific conventions (Like book titles in all caps, not putting exact wordcount) work. The blog Query Shark (scroll down to the left for 'most recent Queries that got a YES') and the recent episodes of the podcast 'The Shit No One Tells You About Writing' are a good place to start.

    Don't let my criticism get you down though. Queries are hard, it's a completely different skillset from writing a novel, and it takes practice and many iterations to get it right, and I think the story has the potential to really work!

    Best of Luck
     
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  4. Quan Williams

    Quan Williams New Member

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    Great advice. I will definitely take all of this into consideration for my next draft. I appreciate it!
     
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  5. Mckk

    Mckk Member Supporter Contributor

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    Your query needs some work. Rather than critting line by line, here's the basic structure of a query:

    Your paragraphs should contain the following:

    1. Start at the inciting incident. You want 1 line to set the context (In a galaxy far far away etc), preferably something that sells your unique angle - what makes your book completely different to all the other books out there? Lead in from there to your inciting incident with the MC. Conflict should be clear from the get-go.

    2. MC should make a choice: How does he react to the inciting incident, and where does that get him? (it should get him into more trouble, give more context, probably introduce your supporting character here, or love interest - 1 character who's pivotal to the plot and/or MC's choices)

    3. Moment of truth - this should be your Midpoint, where the stakes go up. What awful truth does your MC find out? What choice does he have to make now based on this - these choices are the STAKES. This paragraph should communicate the midpoint, the stakes (what happens if MC chooses A and what happens if MC chooses B?) and it should also hint at the larger plot at hand.

    All this should be 250-280 words maximum, if possible (excluding housekeeping and bio - with housekeeping and bio you should be looking at 300 words as the ideal, and 350 tops). You do not have to communicate the entire plot of the novel - that's what a synopsis is for. The query is a pitch, in essence. Only communicate the plot up to the midpoint, and the most important thing to communicate is who the MC is and the stakes of his choices.

    In your bio, I wouldn't mention your published novels unless you're also going to tell me with whom, or are they self-published? Because agents will wonder. And if they're self-published, then did they sell well? If they sold a few hundred or even a few thousand copies, that's nothing in the greater market and you might be better off not mentioning it. If, however, your novels were a major success with tens or thousands or hundreds of thousands of readers, then for sure mention them as that will show the agent you have an existing readership, making you easier to sell. Having self-published novels is not necessarily seen as a good thing by agents I think, not least because you can no longer be sold as a "debut author" (good for market hype) and you may have an image that could clash with a publisher's marketing campaign etc. So, if your novels are trad-pubbed, say who the publishers are. If your novels are self-pubbed, say how many copies you sold. If you've not sold enough to matter in a multi-million dollar business, don't mention the novels at all.
     
  6. Quan Williams

    Quan Williams New Member

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    Revised Query as per all you guys' suggestions. Any Better?

    Dear (Agent’s Name),

    I found you through XXXX, and thought your tastes in stories would be a good fit for my 112,000 word epic fantasy novel RETURN OF THE TYRANT, where a berzerker hero, a runaway princess, and a deposed tyrant must work together to stop a rampaging death cult from summoning an eldritch horror.

    Princess Aleka lives a quiet life with her husband Zion on his farm, far away from the burdens and responsibilities of being the sole heir to the throne of her homeland. She ran away from the kingdom with Zion shortly after the two of them saved the world from the mad tyrant Vladimir. One day she must return and fulfill her duties to her people, but she’ll put that off for as long as she can. That all changes when Vladimir reappears, not seeking vengeance but instead begging for help. Vladimir has had visions of a cosmic, world-consuming horror coming for their world. His resources are too depleted to deal with such a threat alone, so he is seeking the strongest warriors he knows to help. That would be Zion and Aleka. Vladimir wants to rule the world, not see it destroyed.

    To deal with the threat, they must first neutralize a growing death cult that worships this horror and seeks ways to summon it. They need reinforcements, but for Aleka returning home to ask the Queen Mother for help means facing up to the responsibility she abandoned. After seeing people she cared about die in her first battles with Vladimir, she is not ready to carry the fate of the entire kingdom on her shoulders. Instead, she urges her party to find the home of a legendary legion of errant knights, and enlist their services against the cult. This means a trek through a ravaged, war-torn countryside, full of ruins of lost civilizations and relics of extinct species. But the cult is also looking for these knights, and Aleka and her comrades must get to them first. She must warn them of an impending onslaught by the cult in an attempt to snuff out a prominent symbol of hope and goodness. The cult would use the vanquished souls of the knights to send a summoning beacon to their dark god. And they are much closer to reaching the knights’ headquarters than Aleka’s party is.

    This story is in the same vein as other epic fantasy stories chronicling a party of warriors on a high stakes quest, like Record of Lodoss War and Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time. This story also compares favorably to popular role-playing video games such as the Final Fantasy, Dragon Warrior and Grandia series. Zion and Aleka are both inspired by African cultures, and they encounter prominent characters that were inspired by Arab and Latin cultures.

    I am an African-American writer, and the author the sci-fi horror novel GODMODE, which was published by Necro Publications. I was an entertainment journalist for the Michigan Daily Newspaper. I studied creative writing under the tutelage of novelists Jonis Agee and Tish O’Dowd. I also maintain a weekly writing advice blog (https://proseandquans.substack,com), where I take storytelling lessons I’ve learned from a wide variety of media, and share them with aspiring authors, along with personal antec dotes from my own development as a writer.

    The first few pages and a complete synopsis is available upon request. I thank you for your time and I look forward to your response.
     

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