1. doggiedude

    doggiedude Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Feb 15, 2016
    Messages:
    1,470
    Likes Received:
    1,266
    Location:
    Florida, USA, Earth, The Sol System

    My turn for a query letter

    Discussion in 'Query & Cover Letter Critique' started by doggiedude, Apr 20, 2016.

    So here's what I've come up with as a first draft of my cover letter. Help keep me from the slush. :)


    Dear [agent name]


    I am seeking representation for Sleeper Earth, a 116,000 word science fiction novel set about a thousand years in the future.

    When Mother Nature finally objects to the abuses humanity has inflicted on her, a powerful WG Senator works to save two billion of Earth's inhabitants. But who will be chosen? And how?

    Senator William Davies and supporting characters are working on a way to save the human race before the impending collapse of the environment. While humans have already been sending out colony ships in search of another planet for the past fifty years, none of them have returned. The Senator has to manipulate the political water of a World Government that is tenuously supported by individual countries.

    The support for Sleeper Earth comes primarily from the businesses that will profit from a massive fifteen-year global government project that seeks to cryogenically hold a population in space while Earth heals itself over time. The opposition comes from religious groups who consider cryostasis as blasphemy, small terrorist groups that feel they won’t be represented, and a population starving to death due to crop failure in an inhospitable environment.

    The story shows not only the privileged life of Senator Davies but also the lives of several characters affected by the World Government. Jalil Attar is a disillusioned teenage Turkish terrorist who doesn’t have the stomach for killing. Luis Cardozo and his family have escaped from the flooding of Brazil to find themselves in a North America that has had enough of South American refugees.

    While the theme’s of the novel are serious there are many areas of snarky humor and romance.


    Please find below [Your submission requirement]


    Sincerely,
     
  2. mrieder79

    mrieder79 Probably not a ground squirrel

    Joined:
    Jul 3, 2013
    Messages:
    477
    Likes Received:
    306
    Location:
    The Brazos Formation
    This is a very good first go. You've done a good job setting the stage. One thing that is missing is a decision. Is there a difficult decision that Davies must make to save the world? Is there a sacrifice? What does it cost him to finally achieve his goal of saving Earth? (If he does, indeed, save it)

    I would delete the third paragraph that you have now and add more detail about the action in the story. How does davies manipulate the world government? Do the terrorists attack Davies? Do the religious fanatics stage protests?

    Give me a little more detail on exactly what happens.
     
  3. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2015
    Messages:
    6,607
    Likes Received:
    8,368
    Location:
    London, UK
    I agree with m. I know what your story is about, which is more than most first-draft queries achieve, but now I think you need to make it enticing. As it is, it's a little... dry?

    The most intriguing bit for me in the whole query was the fifty ships that were sent out and never returned. Immediately I want to know why: what's out there that's capturing or destroying these ships? But it seems to be a throwaway line that isn't brought up again in the query, so I lose my interest in it.

    The second bit I find intriguing is Jalil, the pacifist terrorist. Now there's a character I want to spend some time with! In contrast, I've seen a thousand Senator Davies in novels and he doesn't excite me, at least without more characterisation.

    Some agents really dislike loglines and none of them require it, so my advice would be to lose yours. I think you'll pack more of a punch by starting with this: "a population starving to death due to crop failure in an inhospitable environment." Now those are some high stakes right there, and more relatable than "the collapse of the environment". I mean, we all understand hunger but none of us understand what it's like to know the earth's death is imminent.
     
  4. doggiedude

    doggiedude Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Feb 15, 2016
    Messages:
    1,470
    Likes Received:
    1,266
    Location:
    Florida, USA, Earth, The Sol System
    Perhaps my query is being misleading then. While the crop failures are a major problem it isn't the primary one. The change in climate has caused radical shifting in the ocean currents causing tectonic plates to become unstable. Earthquakes, volcano eruptions, and flooding are common occurrences.
     
  5. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2015
    Messages:
    6,607
    Likes Received:
    8,368
    Location:
    London, UK
    It doesn't really matter--a query doesn't have to be a 100% accurate representation. It's obviously subjective but for me, individuals starving to death is something I'm invested in way more than a planet suffering from unstable tectonic plates. And since one is the result of the other, why not go with the more humanised part?
     
  6. doggiedude

    doggiedude Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Feb 15, 2016
    Messages:
    1,470
    Likes Received:
    1,266
    Location:
    Florida, USA, Earth, The Sol System
    Point taken. Thanks. I'll work on a re-write later.
     
  7. mrieder79

    mrieder79 Probably not a ground squirrel

    Joined:
    Jul 3, 2013
    Messages:
    477
    Likes Received:
    306
    Location:
    The Brazos Formation
    You need to focus the crisis of the book on the main character of the story. How does the collapse of humanity personally affect Davies? Does he have a young daughter or grandaughter that he wants to provide a future for? Is his family in the path of a newly active volcano? Is his mentor and long-time friend (lover?) stuck on a newly-formed island created when california suddenly and cataclysmically split from the continental united states?

    Why do I care about davies? What will make hundreds of thousands of readers refuse to put down your story until they find resolution to the crisis you pose? What will keep us turning the pages?

    Yes, the destruction of earth is terrible, but as Tenderizer pointed out, its very difficult to relate to and somewhat academic. We can say, "The environmental crisis is terrible. In fifty years half the population will be starving from loss of fertile land," but that doesn't carry half the emotional weight of, "Your fucking pitbull just mauled by grandmother." (sorry, no offense to any pitbulls or pitbull owners out there. It's a childhood fear.)

    Bring the crisis into Senator Davies' living room. Make it wreck his life. Make us feel for the man.
     
  8. doggiedude

    doggiedude Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Feb 15, 2016
    Messages:
    1,470
    Likes Received:
    1,266
    Location:
    Florida, USA, Earth, The Sol System
    Second try.


    Dear [agent name]


    I am seeking representation for Sleeper Earth, a 116,000 word science fiction novel set about a thousand years in the future.


    Senator William Davies and supporting characters are working on a way to save the human race before the impending collapse of the environment. While humans have already been sending out colony ships in search of another planet for the past fifty years, none have been gone long enough for the world to know any results. The Senator has to manipulate the political waters of a World Government that is tenuously supported by individual countries. During the years of the project, Senator Davies is betrayed by his aide, attacked by terrorists, and escapes from the WG Capital as it collapses under an earthquake.


    The support for Sleeper Earth comes primarily from the businesses that will profit from a massive fifteen-year global government project that seeks to cryogenically hold a population in space while Earth heals itself over time. The opposition comes from religious groups who consider cryostasis as blasphemy, small terrorist groups that feel they won’t be represented, and a population starving to death due to crop failure in an inhospitable environment.


    The story shows not only the privileged life of Senator Davies and his future wife but also the lives of several characters affected by the World Government. Jalil Attar is a disillusioned teenage Turkish terrorist who doesn’t have the stomach for killing. After being convinced to kill he seeks to turn his life around by helping some of the thousands of children living on the street in his home city. Luis Cardozo and his daughter have escaped from the flooding of Brazil to find themselves in a North America that has had enough of South American refugees. Both father and daughter have a genetic disease that affects the way they are treated by other people. Enedia Cardozo grows up in a world with a father that’s more concerned with saving his career than caring for his family. She becomes increasingly isolated from and disdainful toward the society that rejects her.


    While the themes of the novel are serious there are many areas of snarky humor and romance.


    Please find below [Your submission requirement]


    Sincerely,
     
  9. ToDandy

    ToDandy Senior Member

    Joined:
    Jun 24, 2013
    Messages:
    377
    Likes Received:
    246
    Location:
    Bozeman Montana
    Dear [agent name]


    I am seeking representation for Sleeper Earth, a 116,000 word science fiction novel set about a thousand years in the future.
    -Usually it is recommended that this goes at the bottom of the query.


    Senator William Davies and supporting characters (nope. Mention them specifically or don't. But definitely don't do this awkward in between. We know there will be supporting characters in a story.) are is working on a way to save the human race before the impending collapse of the environment. While humans have already been sending out colony ships in search of another planet for the past fifty years, none have been gone long enough for the world to know any results. The Senator has to manipulate the political waters of a World Government that is tenuously supported by individual countries (what does this entail? To general to be enticing or interesting). During the years of the project, Senator Davies is betrayed by his aide, attacked by terrorists, and escapes from the WG Capital as it collapses under an earthquake (okay. Those are things happening, but where is the conflict from these events and stakes?)


    The support for Sleeper Earth (what is sleeper earth? This is the first time you've mentioned it outside of your title) comes primarily from the businesses that will profit from a massive fifteen-year global government project that seeks to cryogenically hold a population in space while Earth heals itself over time (How does this connect to your main character? Is he part of this project? I have no idea). The opposition comes from religious groups who consider cryostasis as blasphemy, small terrorist groups that feel they won’t be represented, and a population starving to death due to crop failure in an inhospitable environment.
    -This is a lot of background information without a lot of reasons for us to care.


    The story shows not only the privileged life of Senator Davies and his future wife but also the lives of several characters affected by the World Government. Jalil Attar is a disillusioned teenage Turkish terrorist who doesn’t have the stomach for killing. After being convinced to kill he seeks to turn his life around by helping some of the thousands of children living on the street in his home city. Luis Cardozo and his daughter have escaped from the flooding of Brazil to find themselves in a North America that has had enough of South American refugees. Both father and daughter have a genetic disease that affects the way they are treated by other people. Enedia Cardozo grows up in a world with a father that’s more concerned with saving his career than caring for his family. She becomes increasingly isolated from and disdainful toward the society that rejects her.
    -This is your most interesting paragraph because it is more personal and clear as to what the struggles are for the individual people. It still has the issue of "cookbook" where you are listing lots of characters we won't remember, but it's stronger because you at least give clear personal stakes here.


    While the themes of the novel are serious there are many areas of snarky humor and romance.
    -Don't ever say my novel has got some snarky humor or anything of that sort. Your query should reflect the tone of the book. SHOW your snarky humor in your query.

    [here is usually where you add your title, word count, target audience and maybe some background on your past works]

    Please find below [Your submission requirement]


    Sincerely,

    I've got three words for suggestion. Simplify. Condense. Simplify. Don't lose track of the real point of a query, which is to make the agent want to read more. You don't need to give them an overview of your entire plot/world. That's a mistake people often make with queries. Your one and only goal is to ENTICE them to continue with more.

    Focus in on the main things that grab people's attention'

    1) who is the story about
    2) what challenge does this person face
    3) what are the stakes
    4) what could happen if this person fails

    Right now you've got a lot of jumbled up backstory and not much to get invested in. Leave your world building to the book. Focus on characters and what drives the characters into action. If Davies is the main driving POV in the novel, I'd recommend saving the others for the books and maybe focusing more attention on him. That would at least help the query to feel less scattershot.

    Hope this helped some. I hate writing queries. It's hard.
     
  10. abdirahman mohamud

    abdirahman mohamud Banned

    Joined:
    Apr 20, 2017
    Messages:
    11
    Likes Received:
    0
    I like your query but I agree with the critique given, what is at stake for the senator, what is he sacrificing, what is the cost of taking this one. This could be physical, emotional and financial.
     
  11. Mr Cookie

    Mr Cookie Member

    Joined:
    Apr 21, 2017
    Messages:
    24
    Likes Received:
    21
    Location:
    London
    I very much agree with most of ToDandy's points.

    For me, it feels dry. The subject matter has lots of crunchy details that sound cool (like Jalil's arc!) but the paragraphs here are very long. This is good though, because a query is easier to fix than the subject matter, and the subject matter sounds interesting. I'm going to throw out some examples just for ideas.

    Politics is a tough gig for Senator William Davies. The Earth's environment and the World Government are racing each other to destruction, terrorists are out for blood and the very ground is opening beneath his feet. Humanity's search for a new home is in tatters. Hope fades, but worst of all; old loyalties die with it.
    __________

    Why? I don't care particularly about the colony ships or the world capital. They sound like plot devices. Don't explain plot devices, just tell me the implications. Humanity needs a different solution and William might die. Bang. Done.

    One chance remains. Sleeper Earth. Billions cryogenically frozen to give the Earth time to heal. To breathe. Unfortunately, what is saviour for some is blasphemy and injustice to others. Besides, what use is it anyway if half the people starve before they reach the frozen dreams?
    __________

    Ok this got a bit pretentious, but you get the idea. I'm making this up and you know this story better than I do! :) Fact is, the support for the project from business and government seems irrelevant. I'd assume anything of this scale would be supported by one or the other (probably both) or how would it be possible? The bit we care about is the struggle. The controversy. You may have written the business angle as a major plot point, in which case naturally re-work as required.

    Jalid Attar's dreams lie in tatters. Terrorism was one thing but the killing? The guilt? The screa... yeah, not so much. Helping the street children of his city offers a chance of redemption, if he has the courage to take it. Luis and Enedia Cardozo have found their redemption in the promise of a new home for father and daughter; a glittering American dream beyond the latin shores. But reaching safety is one thing; being accepted for your rare genetics is quite another. Enedia must struggle not just in an isolated world but in isolation from her father, the only family she has and more's the pity.
    __________

    Again, these are just random ideas but you can see how I've tried to link your three characters together. It felt very disjointed previously, as if William, Jalil and Enedia had nothing in common. If that were true, why include them? What unites them is the themes their stories will address, the struggles they face and the perils they must overcome. Reflect that!

    Nobody likes being told "you will find this funny". Either make me smile/laugh reading the query or don't mention anything.
     
  12. joe sixpak

    joe sixpak Banned

    Joined:
    Mar 20, 2017
    Messages:
    296
    Likes Received:
    39
    Good start.
    Many (most?) agents want to know your credentials too.
    Some will want to see a full mss, some just chapters, not a bare query letter.
    Have you identified an agent and checked their website for their requirements for submission?
    Have you looked at WM to see what they say about doing a good query that would sell your book?
     
  13. doggiedude

    doggiedude Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Feb 15, 2016
    Messages:
    1,470
    Likes Received:
    1,266
    Location:
    Florida, USA, Earth, The Sol System
    Wow, responses from a posting I put up over a year ago.
    Thanks for the comments but that novel has been shuffled off to the side. Completed another and working on a third.
     

Share This Page