1. idanelly

    idanelly New Member

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    Part of a query letter

    Discussion in 'Query & Cover Letter Critique' started by idanelly, Jun 22, 2018.

    What do you think?

    A fear-driven Mennonite woman takes refuge in marriage, but finds herself navigating rough waters in my 75,000-word mainstream novel Mrs. Epp.

    It's 1970 and nerd Debbie Wall is afraid nobody will ever marry her. When fellow Mennonite Simon Epp proposes, she rushes to the altar, thinking he's the answer to her prayers.

    Simon is a caring husband, and multi-talented, but easily blown off course. When he loses his job in the river city of Kamelott, British Columbia, Debbie hatches a new plan for their lives. His mother, Adeline, hijacks it, using a job possibility to lure Simon to her windswept village of Dayspring, Saskatchewan. Debbie stays behind because she dreads living near her pushy mother-in-law. By the time she joins Simon, he's fallen for a man who's helping him maximize his talents. A man? Debbie is shocked and intimidated, but determined to win her husband back. It will take all the courage and ingenuity she can muster. Even that may not be enough.
     
  2. Maggie May

    Maggie May Member

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    You lost me when the Mennonite husband falls for a man. Dealing with the "windswept" village I assumed we were moving into a survival situation if the village is in a remote area. It would test the marriage, faith and ability to survive.
     
  3. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    The summary seems to assume that the reader will support the goal of "winning back" a spouse that has abandoned one and, in this case, chosen a fundamentally different life that they're apparently happy in. I, for one, would find that goal rather sad and unwise. That's not to say that your character wouldn't do it; my issue is with the assumption that the reader would cheer for that goal rather than hope that Debbie finds a better goal.
     
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  4. BayView

    BayView Contributor Contributor

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    I'm distracted by the Mennonite component. Are these old-order Mennonites, or from one of the more modern types? If they're the more modern type I feel like you may be over-emphasizing it in your query (you could maybe just call her a "traditional Christian" or something) but if she's old-order or one of the other horse-and-buggy types, maybe it's being deemphasized?

    I'm wondering how large a role religion plays in the story. I think it would be useful to make this clear in the query. There's a pretty active market for Christian fiction, but I imagine there are some genre requirements I'm unaware of. If religion isn't that significant, again, I'd consider de-emphasizing it in the query.

    And I agree with @ChickenFreak that winning back a husband who's either gay or bisexual-and-non-monogamous doesn't seem like a healthy goal for this character. Maybe there's room for a suggestion of that in the query - this is her goal, but she'll have to learn that it's not a great idea, or whatever. Again, if you're writing this as Christian fiction you'll need to sort that out, since I don't expect the Christian fiction crowd would be quite as accepting of diverse forms of sexual expression, but as your query is calling this a mainstream novel I think you should be writing with a mainstream reader in mind. (or else get rid of the "mainstream" label and call it Christian fiction, and research what the requirements of that genre are).
     
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  5. jannert

    jannert Member Supporter Contributor

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    My own feeling, while reading this (in addition to the concerns about Mennonites aired by @BayView) is that I'm reading a synopsis, rather than an enticing blurb that gets me wanting to read the story.

    If I were you, I'd give Debbie a bit more presence and voice in this short blurb. She wants what? What does she most fear, or hope for? What makes her want to keep Simon, despite his tendency to stray? All the ins and outs of jobs, locations, mother-in-law interference, etc, aren't all that interesting without context. We need the context of Debbie's outlook on this situation, to make us want to find out more.
     
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  6. Mckk

    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    What are these talents that require a gay partner to maximise? It's sounding a little like erotica.

    And it doesn't sound like a mainstream novel at all in my opinion. Winning back a gay man? Unless he wasn't gay to begin with, you're gonna have problems in the non-Christian crowd. You're touching on the idea that being gay is a choice, or just a... slip up. I've forgotten what these kinds of ministries are called, Ex-Gay or something? But that's a massively touchy subject and probably won't go down well outside of Christian circles, and maybe even then...
     
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  7. noobienieuw

    noobienieuw Banned

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    Just what is your target market? What publishers do you see that would welcome this sort of book?
     
  8. Michele I

    Michele I Member

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    I agree with jannert, this Query sounds too much like a Synopsis. I took a workshop with a publishing house to write a proper Query letter and Synopsis, how to fine-tune, and what exactly an agent hopes to find. Agents receive hundreds of pitches each week, some of them each day. Keep it simple. Get right to the point. Give only what they want and need, no more, no less. If they ask for a Synopsis, you give more info. The purpose of a Query is broken down into three (3) short paragraphs:

    #1. Provide the TITLE (in all caps), the word-count, the genre, two comparable titles (to give the Agent an idea the kind of story you are pitching), and why you chose this particular agent/publisher.

    #2. A very brief explanation what your story is about, just enough to lure and entice, and want to know more.

    #3. Your credentials, any other books you've had published, and why you are qualified to write this story, if non-fiction.

    Once you've honed in on a tight Query, save it, and reuse it for others, after just tweaking. And ALWAYS address the person you are Querying (not Dear Editor).
     
  9. MikeyWrites

    MikeyWrites New Member

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    First of all, thank you for sharing. Hopefully, the above comments are helping you tighten up your query letter. What stood out for me was that I didn't believe the hook was strong enough to convince an agent to continue reading.

    As opposed to saying "A fear-driven Mennonite woman takes refuge in marriage, but finds herself navigating rough waters," you could jump right in:

    "It's 1970, and Debbie Wall has almost given up on marriage entirely. In a small Mennonite community, this is disastrous..."

    Or something along those lines, so that the agent feels invested in the character right away.

    Hopefully that's helpful!
     

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