1. Sphynx

    Sphynx Member

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    Query Letter Help

    Discussion in 'Query & Cover Letter Critique' started by Sphynx, Feb 5, 2018.

    I previously sent some queries for Tredecim, but am pausing to regroup. This novel is complex and boiling it down has been quite the challenge. Would appreciate feedback!


    Dear Mr. or Mrs. Literary Agent,


    Proceeding her mother’s funeral, Emmaline Evans is lured to the big city of Monlovia and framed for the murder of a congressman. Peter, her boyfriend, upends her murder trial by ensuring her conviction. After decades commiserating in prison, Emmaline dies.


    Waking up fully rejuvenated, new realities are presented. Without being given approval by the hierarchy to be on the planet of Tredecim, Emmaline must race to discover truths she was unable to unravel on Earth. Journeying to find the roots underlying betrayal, she is reunited with the mother she once lost. Together they uncover the source of their misfortunes.


    TREDECIM is a 109,000 word romance story with elements of suspense, mystery, and sci-fi. (Blah Blah Blah).


    Best Regards,

    Me
     
  2. big soft moose

    big soft moose All killer, no filler. Contributor Community Volunteer

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    I am not an expert in query letters , since I choose not to go the trad publishing route, however as you specifically asked me to review your queries here goes (If someone like Bayview or Laurin Kelly says different go with them not me)

    General points there are some odd word choices here Proceeding (you mean preceeding I think but its not needed anyway), upend, commiserating. Also its very vague you need to include more info - what you have here would work as a back blurb teaser but not as a query

    Also pick a genre and stick to it - its unlikely an agent will want a romance that is also a thriller, a mystery and sci fi. Based on the info here this doesn't feel like a romance to me - I'd say it was Sci fi or fantasy.

    My edit


    "Dear Mr. or Mrs. Literary Agent,

    I am seeking representation for TREDECIM , a 109,000 word romance story with elements of suspense, mystery, and sci-fi.

    Emmaline Evans is lured to the city of Monlovia and framed for the murder of a congressman. Peter, her boyfriend, testifies at her murder trial, ensuring her conviction. After decades languishing in prison, Emmaline dies.

    Much to her surprise after her death she is reborn on the planet of Tredecim, and is reunitedwith the mother she once lost. Without the approval by planet government, Emmaline and her mother must race to unravel a sinister conspiracy and uncover truths that remained hidden on Earth. Journeying to the roots of underlying betrayal they uncover the source of their misfortunes.

    Best Regards,

    Me"
     
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  3. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    Ignoring matters of the correct format and content for a query, there are some errors, which is problematic in a query--someone is likely to expect a query to be perfectly correct.

    > Proceeding

    Do you mean "preceding"--that is, before? Or perhaps a word is missing and you mean, say, "Proceeding to..."

    Although neither of those seem right. What is the order of events?

    The "upends" part feels ambiguous. He's aiding the prosecution, and one could argue that the trial is about prosecution, so "upends" feels a bit backwards. You might say that he "upends" the defense, though I might just use a different word.

    > After decades commiserating in prison

    "commiserating" means (I grab a Googled definition) "express or feel sympathy or pity". I think you mean another word. Suffering? Languishing?

    > Waking up fully rejuvenated, new realities are presented.

    The above is grammatically incorrect--taken literally, it means that the realities are waking up, rather than Emmaline. Possible corrections:

    Emmaline wakes up fully rejuvenated, to a new reality.
    Waking up fully rejuvenated, Evaline is presented with new realities.

    > TREDECIM is a 109,000 word romance story

    I'm not seeing any romance at all in the plot summary?
     
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  4. Sphynx

    Sphynx Member

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    Thank you! I appreciate the feedback! I think you’re dead on with many of your suggestions. When I posted this, I expected someone might say something about it not sounding like a romance. I definitely need to work on that. I am however confused by your comment about “ignoring matters for the correct format and content.” I’ve seen it done several different ways. Can you expand on this?
     
  5. Lew

    Lew Member Supporter Contributor

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    Also personalize your first sentence. Visit their website, determine what they are looking for, and say why you chose them. If you don't want to get a form letter response, usually a no, don't send a form letter query. Include something personal addressed to that specific agent. "I chose to submit my query to you because of your interest in (for example) science fiction, romance and strong female characters." etc.

    You way overused the passive voice: "Emmaline Evans is lured to... is framed for... new realities are presented... without being given approval by the hierarchy... she is reunited" Who are the active agent in these? You don't have to identify the agent, it can be "mysterious forces" but passive voice is very weak, and should be avoided unless you consciously (and sparingly) use it. Due to the number of times you used it in the query, I suggest you see how often you used in the text, because that can be an immediate stylistic shootdown. If you have overused it in the text, take a break to do some serious editing
     
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  6. Sphynx

    Sphynx Member

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    The part in parenthesis (Blah Blah Blah) is where I put the personalized information to the literary agent. I agree that much of my query is in a passive voice and is a concern. I have really struggled to condense the heart of my novel to a single page. I’m pretty confident in the book, but not at all confident in the query, which I clearly reached too hard on. Thanks for the feedback, it gives me some things to work on!
     
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2018
  7. Lew

    Lew Member Supporter Contributor

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    Also, put the blah, blah part first to get the agent's attention... remember that agents get 400 queries a month, 15 per day, and out of that 5000 per year, they will pick 10 to 20 to push.

    It is important to emphasize what makes your science fiction story different from the other 14 he or she sees that day. Talk about your characters, their strengths and weaknesses, etc. You can actually skip summarizing your plot, unless it supports the "what is different" part. The "what is different" is the part they will have to sell to publishers. And don't feel bound to page length, because agents rarely accept paper queries any longer. Don't ramble, but don't make it so short that the originality of your story is lost.
     
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  8. Sphynx

    Sphynx Member

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    Thanks for all your feedback, everyone. I reached too hard on this process and am going to try again. The query letter has been very difficult for me. I’m not sure if I will repost the second draft or try to find someone to bounce ideas off of. If you are open, let me know!
     
  9. Lew

    Lew Member Supporter Contributor

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    Feel free to keep posting. I think we have all been stymied on queries. Actually, after 40 queries, successful in that I got 39 polite nos, 1 request for manuscript that was rejected but with helpful information (unusual!) I gave up and self-published, with no regrets. But we are all here to help! Remember to develop a thick skin for this process as you will probably submit a hundred or more before you get a bite.
     
  10. Sphynx

    Sphynx Member

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    Thanks. I’m just really daunted by this query letter. I am working on two, and the other book isn’t nearly as complex. I absolutely cannot figure out how to condense it down for this one. I’m probably going to post an extremely lengthy second query with greater detail, and get more thoughts. It is a romance, but by the time I explain what’s going on even vaguely, I am pages deep. :(
     
  11. Sphynx

    Sphynx Member

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    Let mem
    Let me preface this by saying this is not a final draft. This story is extremely involved and I need help condensing it. Thank you for all your help so far, I appreciate it.


    Dear Literary Agent,

    (XYZ) is a 109,000 word romance novel. I chose to submit my novel for your consideration after (XYZ).

    After her mother’s funeral, Emmaline Evans receives a package with no return address, signed by an uncle she has never met. Promised a job working for the office of Henry Clark, Emmaline moves to Monlovia, but does not pursue the lead. Becoming a waitress, Emmaline meets pessimistic Peter, a regular at the diner.

    Fired from two jobs, Emmaline resorts to seeking out Henry Clark. Speaking to Henry’s brother, James Clark, Emmaline later receives a phone call offering her a remote position, which turns out to be a scam. Reconnecting and moving in with Peter, Emmaline falls in love. Unexpectedly arrested, she is framed for the murder of an acquaintance. Peter testifies in Emmaline’s murder trial, ensuring her conviction. After decades languishing in prison, Emmaline dies.

    Waking up on the planet of Tredecim, Emmaline is exposed to a new reality. Without approval by the government to be on the planet, Emmaline must race to discover truths she was unable to unravel on Earth. Journeying to find the roots underlying betrayal, she is reunited with the mother she once lost.

    Misfortunes are uncovered, providing shocking revelations to Emmaline’s downfalls. Peter never intended to betray Emmaline. Assured that Emmaline would not serve her sentence on Earth, Peter testified against her. He has been on a life long mission to save her ever since. James Clark is the true mastermind, inflicting pain on Emmaline as retribution for a prank gone wrong, a terrible action that her mother committed in her youth. After hating Peter with every fiber of her being, Emmaline must determine if forgiveness is possible, and if love can be restored.

    Best Regards,
    Me
     
  12. Lew

    Lew Member Supporter Contributor

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    Much better! Screen it again for passives.... "she finds" instead of "she is reunited", "She discovers " instead "Misfortunes are discovered"

    Add a line at the end thanking the agent for his or her time, and your hope they will consider your submission.

    The last paragraph is, I think, excellent. Comments from those who have done a successful query?
     
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  13. Sphynx

    Sphynx Member

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    Thank you for the feedback. I’ll work on that.
     
  14. Lew

    Lew Member Supporter Contributor

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    See if you can get feedback from @BayView and @Lauren Kelly who have, I think submited successful queries. Good luck!
     
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  15. Sphynx

    Sphynx Member

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    Thank you!
     
  16. BayView

    BayView Contributor Contributor

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    I'd boil it down a LOT. I'm pretty confused, as is, I think because you're giving me way too many details and I can't glue them all together.

    It may help to think of your query letter as sales copy. You don't want to totally misrepresent your book, but you don't need to give us a completely accurate picture, either. You just need to get the agent to read your first pages.

    So... who do you think will want to read your book? I don't see this as something that would likely appeal to the traditional genre romance crowd - it seems like there's too much going on beyond the romance. So maybe you're writing for a more spec.fic. crowd? I haven't read your MS so I can't be sure, but you should be sure. And then your query should play up the aspects of your story that will be most appealing to that crowd.

    If you were going to tell your story in one sentence, what would it be?
     
  17. Sphynx

    Sphynx Member

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    Thanks for the input. I will take all the help I can get. I’m hoping I can eventually find balance with this query. Is this any better?

    Dear Mr. or Mrs. Literary Agent,

    (XYZ) is a 109,000 word romance novel. I chose to submit my novel for your consideration after (XYZ).

    Emmaline Evans has no idea Tredecim exists, Peter intends to take her there, and the head of the planet’s government is on a secret mission to ensure she remains of Earth.

    Following her mother’s death, eighteen year old Emmaline moves to the big city of Monlovia. Becoming a waitress, Emmaline meets Peter at the diner. Arrogant and pessimistic, he flares Emmaline’s temper.

    Peter is exasperated as he watches kind, intelligent Emmaline struggle to scrape by. Fired from her job, Emmaline moves in with Peter. Concerned about Peter’s secretiveness, she initially has reservations. Peter supports Emmaline and patiently waits for her to trust him. Matching each other’s cynicism with adoration, their love blossoms.

    Emmaline is framed for murder and unexpectedly arrested. Peter testifies at her trial and ensures her conviction. After decades languishing in prison, Emmaline dies.

    Waking up on the planet of Tredecim, Emmaline is exposed to a new reality. Peter never intended to betray her. Assured that Emmaline would not serve her prison sentence, Peter testified against her. He has been on a life long mission to save her ever since. After hating Peter with every fiber of her being, Emmaline must determine if forgiveness is possible, and if love can be restored.

    (Line thanking Lit Agent for their time).

    Best Regards,
    Me
     
  18. BayView

    BayView Contributor Contributor

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    It still seems really, really busy to me. If you're marketing this as a romance, I'd focus on the romance, even more than you are now.
     
  19. big soft moose

    big soft moose All killer, no filler. Contributor Community Volunteer

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    I agree this reads like Sci Fi or fantasy with a romantic sub plot
     
  20. big soft moose

    big soft moose All killer, no filler. Contributor Community Volunteer

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    That's @Laurin Kelly

    not Lauren who is a completely different user
     
  21. Sphynx

    Sphynx Member

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    I
    I initially labeled it as sci-fi, but had reservations. Most of the book takes place on Earth or is about her life on Earth. Can it still be sci-fi? I had someone read it (not someone in the industry) and they said “this is good, but it is not sci-fi.” There is a romance that weaves through the book, and that there are elements of sci-fi, but it’s a hard call for me. Will think about these comments. Thank you for the feedback!
     
  22. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    The "waking up" part feels almost like the beginning, but it's at the end of the query. At what point does that happen in the book?

    Also, a very large percentage of your sentences take the form that I refer to as "Verbing, he verbed." In the following, I'm marking the "verbing" with green and the "he verbed" with blue. Do you see the pattern? It's not as if it's an incorrect pattern, but more variety would be good.

    Becoming a waitress, Emmaline meets Peter at the diner.
    Arrogant and pessimistic, he flares Emmaline’s temper. (Technically, this isn't 'verbing', but it feels like the pattern.)
    Fired from her job, Emmaline moves in with Peter.
    Matching each other’s cynicism with adoration, their love blossoms.
    Waking up on the planet of Tredecim, Emmaline is exposed to a new reality.
    Assured that Emmaline would not serve her prison sentence, Peter testified against her.
     
  23. Laurin Kelly

    Laurin Kelly Contributor Contributor

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    Actually I've never written a query even though I'm traditionally published. Less Than Three Press doesn't require them, and they're the only publisher I've worked with up until this point.
     
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  24. Sphynx

    Sphynx Member

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    She dies in the first chapter. The book is interwoven. It’s hard to start the query with her death and explain what happens. I wrote one query like that awhile back but I vetoed it:

    Emmaline Evans dies. Mind you, she doesn’t want to, but try telling that to death. Life never ascertains consideration for Emmaline’s plans. In a kinder life she would have met her father, and her mother wouldn’t have died after their one and only fight. Being framed for murder certainly isn’t what Emmaline hoped for either. Blindsided and backstabbed by Peter, the impossible man she loved, is an atrocity she wanted least of all. How cruel and twisted life is, sheathing betrayal and hoarding answers. Begging, pleading, and praying were all such an utter waste of Emmaline’s time.

    Death is her ultimate salvation. Opening her eyes for a new awakening, everything is on the line. Immigration to another planet is tricky business. When she learns the hierarchy on Tredecim didn’t provide approval for her to inhabit the planet, an impossible journey lies ahead. Decades on earth weren’t able to provide answers, but she needs them now more than ever. Who unleashed the chain of dominos tumbling down that destroyed her life? And why are they still out for blood?

    (XYZ) is a 109,000 word science fiction... (Blah Blah Blah).
     
  25. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    I think this one is much better.
     

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