Tuesday, April 29, 2008

#16

Dear Ms. Reid:


Ben Keller is wasting his life. The once successful doctor now sells dildos and porn videos on Sunset Boulevard while pulling the occasional con. That is until he meets Geraldine, an ex-porn star with a hundred-a-dollar-a-day habit and a deceitful smile. Together they embark on a drug-fueled Hollywood con game to produce a straight to DVD flop, and pocket ten million in embezzled movie funds.

Right now I'm thinking this is a californification of The Producers. I'm always less then thrilled with any novel that features porn stars and dildos in the first two sentences cause it seems gimmicky.

But in Hollywood nobody is what they appear to be, least of all Ben, who must ask himself, “Am I the con or the mark?” before the final credits fade in my manuscript, BENT or Mother’s Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Gay Cowboys, winner of the 2008 Paul Gillette Award for mainstream fiction, complete at 81,000 words.

There's no hook here, there's only a description of the premise of the novel, and it's one I've seen a lot before.

I had to google the Paul Gillette Award to find out it's given at the Pike's Peak Writing Conference. Writing conference awards are nice, but when they are given only to unpublished writers, and only to people attending the conference, they don't carry as much weight as pub credits that draw from a wider audience (like what you list below).

I have five short stories, and a poem published in various literary magazines including Twenty3, The Heroin Times, Twisted Tongue, and Thug Works, with two stories forthcoming in The Savage Kick, and Big Pulp. I hold a Master of Arts degree in forensic psychology, and at one time, worked as a private investigator. Currently, I am employed at Naropa University’s Summer Writing Program.

Thank you for your consideration of this proposal. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Sincerely,



This isn't awful, but it's not compelling. If the first page knocked my socks off I'd read on. If pages aren't included, I'd send a form rejection cause there's nothing here yet that entices me to read on.

#15

Dear Query Shark:

Architect Ryan Friedricks wanted to add some excitement to his life. He found it. Now it may kill him.

In FAKE, a 77,000-word novel of intrigue, Ryan meets pretty tourist Laurie Carson in Florence, a city that has seen six hundred years of deceit and double-crossing. He takes her to bed and wakes up with his life turned upside-down. Laurie tells him she’s investigating a scam that separates Holocaust survivors from their Nazi-looted art. She persuades Ryan to help her by impersonating a wealthy art collector with his sights set on an extraordinary stolen portrait. But once Ryan finds himself in the middle of a Russian gang war, targeted by a police death squad, followed, beaten, bugged, and hijacked,he and discovers Laurie lied about everything – everything – after she said “Hello.”

FAKE will appeal to fans of the classic “innocent man” story epitomized by North by Northwest and Alan Furst’s The World at Night and Kingdom of Shadows.

The completed manuscript of FAKE, 77,000 words, is available for your review. Thank you for your time and consideration.


Sincerely,


The heck with critiquing this. Send pages at once.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

#14, 2 revisions

Dear Mr. (not exactly)


Archaeologist Erin Matthews wonders if the ancient documents prove the story of the crucifixion has flaws. Members of her team are sweaty, smelly, and dirty. They’ve just unearthed another clay jar filled with mysterious parchments. Translations show they are between members of the same family.

A paragraph needs to flow in logical order. You've got the documents before the discovery. Here's the order: Erin Matthews team of sweaty smelly dirty archaeologists just unearthed another clay jar filled with mysterious parchments. Erin wonders if they prove the story of the crucifixion has flaws. Translations show...etc.

The Sons of Light, a religious sect, follow the team and learn about the discovery. Two thousand years ago, they dedicated their lives to protect the secret of the parchments. Chased, shot at, even kidnapped, the team is determined to continue their research. A final bloody attack forces Erin to make a choice. Should she continue to risk the lives of her team or give up the chance to expose a 2000-year old secret?

Well, let's not pick nits here, but 200o years ago, Jesus wasn't dead. He was nine years old. I know I know, it's nit picky, but yes, I'm persnickety about detail.

Now about these Sons of Light guys. Who are they? Jews? Early Christians? Aliens? Unless you're writing science fiction, you have to ground your story in historical fact. You can spin a yarn from those facts, but you have to start with fact.



If the story in the letters is true, it was Joseph, brother of Jesus, who was crucified in his place!

Um, wasn't it James who was the brother of Jesus, and Joseph was his father?

THE LAST SECRET is a 97,000-word thriller. I have enclosed my synopsis and sample chapters as per your web site.

Thriller? This is revisionist religious history. What are the stakes? Who cares? I'm guessing His Holiness Pope Benedict for starters, and maybe the entire Catholic Church not to mention the Greek Orthodox and most Protestants (except the Unitarians of course) but your job here is to tell me who the players are in your story.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

-------------------------------------

Revision

Members of Archaeologist Erin Matthews team are sweaty, smelly, and dirty. They’ve just unearthed another clay jar filled with mysterious parchments. Translations show they are between members of the same family. Erin wonders if the ancient documents prove the story of the crucifixion has flaws.

Archaeologist isn't a name, it's a job. No cap. Is the most important thing about the team that they are sweaty smelly and dirty? It's not unusual that a dig team would be ss&d is it?

The Sons of Light, a religious sect, follow the team and learn about the discovery. Almost two thousand years ago, they dedicated their lives to protect the secret of the parchments. Chased, shot at, even kidnapped, the team is determined to continue their research. A final bloody attack forces Erin to make a choice. Should she continue to risk the lives of her team or give up the chance to expose a 2000-year old secret?



If the story in the letters is true, it was Joseph, a little known brother of Jesus, who was crucified in his place!


This kind of story is pretty old hat. I'd be much more interested in what happened AFTER Erin authenticates the parchment and the divinity of Jesus and all that other stuff is now called into doubt. I mean think about it, Pat Robertson would have to get a real job!

The problem with this is that non Christians, or the non-pious don't give a fig, and devout Christians won't read it cause it's blasphemous. Who's your audience here?


THE LAST SECRET is a 97,000-word thriller.

Thank you for your consideration.
----------------------------------------------
Revision #2


Dear Query Shark

Erin Matthews has had archaeology in her blood since she was a little girl. Her grandfather enticed her into the field with his stories of exotic places and amazing discoveries. Now, a noted archaeologist herself, Erin is leading a group at a dig on a tiny Greek Island. The team is exhausted, but exuberant, having unearthed another ancient clay jar filled with mysterious parchments. Preliminary translations simultaneously excite and frighten Erin. They suggest the story of the crucifixion has serious flaws.

The Sons of Light, a Judeo-Christian sect, has been following Erin and her team and learn about their discoveries. Almost two thousand years ago, members of the sect dedicated their lives to protect the secret of the parchments. Chased, shot at, even kidnapped, the team is determined to continue their research. A final bloody attack forces Erin to rethink her options. Should she continue risking the lives of her team to achieve her own fame and notoriety or give up the opportunity to expose the explosive 2000-year old secret? If the story in the letters is true, it was Joseph, a little known brother of Jesus, who was crucified in his place.

THE LAST SECRET is a 97,000-word thriller.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,


you got it!

Monday, April 21, 2008

#13-revisions-2nd Revision

Att: Janet Reid
FinePrint Literary Management
240 West 35th Street, Suite 500
New York, NY 10001
USA

22 April 2008

Dear Ms Reid,

I’m seeking representation for my soft science fiction novel Earth Mother, which is finished at 120,000 words.

Growing up in rural Australia, Jessica has always known she is weird: her body sucks in energy from sunlight and hot water, and releases it in dangerous uncontrolled bursts. She doesn’t know that a similarly gifted man, Daya, has watched over her all her life, waiting to train her. Jessica and Daya are two of only a handful of survivors of an ancient alien race, feared for their abilities. He has hidden her on Earth until she is old enough to be a mother for his children. That time has come. He arranges to introduce himself.

Eww. Ewww. Ewww. I'm sorry but this just makes me cringe. Surely there's a way to describe this that makes it sound less like dirty old man stalking young girl.

Also, what the heck is uncontrolled bursts? Hot words? Dervish dancing? Be specific.

One moment Jessica is travelling to a mysterious meeting with her parents; the next moment, the small plane crashes in a forest on an alien planet. At her family’s home, Daya waits in vain, realising in horror that she has been abducted by a third party; he starts a wild search for her.

Jessica is in a plane crash and when she doesn't arrive at her parent's home, Daya realizes she's been abducted. You don't need all the extra stuff. You probably don't even need this because it's all set up.


While Jessica struggles to find a way home, she finds the love and help of Iztho, a Trader from the nation of Miran. Meanwhile, visions torment her, bringing her into contact with Daya. She is shocked that he wants her as brood mare and refuses to believe his claim that Iztho’s home nation wants to use their abilities in warfare, insisting Daya is just jealous.

Ok, now I'm totally lost. What does Iztho's home nation's abilities mean? And why do I care if they kill everyone (heck, I'm hoping they smoosh ol' Daya cause I'm not all that fond of him)

Then she discovers proof that Miran has caused her transfer to the alien world. Is it too late to extricate herself from the clutches of a warmongering nation? Is it too late for Daya’s forgiveness?

What? What? Maybe it's cause I don't read this category very much, but at this point, I'm wondering who the antagonist is.

Earth Mother is a stand-alone novel, but I am working on other novels which continue this thread, as well as some independent projects.

"this thread" is cyber speak. Do you mean you're writing novels with some of the same characters? Set in the same place?


I live in Australia. I am a member of the NSW Writers’ Centre and the SF-OWW online workshop for SF and fantasy. I have published a few short stories, the most recent one in the Fantastic Wonder Stories anthology (ed. Russell Farr, Ticonderoga Publications).



Thank you for considering my work. I enclose the first three chapters, a synopsis and an SASE for your response. I am looking forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely



(P.S. Enclosures etc would depend on agents’ requirements, which I would get from websites or a preliminary E-mail. This, too, depends on the agent and/or country. The Australian agents I’ve contacted tend to want the whole lot in one go.)

NO preliminary emails. Look at the agent's website. If they tell you what they want, send it. If they don't, send a query letter and the first three pages in the body of an email.

Do NOT write to ask what they want. I routinely ignore those emails.

------------------------------



Dear Query Shark:

I’m seeking representation for my soft science fiction novel Earth Mother, which is finished at 120,000 words.

Jessica doesn’t know she is a survivor of a near-extinct alien race, people whose bodies store energy from heat and light. Living on Earth, without training, she is desperate to control outbursts of power, which have already cost one life. When an accident transports her across the universe, she becomes a pawn in a game of love and war.

what outbursts of power? Hers? Does she erupt like a volcano? Spew like I do when I read Mindy Tarquini's blog? Be specific. Show me what happens, but succinctly and clearly.


When an accident transports her ...you've left me with the image of a slingshot or a balloon losing air. This is probably not the image you want me to have. In the absence of you giving me an image, I'm probably going to imagine something pretty lame (because I am an agent, not a novelist and my imaginings are limited to large advances and malleable clients)



In the occupied city of Barresh, two men vie for her attention. Daya has secretly watched over her all her life, tormented by platonic love. He is of her race, and ready to train her. However, Jessica is not impressed by his plan to use her to resurrect their much-vilified race. She is more inclined to trust Iztho, who promises to take her back to her Earth family, until she finds out that he is an agent of the occupying nation which caused the transportation ‘accident’. This nation wants to use Jessica’s and Daya’s ability to produce new weapons. Where can she turn except to the repressed population of the city, who see Jessica’s coming as an omen to rise against the occupying army?

Pare down. You don't have to describe everything here. She has to make a choice. What are the consequences of each? Focus!

Earth Mother, (120,000 words), is a stand-alone novel, but I am working on other novels in this world, as well as some independent projects.

I live in Australia. I am a member of the NSW Writers’ Centre and the SF-OWW online workshop for SF and fantasy. I have published a few short stories, the most recent one in the Fantastic Wonder Stories anthology (ed. Russell Farr, Ticonderoga Publications).

Thank you for considering my work. I am looking forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely
----------------------------------

******************************************************


Dear Query Shark,

Seventeen-year old Jessica is the most-wanted person in the universe outside Earth, but she doesn’t know it, or why.

All she knows is that sparks swirl over her skin when she is angry or upset, burning anyone too close, and that this weird ability has made her an outcast in her home town in rural Australia.

She has no idea that Daya, a similarly gifted man, has hidden her on Earth until she is old enough to help him resurrect their near-extinct alien race.
She doesn’t know that when the aeroplane in which she travels crashes in a forest on an alien planet that this is not a freak accident, but a scheme by a warmongering general to capture her and use her ability in warfare.

One thing is sure: for all her alien blood, Jessica grew up an Earth girl, and when she finds out about these plans for her, she is not likely to comply with any of them. Never mind that she’s facing an entire army, protected only by powers she will need Daya’s help to master. Never mind that she's alone on a world where citizens’ rights are limited to the right to die. She’ll fight, she'll win, and then she’ll go home. If only it was that simple.

Earth Mother, (120,000 words), is a stand-alone novel, but I am working on other novels in this world, as well as some independent projects.

I live in Australia. I am a member of the NSW Writers’ Centre and the SF-OWW online workshop for SF and fantasy. I have published a few short stories, the most recent one in the Fantastic Wonder Stories anthology (ed. Russell Farr, Ticonderoga Publications).

Thank you for considering my work. I am looking forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely

by george I think she's got it.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

#12

Dear Madam, (err, no. Dear Ms Reid, Dear Janet, Dear Sweetums, but no, not ever Dear Madam)

I am presently seeking representation for my science fiction / fantasy novel, "Lex Talionis", which is completed at approximately of 125,000 words. The sequel, Iacta Alea Est, is underway.


Right away I know you could cut 25,000 words from the novel because you can cut a lot from your first two lines of the query letter. I'm not averse to long ass novels, but they still have to be taut and muscular writing. This is not taut writing.

The novel opens when a badly injured young girl in a hospital is brought back from death by an unlikely savior: the tiny alien headliner of a circus side-show. Elsewhere, a wounded solider is trapped on ship and stalked by an unseen danger that has already decimated the crew. Unable to remember anything except the phrase "Lex Talionis", the young woman calls herself Lex. With the help of her doctor, Colin Mayfeld, and his friend, the mysterious empath Dr. Anton Slake, she begins the search for her identity. Where her story intersects with the wounded soldier's lies the answers to her past, present and future.

This is all set up. What's the conflict? What are the stakes?

I have been writing novels since I was ten years old, when I finished my first full-length novel. My short story, 'Douen Mother' was a quarter finalist for the Writers of the Future Contest (second quarter, 2004), and was published in 'Abyss and Apex' in January of 2006. I'm currently a long-standing member of the Online Writers Workshop, which counts among its former contributors writers such as Nalo Hopkinson, Elizabeth Bear and Celia Dart-Thornton. At present, I work as a Marketing Support Analyst in the pharmaceutical industry, but I hope to develop my skills as a writer to the point where I can take it up as a career at a future date.

With all due respect, don't ever include that you've been writing novels since you were ten. That's not a publishing credit. This paragraph is for things that you've published. If you haven't that's ok, but do NOT try to pad it with writing groups you belong to or your life long love of writing. It screams amateur.

I respectfully ask if you would be willing to consider having me e-mail my package, should you be interested in seeing more of my manuscript.

Again, you're over writing. At this point, I'm thinking 30,000 words can be cut from this and you'll still have the story intact.

I hope that this proposal meets with your approval. Until then, I remain,

This isn't a proposal, this is a query letter. Don't confuse the two.

All you need to say at the close of your letter is: Thank you for your time and consideration. I know you want me to read the thing. That's pretty much a given.

Yours truly,

#11-revision

REVISION:




Dear Ms Reid,

It might be the long dark hair covering her face, or the way her fingers curl into a soft fist, but something about the drowned girl lying on the Tel Aviv sand reminds Akiva of his own daughter.

Maybe is it because they are both dead.

Akiva is in charge of the investigation, and he grabs onto the case as if he were the one drowning. If he can find out who she was and return her to her family, he might be able make sense of his own loss and finally put to rest the ghosts that haunt his fractured marriage.

But the girl is not Israeli, she is Palestinian. The Israelis are indifferent to her fate, and Palestinians are hostile to his interference. This is not going to be easy.

The good things never are.


Sins of Omission is a character-driven police procedural: Dennis Lehane with a Middle Eastern twist. It is complete at 120K words.

I am no stranger to the problems of the Middle East. While getting my Ph.D. in Arabic and Hebrew Linguistics, I spent many months in the region. I have both Palestinian and Israeli friends, and although they get along well, there is always an elephant in the room that nobody talks about.

That is why I wrote this book: to talk about the elephant.

Thanks,


this is something I'd request immediately.



-----------------------
ORIGINAL
Dear Ms. Reid,
I am seeking representation for my 92K word detective thriller ACROSS THE GREEN LINE.

This probably isn't a thriller from what you've described. It's a police procedural.


Israeli police officer AKIVA finds the body of a teen-aged girl washed up on a Tel Aviv beach. She reminds him of his own daughter, killed three years before. When Akiva’s investigation reveals that the drowned girl was an Arab, suddenly the Israeli media loses interest, and Akiva is reassigned to another case. Determined to continue the investigation on his own, he must travel across the Green Line into Gaza to meet with the Palestinian police. What he discovers there brings him face to face with his own daughter’s killer, and the most difficult decision of his life.


What you've got here is the set up, not a hook, and not an outline sketch of the plot. Why does this girl remind him of his daughter? What does he discover there? Who's the bad guy? What issues are at stake for him? Be specific in what you talk about.

Dealing with themes of revenge and redemption, ACROSS THE GREEN LINE is complete at 92K words. Set in the tense climate of today’s Middle East, the action is reminiscent of Daniel Silva’s The Kill Artist and Jon Land’s Walls of Jericho, but deals with the realities of life in the region in a more intimate way than either.

Again this is all very general telling. What specifically is different here; what realities of life are you showing? Give one or two short examples.

ACROSS THE GREEN LINE is my first novel, but I am no stranger to the setting and politics of the Middle East. I have a Ph.D. in Arabic and Hebrew linguistics, and I did research for the novel during three trips to the region. The book has been proofed by both Israeli and Palestinian readers. While the novel is stand-alone, a sequel involving the same main character is nearing completion at 90K words.

Proofed? The last book I considered for representation that was about the Palestinians, I had several Jewish friends read to make sure I'd know if there was anything in it that would be considered inflammatory for a Jewish reader. I wasn't going to make the author change it, I just wanted to know ahead of time where the minefields were. This is the equivalent of knowing that "The War Between the States" is the same event as "The Civil War" but if a person calls it the former, not the latter, you know something about them. Is that what you did here? That's different than proof reading for errors.



I'd be happy to send you sample chapters or the complete manuscript for your review. Thank you for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you.

Friday, April 18, 2008

#10

April 19 2008



Ms. Janet Reid
Fine Print Literary Management





Dear Ms. Reid:



Twenty years ago, six desperate men took what didn't belong to them and signed their death warrants. Now burnt-out Special Affairs Section (SAS) investigator, COMMANDER BLAIN CAVAN (why is this in caps?) is recruited by a clandestine agency known as "The Corporation" to find out who is behind the disappearance of the Ruby Buddha, a priceless jade image stolen from the Imperial Palace in Hue during the Vietnam War. To stave off Chinese intervention, the United States must return the Ruby Buddha to the Vietnamese Government or face a dangerous shift of power and allegiance in SE Asia.

Chinese intervention in what? Dangerous shift of power in SE Asia? China is going to melt? Please don't tell me you think American has a lot of power and influence in SE Asia.

As Cavan races to find and recover the Ruby Buddha he also discovers betrayal at the highest levels of government - in both the U.S. and China, and faces betrayal at a personal level that pits him in a life and death struggle with a Chinese colonel who's long wanted to see him dead.


My extensive real-life experiences throughout S.E. Asia, Papua/New Guinea and the Pacific Islands provides me with firsthand knowledge of the cultures and geography that lends a strong edge of reality to Cavan's story as he's forced to travel to the ends of the earth to bring down a madman who appears to know his every move.

Madmen are over used as villains and even in thrillers they are boring. The most interesting and compelling villains are the ones who would describe themselves as heroes of the story.

THE RUBY BUDDHA, a Commander Blain Cavan action-adventure mystery, is 100,000 words and complete. If the project interests you, I would be delighted to send additional pages or the full upon request.

The problem here is that the stakes aren't clear. It's sort of like you're describing that world peace hinges on the return of the Maltese Falcon. Stories that hinge on the discovery of an icon/return of an icon tend to be conflicts between individuals. If you want to write a thriller wherein the balance of power rests on the outcome of the conflict, you need higher stakes than the return of an icon. The only way that would work is if the icon is magic and then you're into a whole new category: SF, not action-adventure mystery.

#9

Att: Janet Reid
FinePrint Literary Management
240 West 35th Street, Suite 500
New York, NY 10001

Dear Ms. Reid:

Casey Wilson and Sam Altair were strangers, but a botched experiment in time travel has thrown them together with no one else to turn to. They are trapped one hundred years in the past, alone on the streets of Belfast, Ireland in 1906. With their old lives lost forever, the young college girl and elderly physicist must build new lives, while worrying how their existence in the past will change the future.

But a famous tragedy becomes personal when Casey meets Thomas Andrews, the man that Sam recognizes will build the doomed steamship, Titanic. In love with Tom, and determined to save his life, Casey will do everything she can to prevent history's most notorious maritime accident.

I hope you will consider representation for this alternate history novel. The Time Travel Journals: Thomas Andrews of Dunallon is complete at 150,000 words. This is my first novel.
Thank you for your time and for your consideration of this proposal. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Sincerely,


This is a model of brevity for sure! I'd probably ask for pages if you didn't include them with the query, but I'd also be asking for a synopsis too. This one is going to depend entirely on the writing.

#8-2 revsions

Dear Ms. Reid,

I read on Publisher's Marketplace that you are currently accepting queries for Women's Fiction. After reading your blog and researching your current clients, I believe that I would like you to represent me.

I believe you would too, but that's not the question here. There's a post on my other blog from someone else who didn't remember which way the traffic flows.


Unlike Avery Ellison, who doesn't know what she wants.

Ah, ok, so now I see that you're setting up a clever contrast here. You'll do better to reverse the order: Unlike Avery Ellison, who doesn't know what she wants, I know I want you to be enchanted with my manuscript (or something akin to that). And both sentences should be in the same paragraph.


She has been standing under the protective canopy of past regrets for so long, she's unable to step out into the open.

A metaphor should make a situation or a feeling or a condition more understandable, not less. I have NO clue what standing under the protective canopy of past regrets for so long, she's unable to step out into the open means.

Avery met the love of her life in high school, but then she let him go--the biggest regret of her life. She is the youngest daughter of a prominent financial planner, headed to a prestigious university. Finley Wentworth is merely the son of a struggling single mother whose best option is to work for a startup internet company. Avery is persuaded by her proud family to let him go. After all, if they are meant to be, neither time nor distance can separate them.

No matter how well you write this, you've got a problem, because this is such an obvious set up. Poor boy who must work at an internet start up? If he's poor and supporting his mom, the LAST place he's going to work is an internet startup because those guys got paid peanuts AND stock options that may have been worthless. A LOT of those companies failed. If he's poor he needs actual cash money. Also "internet start up" is code now for geeky guy comes back to home town with wads of dough. It's an overused trope.

Six years later, Finley unexpectedly returns to Avery's life, now a successful millionaire thanks to his stock options. (I knew it!) Meanwhile, her father has lost virtually everything because he invested in the wrong internet stocks. (surprise!) Just as Avery realizes she is still in love with Finley, (am I the only one saying it serves you right Avery?) it becomes clear that he no longer cares for her. Avery struggles to reconcile the past, especially when Liam Cullen enters her life. He's handsome, rich and he has all the right credentials to satisfy her self-righteous family. Avery finds herself falling in love with Liam, but something is preventing her from giving herself completely to him. Is Finley holding her back? Or is there something about Liam that she just can't ignore?

You've just described a heroine I don't much like. Women's fiction needs a likable heroine. It's a requirement of the category.

Loosely based on the Jane Austen novel Persuasion, A HUNDRED LITTLE PATHS has some similarities with the classic tale of redemption and second chances. And yet, there are elements that will surprise you as Avery strives to conquer her fears of making another mistake, even if it means disappointing the ones she loves the most.

You need to make Avery sound much more likable. Even people making foolish choices can be likable-that's your challenge as a writer.

Although A HUNDRED LITTLE PATHS is my first novel, my writing experience includes a five year career in advertising. I have a B.A. in Psychology from UCLA, and I am currently the owner of a successful home-based internet company in (town). I'm also the mother of two little girls, and married to my high school sweetheart, a Certified Financial Planner.


I'd be happy to send you a copy of the complete manuscript, which comes in at a little over 85,000 words. Thank you for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Best regards,
-------------------------------------

Revision



I read on Publisher's Marketplace that you are interested in Women's Fiction. I hope you will consider my manuscript, A HUNDRED LITTLE PATHS, which is complete at 85,000 words.


Avery Ellison is the youngest daughter of a prominent financial planner, headed to a prestigious university and expected to meet all of her family's haughty aspirations. But When she decides to spurn her carefully orchestrated future to follow love, her family flies into a self-righteous fit of conniptions.


Avery had the impudence to fall in love with Finley Wentworth. To her superficial family, he has sealed his deplorable future by waiving college to work for his brother-in-law's fledgling technology firm. In a frantic attempt to separate the young lovers, Avery is forced to choose between Finley and familial obligations--including her dead mother's alleged wishes--and Avery is manipulated into letting him go.



After spending the next five years veiling her regrets behind wanton apathy and insincere felicity, it seems everything is falling apart around her. Avery barely graduates from college, and due to some poor business decisions, her father is close to foreclosing on her childhood home. To add more salt to her hardened wounds, a wealthy Finley unexpectedly returns, briefly tantalizing Avery with hope, before hurling both of them into a corrosive cycle of spite and conniving deceit that culminates in a tragic accident.

wanton apathy? insincere felicity?

her father is foreclosing on her childhood home? Wouldn't that mean HIS home?

adding salt to hardened wounds?

At this point you've drenched me in adjectives and descriptions that do nothing but muck up the works. You'll do better here to just pare down and say what you mean.


Drowning in guilt and denial, Avery runs straight into the alluring arms of Liam Cullen, who has all the proper credentials to satisfy her pretentious family. Desperate to escape her past and find an easy path to happiness, Avery finds herself falling in love with Liam. But something is preventing her from giving herself completely to him. Could she still be in love with Finley? Or is there something about Liam that she just can't ignore?


Loosely based on the Jane Austen novel Persuasion, A HUNDRED LITTLE PATHS has some similarities with the classic tale of redemption and second chances. And yet, there are elements that will surprise you as Avery and Finley struggle to find love and forgiveness, even if it means disappointing the ones they care about the most.

Although A HUNDRED LITTLE PATHS is my first novel, my writing experience includes a five year career in advertising. I have a B.A. in Psychology from UCLA, and I am currently the owner of a successful home-based internet company in (xxxxx,xxx). I'm also the mother of two little girls, and married to my high school sweetheart, a Certified Financial Planner.

Thank you for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Sincerely,
----------------------
Revision #2


I read on Publisher's Marketplace that you are interested in Women's Fiction. I hope you will consider my manuscript, A HUNDRED LITTLE PATHS, which is complete at 85,000 words.

Avery Ellison is the youngest daughter of a prominent financial planner, headed to a prestigious university and expected to meet all of her family's aspirations. When she decides to spurn her carefully orchestrated future to follow love, her family flies into a self-righteous fit of conniptions. She had the impudence to fall in love with Finley Wentworth, who plans to waive college to work for his brother-in-law's fledgling technology firm. Avery is forced to choose between Finley and familial obligations--including her dead mother's alleged wishes--and she is manipulated into letting him go.

take out all the green italic words. Then put back in ONLY the ones that you need to develop the story. Does it matter that Avery is the youngest? that her family is prominent?

Focus.

And you don't fly into a fit of conniptions. You have a conniption. Take it from me, the conniptions specialist of 35th street.

Five years later, everything is falling apart around Avery. She barely graduates from college, and due to some poor business decisions, her father is close to foreclosure. Avery reluctantly goes home to pack away her memories and confront her uncertain future, when a wealthy Finley unexpectedly returns, briefly tantalizing her with hope, before hurling them into a corrosive cycle of spite and conniving deceit. Desperate to find an easy path to happiness, Avery runs straight into the alluring arms of Liam Cullen, who has all the proper credentials to satisfy her family. But she's unable to give herself completely to him. Could she still be in love with Finley? Or is there something about Liam that she just can't ignore?

corrosive cycle of spite and conniving deceit? Sounds scary huh? Well, no, it doesn't. It sounds made up.

Loosely based on the Jane Austen novel Persuasion, A HUNDRED LITTLE PATHS has some similarities with the classic tale of redemption and second chances. And yet, there are elements that will surprise you as Avery and Finley struggle to find forgiveness and reclaim love, even if it means disappointing the ones they care about the most.

surprise me? You're telling not showing. Surprise me in the query letter, by..surprising me!


Although A HUNDRED LITTLE PATHS (Women's fiction, 85,000 words) is my first novel. my My writing experience includes a five year career in advertising. I have a B.A. in Psychology from UCLA, and I am currently the owner of a successful home-based internet company in (xxxxx,xxx).

Thank you for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Sincerely,

We're on the third draft and it's not the query form that's causing you problems, it's your writing. This is still getting a form letter rejection.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

#7-with 2 revisions

Ms./Mr. XXXX --

Having enjoyed your blog and gotten a sense of your preferences, I hope you might consider representing my science fiction novel, "Ordobat's Folly," complete at 72,500 words. In style, the book could be compared to a Gaean Reach novel by Jack Vance, but with a reluctant hero out of Saul Bellow.

It's just bad form to evoke a Nobel Laureate in a query letter. Even if the comparison is apt, don't. Just don't.



"Ordobat's Folly" follows Mel Ordobat, master brewer of beer, as he tries to save his tavern business from bankruptcy, only to get tangled up in a larger cause. Seeking a new market on a dangerous jungle continent, Mel upsets the plans of a ruthless Galactic corporation. He also gets to know Sabra Demifera, the leader of a resistance movement among the Company's gene-altered workers, known as Shiners for their glossy white skin.

Mel was raised in a peace-loving society, and his ideals come into conflict with the need to defend himself from the Company's increasingly violent pressure tactics. He's not sure himself how much of his determination is due to feelings for Sabra and how much is just plain stubbornness. In the end, Mel and Sabra outwit and outlast the Company's thugs, find a new way to sell his ales, win an important legal victory for the Shiners, and fall inconveniently in love.

There are only seven plots in the world, I know, but you've got to do something in a query letter that makes this sound enticing. This is a list of events. It's Places in the Heart only in space and with a tavern at risk, not the farm. Gone With the Wind except beer instead of draperies. Caddyshack in space without the gopher.


I've been writing professionally since 1999, both as a PR consultant and with articles for the Onion, the Washington Times, and many others. I've also written about beer and brewing, and my years of homebrewing experience inform Mel's expertise. "Ordobat's Folly" would be my first published novel. If you are interested, I'd be happy to provide a synopsis, partial, or complete manuscript.

I think it's hilarious you write for both the Onion and the Washington Times. Except when you say you write for the Onion, I instantly suspect that this query letter is a volley across the gunwales and pirates will soon be posting my response on their blog shouting "avast, we fooled the agent!"

Please feel free to contact me any time. Thank you!
-------------------------------------------------------

Revision #1 (which came with the assurance this was not a prank for The Onion!)

Mr./Ms. Agent --

In a strict and peaceful society on a backwater planet, Mel just wants to be left alone with his obsession: to brew the perfect ale. But harsh competition from cheap, inferior beer threatens to drive him out of business unless he does something drastic. So Mel finds himself flying off to a dangerous jungle, where he gets entangled in an ugly dispute between a ruthless Galactic corporation and their strangely inhuman workers, led by a tough, beautiful half-breed named
Sabra. Unlike the civilized locals, the Company has no qualms about using violence to get their way — and Mel is just trying to sell some beer!

"Ordobat's Folly" is the 72,000-word story of how a reluctant hero comes to fight for something larger than just his beers and bars. The Company's powerful computers predict that Mel will be easy to discourage and the workers easy to keep down; together, Mel and Sabra
prove them wrong.

I've been writing professionally since 1999, both as a PR consultant and with articles for the Onion, the Washington Times, and many others. If you are interested, I would love to provide a synopsis, partial, or complete manuscript. If you prefer, you can see the first chapter and some background information at http:// follybook.blogspot.com.

Please feel free to contact me any time. Thank you!


This is why you send pages. This isn't a stellar query letter (it's better than the original though, by a long shot), so if the writing is really good and funny, I'll read on.

If an agent doesn't ask for pages, or specifically says not to send them, I do like the idea of a blog or a website with pages available. That's a good idea. I've actually started looking at some of those.

---------------------------------------------
REVISION #2


Mr./Ms. Agent --

Mel Ordobat, peaceful brewer on a backwater planet, has no idea that trying to make the perfect ale will lead him to blood, death and love. But when competition from cheap, flavorless beer threatens him with bankruptcy, he flies to a dangerous jungle and tries to make
customers of the glossy-skinned offworlders called Shiners. Unfortunately the Shiners work for a ruthless Galactic corporation that doesn't care for outsiders. Allying with Sabra, a beautiful half-breed woman who's obsessed with freeing the Shiners from servitude, Mel comes to fight for something more than his beers and bars. The Company has no qualms about using violence to get their way, because their computers predict that Mel and Sabra will be easy to
intimidate. They're wrong.



I've written professionally since 1999, reviewing food and drink, covering the DC music scene, working in PR and advertising, and writing supplements for roleplaying games. ORDOBAT'S FOLLY, complete at 72,000 words, is available for your review. You can also see the
first chapter and some background information at http://follybook.blogspot.com.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Yup, you got it!

#6

Att: Janet Reid

FinePrint Literary Management



Dear Ms. Reid,



Letters From Inside is a completed 70,000 word romantic suspense manuscript about a troubled teenage girl and her mom’s struggle to find a calm balance between them. Jessica snags a convicted felon by corresponding as a pen-pal and forging her mom's signature. Linda Wheeler’s biggest challenge is about to begin and might prove to be more than the single mom can handle alone. But can she trust the newly assigned detective hell bent for justice?

what does "snags" mean? Did she marry him? Correspond with him? What's the challenge in that for her mother. Jesus himself calls us to visit prisoners. You haven't spelled out a conflict here, let alone explained why a newly assigned detective is hell bent for justice.

I'm confused.

Letters From Inside is about one man’s search for the perfect life, while another seeks justice, using whatever means necessary. As Jessica falls deeper into the life of delinquency, Tom and Linda join forces to save her from the fire. But the real threat of deceit hangs between them when Linda discovers she was the flame all along.

Wait I thought it was about Linda and Jessica? Who's the one man searching for a perfect life? Delinquency? Fire? She's writing letters!

The real threat of deceit hangs between them when Linda discovers she was the flame all along doesn't make sense to me. Quit trying to be all metaphorical and just SAY what the plot is.



I’m an active member of Romance Writer’s of America and my local chapter, Mid-Michigan RWA. I’ve had short stories published in “A Hint of Seduction” and “Woman for Woman” and “Romantic Short Love Stories.” I’ve also published articles in romance newsletters associated with RWA.

I don't know what any of those publications are. Of course, I don't work in romance much, so perhaps a more knowledgeable agent will recognize them. If you're querying widely it will help to give a bit of reference such as "A Hint of Seduction" (the NYC Firearms Club Quarterly)


Should you be interested, I would love to send you the completed manuscript. I look forward to hearing from you.

Never say should you be interested. It's bad salesmanship. Always assume yes. Always. It's just a way of looking at the world, not even a tactic, but you need to be a half full glass kind of person to be in publishing.

Sincerely,

#5

April 17, 2008

Ms. Janet Reid
FinePrint Literary Management
240 West 35th Street, Suite 500
New York, NY 10001


Dear Ms. Reid:

REDEMPTION is not your mother’s romantic suspense novel. Its racy romance and thrilling suspense should appeal to fans of Sandra Brown, Allison Brennan, and Lisa Jackson.

Four years ago in L.A., a sadistic rape robbed Angela Reardon of her trust in men and her sexuality. Now living near San Diego, the twenty-nine-year-old interior decorator has built a successful business and a new life-sans love or sex. Haunted by her inability to identify the rapist, Angela wants only to be left alone until a shadowy stranger reignites dormant desires. But Angela’s journey to sexual recovery may be brief because someone wants her dead.


Jake Stone, a thirty-five-year-old hitman specializing in hits disguised as suicides, orchestrates a charade to get close to his next victim. Unexpectedly, Angela chisels deep into his granite emotions, fracturing the rock until compassion and love seep through the cracks. While battling his own demons, Jake struggles to restore Angela’s sexuality despite knowing he must eventually consummate the contract. Can Jake find redemption by searching for the person who needs Angela killed? When the trail leads him into the carnal underbelly of L.A., even the hardened hitman is unprepared for the shocking truth.


Angela chisels deep into...etc is one of those sentences that doesn't belong in a query letter. For starters you're beating the metaphor into the ground: granite emotions isn't evocative, it's purple prose. As is carnal underbelly.

Tell us the gist of the story and leave the dramatics for the actual book. Someone hired Jack to kill Angela. He specializes in making hits look like suicides so he has to get close to the victim to make it look authentic. He falls for her.

I'm not all that sure the sex therapy part needs to be here, you don't have to put everything into a query letter and frankly, I'd stop reading if I saw it, whereas if you beguile me into reading pages, I might get so involved with the story I'm less likely to say ewwww.



I am a member of RWA, the San Diego and Kiss of Death chapters, and Sisters in Crime. I write a column for the new San Diego Woman magazine. As a longtime San Diego resident, I have sprinkled REDEMPTION with many well-known and not-so-well-known landmarks. I hope the magazine and the landmarks will prove useful in a regional marketing campaign.

The first five pages are enclosed. I would be pleased to send you sample chapters or the full 99,000-word, completed manuscript. While I hold my breath, I am writing a romantic thriller about a young woman who becomes a pawn in the FBI’s battle to capture a Mexican drug cartel kingpin and his money launderer. This will be the first book in a trilogy of FBI stories set primarily in San Diego.

All the rest of this works fine except of course I'm really over Mexican drug cartels and money launderers. That story line doesn't feel very fresh to me, but it's not going to stop me from reading your pages if the query is enticing.

Please note that this is a simultaneous submission. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

#4-revisions

Att: Janet Reid
FinePrint Literary Management
240 West 35th Street, Suite 500
New York, NY 10001

Dear Ms. Reid:

My novel, BLOOD TIES is complete at 93,000 words set on the steamy pre- Hurricane Katrina Mississippi Gulf Coast. Mixing the genres of contemporary romance, woman's and literary fiction, it would be a great fit with your agency.

First, I acquire my own list as do most agents. Our agency represents almost everything; I don't. You want to fit MY list. The smart thing here is to leave this out. You don't need to state the obvious (at least not most of the time!)



Imagine if Tony Montana, Hannibal Lecter or Michael Corleone had been a young woman?

Brilliantly calculating, disarmingly beautiful and criminally insane, Shannon Kelly is bent on seizing control of her father's multi-million dollar drug cartel, easily disguised as a respectable entertainment conglomerate.

I'm done reading here. She's a caricature, and I'm not much on reading caricatures. Leave out all the adjectives and just let us discover what she's like.

Refusing to watch her lazy half brother, Michael Kontos, gain power and reap profits, Shannon and her long time assistant, Shawn, capitalize on Mike's greed and entitlement to distract him from their "corporate climb." She puts in long hours making deals and presents herself as the up and coming head of the family. Pleased that Shannon could run the upscale parts of his business, her father repeatedly tried to dissuade her from stepping into his shoes, but once Mike is occupied away from the realities of family business, Shannon expands her control and proves to her father that the success of their family depends on her and Shawn.

I don't understand this at all. What does capitalize on entitlement mean? Why is corporate climb in quotes? Presents herself to whom? Her father is pleased AND tries to dissuade her? Huh?

When Shannon finds that one of her suppliers cut her out of substantial profits, she explodes in a rage of violence and passion that spirals out of control and forces her to admit that her feelings for Shawn less resemble business vs. pleasure and better resemble sweltering urgency vs. manic obsession. Finally accepting that her love and family cannot survive if her brother does, she gives into her dark side and kills him.

A rage of passion? She kills her brother in a rage of passion? Forgive me for sounding sarcastic here but what the heck is a rage of passion?

Ripe with shameless drug use, wanton sex and superfluous violence, the Kelly family saga doesn't end here. I am working on the sequel VIOLENT REACTION. As a ten year resident of the Mississippi Gulf Coast, I can attest the tropical location is perfect for a series full of passion, intensity and occasional insanity.

You say shameless drug use, wanton sex and superfluous violence like they are bad things.
Here's where I start thinking this isn't a serious query letter, you're just pulling my leg.

May I send you the manuscript for BLOOD TIES? Thank you in advance for your time and attention.

Sincerely,

-----------------------------------------------

Dear Ms. Reid:


I am querying because of your interest in thrillers and commercial fiction. BLOOD TIES is my first novel and complete at 93,000 words.

Imagine if Michael Corleone had been a young woman?

Shannon Kelly is an educated, upstanding, occasionally violent member of Gulf Coast society. Her father Donovan, a powerful aging drug dealer, refuses to let her get too involved in his business for her own safety. When Mike, the half brother she despises, appropriates Kelly Enterprises, Shannon ignores her father and fights to seize control of the family business by any means necessary.

Supported by her long time friend, Shawn, Shannon quickly dominates every facet of Kelly Enterprises. Frantically trying to cover past indiscretions that could land everyone in jail, Mike descends into paranoid madness. But when he starts killing women to silence them Shannon reveals the depth of her own depraved strategy and proves her loyalty to Shawn and her family knows no limits.

ok, who are we supposed to LIKE here? All these people sound like folks I'd hide under the bed to avoid. Protagonists can be flawed, they can be killers, they can do bad things, but in the end, we have to like them, and want to spend time with them. This query letter does not show me that.

Figure out why we wanted to hang out with Michael Corleone. You need that element.

Upon your request, I can immediatly send along my manuscript of BLOOD TIES, which is out for simultaneous submission. Thank you in advance for taking the time to consider my inquiry.

Sincerely,


This one would get a form rejection.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

#3-with revisions

FinePrint Literary Management
Attn: Janet Reid

Dear Ms Reid,

Please find detailed below a brief synopsis of a crime fiction novel of approximately 80 000 words. Set in South Africa, its style could be compared with Deon Meyer’s writing, as both attempt to explore the violence and darkness associated with the continent whilst ensuring the
redemptive qualities of humour and humanity add indispensable balance.

First, a query letter is not the place for a synopsis, brief or not. You want a hook here. A hook answers the question "why do I want to read this?"

The answer to that question is never ever "because I want to explore the darkness and violence associated with Africa while ensuring the redemptive qualities of humor and humanity adds indispensable balance" because, for starters, I don't know what that means.


This sounds like a masters thesis or some pretentious literary review.

Specifics are your friend in query letters.



A NECESSARY VIOLENCE is set in a modern South Africa crippled by an incompetent, overworked and often, corrupt, legal system. Jake van Zyl and his partner Sipho Mkwena are senior investigating officers of the beleaguered crime-fighting unit, the Scorpions.

About to be disbanded by the government after a series of high profile arrests, the Scorpions continue to follow the money and unravel corruption and organised crime while they can. Jake’s current case is to monitor the influx of funds and support from the British National Party (a right wing political organisation) to a conglomerate of white farmers, determined to
protect themselves from violent farm murders by self arming and defence.

The situation is problematic due to the fact that Jake’s family farm, now managed by his younger brother, is part of the group and his loyalties are divided. It is further complicated when under surveillance, an attractive English woman named Kate, inexplicably murders the leader of the BNP’s bodyguard, Mark Chapman. When questioned she confesses he was her ex-lover and she was on the run because she witnessed his role in a horrific hate crime in the UK. Believing he had found her and was determined to silence her, she was forced to take his life in self-defence.

You've now introduced four characters and three places, and two situations. Yes, I'm confused.

In reality, Mark was murdered by a shadowy figure called, ‘the spider,” who had orchestrated a scenario where it appeared Kate shot her ex in self-defence. A woman, whose childhood obligations to a rural community resulted in her rebirth as an assassin, is selectively called upon by a small group of tribal elders to defend the weak or punish the wicked in
the absence of state justice. Only one woman, who is given the task of communicating the instructions of the elders to the spider, knows her identity. In this case, to protect Kate, a dedicated teacher in a small rural school and now accepted as one of their own, from certain death.

Because you're giving such a brief look at this, with no context or emotional resonance this has tipped over into caricature. When I read this I think "a kindergarten teacher moonlighting as an assassin." I know that's not what you mean, but that's how it sounds here.

Unable to accept that Kate murdered Mark, despite a verdict of self-defence and her return to England, Jake investigates further and discovers by chance, a series of violent murders related to Lize du Preez, Kate’s appointed lawyer. Half legend, half fact, a story unfolds of a white warrior woman whose unorthodox and brutal retribution finally catches up with her. Despite being revered by many as an avenging angel and his own mixed feelings regarding her swift justice, he is forced to approach Kate and convince her to work with the Scorpions as a witness
against Lize who has been officially classified as a serial killer. Regardless of her conflicting emotions, she finally agrees when they receive news of an habitual child rapist burnt to death in his shack. Unfortunately in this case, so was his 6yr old victim.

Lize is arrested and released, but the pressure mounts as Kate is secretly brought back to South Africa in order to testify. She is placed into protective custody when it becomes clear someone in the Scorpions is helping 'the Spider’. Drawn into a intense, personal relationship with
Kate, Jake places her at his family farm in the NW Province when a vicious local farm murder takes place, heightening tension and alienating Jake
further from the justice system he has sworn to uphold.

The murdered farmer was part of a consortium represented by Lize’s legal firm and she is summoned to an emergency meeting in the NW Province. At the same time, she is approached by the elders and given the instruction to avenge this crime by dispatching the murderers who have been identified by the local community.

Lize finally starts to lose control as her roles converge and a desperate hunt for Kate begins. Both women, once allies, enter a fight for their lives. Only one can survive as this story builds to its shocking
conclusion.

I am a British citizen who has settled permanently in South Africa. Although this is my first fiction novel, I have developed and had published educational material for the adult literacy market and am a high school English teacher, specialising in creative writing and literature.

fiction novel is a phrase that draws an instant rejection. I'd stop reading here if I'd made it past paragraph three.

I thank you for your time in considering my submission and would love to forward you either sample chapters or the completed manuscript in case of further interest.

Yours sincerely

-------------------------

Revision #1

A Necessary Violence is a crime fiction novel that asks the question, do we still call it murder when the victims deserve to die?

Set in South Africa, its style could be compared to Deon Meyer and readers who enjoy intelligent suspense with dark humour, will keep turning the page.

Jake van Zyl is a senior investigating officer of the Scorpions, an elite South African crime fighting unit, which has garnered many political enemies with its high profile arrests and is now facing dissolution.

Whilst investigating international money transfers from a right wing supremacist group, he vanZyl crosses paths with Kate Gardener a murder suspect who killed her abusive partner, but was acquited with a verdict of self-defence.

Intrigued and unsettled by aspects of the case, Jake investigates further and soon discovers a series of 'self-defence' murders linked to Kate's lawyer, Lize du Preez.

Why is he intrigued and unsettled by a case of someone killing an abusive spouse? Seems pretty run of the mill to me. You'll need to be specific here for it to make sense. And does this have anything to do with the Scorpions and their high-profile arrests and imminent disbanding? If it doesn't, you'll need to take that out. When I read a query I assume everything you tell me is a key ingredient in the narrative or plot.

Lize is more than a lawyer. Damaged by a violent childhood, she has assumed the role of unofficial defender and avenger of the most vulnerable in society. Those who have been failed by an increasingly overburdened and incompetent legal system.

Is Lize the main character? You've introduced her after vanZyle, Kate Gardner, and the Scorpions. That makes her seem like a supporting role, and yet the rest of the query is about her.

Linked to a tribal group of elders, who alternatively shield and use her to protect their people, Lize begins to tip from protector, into a darker, more insidious tool of revenge.

Jake vanZyl, discovering both a pattern and accelaration of incidents, realises he needs to stop this serial killer, now known as 'the spider'. However, this intention is compromised by his own disullusion at the corruption within the justice system, and his own moral boundaries become dangerously skewed with ever riskier personal choices.

Wait, wait. Serial killer? The Spider? Lize is a serial killer known as the spider? Sorche Fairbank coined a great phrase this weekend at Muse in Marketplaces Agent Idol. She said anything more than five names in a query is "name soup" and I agree. Focus on two people. Protagonist, antagonist. If Lize is a serial killer of abusers, you say "needs to stop Lize who is killing abusers" so it's clear.

Needing Kate to cement his case, and needing an excuse to see her again, Jake arranges for her recall from England to work with the Scorpions as a witness. Regardless of her own conflicting emotions and loyalty regarding Lize , she finally agrees when they receive news of an habitual child rapist burnt to death in his shack. Unfortunately for 'the spider', in this case, so was his 6yr old victim.

Why the HELL would she agree to do anything against the person who got her acquitted of murder?

Lize is arrested but released, mainly due to the uncomfortable politics involved in charging a white woman working with traditional leaders as a serial killer/vigilante and popular opinion appears to applaud her swift and brutal methods.However this decision forces Kate into protective custody when it becomes clear that someone in the Scorpions is helping the spider locate and remove the state's only witness.

Ok, we've know crossed over into a long list of events almost synopsis length. A query isn't the place for a synopsis. This needs to be pared down to essentials.

Drawn into an intense, personal relationship with Kate, Jake places her at his family farm when a vicious local farm murder takes place, heightening tension and alienating Jake further from the justice system he has sworn to uphold.

The murdered farmer was part of a consortium represented by Lize's legal firm and she is summoned to an emergency meeting with her clients. At the same time, she is approached by the elders and given the instruction to avenge the crime by dispatching the murderers and sending a clear message from the local community in response to the brutality of the crime.

Lize finally starts to lose control as her roles converge and a desperate hunt for Kate begins. Both women, once allies, enter a fight for their lives. Only one can survive as this story builds to its shocking conclusion.

I am a British citizen who has settled permanently in South Africa. Although this is my first novel, I have developed and had published educational material for the adult literacy market. I am a high school English teacher, specialising in creative writing and literature.

Thank you for your time in considering my submission. I would love to forward you either sample chapters or the completed manuscript for further consideration.


Too long, too many characters. All that excess conceals any details you might have that would make this stand out. Back to the sculpture studio for some chisel work.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

#2-with a revision

ORIGINAL QUERY

Att: Janet Reid
FinePrint Literary Management
240 West 35th Street, Suite 500
New York, NY 10001

Dear Ms Reid,

When an American family of four on vacation in the Middle East becomes trapped as a result of a sudden, horrifying outbreak of war, they must overcome paralyzing terror and anguish to find shelter from falling bombs while waiting for a way to escape the country.

First, you miss the obvious first person POV benefit: When MY American family became trapped between Hezbollah and Israel, we were terrified. We had to figure out how to find shelter from the bombs and a way out of the country.

By putting it in first person, you bring an energy and immediacy to your letter. Second, it's then obvious this is a memoir.

Accidental Refugee is a memoir, complete at approximately 53,000 words and is and account story of the events my family endured in the summer of 2006. An American mother accompanies her husband to his native Lebanon to visit relatives and attend a wedding. An unexpected war breaks out between the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah and the state of Israel, imprisoning the family in the center of the battle zone. With an Israeli blockade, a bombed out airport , collapsed bridges and roads leading out of Lebanon impassable, the family is forced to flee several times to escape the bombs before they finally find refuge in a convent high in the Lebanese mountains. Their only hope to return home to the U.S. is to wait for rescue from the American government. When American navy warships arrive off the coast of Lebanon, the family, along with thousands of other Americans are rescued and ferried to the tiny island of Cyprus. Though the family returns home to freedom, each of them must find a way to live with the scars and memories of the insanity of war.

This is all very general description. Tell us one or two very scary things that happened. Tell us what that ship smelled like. Tell us what people do when they're terrified. Tell us what it's like to be a Lebanese national hoping for American rescue (mixed feelings perhaps?).

Although there are a number of published nonfiction works describing the life and times during the Lebanese civil war of the seventies and eighties, most are written from a native, journalistic or political point of view. Accidental Refugee offers the reader a unique chance to experience Lebanon and its latest major conflict from a civilian, American point of view. It also offers a close up view from a woman's perspective of overcoming the dynamics of a mixed marriage and then surviving a harrowing ordeal in her husband's native, Middle Eastern homeland. Lebanon and its affairs are closely monitored by the media, making Accidental Refugee a very enlightening and timely story. My story will appeal readers interested in topics such as women placed in perilous circumstances, multi-cultural issues within a family and topics related to the Middle East.

If you describe your story in compelling enough terms, you don't need to tell me who'll be interested. My thought will be more like who wouldn't be interested!.


Although Accidental Refugee is my first book, I plan to continue writing and have already developed ideas for other works. Ms.X, because of your interest in memoirs and true adventure stories, I am anxious for the opportunity to send you a completed book proposal. I would be honored to represented by you and the XX Agency. Thank you for your valuable time.

You can just say Accidental Refugee is your first book. If you have a specific idea for another, you can mention that. And I'm not much for all that "I would be honored stuff." Just thank you works just fine.


Sincerely,

Now, here's a tricky thing. The email you sent this from is what I would consider to be a man's name, but it sounds like you're a woman. You either need an email address with your name, or you need to indicate in some way that what I think is a man's name is yours and you are the wife. (Mrs) First Name or (Ms) First Name will do that.

You've got what sounds like a compelling story here but you're drowning in lackadaisical description. Give it some spice!

----------------------------------
REVISION

Dear Ms. Reid,

When my family became trapped in a war between Israel and Hezbollah, our Middle Eastern vacation was turned into an odyssey of terror. We were forced to flee from deadly bombs while desperately looking for a way to escape the country.

Where were you? What town? Who was bombing you? How did you flee? on foot, by car? Give us one or two compelling details that make this real, rather than after the fact reporting.

ACCIDENTAL REFUGEE is an account of the events my family endured in the summer of 2006. As an American mother, I never intended for my children to feel the bone-shattering thud of bombs. Our plans to visit beautiful beaches and ruins became hiding in a convent and enjoyable road trips became a cruise on a warship across the Mediterranean. My husband, a Lebanese national, hoping to pass on a love of his homeland to us instead found himself overcome with guilt from seeing his family placed in terrible danger.

Of course you never intended it, what mom would? You probably mean it never occured to you that as an American, you'd be bombed, right?

Was this your first trip? Did you speak any Arabic? Did your children? How old were your children? Being in a war with a baby is different than being in one with a teenager. For starters, babies need diapers and don't understand being hungry.



Although there are a number of published nonfiction works describing the life and times during the Lebanese civil war of the seventies and eighties, most are written from a native, journalistic or political point of view. Accidental Refugee offers the reader a unique chance to experience Lebanon and its latest major conflict from a civilian, American point of view. It also offers a close up view from a woman's perspective of overcoming the dynamics of a mixed marriage and then surviving a harrowing ordeal in her husband's native Lebanon.



ACCIDENTAL REFUGEE is my first book. I have already begun work on second project which will be a novel, a paranormal romance involving a near-death experience, infidelity and unexpected psychic powers. Ms.X, because of your interest in memoirs and true adventure stories, I am anxious for the opportunity to send you a completed book proposal. Thank you for your time.

I'm going to advise against mentioning the next projects here in the query letter since it's not in the same category as this. When you get an agent interested, one of the things you do want to ascertain is whether they represent both fiction and non-fiction.

Sincerely,

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

#1

Att: Janet Reid
FinePrint Literary Management
240 West 35th Street, Suite 500
New York, NY 10001

DON'T EVER START an email query with the address of the person you're sending to.  It just wastes space. 


Dear QueryShark:

I read on the FinePrint website you represent fiction and thought my manuscript may interest you. FOUR SEASONS is a 100,000 word Women's Fiction manuscript about loyalty – and explores whether sacrificing close relationships in order to pursue personal happiness is worth the anguish. Readers of Marian Keyes and Emily Barr may find FOUR SEASONS appealing.


This isn't a hook, it's a description. Opinions vary on whether a rhetorical question is the best way to start a query letter (some agents hate them, I like them), but you want to start with something that hooks our interest, not a description.


When Katherine "The Dependable" McKenzie has an extra-marital affair, she puts her future in jeopardy and strains relationships to breaking point. Her long-standing friendships with Bel, Naomi and Stace are rocked by her indiscretion, pushing the women into confronting their own inadequacies when it comes to loyalty - romantic, self, friendship and family. Told over the course of a year, the women's prejudices are challenged and reflected by each change of season.


Again, here's more description. You haven't given us any sense of conflict, or what the consequences might be. You call Katherine dependable (telling not showing) so we're supposed to get the idea that she's not the kind of person who would ever do such a thing. Well, why did she? Was she blackmailed into it? Enticed by an undercover celebrity? Tired of her husband?

Soon after Katherine learns she's pregnant, she disappears. Has she left to start a new life, determined to keep the identity of her child's father a secret? Or is she the victim of foul play, with a scorned husband and ex-lover bent on revenge as prime suspects? Complicating matters, Bel is pursuing the man of her dreams, who happens to be Katherine's estranged husband. Should she be faithful to herself or her friendship? Naomi believes her mother is cheating on her recently deceased father with a man twenty years her junior. Her staunch belief in monogamy could destroy the relationships with her mother and Katherine if she doesn't find a way to forgive. Stace receives a job offer to work in Argentina and wonders if her friends are right. Is she planning to run away and escape dealing with her emotions and her friends' crises? If she leaves, it could endanger Katherine's life. Each woman must overcome their individual challenges by facing conflict and betrayal in order to save Katherine. Four friends. Four betrayals. Four seasons.


Who is the main character? I thought it was Katherine after reading the second paragraph. You're swamping us with names and details when what I'm really looking for here is a sense of what the book is about and why I'd want to read it. You'd actually be better off with Each woman must overcome individual challenges by facing conflict and betrayal in order to save Katherine when she disappears after learning she's pregnant as the first sentence in this paragraph.



The full manuscript has recently been requested by XXXXXX, Editor, XXXX books and XXXXX, Senior Editor at XXXXX. I am a PRO Member of RWA and belong to the RWA XXXXX Chapter. I have included the first two chapters, brief synopsis and an SASE as per the directions of your website. Thank you for your time and consideration.


I get these "has been requested by Editor" things all the time. I actually kid the editors about it when I talk to them because I know what happens at writing conferences. They ask for everything -particularly editors who only take agented stuff. Heck, we all do mostly cause it's almost impossible to say no to someone's face. And that's exactly what I assume this means. Thus if this is NOT what happened, you'd be advised to give particulars. "Editor X requested this after reading my short story in Publication Q" is MUCH more persuasive than "she requested this at a conference".

Sincerely,



Revise, resend!

Monday, April 7, 2008

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