Thursday, July 30, 2009

#124--Winner on the first try

Dear Query Shark,

Ford Kelly spends his days driving an ambulance and his nights driving the getaway car for his uncle the contract killer. But when his uncle dies mid-contract, Ford has two choices: also die, or convince his new employers he knows more about taking lives than saving them.

The contract? Snuff out a ring of dirty cops who demand hush money after stumbling across a new drug being prepared for the street. The problem? The last cop on the list is Ford's wife, who left him after the death of their son a year ago. That's when Ford discovers how good at killing he really is.

THE ONES WHO MADE ME is 75,000 words. It is my first novel. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

(redacted)



oh yea. Yea, yea, yea.
We have a winner.

What I like: the juxtaposition of the jobs---ambulance, getaway car. I like seeing the stakes--killing his wife. I like the flawed hero--it looks like he kills his wife.

I'm ALL over this one.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

#123-Revised-**WINNER**

REVISION
Dear Query Shark:

I am seeking representation for ABIDE WITH ME, a 57,000-word crime novel about friendship, community, football, hope, and biscuits. Oh, and gangsters.

I like the juxtaposition of crime novel and friendship. I'm always looking for that kind of weird pairing. I think it bodes well for a fun read.

John's out the nick after doing seven years for a bodged robbery. And childhood friend Kenny's out the nut house, ten years after bashing up the school bully with a dinner tray. Everything's looking rosy, until John finds out Kenny's got a job as bagman for local villain Ronnie Swordfish. John fears the worst. And he's right.

Kenny, the daft bastard, is handin' out money to all and fuckin' sundry, including John's Mum who's borrowed a large wedge from Ronnie to tide her over while John's inside. But where's Kenny gettin' the money from for this little Robin Hood act, if not from Ronnie Swordfish himself?

John knows Ronnie's got his eye on him, likes the look of him. And when Ronnie helped John out by blowin' up the bastard screw that was makin' his life inside a living hell, John knew he'd come callin'. But a paranoid psycho like Ronnie Swordfish don't trust easy. So what better test than get John to bring Kenny in? Two birds with one stone.

Right here, this sets up both the conflict and the stakes of the novel. If every query letter I got did that as neatly as this one did, I'd never stop requesting fulls.

Faced with handin' over his lifelong friend on a plate or watchin' his own mum and sister burn in their beds, like Ronnie promised, John ain't got a choice.


Thing is, John don't even know the fuckin' half of it.

And that's exactly why, in less than forty words, why I am eager to read the pages, and then the novel.


I have three published short stories to my name, all published by (redacted) in their collections (redacted).

what? "all published by in their collections" doesn't make sense.


I hereby enclose the first three chapters of my novel along with a synopsis, and an SAE for your convenience. Thank you very much for your consideration.


Sincerely,



oh hell yes, send this at once.


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ORIGINAL
Dear Query Shark:

I am seeking representation for ABIDE WITH ME, a 57,000-word Mainstream novel about friendship, community, football, hope, and biscuits. Oh, and gangsters.

Mainstream isn't capitalized. It's not a proper noun. Also, what you describe below isn't anywhere close to a mainstream novel. It's a crime novel.

John's out the nick after doing seven years for a bodged robbery. And childhood friend Kenny's out the nut house, ten years after bashing up the school bully with a dinner tray. Everything's looking rosy, until John finds out Kenny's got a job as Bagman for local villain Ronnie Swordfish. John fears the worst. And he's right.

Bagman isn't a proper noun either. Proper on this side of the pond means something other than what it means on your side. Here's what I mean.

Kenny, the daft bastard, is handin' out money to all and fuckin' sundry, including John's Mum who's borrowed a large wedge from Ronnie to tide her over while John's inside. But where's Kenny gettin' the money from for this little Robin Hood act, if not from Ronnie Swordfish himself?



John knows Ronnie's got his eye on him, likes the look of him. And when Ronnie helps him out by blowin' up the bastard screw that's makin' his life inside a living hell, John knew he'd come callin'. But a paranoid psycho like Ronnie Swordfish don't trust easy. So what better test than gettin' John to bring Kenny in? Two birds with one stone.

I'm a tad confused here. Ronnie helps John out by blowing up someone who making his life INSIDE a living hell? I thought John was out of jail?

Faced with handin' over his lifelong friend on a plate or watchin' his own mum and sister burn in their beds, like Ronnie promised, John ain't got a choice.


Thing is, John don't even know the fuckin' half of it.


I have three published short stories to my name, all published by in their collections.

I hereby enclose the first three chapters of my novel along with a synopsis, and an SAE for your convenience. Thank you very much for your consideration.


Sincerely,

This has voice and energy. Normally, it's exactly the kind of thing I'd jump all over. Trouble is, there's so much slang I'm not sure I actually understand it, and I can just hear editors saying "too Brit."



I like this though; I like it a lot. I would definitely read pages from this.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Do I really have to say this?

Don't post queries in the comment section of other queries.
I will delete them.

If you want to have a query critiqued on the QueryShark blog follow the damn directions.

#122-Revised

Dear Query Shark,

'This too shall pass,' are the cruelest words in the English language, Petra Harrison thinks as she waits for the plane to take off.

With the death of her parents, she's been sent to Greenley's Academy, an exclusive boarding school a million miles away from her home in Smalltown, Idaho.

On the flight she makes a friend and catches the eye of handsome bad boy, Baird. She's begun to think boarding school might not be so bad when the plane crashes. The students are stranded on an island and as the days pass, without rescue, people begin to act less like spoiled rich kids and more like desperate survivors.

What does that mean? Are they becoming cannibals? Are they building rafts out of seat cushions? Are they trying to swim for Switzerland?

Baird thinks the flash of light that stalled the plane's engines was an electromagnetic pulse, the wave form of radiation from a high altitude nuclear explosion. As if that wasn't enough, they are in American territorial waters. Is the United States at War and with whom?

How do they know where they are if they crashed?


Scrabbling for food and water, with no rescue in sight, the survivors are forced to make desperate decisions. After the murder of the pilot, and a failed attempt at escape, the group splits as accusations and violence break out.



Petra sides with Baird, the geeks and other High School brainiacs. The Gems, an exclusive girl group and the High School President lead the rest of the survivors.

Can this be more stereotypical?

One of the most obvious things you've missed here is that in an emergency in real life, unlike television, many people rise above themselves. There's the example of the the Blitz in London. New York, and in fact all of the USA after 9/11. People rushed to HELP. Read any of the survivors of great disasters books and you'll see again and again that people did noble things, not selfish things.

Your book has to feel emotionally true for it to work.

The only thing certain now is that someone on the island has a deadly secret to keep and the world has changed.

This is actually a good line, and I'd bring it much farther UP in the query.

My edgy young adult novel, Surrounded by Blue,(book one in a proposed series of four) complete at 81,550 words, is a story of survival, mystery and geeky fanboys run amok.

Resist using adjectives to describe your own book.
fanboys? Where did that come from?

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,


The problem isn't your query letter; it's the book. Castaways on a desert island who fall into the same cliques I remember from sixth grade at Miss Heliotrope's School for Ill Mannered Ladies is not fresh and new. There's nothing here that turns our expectations on their ear. There's nothing that makes me wonder "what happens next."


Form rejection.




---------------------------------------------------------------------------
Dear Query Shark,

I hate the show Lost. Perhaps hate is too strong a word, I despise Lost. I loved the first season. A disparate group of passengers trapped on a mysterious island with Mathew Fox sounds like my version of heaven. But, by the second season, the show's endless mysteries and bizarre secrets began to wear thin.

You better hope that whoever is reading this has a clue what Lost is. I don't.

My YA novel, Surrounded by Blue, complete at 81,550 words, is Lost with an ending.

Here's a brief synopsis;

Start here because you start your query with what YOUR BOOK is about.

'This too shall pass,' are the cruelest words in the English language Petra Harrison thinks as she waits for the plane to take off.

With the death of her parents, she's been sent to Greenley's Academy, an exclusive boarding school a million miles away from her home in Smalltown, Idaho.

On the flight she makes a friend and catches the eye of handsome bad boy, Baird. She's begun to think boarding school might not be so bad when the plane crashes. The students are stranded on an island and as the days pass without rescue, people begin to act less like spoiled rich kids and more like desperate survivors.

What was the mysterious flash of light that happened seconds before the engines stopped? Why won't anyone's satellite phone work and most pressing of all, who killed the pilot?

So basically you're taking the premise of a TV show that everyone except me knows about, and writing a different ending.

You might want to try for something a little less derivative.

Would you be interested in reading my book? Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,


You've got a very basic stranded on a desert island story. There's no plot. There's no conflict. There's no antagonist.

This is a form rejection.

#121

Dear Query Shark,

April is an ordinary girl with an ordinary life; the sort who is thrilled just by being wife. Sure, she used to be a feminist and she still gets angry when men open doors for her but there is nothing about her that sets her apart.

You've just told us there's nothing interesting about a woman you propose I should spend a novel with. Don't do this. Start where the action starts.


Or there wasn’t, until January 9th, 2009 when she came home to realize she was in one of more than 50% of marriages that don’t work out. Sometime between discovering her husband’s sordid affair was the least of his secrets and the mob banging on her door, she realizes that sometimes The Last Day of Your Life (as you know it) is only the beginning of something much worse.



The Last Day of Your Life is a story of solace for anyone who thinks their relationship ended badly.

Don't tell me what the story is about, show me.

April had been married to Drew for seven years when she came home to find him naked in the shower with a woman who represented everything that made April never want to live anywhere near LA; which she didn't, but apparently blonds with big breasts and the IQ of lint were legally allowed to live elsewhere. (1) She scoffs it off, says “it’s over”, and moves on with her life. She doesn’t need anyone anyway. Or so she thinks. But when her husband and his big breasted bitty disappear, the mob drops a calling card with six casings, and a detective starts asking questions she doesn’t feel like answering honestly, she discovers she may need more than her charm and sarcasm if she wants to live through it all. Of course, it is her charm and sarcasm which seduces one of Portland's finest into pleading her case and finding evidence just her side of justice. (2) It also happens to be her quick wit and delightful pecan brownies which convince two very dedicated mob men that they might have been better off playing hockey. Chaos, indecision, and lots and lots of secrets make up a most devastating attempt at life anew. This is not your standard, woman gets divorced and moves on with life story; this is the story the woman has to survive to get to that story. And if she does, she will need years and years of therapy.


This huge block of text is unreadable. When you query, break your query up into three sentence chunks EVEN IF IT MEANS YOU BREAK A PARAGRAPH.

(1) This sentence is both run-on and pointless. I've stopped reading right here because I'm very afraid that if you do this here in the query, you're going to do it in the novel.

(2) If I had read on to see this
Of course, it is her charm and sarcasm which seduces one of Portland's finest into pleading her case and finding evidence just her side of justice I would have stopped reading there too. This sentence doesn't make sense. I think I know sort of what you mean, but this kind of sloppy proof reading is death in a query letter.


The world of chic lit

It's NOT "chic lit," Just for starters, chic is French and pronounced "sheek." The phrase is chick lit.

has been desperately awaiting the arrival of such a dark and delectable piece of fiction.

Avoid these kind of Ronco pocket fisherman statements. Just talk about your book.

Paired with two friends, some mob guys, a sexy detective, and her own mind made up, April takes the reader on a journey which proves to be filled with everything from pistol whips to lumpy mascara. The reader is sucked into a world turned upside down and it is only when the earth settles to a gentle rate of spinning once again that they will be able to clearly see what has happened.

Pistol whips isn't a noun. It's a verb.

Well, I'd like to know what happens. This doesn't tell me anything.

The novel is just over 55,000 which makes it short enough to not be cost-prohibitive to most publishing companies. I would be glad to send you the completed manuscript upon request. Thank you for your consideration.

I cannot tell you how much I LOATHE hearing writers talk about short word count as some sort of added value (like the Ronco Pocket fisherman says "but wait, there's more!)

For starters, the actual cost of printing the book is probably the least expensive thing in the publication process. For second, it matters not a whit. The word count is what it is. If you pared out 20,000 words solely to save some publisher money, turn in your Smith Corona for a Smith and Wesson and just go shoot your career now.

Sincerely,



Sloppy proof reading, and lack of a clear description of the plot make this a form rejection.

#120-Revised Thrice *WIN*

Dear Query Shark,

Kate Menick makes problems go away. Kate is a project manager for a polygalactic consulting firm. She brokers assassinations, oppresses the working classes, breaks unions, and dabbles in securities.

Kate used to be a space pirate, until Killimall & Associates caught her embezzling from Bellicose Billy's Band of Buccaneers and purchased her immediately. She's good at her work and is not unhappy, although if her coworkers are company whores, Kate is locked into a mutually abusive long-term relationship with her job.

But that could change. In exchange for the opportunity to buy herself out, Kate agrees to take a fall. She'll screw over her own client, the Leprekaner People's Liberation Alliance, as it attempts to destroy the Fundamentalist Militia of the Trolls. The ensuing fiasco will allow her firm to disband its underperforming Earth practice group, and let Kate go for gross malpractice. Everyone wins--except the leprechauns.

And leprechauns are sore losers.

RINSE AND REPEAT, a work of speculative fiction, is complete at 61,000 words.

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


The heck with the critique. Send this to me at once!
(You will of course have applied everything you learned here in the tank to your manuscript, right? Of course you have)


The reason I requested this: it sounds fun. It sounds FUNNY. It sounds charming. The author has demonstrated tenacity and courage under fire. She did NOT throw in the towel muttering "damn shark doesn't know flotsam from jetsam."

Speculative fiction is not normally my thing but I just sold TWO count 'em TWO novels that could have been called speculative (of course I didn't, I called them commercial fiction) so I don't let category deter me from something yummy.
----------------------------------------
Dear Query Shark,

Kate Menick makes problems go away. As a project manager for a polygalactic consulting firm, Kate's accounts include brokering assassinations, arms dealing, sentient trafficking, breaking unions, suppressing dissent, and the occasional securities fraud.

I hate it when people lead with dependent clauses. Dependent clauses are frail little things, they need to come after big strong sentences: Kate is the project manager for a polygalactic consulting firm; her job is brokering etc etc.

See the difference?

Kate's firm bought her off of a band of space pirates several years back after uncovering her massive (and very successful) embezzlement scheme--which is exactly the kind of initiative they look for in a new hire. While her coworkers consider themselves company whores, Kate finds herself engaged in a marginally abusive long-term transactional relationship.

Break the first sentence into two: scheme. That's exactly

But that could change. In exchange for the opportunity to buy herself out, Kate agrees to take a fall. She'll screw over her own client, the Leprekaner People's Liberation Alliance, in its bid to destroy the Fundamentalist Militia of the Trolls. If all goes according to plan, the ensuing fiasco will allow her firm to disband its underperforming Earth practice group and let Kate go on charges of gross malpractice. Everyone wins--except the leprechauns.


And leprechauns are sore losers.

RINSE AND REPEAT, a work of speculative fiction, is complete at 61,000 words.

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

Sincerely,

(redacted)

Wow. That's MUCH better.
The problem is you need another polish on this. Take out every single word you don't need (like of after off)

Don't lead with dependent clauses.
Say every phrase out loud for rhythm.

I think you're almost there.



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

Dear Query Shark:

Kate came home from work to find the leprechaun's severed head bleeding all over her kitchen table. He'd stuck a post-it note stuck on the thing's forehead said: “Happy birthday, Sweetheart. --Spaceman Z.”

Leave off the "he'd" because we don't know who it refers to.

Kate Menick makes problems go away. As a project manager for a polygalactic consulting firm, Kate's accounts include brokering assassinations, arms dealing, sentient trafficking, breaking unions, suppressing dissent, and the occasional securities fraud. She bills everything to the client, though her intern seems incapable of maintaining a simple, up-to-date spreadsheet.

I like this paragraph better for the starting point.

I'm not sure why you have the clause about the intern. It doesn't fit well with what went before, and it makes Kate look like a nincompoop. If she's skilled in making problems go away, and her intern is a problem....well.... bye bye intern right?


Kate recently accepted a contract to resolve an ongoing property dispute between her client, the Leprekaner People's Liberation Alliance, and the Fundamentalist Militia of the Trolls. Specifically, the leprechauns would like Kate to acquisition the head of Oglethorpe, King of the Trollven Ones.

It's too bad this is so clunky with all the names, because the individual pieces are darn funny. If "Fundamentalist Militia of Trolls" doesn't end up on a t-shirt somewhere, I'll eat my chapeau. The problem here is that the pieces don't add up to a good paragraph. You need to smooth it out. One way to do that is to say more. You've got some room here. Use it.

In response, Too bad for Kate, the Trolls retained Spaceman Z, Kate's former colleague (and ex-boyfriend), to assure that their interests are adequately represented—and crush the Leprechaun Resistance once and for all.



RINSE AND REPEAT, a work of speculative fiction, is complete at 61,000 words.

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

Sincerely,


It's clear you've got the makings of what should be a darn funny book. You've given us the set up, but what happens if Kate fails? Does she want Spaceman Z back? Will the leprechauns bleach her blue? We need sense of the stakes. Humor gets my attention, but it won't get you a request if I can't see what the novel is about.

I can count on one cloven hoof the number of times I've asked people to write a longer query letter and this is it.

Form letter rejection, but with niggling feelings that I might have made a mistake.
----------------------------------------------

Dear Query Shark,

I came home from work to find the leprechaun's severed head bleeding all over my kitchen table. He'd stuck a post-it note on the thing's forehead: "Happy birthday, Sweetheart. --Spaceman Z."

It's been a bad week. I screwed up again.

After setting my house and half the neighborhood on fire (precautions, yeah?), I call Alice. She's canny enough to ignore me, though I know she's there.

Shit.

RINSE AND REPEAT is complete at just over 61,000 words. I would be happy to provide a partial or complete manuscript for further review.

Thank you for your consideration,



Fond as I am of brief and to-the-point queries (and I am) this one errs on the side of naked. You're also writing in the first person voice of your character and generally that's not the best choice. Sometimes it works, yes, and I've had those queries posted here, but this doesn't because you've left us too little to go on.

You need to give me enough to entice me to read on. This doesn't. Form rejection.

#119-revised Six times

Dear Query Shark:

Dominique Hillmen thought her problems were over when she collected a multi-million dollar reward for capturing one of America’s most wanted. Instead her family falls apart, her fiancé dumps her and she loses the anonymity she was promised when she blew the killer’s cover.

This is so much better than the first versions it's amazing.


When Dominique’s ex-husband is burned to death in a house fire she believes her last enemy is finally gone. So why does she suddenly feel like she’s fighting for her life? After surviving yet another “accident” Dominique faces one hard fact: someone is trying to kill her. And that someone knows just where she is vulnerable, through her children, and they are not afraid to use them to get to her.

We know that the killer is afraid to use her kids from the first part of the sentence.

She knows of only one person willing to take revenge this far: the man she helped nab, now rotting away in jail. He’d hired a hitman to do his dirty work before- a killer who had never been caught. Since Dominique anonymously tipped off authorities very few people should know her true identity; but no one can explain how she is obviously was exposed. Dominique realizes the wealthy life she always wanted isn’t enough to keep her from looking over her shoulder.


Then Dominique’s best friend is killed in a crash she is sure was meant for her. Dominique must find out whom the killer is using and how he is getting so close to succeeding. The truth turns out to be more shocking and more disturbing than she ever imagined, because her worst nightmare is the man she always invites into her home.

In Sight is a complete mystery at 72,000 words. Full or partial portions of the manuscript are available upon request. Thanks in advance for your time.

Wow.
Just wow.

It needs some polishing but it's SO much better I feel like hoisting a glass and toasting all your hard work. You really really made a breakthrough here.



I think this might be the most dramatic query turn around I've ever seen.



Good job.



---------------------
Dear Query Shark:

Dominique O' Shea Hillmen should be relieved to find out her ex-husband is dead. After a long and seedy (seedy is the wrong word here; it describes appearance not action) battle with him for the love of their children, she can finally lay down her weapons. But the war is far from over; her ex proves to be as much trouble dead as he was alive.

With ex-husband no longer setting off fireworks, Dominique sees how much damage their obsession has caused. Where does she begin to help her only son who somehow became involved in a deadly robbery? Or reach her oldest daughter, who despite her best efforts as a mother, became the victim of a sexual predator? Dominique's only comfort is her relationship with her youngest daughter, an imperfect bond that still manages to conceal a hideous secret. But uncovering the truth won't be easy, especially now that a notorious murderer she helped convict has found a way to use her own children against her. (here's where you put the part from the last paragraph, polished up of course to fit.) In Sight is a 72,000 word inspirational mystery.

I am a featured columnist for an online newsletter and write content and design websites for local businesses and non-profits. Thank you in advance for your time.






P.S. - Ms. Reid, there is almost no way I can clear up the link between the children and the murderer without giving away the whole plot!!!! I appreciate your patience but part of my struggle is making sure the tone of the query matches the tone of the book. Much of the mystery is tied into her children being pawns, first by their father, then by the murderer out to get revenge on Dominique. I greatly appreciate your critiques and have grown so much. Here's to your continued success!


Can I slap you upside the head? This one paragraph is better than almost everything you've sent.
This happens a lot, by the way. The italic part is the basis for your query.

You are going to win an award for perseverance! I'm really proud of you, and I hope you won't give up yet. One more time, ok?
---------------------------------
Dear Query Shark:

I am seeking representation for my novel, In Sight, a 65,000 word inspirational mystery.

Dominique O' Shea Hillmen should be relieved to find out her ex-husband is dead. After a long and seedy battle with him for the love of their children, she can finally lay down her weapons. But the war is far from over; her ex proves to be as much trouble dead as he was alive.

This is a really good paragraph.

With the dust settling on the battlefield of their shattered lives,
This is telling not showing, and it's a hyperbolic.

Dominique can see sees how much damage their obsession has caused. Where does she begin to help her only son who somehow became involved in a deadly robbery? Or reach her oldest daughter, who despite her best efforts as a mother, became the victim of a sexual predator? Dominique's only comfort is her relation-ship (relationship is one word, not hyphenated) with her youngest daughter, an imperfect bond that still manages to conceal a hideous secret. Forced out of her blind optimism, Dominique must finally deal with the danger that has taken root in her family, and with a notorious murderer from her past fast on her heels, s She better make it quick, before she loses everything, including her life.

Ok, the problem here is that it's all set up for what I think is the plot: the murderer from her past. Dominique has to repair her family or what? I still don't get the connection between the notorious murderer from her past and the description of the family.


I am a featured columnist for an online newsletter, (redacted) and write content and design websites for local businesses and non-profits. Thank you in advance for your time.

This is getting better but it's not there yet.I admire your tenacity a lot.

---------------------------------
Dear Query Shark,

What would you do to protect your child? What if the person you had to protect them from was a member of the family?

Don't open a query with a rhetorical question.

Dominique O'Shea Hillmen divorced her husband years ago. Knowing that he hadn't let her go and would never quit until he either got her back or ruined her life didn't bother her. In fact, she dismissed him altogether, until she realized how carefully he had planted seeds of hate in their children.


No sooner does she learn the cost of ignoring him when Keon, Dominique's ex husband, is found dead. On the day of the funeral Dominique meets her former brother in-law, Trammel, for the first time.


Just like his brother, Trammel turns out to be only too happy to rub Dominique's face in her failures. Pointing the finger of blame at her for her shady past, her abusive marriage and the current problems with her children, he challenges Dominique to remain the calm, evolved person she desperately wants to be.



But being calm won't be easy, especially when
Dominique learns that (HERE IS WHERE YOU FINALLY GET TO THE PROBLEM) her youngest daughter is hiding a hideous secret. On a head-to-head collision course with an enemy (WHO?) who is not afraid to destroy her children (HOW?) because they know it is the only way to destroy her, Dominique must face her two most dangerous foes: a notorious murderer who is closer than she ever imagined and her own self-destructive thinking. (or WHAT?)

Let's review the recipe for a good query:


Who is the main character?
What happens to her-what's her immediate problem?
What choice does s/he face?
What terrible thing will happen because of that choice?

In Sight is an inspirational novel at 228 pages and almost 65,000 words



Thank you in advance for your time. I look forward to your response.



To Your Continued Success,

Start over. Cut everything I've stricken. Be concise.


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

Dear Query Shark:


Dominique O'Shea Hillmen is a single mother with one goal: she must get over her fiancée. Following an author's advice to put down the cocktails and dive into her pain, Dominique finds herself sober in more ways than one. What she sees with some reflection is everything she hates: desperation, neediness and whew!– a big steaming hunk of arrogance.


No sooner does she realize this when Dominique learns that her ex-husband has been found dead. On the day of the funeral her former brother-in-law, Trammel, shows up to introduce himself. Like real family, Trammel turns out to be only too happy to rub Dominique's face in her failures.


Pointing the finger of blame at her shady past, her abusive marriage and the current problems with her children, Trammel challenges Dominique to use her anger to inspire her growth instead of continuing to stunt it.


One tragedy after another soon derails Dominique's life. She is attacked on the street and one of her pets is brutally killed. Her friend is fatally injured in her car. And her youngest child, her own daughter, is hiding a hideous relationship.

This is an odd assortment of tragedies. Focus on the one you're really writing about: her youngest child.

To top it all off, the secret to Dominique's current financial success is one courageous act that exposed a multi-million dollar scam and led to the capture of a deadly, wealthy fugitive. That fugitive now faces the death penalty, and those involved in the scam are still picking up the pieces of their shattered lives.

Right here is where this query slips into full scale mess. It's time to start over. What's the problem Dominique faces? (pick ONE) Who's the antagonist (pick ONE). What choices must Dominique make? What are the stakes involved in those choices? FOCUS.


On a head-to-head collision course with an enemy who is not afraid to use even her children to destroy her, Dominique must face her two most dangerous foes: a notorious murderer who is closer than she eve imagined and her own self-destructive thinking.



Several years ago I learned that both of my daughters had been molested. Because I was also molested as a child, and vowed to never allow it to happen to my children, I set out to learn why this seems to plague certain families. The latest research on this issue confirmed that mental illness in children is a major contributing factor.



There are over twenty million sex and love addicts in this country, many of whom were molested as children. There are also millions of children being molested each year. Our lack of resolve to respond to these issues both in terms of prevention and after the fact, is responsible for the dramatic increase in addiction and molestation.



My hope is that In Sight will give people, especially parents, a look at the reality too many children face. The most successful country in history must find a way to inspire in our culture a love and respect for family in general and personal responsibility specifically.


You're querying me about a novel, not an advocacy article. Focus on the STORY. If the story is compelling, you'll make your point. If you SHOW me rather than TELL me, you'll be persuasive. If you just tell me all this stuff, I won't even listen.


I have over ten years of marketing/sales experience and have personally researched the medical information in this book. On several occasions I have been tapped to speak before thousands of people about how faith in God has shaped my life. In Sight is an inspirational novel similar to The Shack or The Alchemist. Coming in at 228 pages and almost 65,000 words, In Sight shares the same theme as those new-age classics: that with love and faith God can turn any situation into a victory.





Thank you in advance for your time. I look forward to your response.



Continued Success, Thank you for your time and consideration

This query is a mess right now, but it's a better mess than the original version. When you care passionately about something as you clearly do, it's hard to channel that passion into telling a story. If you're querying me for a novel, I don't care about your issues, and hyperbole is a turn off. I DO care about a good story, and if you tell that story well enough, I will care about your issue.

Form rejection.
------------------------------

Dear Query Shark:



With thousands of queries crossing your desks each month I know you're wondering, Is this one going to be worth it?

Never start with something this hideously negative. Assume I do want to read it. Now tell me about the book.



I won't tell you to consider my work because it's brilliant and I'm irresistible (although I would hope so ☺).
Never put emoticons in a query. NEVER. For starters this is a business letter. Second, this emoticon looks like !*&&# (literally) on my screen because I work on a Mac and you don't.


I wouldn't even say my novel is ambitious. It only touches on the meaning of life, grapples with the root cause and ultimate cure for addiction and mental illness, and attempts to answer the age-old question: Why do good people have the worst luck in relationships?

I've stopped reading right here. I know you mean to be lighthearted and perhaps whimsical but I don't give a rat's patootie for that at 3am when I'm reading this. The only thing I want to know is: what is your book about?


My little novel, In Sight, is about Dominique O'Shea Hillmen, a quirky, spunky single mother of three. We open to find our heroine down on the ropes: her fiancé has bailed, her ex-husband is found dead and two of her children have been locked away in institutions.

I'm not sure I'd be able to think of someone as quirky or spunky in the same sentence as "two of her children have been locked away in institutions."

You have a very jarring mixture of tone here.

Following an author's advice to put down the cocktails and dive into her pain, Dominique begins a journey that brings her to one startling self-revelation after another, a host of insights that challenge her to see all of life from a completely new perspective. Never far from danger, or far from the ghosts of lives she has ruined, Dominique soon finds herself the target of an enemy who is not afraid to use her children or to destroy her by any means necessary. Learning to pick and choose her battles, Dominique realizes her beliefs have been her greatest nemesis, greater even than the notorious murderer who is closer than she ever imagined.

This doesn't give us any idea of what happens, or what the problem is. Be specific. Short sentences. Build the bones of the query, then add only what you need to convey clear and precise meaning.



In Sight is a modern hybrid, a mix of spiritual/literary/mystery/romance like The Shack or The Alchemist. Coming in at 228 pages and almost 65,000 words,

Never ever ever have four categories. Pick one. It doesn't have to be right; you won't be the one deciding the category anyway. Just call it fiction, or a novel.


In Sight
is difficult to categorize but shares the same theme as those new-age classics: that we are our own happy ending.

I guess the notorious murderer gets locked away and the kids come home then.



My name is (redacted) and as a mother of five, ranging in age from 16 months to 20 years, I can promise you anyone actively involved in a child's life these days better be able to deal with the horrific, the gross, the dangerous, and outrageous, without batting an eye. I started out writing about the state of our children, the epidemic of molestation and wide spread mental illness, and eventually uncovered the latest research which suggest the usual causes of these issues is also the cure. Oh, I know, fun stuff-right? But In Sight is all about hope and healing, the drug of choice for us die-hard optimists. I look forward to your response and hope this letter sparks your interest.

Don't ever say "my name is." This is business letter. You'll put your name at the bottom of the letter above your contact info.

All the other personal information is absolutely irrelevant to whether this is a novel I want to read. Talk about the book.

Thank you for your time.

I don't have any clue what the story is here. Form rejection.