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.
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!
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.