Tuesday, April 15, 2008


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.



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.


This one would get a form rejection.


Marian Perera said...

At the point where the, er, heroine murders her brother, I stopped reading and thought, "Didn't the author say this was partly a romance?"

jjdebenedictis said...

The query does come across as a bit overwrought, but I'd be interested in reading a story about a female Michael Corleone. Maybe try to strip this down and just talk about the power politics? I'm happy to discover sex, drugs and crimes of passion in a book, but when I read the backflap, I want to hear there's an engaging story inside. Thus, I think that's what you want to focus on in the query. Good luck with it!

none said...

In the film (I don't know about the book), we see how and why Michael Corleone becomes the person that he does. Here, Shannon seems to start out at the point where he ended up. What's made her calculating? Internecine struggles? Sibling rivalry? What does the query mean by "criminally insane"? It sounds like a catch-all to justify anything abnormal the heroine does.