Sunday, February 25, 2018


a. word count: 62,000
b. title: COPY PASTE
c. contact info:

Why you put this at the top of your query letter I do not know. It goes at the bottom, and not in bullet point form.


And this goes under your closing.  

Another gunshot, another day for Chicago police detective Lauren Medina—until a murder investigation leads not to a street gang scuffle but a supernatural pact for the soul of the city and its youth. All of them.

This is so abstract it's not very interesting. That's death in a query. It's instant death after you put all your contact info and housekeeping stuff at the top of the query, because at this point I assume you haven't done a lick of research on how to query.  

When you query an agent you're saying you're ready to suit up and work in a new industry.  You want the agent to take you seriously, to believe you've done your homework and prepared for the "job interview" of a query.  To that end you've researched correct query format, and the PURPOSE of a query which is to -- all together now -- entice an agent to read your work.

Because you're smart you understand that enticing is not even close to uninteresting. You read your first paragraph and think, "would I want to read this if I hadn't written it."  You might even show this to a writer friend.  If the response is anything other than "hey, I want to read this!" you know you're not there yet.

You're not there yet.

When Medina arrests two teens for the attempted murder of a classmate, she’s not surprised by their crime or even their strange behavior, but the odd graffiti that starts showing up at murder scenes around town—signed by the Pied Piper.

Those two parts of the sentence don't seem connected. She arrests two teens. Is there graffiti at that murder scene?  If there is, Medina notices it there, not "around town."

This leads Medina away from the usual suspects and toward a dark tale come to life. If she can’t save the kids of Chicago from sacrificing each other at the Pied Piper’s delight in exchange for their own deepest desires, she’ll have to make a pact with the demon herself to save the one young man she won’t let the Pied Piper take.

How is she led away from the usual suspects (which doesn't mean what you're using it here for) if she has two suspects in custody?  How is "a dark tale come to life" a suspect? 

And this is where I stop reading. It's entirely abstract and cliche. "Deepest desires" "pact with the demon" are all overused and under enticing.

Specificity is your friend. What is the Pied Piper doing? Why are the kids following him? How do the murders fit in with this?

Copy Paste is complete at 62,000 words. It’s an adult horror novel based on the Brother's Grimm tale.

If this is based on the Grimm tale, where are the rats? They don't have to be actual rats, but something brings the Pied Piper to Hamelin, and in your story, I don't have any idea what it is, or how Medina is part of it.  The Grimm tale is about people failing to honor their obligations. I don't get any sense of that here.  

When you base something on earlier work, you don't have to slavishly follow the plot of the original work, but the theme (which you should NOT mention in a query!) should be similar. 

The plot of Beowulf and  First Blood by David Morell are not similar,  but the theme is. You need to show me the theme of this book is close to the original tale and you do that by telling me about the plot. Tricky, right?  

This query doesn't do the job right now.
Go back to the basics.
Who is the main character. What does she want. What's keeping her from getting it? What will she have to sacrifice/how will she have to change to get what she wants.

For those of you who noticed the word count and wonder if it's low: it's not. Horror is generally shorter than other kinds of novels.


nightsmusic said...

Janet's comments pretty much cover everything, but there's one thing she doesn't mention. I realize titles change, but yours is Copy Paste. Absolutely nothing in your query even comes close to matching that title. Usually the title is indicative of the story. This doesn't and it scares me. It makes me wonder after reading it and your query, if your story reads the same as the query.

Everything in your query needs to either make sense, or make the agent go Hmmmm...I need more to figure things out but wow, this is a great pull! That's not happening here.

Sean Gates said...

I do want to say, that with all the violence in Chicago and all the mass shootings, there's room to do a story like this that is really relevant to the times. So while this query doesn't do anything for you, I really do hope that you have a great book and are merely suffering from the same affliction that so many of us authors seem to contract early on, i.e. the inability to query without choking. Because you've come to the right place to fix that...

Frankie said...

I think your can be an interesting story. As Janet already said, the elements you present are too abstactact and generic to understand a thing.
What makes her think the two teenagers are responsible? What makes her realize something else is happening?
Why is she the only one who can solve the situation? Who is the boy she can’t let the Pied Piper take him?
You need to add some details to make it more interstin.

Adele said...

A side issue, but when I read "Title: COPY PASTE" my first thought was that you had set up some kind of a mass mailing and you intended to copy & paste your title in the slot only you forgot to do that and sent out the mailing without inserting the title and without proofreading. That's probably not the impression you want to give.

DLM said...

nightsmusic, I thought the same. I actually wondered whether Janet had just used some sort of substitute for the real title or it didn't have one, so that got plugged in ...

S.E. Dee said...

I don't think the story is actually called Copy Paste. I don't think the story has a title yet so the writer was implying they'll copy and paste the title there when the time comes. That's my assumption anyway...

DLM said...

S.E. Dee, exactly - my brain just read "placeholder non-title" there. :)

Unknown said...

I don't know if you see comments posted on old blogs like this, but I laughed out loud when I read "Why you put this at the top of your query letter I do not know." I thought, "SNL fan." And then I saw you posted it on a Sunday and knew you were channeling Kenan Thompson.