Author Topic: New query.... Its less than a page....need advice! good or bad?  (Read 13094 times)

Orpheus

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Re: New query.... Its less than a page....need advice! good or bad?
« Reply #15 on: June 20, 2008, 06:19:09 PM »
I'll third that - Nightowl rocks.
An experienced writer who's prepared to sit down and give her time FOC to help others? Gold dust.

I'm sorry for intruding also . . . ;D

Offline Wicked Redhead

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Re: New query.... Its less than a page....need advice! good or bad?
« Reply #16 on: June 20, 2008, 06:21:59 PM »
Hit me with it Wolfe! Love the name btw.  ;)
http://christinekirchoff.wordpress.com/

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Wolfe

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Re: New query.... Its less than a page....need advice! good or bad?
« Reply #17 on: June 20, 2008, 06:23:18 PM »
Please re-post your query letter in the way you want the agent to see it.  We'll go from there.

Wolfe

Offline Wicked Redhead

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Re: New query.... Its less than a page....need advice! good or bad?
« Reply #18 on: June 20, 2008, 06:27:43 PM »
Dear (name)
   I seek representation for (name), a science fiction/romance novel. My completed manuscript is approximately 87, 000 words.
   This manuscript is the beginning of Dragonfly. She was once a princess who was sold into slavery by her father. Her first and only master changed her heart into something black and hard. She escapes him only to return to the world pregnant with his child. No longer a slave she changes her name to Leigh. She gives birth around the time Raw’d is introduced. He was told by the famous Seer that together they would save the Known Universe. They leave her child in a haven on planet Arkon. Making there way to another only to find that they are hired as mercenaries to find a lost princess. This endeavor leaves our heroine saddened. The princess, so much like herself, is killed. Unable to be saved she tortures the culprit, the kings own brother. An urgent message from the Seer has Raw’d and Leigh onward to another planet. The man behind the kidnapped was no one other than her father. On Gelva she has a close call with her former master. Finally catching up and exacting revenge on her dastardly father. Her heart still aches for the man she loved, Jack,  was killed by his hands. Only at the end, Jack appears. Having landed on the planet as Leigh leaves. He never stops searching for his lost princess.
    If you are interested in representing me please give me a call at *-***-***-****,  email me at Loveofwriting18@yahoo.com or return the SASE enclosed. Thank you so much for your time and attention.
   
I look forward to hearing from you.
Christine K*******

http://christinekirchoff.wordpress.com/

Must be 18 or older to come on over and show some skin.

Wolfe

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Re: New query.... Its less than a page....need advice! good or bad?
« Reply #19 on: June 20, 2008, 06:31:31 PM »
Give me a few to go over this correctly.  I post again before the end of the day.

Wolfe

Offline Wicked Redhead

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Re: New query.... Its less than a page....need advice! good or bad?
« Reply #20 on: June 20, 2008, 06:36:08 PM »
Thank you. I appreciate it.
http://christinekirchoff.wordpress.com/

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Wolfe

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Re: New query.... Its less than a page....need advice! good or bad?
« Reply #21 on: June 20, 2008, 07:45:22 PM »
Traditionally, query letters are divided into three paragraphs:  Hook, conflict & resolution paragraph (first), plot and book information paragraph (second) and biography paragraph (last).  The last line at the bottom is the thank you.

Example:


Dear Mr./Ms. NAME:

George didn't come to Chicago to exchange body fluids ... well, maybe he did but not like this!  He thought vampires were fantasies stuck in places like crypts, B-movies and corporate America, but when he's made into one the hunters turned out just as real and they want him dead.  Life might suck, yet undeath bites as George discovers in his search for a cure that doesn't involve stakes, sunlight or super powered ninja-nuns.

SPURNED AND TURNED is an 80,000-word humorous novel.  Similar to Moore's Bloodsucking Fiends, it takes place over a period of one week.  I wrote this as a deliberate mockumentary towards all the recent vampire/supernatural romances that flooded the market as of late.

I'm a member of the Chicago Writer's Guild of North America and an active journalist for the Chicago Sun Times.  I'm also the recipient of the Chicago Star for creative writing and one of my short stories was awarded second place in the Humorous Tales Competition of Illinois in 2006.

Thank you for your time and attention.

Sincerely,

NAME


Let’s break down what I did.



Dear Mr./Ms. NAME:

George didn't come to Chicago to exchange body fluids ... well, maybe he did but not like this! (HOOK)  He thought vampires were fantasies stuck in places like crypts, B-movies and corporate America, but when he's made into one the hunters turned out just as real and they want him dead. (CONFLICT)  Life might suck, yet undeath bites as George discovers in his search for a cure that doesn't involve stakes, sunlight or super powered ninja-nuns. (RESOLUTION)

SPURNED AND TURNED (CAPS ALL TITLE) is an 80,000-word humorous novel (title, word count, genre).  Similar to Moore's Bloodsucking Fiends, it takes place over a period of one week (comparison to what is on the market.  This also tells where the book will sit on the shelf.  Also demonstrates the time frame).  I wrote this as a deliberate mockumentary towards all the recent vampire/supernatural romances that flooded the market as of late (Marketing, my target audience, and why I am the writer for this book).

I'm a member of the Chicago Writer's Guild of North America and an active journalist for the Chicago Sun Times (writing credits).  I'm also the recipient of the Chicago Star for creative writing and one of my short stories was awarded second place in the Humorous Tales Competition of Illinois in 2006 (This shows my work is recognized as having merit).

Thank you for your time and attention (Simple with no givens).


Now let’s review what you did.


Dear (name)
   I seek representation for (name), a science fiction/romance novel. My completed manuscript is approximately 87, 000 words.
   This manuscript is the beginning of Dragonfly. She was once a princess who was sold into slavery by her father. Her first and only master changed her heart into something black and hard. She escapes him only to return to the world pregnant with his child. No longer a slave she changes her name to Leigh. She gives birth around the time Raw’d is introduced. He was told by the famous Seer that together they would save the Known Universe. They leave her child in a haven on planet Arkon. Making there way to another only to find that they are hired as mercenaries to find a lost princess. This endeavor leaves our heroine saddened. The princess, so much like herself, is killed. Unable to be saved she tortures the culprit, the kings own brother. An urgent message from the Seer has Raw’d and Leigh onward to another planet. The man behind the kidnapped was no one other than her father. On Gelva she has a close call with her former master. Finally catching up and exacting revenge on her dastardly father. Her heart still aches for the man she loved, Jack,  was killed by his hands. Only at the end, Jack appears. Having landed on the planet as Leigh leaves. He never stops searching for his lost princess.
    If you are interested in representing me please give me a call at *-***-***-****,  email me at Loveofwriting18@yahoo.com or return the SASE enclosed. Thank you so much for your time and attention.
   
I look forward to hearing from you.
Christine K*******


1.  The first thing that jars me is the lack of spaces between paragraphs.  That alone will get you rejected because the format is wrong.

2.  A given is something that's understood between you and the agent you query.  “I seek representation” is a given.

3.  You start your query with no hook.  This is bad.  You want to draw in the reader with curiousity, suspense, drama, anything that grabs attention and forces the reader to continue.  This is true for a novel as well, but is critical in a query.  You start with a given.  Change this.

4.  “a science fiction/romance novel” – Instant rejection again.  You must pick ONE genre.  This makes it look like you cannot choose one.  If you cannot choose, how is the agent going to sell it to a publisher.  Science fiction and romance span two very different sections in the bookstore.  This alone will mark you as an unfocused amateur.  Pick a genre and one genre most likely for the novel.

5.  “My completed manuscript is approximately 87, 000 words.”  Remove the word ‘completed’ as it is understood or better be completed if you query for representation.  Remove the adverb ‘approximately’ as it is wordy and not needed.

6.  “This manuscript is the beginning of Dragonfly.”  There are three things wrong with this.

     A.  Dragonfly—if the title—needs to be CAPS ALL.  This alone marks you as a professional.

     B.  Never, ever mention series when you query your book.  You query the one work alone.  I wouldn’t even mention the work has potential as a series.  This gives you the appearance of being--again--unfocused.  Don’t do it.

    C.  You ‘tell’ the agent and not ‘show’ the work.  This is the most classic mistake novelists make.  You must demonstrate your skill.  Don’t tell me you are a good writer … show me.

7.  “She was once a princess who was sold into slavery by her father. Her first and only master changed her heart into something black and hard. She escapes him only to return to the world pregnant with his child. No longer a slave she changes her name to Leigh. She gives birth around the time Raw’d is introduced. He was told by the famous Seer that together they would save the Known Universe. They leave her child in a haven on planet Arkon. Making there way to another only to find that they are hired as mercenaries to find a lost princess. This endeavor leaves our heroine saddened. The princess, so much like herself, is killed. Unable to be saved she tortures the culprit, the kings own brother. An urgent message from the Seer has Raw’d and Leigh onward to another planet. The man behind the kidnapped was no one other than her father. On Gelva she has a close call with her former master. Finally catching up and exacting revenge on her dastardly father. Her heart still aches for the man she loved, Jack,  was killed by his hands. Only at the end, Jack appears. Having landed on the planet as Leigh leaves. He never stops searching for his lost princess.”

     A.  No.  This is not a query.  This is a summary.  Sum up the plot—the main plot—in one to three sentences.  Yes, I’m serious.  Talk about the protagonist, the conflict, and leave out all the minor characters.  If you cannot sum up the main plot or conflict in ONE sentence, consider whether the novel lacks focus.

     B.  Passive voice dominates.  Linking verbs, perfect past tense, and to be words indicate the lack of action.  Count the numbers of ‘was’ in this.  Now count ‘is’.  Finally, find other forms of ‘to be’ such as has, are, etc.  Now replace them all with action words.

     C.  Other markers I noticed that need review are repetition, heavy adjective/adverb use, wordiness, minor clichés, and grammar errors.  All these cause rejections.  Let’s pick one random sentence:

         “Unable to be saved she tortures the culprit, the kings own brother.”

         Unable to be (here’s that to be again) saved (needs a comma here) she tortures (telling not showing) the culprit, (a dash here is more appropriate) the kings (should be king’s) own (as opposed to his non-brother; pointless word) brother.

8.  If you are interested in representing me please give me a call at *-***-***-****,  email me at Loveofwriting18@yahoo.com or return the SASE enclosed.

     A.  No.  Remove this.  Your contact information should be at the top or bottom of your query letter.  This screams amateur.

     B.  I have an issue with your e-mail address.  It’s minor, but remember you want to create an image of a professional.  Use your real name or anything more business-like.  This is a business letter—a professional letter.

     C.  ‘Or return the SASE enclosed’ – this is almost insulting.  The agent knows how to respond if they choose to respond.  It is also another given.  Remove it.


9.  Thank you so much for your time and attention.
   
I look forward to hearing from you.

     A.  Don’t do this.  This smells of booty kissing.  Sorry.  It’s also a given.

     B.   Thank you for your time and attention is more than enough.  End your letter as a professional, not as a amateur begging for a scrap of attention.

10.  Nothing at all about you.

11.  No comparison to other novels.

12.  No writing credentials or experience noted.


Overall, your query needs a lot of work.  It needs tightening.  Start over with the basics and re-post it.  Also, remember that if you go fantasy, your novel’s conflict MUST stand out.  Fantasy demand a new perspective.  If you feel your conflict is old hat, consider revising.

Hope that wasn’t too harsh.  Just my humble opinion.

Wolfe
« Last Edit: June 20, 2008, 07:50:59 PM by Wolfe »

Offline Wicked Redhead

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Re: New query.... Its less than a page....need advice! good or bad?
« Reply #22 on: June 20, 2008, 08:01:50 PM »
I take it all in, but i have a question. I have no credentials what-so-ever! What should i write about myself? I'm not exactly trying to sell my image, but my novel. Dragonfly is the heroines name. I have not picked out a title yet, still debating.
http://christinekirchoff.wordpress.com/

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Wolfe

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Re: New query.... Its less than a page....need advice! good or bad?
« Reply #23 on: June 20, 2008, 08:07:16 PM »
Look into your past to see if you have any experience at all.  Degrees in English, Creative Writing, Poetry?  If not, and this is honest, consider getting some form of publication with short stories or articles in various electronic magazines.

That said, if you still have nothing--don't say a word.

This can be a double-edged sword.  I know some agents look at the credentials first in the query.  If there's nothing, they reject it.  However, always remember that good writing tops all.

But the lack of credentials creates a hurdle most agents set high before they offer representation.

Remember:  You ARE selling yourself AND your novel.  This business demands you sell your personality as well as your book.  This is truest on those book tours.  Personality wins agents.  Good books win readers.  Outstanding writing wins both.

Wolfe
« Last Edit: June 20, 2008, 08:09:59 PM by Wolfe »

Offline nightowl

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Re: New query.... Its less than a page....need advice! good or bad?
« Reply #24 on: June 20, 2008, 10:15:33 PM »
Hey Christine.  You got some fantastic advice.  I think we have lucked out that Wolfe has come on board.  Hope you are on it already.

I'm listening too and will be anxious to see what you do with all the new information. 

As writers, we are all on the same path--some of us taking first steps, others well along on the road.  Those who write because they must are obliged to step over those who abandon their dreams because the way is rocky and steep.

Orpheus

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Re: New query.... Its less than a page....need advice! good or bad?
« Reply #25 on: June 21, 2008, 02:09:34 AM »
Oops - I didn't know it before but I've now realized my query letter sucks.  ???

Wolfe, I'm impressed, more so with the amount of time and effort you put in here to help someone. Welcome to the forum. You have my attention.


Orph  :)

Offline Wicked Redhead

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Re: New query.... Its less than a page....need advice! good or bad?
« Reply #26 on: June 24, 2008, 05:13:30 PM »
I trying to play around with the query to get it to flow and incorporate the advice you gave me. Is this on the right track? I kept the plot to 3 sentences. put some info on why my book would sell. Still working on credentials though.

Dear (name)
   Dragonfly has been a princess, a slave and is now a mercenary. Traveling the planets in the

Known Universe to find the father that sold her into slavery and keep far from the master who loves her.

All the while mourning for her lost love, Jack.

    (NAME) is a science fiction novel. My manuscript is 86,500 words. I’ve been reading since high

school very heavily and feel the market today is ready for a female heroine who has very little in the way

of weaknesses. In our society today women need to be able to handle themselves. This manuscript

enforces the issue in a science fiction theme.
http://christinekirchoff.wordpress.com/

Must be 18 or older to come on over and show some skin.

Wolfe

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Re: New query.... Its less than a page....need advice! good or bad?
« Reply #27 on: June 24, 2008, 09:27:11 PM »
The hook doesn't work.  It's passive voice and tells instead of shows.  The first sentence in your query must draw the agent into wanting to read more.  The following sentences are quite good.  They need a little clean-up, but nothing a little editing can't fix.  The ending sentence (resolution) works and doesn't work.  I love the concept, my curious is raised, but it lacks something that demand I ask for more.

The second paragraph contains some passive voice that also needs addressing.  Always round off word counts to the nearest thousand.

The second line of that paragraph jars because you give opinion.  You want to give fact.  Also, agents expect you to read heavy if you're a writer, so stating as much does you no good.  This turns into preaching, a big faux pas with agents in the following sentences.  Again, you don't want to go down that route.  Show the issue, don't tell it.  Also, always read from different points of opinion.

Consider:  What if I'm a high profile, female literary agent.  I'm at the top of my game, and I've sold work to publishers that've earned millions of dollars.

Now, read this sentence again:  In our society today women need to be able to handle themselves.

Every time I read this, I add an unspoken word you did not write yet it adds anyway:  In our society today women need to be able to handle themselves better.

It could be a cliche that rises to the top because the langauge sounds familiar.  Though, the sentence may be true ... there's that hint of insulting.

Word to the wise.

Wolfe
« Last Edit: June 24, 2008, 09:30:15 PM by Wolfe »

Offline Wicked Redhead

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Re: New query.... Its less than a page....need advice! good or bad?
« Reply #28 on: June 24, 2008, 10:37:56 PM »
Better?

Dear (name)
   Would you survive in the boots of a killer? Dragonfly has been a princess, a slave and is now a

mercenary. Traveling the planets in the Known Universe to find the father that sold her into slavery and

keep far from the master who loves her. All the while mourning for her lost love, Jack.
    
            (NAME) is a science fiction novel. My manuscript is 87,000 words. A strong female is a fact of life

nowadays. My heroine goes a step beyond the leading women and into the darkness of pure survival. 
http://christinekirchoff.wordpress.com/

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Wolfe

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Re: New query.... Its less than a page....need advice! good or bad?
« Reply #29 on: June 25, 2008, 03:19:16 AM »
I'm sorry, Christine, but all I'm seeing are the same sentences rehashed and a rhetorical question--considered another no-no in a query letter.  The same issues apply, but you've sugar-coated some of it ... left the rest.

Perhaps, another example is needed.

I really don't like that too much, personal reasons, but I think it might help you get to where your query need be.  Let's start with the hooks since you appear to have trouble with those.

A query letter hook is an exciting statement that draws the reader into going further.  Movies tend to have outstanding hook lines in their posters.  Some are so good, you know the movies from their hook lines alone.  Let's test that.

Don't get in the water.

They're here.

Love is a force of nature.


These are Jaws, Poltergeist, and Brokeback Mountain.

Using direct lines from the novel or movie--whether dialogue or otherwise--is also another clever hook line if the line is so profound within the manuscript or movie script.  Some writers dislike using this, but it does work to hook interest if the writing within is powerful.  Let's try this and see if you know the books.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

"Listen to the children of the night.  What music they make."

"I wish I knew how to quit you."

And they are A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, the movie version of Dracula with Bela Lugosi, and again Annie Proulx's Brokeback Mountain.  Notice how each hook line shows the theme of the work?  You want your hook to do this as well.

If still in doubt, sum up your entire novel's conflict in one sentence.  The result may surprise you, but even epic stories have basic themes.  Consider these three:

Luke wanted to leave the farm, but he found his destiny instead.

Dorothy found home after it landed on a witch.

E.T. phone home.


And of course they are Star Wars, The Wizard of Oz, and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.  Notice how they all have a very basic, but a powerful and universal theme that draws emotional responses?

Home.

It's a big job, but your hook MUST do this.  Get used to it.  It's expected from your novels too.

Whew!  This took a while to get right!  Hope this helps you and others.

Wolfe
« Last Edit: June 25, 2008, 03:25:03 AM by Wolfe »