Author Topic: Query Letter - Dark Coming of Age  (Read 826 times)

Offline jessywrites

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Query Letter - Dark Coming of Age
« on: June 13, 2020, 08:43:11 PM »
Hi,

I'd love feedback on the query letter I am hoping to send out by the end of the month. My main concern is that it may land as too dark, too much misery. The actual read (hopefully) leaves readers sensitized to a dark subject matter but also sympathetic towards two incredibly strong young women.
Side note - I am open to beta readers and critique swaps!


Dear X,

I am contacting you based on your representation of (personalized paragraph). I hope you will find my coming of age psychological thriller riveting.

In High Society, men get exactly what they want, and young women are groomed to be the perfect accomplices to a pyramid scheme of corruption and abuse. The novel follows two 17-year-old girls and their descent into a secret world dominated by male ambition and desire.

Elsa is a clever high school girl who is poised to rise to the highest echelons of society. She knows this when she approaches a handsome older gentleman in a glamorous hotel bar. He is the natural center of attention and she can tell that he has the world at his feet. She is there to claim the success she feels she is entitled to. The man, Richard takes immediate liking to her and agrees to take her on as his apprentice.
There are warning signals that Richard might not be as noble as she wants him to be. Elsa, who grew up on a secluded farm in the Kenyan highlands, has only just found a sense of identity and place in her new homeland. Her relationship to her parents is healthy but highly independent. She is an aspiring youth politician who takes university classes after school. She has busied herself to the brim, eagerly taking on the role expected of a promising young woman. Then, a chance meeting with her best friendsí father sends her spiraling. Unable to organize the chaos in her mind, she disassociates from pain and labels this capability as her superpower. She decides that Richard and his men are good and immerses herself into their world. Convinced that she is onto something big, she invites her best friend Sara to be a part of the network.

Sara is unwanted and tossed between her parents, her mother is poor, bipolar, and religiously fundamental. Her father is a successful lawyer who impregnated and deserted her mother during their first year at university. Sara wants to feel loved and will stop at nothing to finally be desired. She finds the attention Richard gives her to be irresistible.

Narrated through alternating perspectives of girls and women caught up in the network, the novel sheds light on abusive societal structures protecting powerful men. It navigates topics such as self-destruction, organized crime, gender-based violence and sex work and seeks to encourage debate regarding free will and personal responsibility.

High Society presents an inadequate world, channeled through individual subjectivities, much like novels and stories written by Mary Gaitskill. It combines the raw intensity of Kate E. Russelís My Dark Vanessa with the hypnotic friendship dynamic in Julie Buntinís Marlena. It also draws on the power relations and the glamorous detachment manifesting itself in the Netflix drama series Baby. At just under 65 000 words, the novel is written in a direct prose, through the subjective perspectives of different women embroiled in the story. Together, their voices create a clarity otherwise lost in the murky waters between high society and seedy underbelly.

It is a timely novel, impossible to have realized without the collective wisdom women brought forward in the #metoo movement. The novels deals (explicitly) with sexual assault and its emotional consequences and therefore some may find it triggering. It demands from its readers that they pay attention to the mechanisms that protect and enable men like Jeffrey Epstein or Peter NygŚrd. It also demands from its readers that they listen to young girls and women caught up in abusive networks.

I am an anthropologist. I was always an outsider, a participant-observant, always on the fringes of multiple cultures. I carry the legacy of a complicated past and the novel reflects this search for identity and belonging. I hope you will find it riveting. I would be delighted to send a sample or full manuscript at your request. Thank you for reading, and I look forward to hearing from you.

Best Regards,

Jess
« Last Edit: June 13, 2020, 08:46:29 PM by jessywrites »

Offline PIJ1951

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Re: Query Letter - Dark Coming of Age
« Reply #1 on: June 14, 2020, 07:38:52 AM »
First impressions, it's a long letter. I would be wary at this point of overwhelming the publisher with too much extraneous plot detail or trying to second guess your characters' mindsets. A query letter is meant to whet the appetite for more. The harsh reality is this - publishing houses get dozens of submissions each day and most don't make it past the mail room. Don't give the office drudge an excuse to take a cursory look at the amount of text on the page before disposing of your letter in the nearest bin.

I don't think the dark subject matter will be a problem if handled sympathetically. Your proposal has a lot going for it commercially. The #metoo movement has gained momentum recently and publishers are always on the look-out for material that touches a nerve in contemporary society - bearing in mind that it can take 18 months between signing a contract and seeing your book on sale. That's where self-publishing scores so highly - you can complete your novel one day and have it for sale on Amazon and Kindle within 48 hours.

A couple of other pointers. It's convention to capitalise the title of your book and the names of your main characters. That way it's easier for the recipient to keep track of your sales pitch. When it comes to including a plot outline, brevity is key. You need to show the publisher you can write clearly and concisely. This usually means a short introduction explaining who you are and your credentials as a writer/commentator/etc. followed by three separate paragraphs encapsulating the plot arc in a nutshell. Finally, you can mention other writers whose work is similar - but I'd be wary of allowing any personal agenda to take over at this stage in the process. There's plenty of time for them to get to know you after you sign the dotted line.

Something along these lines maybe?

Quote
HIGH SOCIETY is the tale of ELSA, a talented and ambitious student raised on a secluded farm in the Kenyan highlands. Taking her first steps in the wider world, despite her political savvy she becomes too easily flattered by the attentions of an older guy RICHARD, who offers her an apprenticeship. But her mentor is not all he appears to be.

ELSA's best friend SARA has endured a much harsher start in life. Her mother, left to bring up SARA single-handedly, is bipolar and religiously fundamental. When ELSA introduces SARA to RICHARD and invites her to join their exciting new network, the vulnerable young girl also falls under his spell.

At just under 65 000 words and narrated through alternating perspectives of girls and women caught up in the enterprise, the novel sheds light on abusive societal structures protecting powerful men. It navigates topics such as self-destruction, organized crime, gender-based violence and sex work and seeks to encourage debate regarding free will and personal responsibility.

Much like novels and stories written by Mary Gaitskill, HIGH SOCIETY combines the raw intensity of Kate E. Russelís My Dark Vanessa with the hypnotic friendship dynamic in Julie Buntinís Marlena. It also draws on the power relations and the glamorous detachment manifesting itself in the Netflix drama series Baby. Dealing explicitly with sexual assault and its emotional consequences, I feel it is a timely novel, impossible to have realized without the collective wisdom women brought forward in the #metoo movement.

I would be delighted to send a sample or full manuscript at your request. Thank you for reading, and I look forward to hearing from you.

Feel free to ignore - but I wish you every success with your endeavour.

Offline jessywrites

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Re: Query Letter - Dark Coming of Age
« Reply #2 on: June 14, 2020, 08:43:30 AM »
Thank you, I love your feedback! Writing the query has been such a challenge, I feel like it takes an outsider's perspective.