Book Query, includes revised, please comment

Discussion in 'Writing' started by Chris G., Sep 5, 2004.

  1. Chris G.

    Chris G. New Member

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    Please read my book Query and tell me what you think. Headers and Recipient lines omitted for convenience, not due to ignorance. Thanks! :)

    Query idea

    EARTH STONE is a 160,000 word completed work of fantasy fiction and I have currently begun outlining a sequel tentatively entitled Realm World.

    Where do Elves, Dwarves, Sprites and Pixies come from? Will the answer make you question Man’s origins and fundamental beliefs? Maybe what you thought was a romp through a fantasy novel will tilt the ground beneath your feet and make you wonder what is up and what is down? Henry James just wants to finish College and hear Gina say she loves him too. But he’s about to get answers to questions he never asked and doesn’t want to learn, while finding out that heroes didn’t want to be either and the fantasy novels got it wrong.

    My inspiration for Earth Stone came from a desire to explain why the fantasy genre exists. Elves, dwarves, pixies and sprites, where does it all come from? Thus was born EARTH STONE, a story that tries to explain the genre from the perspective of one hapless Henry James who discovers, much to his amazement, that the fantasy novels got it wrong and the reality is even harder to believe!

    I hope to hear from you soon.


    Sincerely, Christopher A. German
    SASE enclosed
    Complete manuscript available upon request.
     
  2. Rob B

    Rob B \m/ BEER \m/ Staff Member

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    Hi Chris:

    Sounds good, but I'm moving the topic over to our Writing section, where it will get the proper attention.

    Fitz/Rob
     
  3. Jamza1986

    Jamza1986 Under construction

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    You should include a little biographical information with that. Even if its only 'I have enjoyed reading and writing fantasy literature for many years now'. Also, most places would like a synopsis with that; somewhat similar to the outline, but a page long and not omitting any plot details, remember its a synopsis, not a blurb. Other than that, good. You need to appear professional and you must make the outline gripping. Remember everything hinges on that first impression. If you get this initial query right, you will seriously improve your chances. Don't let rejections grind you down though. I can almost say with certainty that you will recieve a few rejections before its accepted. Don't stop submitting though.
     
  4. ShellyS

    ShellyS Chocoholic

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    I thought a query letter should include a 1-2 paragraph summary of the story. The inspiration isn't as important as what the story is about.
     
  5. KatG

    KatG Effulgent Staff Member

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    Why is it called Earth Stone? I'm assuming an Earth Stone is involved somehow, but it's never mentioned. If you're only in the outlining stage for #2, you don't need to waste space mentioning what you think you might call Book #2. At the end of the letter, you can just mention that you are planning for Earth Stone to be the first book in a series or duology. The first thing I want to hear about the book is not that it is 160,000 words long. That's an okay length for fantasy, it's just not the important aspect right away. First I want to know why I, agent/editor, should give a flying fig you wrote anything at all. So overall, I'd suggest maybe starting the query letter with the first sentence of the next paragraph: "Where do Elves...."

    Very good. Should arouse interest. However, the word "college" is not capitalized.

    You just lost their interest. Instead of telling them the main plot of the story, you just repeated what you said in the earlier paragraph. Also, now they are confused. The first descriptive paragraph made it sound like this was a fairly comic (also possibly epic since it's long) fantasy novel, but this paragraph makes it sound like it's a philosophical tract. Nor do publishers need to be told why the fantasy genre exists. They know why it exists -- they made it. They're much more interested in why your work will appeal to the genre audience to which they cater. To do that, you have to cough up the plot, and not in a coy, you have to guess sort of way but in a doesn't this sound scrumptious sort of way.

    So what exactly does Henry James discover? Who does he encounter? Is he whisked off to the realm of fairy tales or a deserted island or has to deal with pixies in his dorm room? You've said your novel is different, now you have to prove it. Spill the beans, or I, the agent/editor, am not going to bother to ask to see it.

    Also, James is correct, some biographical info would not be amiss, but please don't put down that you enjoy reading and writing fantasy. Do you care what the Playboy Centerfold's hobbies are? No, you don't, and I, the agent/editor, don't care what you enjoy either. :) However, if you do have some hobbies that are relevant to your novel or the writing of fantasy, those can be mentioned. If you are in a swordfighting group or won the state D&D championship or scuba dive and your guy is going underwater in the book, then you can throw that in.

    Also important, do you have any fiction or non-fiction published credits? It can be on-line for no pay, in a school publication, a newsletter, whatever, mention it. It does not necessarily make the difference, but it doesn't hurt either. What do you do for a living? If you're a college student, since you're writing about a college student, that's relevant. A couple lines about you gives them a bit of an idea what you may be able to do and what you know.

    But mostly you need to follow through on your tease with some substance. It sounds like a good premise. So make them salivate about it with some details.
     
  6. Susan Boulton

    Susan Boulton Edited for submission

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    This is taken from the draft for one of my latest submissions, the publisher set out what they wanted in their submission info so I tried to put it in. They didn't want waffle about the book in the covering letter but wanted a detailed synopsis.



    Enclosed herewith are the synopsis and first 50 pages of my novel “The Hat Man” for your consideration.



    The work is a light fantasy with a large dash of humour and I believe it will appeal to readers of the genre from 18 to 80. The word count is 92,450



    As regards to myself; I am a mature English ~~~~~, married with two daughters I have been writing for the last ten years, the last four with the idea of being published. I have a love of history, art and literature. I sketch and paint in water colours when I have time. During my research for my writing I became involved in the historical re-enactment scene in the UK with regards to sword use and construction and became a contributor to the online forum Swordforum.com. The joint research and correspondence I entered in to with a US manufacturer of reproduction swords for re-actors and collectors recently resulted in one of his stock blades being named after me.



    As to my previous publications and experience;



    I am the co-author, with ~~~~~~~~ of the collection of short stories entitled “Seven Threads”, published by Equilibrium books ISBN 1-920764-56-9. This work was recently independently reviewed for the SFsite.com by ~~~~~~~~~~~~~, who also writes columns on early imaginative literature for WARP, the newsletter/fanzine of the Montreal Science Fiction and Fantasy Association.



    The following is an extract from that review;



    “While entertaining and written clearly and concisely, Seven Threads is clearly written by, about and for mature adults, not in the sense of there being any graphic sexuality (there isn't any), but rather in that the stories are explorations of how interpersonal relationships develop, particularly romantic ones, written from a point of view of experience and even wistfulness at times”


    “Seven Threads is a book that while clearly readable by a teenager or young adult, brings along baggage that might seem trivial to such readers, but would likely resonate with more mature readers, particularly women. Similarly, while the stories in Seven Threads are nominally fantasy, science-fiction or supernatural in nature, here these literary forms serve far more as a medium in which to couch wisdom about relationships, than any particular genre of imaginative fiction.”

    A section of work in progress was selected as the Editor’s choice for March 2004 on the Online Writer’s Workshop for Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror and was reviewed there by ~~~~~~~ Former editor, Del Rey Books.
     
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2004
  7. Chris G.

    Chris G. New Member

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    Revised book Query....please comment.

    Query idea


    Where do Elves, Dwarves, Sprites and Pixies come from? Will the answer make you question Man’s origins and fundamental beliefs? Maybe what you thought was a romp through a fantasy novel will tilt the ground beneath your feet and make you wonder what is up and what is down? Henry James just wants to finish college and hear Gina say she loves him too. But he’s about to get answers to questions he never asked and doesn’t want to learn, while finding out that heroes didn’t want to be either and the fantasy novels got it wrong.

    At the dawn of Human civilization, Mankind was pushing the world of Faerie aside. Faced with the inevitable end, Five Elvin Kings created the stones of power. Vessels of life energy, the stones created the Realm and the races of Faerie left Earth. Now, 10,000 years later the Realm is dying. In the hope of restoring his world and saving its people, one Elvin prince, son of late King Aric, tries to use his family’s forgotten and neglected stone of power and is overcome with its desire to gather the other stones. Aldreas does what he thinks is right to restore a balance he is only slowly becoming aware of at a terrible cost in lives he can’t control.
    Only the Earth Stone has the power to stop Aldreas’ ultimate goal, reemergence of Earth and Realm. An act that promises to destroy both worlds. But it will need an avatar in the Realm, and only an Elvin myth called a Human will be able to use its power. Henry James doesn’t want to be a hero, he just wants to finish college and win the heart of a girl he’s lost 100 lbs. for. However, he’s about to find out that myths aren’t what he thought they were and the heroes he’s read about didn’t have a choice and neither does he.

    I am 36 years old and have been a High School Social Studies teacher for 10 years. I have been writing short stories since I was old enough to read and my interest in fantasy adventure came at a young age when I was introduced to Dungeons and Dragons. Over the years I continually asked myself the questions you see above, however the answer didn’t come until I started writing Earth Stone. My writing experience stems from many years writing articles in my home town news paper, my consistent writing stories from a very young age. I concentrated most of my efforts over the years on improving my craft.


    EARTH STONE is a 160,000 word completed work of fantasy fiction and I have already begun work on a sequel entitled Realm World.



    I hope to hear from you soon.


    Sincerely, Christopher A. German
    SASE enclosed
    Complete manuscript available upon request.
     
  8. KatG

    KatG Effulgent Staff Member

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    Actually, I take it back, this needs a little reworking maybe. How about:

    "Where do elves, dwarves, sprites, pixies and all the creatures of fairy tales really come from? What if everything we've ever heard in the age-old stories turned out to be wrong? What do you do when the ground titlts beneath your feet and makes you wonder what is up and what is down? Henry James just wants to finish college and hear Gina say she loves him too. But he's about to get the answers to questions he never asked and doesn't want to learn, while finding out that heroes never volunteer and the fantasy novels got it wrong."

    You're still repeating yourself about things like Henry just wants to finish college and heroes not having a choice, etc. And while there's a bit more information, the plot description is still rather vague and unclear. What we do get of the plot sounds pretty standard fantasy novel to me. How did the stories get it wrong? How is Henry going to be forced to be a hero and in what way? Pretend you're not writing the query letter. Now, tell us what happens in your novel.

    Unless you are very young or very old, I, the agent/editor, don't care how old you are. Try something like this:

    I am a high school social studies teacher with a Masters degree in (whatever degree you got.) I have written feature articles in the regional newspaper, the (whatever the name of it is.) A love of role-playing fantasy games led to the creation of Earth Stone, a 160,000 word manuscript and the first in a potential series.

    *Note -- I help out with query stuff when I can in the forum so that anything I might talk about that might be helpful to others will be available and so other people can give their opinions, suggestions and experiences, and help each other out. I have written market letters and read many query letters and can sometimes provide a publishing perspective, at least in general terms. But I do so with the understanding that I am not going to be rewriting everybody's query letters. (Not that I've been asked, I'm just being paranoid.) Nor do I take any responsibilty for any suggestions I make. If you use my suggestions and the query doesn't work for you, it's not my fault. I'm not sure that my query letters are going to work for me, so no one can gripe. :)
     
    Last edited: Sep 7, 2004
  9. Abby

    Abby enslaved to my writing

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    Hey there, Chris.

    To be honest, I'm not sure if I'd give the novel a try. Your query letter has typos and punctuation errors, which tells me that the manuscript will have errors, making it harder to read. Also, I'm confused on a few points. For instance:
    ...while finding out that heroes didn't want to be what? There's an incomplete clause in there.

    Judging by this (revised) query letter, the story itself sounds a little bit derivative. The concept of the realm of Faerie interacting with modern-day America/Europe has been done before. I'm intrigued by the fact that Henry James lost 100 lbs to win the heart of a girl--that tells me that he's a determined individual, and he really loves her--but that's the only hint I have that this story will have interesting characters. You may want to ask yourself what the core theme of your story is; what this story means to you, and why you think other people will like it. Then try to push that theme into the query letter while communicating the basic plot as well. I know that writing query letters is a HUGE pain in the ass, but that's my 2-cent suggestion.

    I've had many problems with query letters myself. Best of luck with it!
     
  10. Chris G.

    Chris G. New Member

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    Query reviseed agaim AND a "new" version.

    EARTH STONE is a 160,000 word completed work of fantasy fiction and I have currently begun writing a sequel entitled Realm World.

    Where do Elves, Dwarves, Sprites and Pixies come from? Will the answer make you question Man’s origins and fundamental beliefs? Maybe what you thought was a romp through a fantasy novel will tilt the ground beneath your feet and make you wonder what is up and what is down? Henry James just wants to finish college and hear Gina say she loves him too. But he's about to get answers to questions he never asked and doesn't want to learn, while finding out that heroes never volunteer and the fantasy novels got it wrong.

    At the dawn of Human civilization, Mankind was pushing the world of Faerie aside. Faced with the inevitable end, Five Elvin Kings created the stones of power. Vessels of life energy, the stones created the Realm and the races of Faerie left Earth. Now, 10,000 years later the Realm is dying. In the hope of restoring his world and saving its people, one Elvin prince, son of late King Aric, tries to use his family’s forgotten and neglected stone of power and is overcome with its desire to gather the other stones. Aldreas does what he thinks is right to restore a balance he is only slowly becoming aware of at a terrible cost in lives he can’t control.
    Only the Earth Stone has the power to stop Aldreas’ ultimate goal, reemergence of Earth and Realm. An act that promises to destroy both worlds on many levels. But it will need an avatar in the Realm, and only an Elvin myth called a Human will be able to use its power. It chooses Henry James.

    I have been teaching High School Social Studies in the Philadelphia Public Schools for 10 years. As a long time fan of the fantasy genre I often asked myself the questions above, however the answers eluded me until I sat down to write Earth Stone. My writing experience stems from articles in my home town news paper and many years spent developing my craft.

    I hope to hear from you soon.

    EARTH STONE is a 160,000 word completed work of fantasy fiction and I have currently begun writing a sequel entitled Realm World.

    What if Olduvai Gorge revealed bones not ape, or australopithecine, nor human either that also pointed to Man’s beginnings? What if caves in the Neander Valley revealed desiccated Dwarven remains and the pyramids of Egypt were built by ‘aliens’ Elvin ones? Will the discoveries make you question Man’s origins and fundamental beliefs? Maybe what you thought was a romp through a fantasy novel will tilt the ground beneath your feet and make you wonder what is up and what is down? Henry James just wants to finish college and hear Gina say she loves him too. But he's about to get answers to questions he never asked and doesn't want to learn, while finding out that heroes never volunteer and the fantasy novels got it wrong.

    At the dawn of Human civilization, Mankind was pushing the world of Faerie aside. Faced with the inevitable end, Five Elvin Kings created the stones of power. Vessels of life energy, the stones created the Realm and the races of Faerie left Earth. Now, 10,000 years later the Realm is dying. In the hope of restoring his world and saving its people, one Elvin prince, son of late King Aric, tries to use his family’s forgotten and neglected stone of power and is overcome with its desire to gather the other stones. Aldreas does what he thinks is right to restore a balance he is only slowly becoming aware of at a terrible cost in lives he can’t control. Only the Earth Stone has the power to stop Aldreas’ ultimate goal, reemergence of Earth and Realm. An act that promises to destroy both worlds on many levels. But it will need an avatar in the Realm, and only an Elvin myth called a Human will be able to use its power. It chooses Henry James.

    I have been teaching High School Social Studies in the Philadelphia Public Schools for 10 years. As a long time fan of the fantasy genre I often asked myself the questions above, however the answers eluded me until I sat down to write Earth Stone. My writing experience stems from articles in my home town news paper and many years spent developing my craft.

    I hope to hear from you soon.

    Sincerely, Christopher A. German
     
  11. Susan Boulton

    Susan Boulton Edited for submission

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    Chris:

    I think you need to get this beast out there. You can fiddle and fumble with covering letters, synopsis, chapter breakdowns till you are blue in the face. In the end you have to parcel it up and send it out.

    Like Rocket Sheep said to me, wipe its bottom, blow its nose and get it out there.

    Yes, there will be the odd typo both in the manuscript and letter, you can glean it, have friends pick it over and they still are there. Unless you stump up the money for a clean up, they will be, we are all human.

    If the story has something it will get looked at. But saying that, it is a hell of a lottery... good luck...
     
  12. KatG

    KatG Effulgent Staff Member

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    Okay, revision #2 and #2A on the query letter, leading me to a question: why don't you like Henry James? (The guy in your novel, not the author.)

    Here you've created a guy, thrust him into what sounds like it might be a difficult situation, but you don't seem, in this letter, to have very much interest in him. The summary description in the letter is all about alluvial bones, power stones and Prince Aldras, who appears to be the misled, magic mad antagonist. The only thing we hear about Henry is that he's a college student in love with a woman named Gina, for whom, we learn in one version of the letter, he lost 100 pounds. Oh, and he's going to be the avatar, but how that works exactly, we've got no idea.

    Now Abby and I, on another website -- and thanks for the update letter Abby -- did a few rounds on her query letter for one of her novels, and I'll say upfront that my suggestions there had no marked effect in the market whatsoever. But, she had something of the same problem -- she was concentrating on the villains in describing the story, not her protagonist. I had to ask about tweny questions just to find out who the boy was, much less exactly what happens to him in the story. So the questions Abby is asking you, they're right on target.

    I really don't want to have to ask you twenty questions about Henry. So cough it up -- who is he? What happens to him in the novel? How does he defeat the mad Aldras with the Earth Stone? What is the plot of the novel? You're still being coy, and while not being coy may not get you a positive response, being coy will definitely get you a negative response, fiddling warning noted, Holbrook. They can't get interested about a story if they don't know what the story is. So tell them what the story is. This is not cover copy. They don't want cover copy. They want to know what you've got.

    Again, I suggest stop thinking about it as a query letter for the moment. Pretend we're all sitting at a restaurant. I am having something chocolate. Now, tell us what your novel is about and what happens in it. That may be an easier way for you to finally start talking about the main character of the novel. :)
     
  13. JRMurdock

    JRMurdock Where have I been?

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    That's the most awesmoest advice I've ever read! Thanks Kat!

    I've had similar issues with my query letter. Even though I wsa spilling the plot, I was doing so like a car salesman. I think I need to tone mine down a wee bit. :)
     
  14. Chris G.

    Chris G. New Member

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    An agent has REQUESTED my Earth Stone Synopsis. Here it is.

    Blurb/Logline: Henry James doesn’t want to be a hero, but he’s about to find out that heroes never volunteer and the fantasy novels got it wrong, yet can an Elvin myth called a “Human” restore an ages old balance and save two worlds?


    Longer Blurb/Logline:
    In a dying world a possessed Elvin prince tries to save his people. But even the best intentions can go awry and the balance Prince Aldreas tries to restore begins to exact a terrible cost in lives he can’t control. Only the Earth Stone has the power to stop Aldreas’ ultimate goal, re-mergence of Earth and Realm. An act that promises to destroy both worlds on many levels. But it will need an avatar in the Realm, and only an Elvin myth called a Human will be able to use its power. It chooses Henry James.
     
  15. Chris G.

    Chris G. New Member

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    Earth Stone synopsis...What the F---!!!!!

    How do you post anything if this format doesn't allow more than 1,000 characters!!!!!!!!!
     
  16. Sammie

    Sammie The Doctor...

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    Have merged the above two posts into your existing thread on this topic. Please do not start any more threads on the same subject, Chris. Thank you.

    No such limit exists! I'm not sure what problem you are having but, if you look above, KatG's post for example is well over 4000 characters!!

    We do ask that members keep samples of their own work to a maximum of 1000 words when posting directly into the forum, so perhaps that is where your confusion arises.....

    Sammie.
     
  17. KatG

    KatG Effulgent Staff Member

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    And thank goodness for that! How would I be suitably long-winded otherwise?

    Chris, I know you're having problems posting the whole bit you want to post, but if an agent is asking for a synopsis, what they usually want is a document 1-5 single-spaced pages long, preferably 1-2 pages, giving a full, detailed but concise summary description of the plot of your novel. That is different from a two paragraph description in a query letter and probably longer than we can handle on the forum. But some of the concerns are the same -- they need to know what actually happens in the novel, specifically what happens to HENRY. Not Aldreas. HENRY.

    So again, I'm suggesting, forget the query letter, forget the synopsis, and just point blank like we're having a conversation, tell us what happens to Henry over the whole course of the story.

    I'll explain, in my verbose manner, why I'm harping on this. Being a literary agent going to writers conferences where I was expected -- and happy to -- speak with authors for 10-15 minute appointments about their work, I had to develop a certain set of interview skills, because authors, even ones who'd published a book or two, usually had no clue how to talk about their work and present the essence of it. So after letting them ramble on for a few minutes about something totally irrelevant, say, the mechanics of the hierarchy of dragons they have in their fantasy novel, I'd have to dive in asking questions, such as:

    "Interesting, and who is your main character?"
    "And how does he interact with the dragons?"
    "And what does he do when the dragon kidnaps his sister?"
    "And how do you end the story?"

    And from such questions, I could hopefully glean enough info to then come up with a summary description of the story myself, which I would then present to the author to determine if it was accurate. At which point, I'd decide if I wanted to take a look at the ms. So:

    "Who is Henry?"
    "How does he serve as the avatar?"
    "How does the Earth Stone work?"
    "How does the story end?"
     
  18. Jamza1986

    Jamza1986 Under construction

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    Kat, I was wondering what you think I should do. Although I live in the UK, I seem to submit things to the USA a lot. Would it matter if I had a US based agent? Or do you think I should stick to my own country. The problem is the UK is a little more elitist than the UK. Most agents here won't look twice at fantasy, and those that do only accept the very best. Plus absolutely no-one accepts E subs here. Thats not a particular problem, but its more convienient. Basically, should I go for US or UK publishing?
     
  19. KatG

    KatG Effulgent Staff Member

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    To be perfectly honest, I've no idea. :) My knowledge of the UK market is quite dated and was mostly re foreign rights for U.S. properties. I do know that the UK has a strong sf community, and an interest in fantasy, thanks to Harry Potter and Tolkein, but I've heard about a certain amount of hostility in the UK market going on recently -- Simon & Schuster dissolving their genre imprint and such. The U.S. market is obviously much bigger, though book publishers and agents there don't usually accept e-submissions either. There is also probably more interest in printing U.S. authors or in putting out U.S. editions of foreign authors who are already published in their home country, though not being a U.S. author does not necessarily exclude you.

    I think that if you want to make a push into the U.S. market, trying to get a U.S. agent would be a good idea, if you don't think you can get a U.K. agent. It would be rather difficult, I suspect, for you to get very far with U.S. publishers without some sort of agent in one country or another. However, you might have a shot at going directly to U.K. publishers without an agent. If you managed a sale there, you can start looking at how to build a U.K. fan base and might have a better chance getting a British agent. And don't give up on the British agents entirely. While they are a small club, they've got junior associates who are often hungry, and while these junior associates are inundated with manuscripts, they still might be more receptive to fantasy projects then their bosses. Harry Potter changed the rules, though it's a children's series and no doubt many agents dismiss it as such, and that will, gradually, presumably have an effect on the market.
     
  20. Abby

    Abby enslaved to my writing

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    Kat, thanks for the advice about speaking to agents. I'm about to do that for the first time this October, at the World Fantasy Convention. I have a feeling I'm going to be annoying my boyfriend with "practice pitches" during the whole drive down to Arizona. I'm still very nervous and shaky about my novel synopsis (same novel), although I remain confident in the characters, story, and salability. The way I see it, my problem is that I don't have a conventional story. It's the first in a series, and it ends on a down-note, with the heroes captured and enslaved. I realize that's not a great selling point. I'm going to have to find some way to stress that it's still an engaging story, and the heroes kick ass in the second book. Argh. I just don't know how to do that without sounding like I'm trying to justify a bad ending. I don't believe it's a bad ending--I think it's the right ending--but it doesn't fall into the typical SF/Fantasy formula.