My adventure into the QUERY jungle

Discussion in 'Writing' started by Chris_KW, Mar 22, 2012.

  1. Chris_KW

    Chris_KW Registered User

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    Since this is such a big topic for those of us struggling to get our foot in the publishing door, I thought it would be both fun and educational for me to keep a small log of my progress.

    A little background ...

    This is the first manuscript I ever wrote, and if you had seen the original draft, it wouldn't take you long to figure that out. But after years (3, to be exact) of honing my skill, listening to others on forums, drinking a lot vodka, and, oh yes, agonizing through rewrite after rewrite, I'm ready to find an agent.

    I initially attempted the query process a couple years ago, when I was trying to sell the original draft. Ack! Wow, was I clueless back then. It didn't help that I struggled with a daily battle against insomnia and a host of other unpleasant afflictions, but because of the miracle of holistic medicine, my mind and body and clear and healthy after years of struggles.

    Anyways, I tried the self-publishing route, and shocking as it may be, I didn't strike gold. What I did get, though, were dozens of helpful responses from all types of readers, and without their insight, my manuscript would not be anywhere near what is is today. I know that may present some issues since I'm not selling the first-rights, but I don't see that I have much of a choice. I find it difficult to promote my own work without feeling like I'm spamming, so I'd like some assistance in that department from a true professional.

    So without further delay ... Today, I sent out my first query. I located the agent by doing a google search for "fantasy literary agents" and about 5th down the list was this link, http://www.wrhammons.com/fantasy-literary-agents.htm

    This site lists agents for all genres, and they're broken down so that you can search by category. The first agent that I found to my liking I did a little research on by reading his bio and what books he's published, and then I structured my query appropriately to give it a more personal touch. Here is the letter:

    Dear Mr. xxx,


    I’m querying because, like F. Scott Fitzgerald, you appreciate strength, passions of the heart, and their ability to coalesce into something extraordinary. The characters in SERVANT OF THE LICH not only possess the inner strength of a Wolfskin, their depth and complexity touches the inner soul. <----he published a book called Wolfskin and he's a big F. Scott Fitzgerald fan.

    Hannibal thought he would never serve the lich again, but when his master uncovers the power he needs to conquer Andora, he demands Hannibal’s services for one final task. Hannibal wants to deny the lich, but the price is simply too high. His master holds his life force in a phylactery, as well as that of his true love, Elanor. Hannibal’s every breath is for her, and the lich promises the couple’s freedom if he completes the task, but Hannibal must decide if he can live a quiet life with Elanor if it costs a nation’s suffering.

    As Hannibal wrestles with his dilemma, a group of friends, caught in the crosswinds of destruction sweeping across Andora, come together to fight back against Hannibal and the lich. In the conflict’s depths they discover something both frightening and awe-inspiring: it’s not chance that brought them into this worldwide struggle, it’s fate.

    SERVANT OF THE LICH, set in the socially progressive, diverse nation of Andora, is a fast-paced, character driven fantasy of 88,000 words that takes place over the span of one week. Fans of R.A. Salvatore's THE CRYSTAL SHARD and the mystery elements of Stephen King’s novels should find this work to their liking.

    Like many first time novelists, my credentials lie in my passion for fantasy literature and my lifetime of experiences. I recently completed the final rewrite of this novel and I’m seeking representation. Thank you for your time and consideration,


    ------------------------

    If anyone finds any interest in this thread, please feel free to comment and as I continue my search I will post updates.
     
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2012
  2. Window Bar

    Window Bar We Read for Light

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    I know nothing about constructing a query letter, so I won't go there; but I do know there's a tiny nation in the Pyrenees Mountains called Andorra. Unless your tale has something to with Andorra (such as taking place in the same nation, but removed from today's Europe in time or space), I would certainly make up another nation name. The use of the word Andora comes across no differently than Englund, Frants, Amerikka or Rusha.

    Good luck with your project -- WB
     
  3. Chris_KW

    Chris_KW Registered User

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    Except that Andorra is little known and rarely discussed, unlike the major countries you listed. The movie Avatar had no issue using the name Pandora (and I had gone with Andora long before that film made its debut). If it becomes problematic, I have no problem changing it.
     
  4. kissmequick

    kissmequick bingley bingley beep

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    Andorra may be little known in America, but it's pretty well known in Europe (quite popular for skiing holidays). Also, Avatar was set in our universe with Earth peoples, so it's not surprising they used the name of an ancient Greek character to name a planet.

    Anyway, were you wanting a critique of the query? Or a good luck wish? I can do either :D
     
  5. KatG

    KatG The Bony Hand of Death Staff Member

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    Hey Chris! It's time to play twenty questions game!

    LOL, this is funny. Nicely written. However, it's entirely possible that he's not going to be the one first reading the query letter. And the person who is reading the letter may be confused at you mentioning the title of another book on their client list. If he reads it, he's just going to chuckle, but it does make you a tad memorable. So I'm not saying remove it necessarily, but you might want to get rid of the Wolfskin reference.

    What's a lich?

    What power?

    What's Andora? (Also do not worry, IMO, that it is also the real name of a place on Earth. Numerous names in fantasy novels are also real place names on Earth.)

    What sort of services for what sort of task? What is it that Hannibal can do exactly?

    What's a phylactery?

    Why does Hannibal believe the Lich will keep his word and release them?

    I'm guessing these contain the actual main character?

    Again, a very nice line. Problem is, in a fantasy novel, when you say something isn't chance, it's fate, there's usually magical or divine agency involved in that fate, as in someone chose these folk for specific purposes. So if you don't elaborate about that, it's a bit confusing.

    Which is where exactly? In a universe filled with progressive kingdoms? We don't have a lot of info about this world that seems kind of important to the story.

    I'd usually advise not using character-driven or plot-driven, but that's just me.

    Those are two different sorts of things. Is there a mystery in the book?

    I have sort of vague memories of this book, (I remember asking you about the lich before,) but I'm coming to it flat and those would be the questions in my mind if I were reading it. The bones of the story are mentioned and sound interesting enough, but the letter is written as if I'd be familiar with the world of the story already and in fantasy and especially secondary world fantasy, that doesn't communicate as well as adding some details to explain how things work and what they are in the world. So I'd suggest thinking about the questions above and seeing what you can fill in. It should give the emotional dilemmas a little more punch.
     
  6. Chris_KW

    Chris_KW Registered User

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    There's no need for critique because there will never be a perfect query letter. I've learned that if you're looking for 100% approval on something written, a writer's forum is the worst place to look for it. Everyone has their opinions and that's never going to change. I can tell you already I'm not sold on the opening paragraph, but I figured what the hell, I'll give it a shot. My editor has 20 years of experience and worked as a pre-submission editor. I have faith in her analysis. If I go 0 for 100 then revision may be in order. ;)

    I've considered Angora for a long time as well but there's just something majestic sounding about Andora that speaks to me. However, the name of the nation has no real bearing on the story so I could care less if someone wants to change it. Maybe I'll whip out the old find and replace if an agent ever says anything.

    My idea for this thread was it would be fun to see what someone did from A to B to Z and what to expect at each stage, something helpful to other writers in my current position. If it's not interesting, it shouldn't take long for it to the find the second page.
     
  7. Chris_KW

    Chris_KW Registered User

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    Wow, this really is 20 questions! :eek: They're all valid points, that's for sure. I definitely made a few assumptions in the letter, and a lot of the points you mentioned I went with a more general description rather than specifics because I felt like it was sharper prose and that I was bordering on information overload if I didn't. My hope is that the central conflict garners enough interest for them to ask for a synopsis or the manuscript.

    For one, the power the lich uncovers ... it's actually 2 stones given to him by the demon Knotus, and Knotus does this because he knows what the lich will do with them and he can play puppet-master behind the scenes to get what he wants. I had considered saying "but when the lich recovered the Stones of Alcari, two sentient artifacts of power"

    The phylactery, yes, this is a word that only seems to be understood in lich terminology. Lichs' are undead wizards with such necromantic power they're able to magically extend their own (or another's) life by holding their soul in a phylactery. I may change it to... "holds his life force hostage"

    And then there's the reference to Andora, another topic I considered. One reason I went the way I did was to keep the letter as short as possible and close to that half-page length.

    Every other thing you mention will be explained in the synopsis, so I'm just crossing my fingers that this will pull them in enough to request one. ;)

    As far as the F. Scott Fitzgerald and Wolfskin reference, I'm hoping he gets a good laugh out of that--in a good way.
     
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2012
  8. kissmequick

    kissmequick bingley bingley beep

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    there's a difference between a query letter that works and one that doesn't though - and the ones that don't are...actually really easy to think they are ones that do.( i know, I've written several that needed critique to see where they failed - and then they worked) Critique is (almost) always useful.

    Thinking you know all the answers risks falling into golden word territory. It's dangerous there. And once you stop learning, you stagnate - not a good place to be.

    It isn't about 100% approval. It's about making a letter that is compelling, exciting etc. You don't have to take every critique and apply it rigorously - but if several people say the same thing, it is worth thinking about, no?

    It's about making you think about what you are writing.


    Now for the query:

    Okay you've set out the initial stakes - but it's wordy and a bit fat in the fisrt para and I have little idea about the personality of the protag. (if I were an agent I would then think your novel is wordy and fat and perhaps that your MC is a bit of a cipher)

    It's also very generic -- a complaint that is compounded in the second para. Sweeping destruction for instance (er so what, fire, plague, boils?)


    You need to make this query different to the other hundred the agent is looking at today - and you do that with specifics. With voice.

    What happens? Because right now, I have not a lot of idea.

    I find this useful (simplistic, but it helps)

    Protag A has a problem. B stops him attaining his desire. Then C happens and X must Y or ZOMG!!

    Make your story exciting. Show me what is unique about your world. Specifics will sell your query quicker than spit because generics are meh. I am an agent, I am reading 100 of these today. Don't tell (in your summary after) show me about this story. Make it live for me on the page. Use the voice of your MC to show me why this is OMG for him.

    This is a showcase for how well you can write

    Use it
     
    Last edited: Mar 23, 2012
  9. Chris_KW

    Chris_KW Registered User

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    Thanks for your input! I didn't mean to imply that my query letter is above scrutiny or that I know all the answers (believe me, no one knows that lesson better than me!), but rather that at some point, I have to make a decision and go with what I think feels right.

    I could send the same letter to 100 different people for critique and get 100 different replies, but ultimately, I still have to make the final decision. :)

    But, since you and Kat feel I need a few more specifics, I'll keep those in mind. And as I stated before, the reason I didn't go into more specifics was I felt I couldn't mention something without it needing further explanation, and I really wanted to keep the letter as short as possible.

    Here's something I threw together real quick for the plot paragraph.

    Hannibal prayed he would never have to serve the lich again, but when his master finds the Stones of Alcari, the keys to unlocking his conquest of Andora, he demands Hannibal’s services for one final task. Hannibal wants to deny the maniacal lich and his destructive plan, but defiance costs too much. His master, who knew long that who could utilize Hannibal’s amazing control of necromancy to his gain, holds his life force in a phylactery, as well as that of his true love, Elanor. Hannibal would have slit his own throat years ago if he didn’t have Elanor. The lich, knowing Hannibal will stop at almost nothing to remain beside her, promises the couple’s freedom if Hannibal can resurrect the priests of Alcari buried beneath the destroyed city of Essen, but Hannibal must decide if he can live a quiet life with Elanor if it costs a nation’s suffering.


    Now see, I admit, that is far more compelling than what I had, but my fear is that it's simply too long.
     
    Last edited: Mar 23, 2012
  10. KatG

    KatG The Bony Hand of Death Staff Member

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    The point of the query letter is not to dazzle them with your prose. That's what the ms. is for. It's great if the query letter is well written -- it indicates the ms. may be good -- but not if it's pithy and obtuse at the same time. The main purpose of the query letter is to communicate information about the book, not to make claims about the writing and its themes. With a secondary world fantasy, that requires clear information about the world. The emotional dilemmas are great, but they are basic human material. Without the context of the world and characters, they lose their punch.

    We can see from the description that Hannibal is enslaved, but we don't know what that enslavement involves -- we don't know what the lich does necessarily (the agent may know what a lich is, working with fantasy, or may not, but even if the agent knows what it is, the way you're using a lich might be different from say a D&D game; they need to have some idea what a lich means in your world,.) and what Hannibal does for the lich that is so essential. We can see that he might have a shot of escaping that enslavement and saving his girlfriend, but we have no idea what that actually involves. You say this country -- which you reassure us is a nice country somewhere -- is going to get destroyed but because we don't know what the threat really is, that doesn't tell us much about the plot. Will it be overrun with demons, fall apart in a giant earthquake, have the people turn into cyborgs? This relates to Hannibal's dilemma.

    Then you've got these other, wandering characters, but we don't know anything about them except that they meet up eventually. And my suspicion, which could be wrong, is that your main character is actually one of these characters and not Hannibal, which would mean the query reader hasn't a clue what you're actually doing in the story. Even if Hannibal is the main character, the other characters are presumably going to play a role in his story, so some indication of what that role is related to his dilemma lets them follow the plot.

    I understand that you're going "it has to be short.” Every author gets focused on the length issues as if they think trying to pass a query letter exam is the main point of the endeavor. But the letter doesn’t have to be only a half-page long, just a page, 1-3 paragraphs of description, and you can add short clauses with the details, like that the lich finds some stones that will let him conquer Andora. And your new info that Hannibal is supposed to resurrect the priests is also helpful and you can see, not that long. But the key issue is why can Hannibal do this? Why did the lich make him a prisoner? Who is Hannibal to be in that position? We don’t understand his torment because we don’t know why he was tormented. It doesn’t require that much information. Maybe Hannibal was a mage whose life force got captured or maybe Hannibal is a ghost put in someone else’s body or maybe Hannibal is an elf and only an elf can resurrect the dead priests, etc. So it’s just a little bit more info, so that they aren’t going, what does that mean? when they read it. It takes a bit of practice to get used to talking about your work in that way, and that’s part of this query letter process you’re on. It makes your story sound more interesting when you aren't hiding the story from the query letter description.

    Since you have a freelance editor you’re working with, ask her to describe what the story is about to you as if you didn’t write it. See what details she comes up with and that may offer good clues about what info you need. Collar friends who haven’t read the book, describe it to them, encourage them to ask questions about what they find unclear and see what details pop up there.

    Consider also a little bit the tone of the book related to your own tone. The letter shows some humor and speaks of passions of the heart. Is the novel then partly comic, is a central mystery the important part, is it a tense psychological thriller in which Hannibal and the lich torment each other, do you spend a lot of time on war scenes or adventure ones? Is it very dark and horror-like or is it a high stakes clash like Salvatore? Give them a bit of an indication. They want to know where you’re headed, and telling them that your characters are complex doesn’t do that. (Nor do they necessarily trust your prose assessment of your own characters.) So you’ve sort of wafted in the aroma, but I think you need more meat on the bones. This is always a problem with secondary world fantasy, but it is surmountable.
     
  11. Chris_KW

    Chris_KW Registered User

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    Kat, it looks like I caught you just in time for my latest revision. If three paragraphs isn't too much to describe the book, then that opens up a whole new realm of possibilities. The tone of this letter, yes, to put it simply, resembles the tone I carry throughout the novel.

    But, I've been at this crossroad before regarding the heroes who fight against Hannibal and the lich and, while they are main characters, Hannibal is undoubtedly the central figure in this particular novel. The heroes, more so in the next installment. Here's where I'm at thus far ...

    -----------------------


    Hannibal prayed he would never have to serve the lich again, but when his master finds the Stones of Alcari, the keys to unlocking his conquest of Andora, he demands Hannibal’s services for one final task. Hannibal wants to deny the maniacal lich and his destructive plan, but defiance costs too much. His master, knowing long ago he could utilize Hannibal’s necromantic talent to his gain, enslaved his life force in a phylactery, as well as that of his true love, Elanor. Hannibal will stop at nothing to preserve his life beside her. The lich, knowing this, promises the couple’s freedom if Hannibal can resurrect the priests of Alcari buried beneath the destroyed city of Essen and bring them in time to help crush the Andorans. But Hannibal must decide if he can live a quiet life with Elanor if it costs a nation’s suffering.

    As Hannibal wrestles with his dilemma, a small group of friends, caught in the crosswinds of destruction sweeping across Andora, come together to fight back against Hannibal and the lich. In the conflict’s depths they discover something both frightening and awe-inspiring: it’s not chance that brought them into this worldwide struggle, it’s fate.

    SERVANT OF THE LICH takes place in the world of Korel, which bears a healthy resemblance to Tolkien’s Middle Earth. Specifically, it focuses on the land of Andora, a nation progressing a bit faster than its closest neighbors. It’s a fast-paced, character driven fantasy of 88,000 words that takes place over the span of one week. Fans of R.A. Salvatore's THE CRYSTAL SHARD and the mystery elements of Stephen King’s novels should find this blend to their liking.

    -------------------------

    If I am going for more specifics, then it's still not done with regards to a few elements, but I like the direction it's heading.
     
    Last edited: Mar 23, 2012
  12. zachariah

    zachariah Speaks fluent Bawehrf

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    Thank the Tao you didn't end up choosing Angora!

    Showing my ignorance here - is there some Fitzgerald in-joke referenced in the intro paragraph?
     
    Last edited: Mar 23, 2012
  13. kissmequick

    kissmequick bingley bingley beep

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    Okay, you've set up the dilemma in the first para - but tell me nothing really in the second. I need to know what happens in the book, and I don't. (all right, I don't need to know the end, but I need to know some of what actually happens)

    Entice me to read further - that's really what the query is about, and for me the second para is just too vague for that. The first para is getting there but it could use a bit of work to give some more of the voice of the story/protag. I still don't know what sort of person he is (which is helpful in a query. YMMV).

    Tbh, the only line of this you need is the last one (except you need word count). Although you might be better referencing something a bit more contemporary than RA Salvatore. The rest isn't really needed in the query, or if it is, should be shown in the main body of the query rather than told.

    Queries are hard, aren't they? I usually end up chewing my own knuckles to the bone when I write one...
     
  14. KatG

    KatG The Bony Hand of Death Staff Member

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    No, no, let's not evoke Tolkien here. That's going to be pretty meaningless at this point. If an editor says that your work reminds him of Lord of the Rings, fine. Otherwise, it's in your best interests not to bring the most comparey work of fantasy fiction up.

    Here's a version that is likely to have some details wrong, but may work a little smoother:

    I'm not really adding much there because I don't know anything. :) I don't know if the lich wants revenge, but if that's why he's going after Andora, that can be worked in there, as you see. If he's going after Andora because Andora has magical bonsai trees he wants or whatever, you probably want to just try to get a mention of that in there. If we have a general sense of why people are doing things, we tend to be more interested in what they are doing.

    The problem with the second paragraph is that not only don't we know why people are doing things, we don't know who they are or what they are actually doing. So either I'd say you don't mention them at all and go with something like "As Hannibal stalls for time and war breaks out across Andora, (because?) forces shift and coalesce around him. Aid or destruction is on its way," etc., and just keep it all on Hannibal, or you need to briefly name each of the other key people of that group, briefly what their central situation is and then how that relates to Hannibal and those priests being or not being resurrected. If those three or four characters have really interesting situations, that helps sell interest in the book. And then of course, there's the demon, who might be handy to mention.

    I think if you want to pick a Salvatore novel, that The Demon Awakens, the first in his DemonWars series, is probably a better fit than The Crystal Shard, which is essentially a military battle fantasy in the D&D universe. Other than that a demon manipulates events to create war, I'm not seeing a lot of crossover between your book and the latter one. And then you want something that is like Salvatore so the two references make sense. You don't seem to be writing a horror novel and you don't seem to be writing a mystery, so the references to Stephen King are not going to make a lot of sense to them. I'd suggest someone else like Robin Hobb, Raymond Feist or Gene Wolfe.
     
  15. Chris_KW

    Chris_KW Registered User

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    Hard? I don't know ... I mean, I think the person who invented the query letter should have his head on a stick, but I'm not sure I'd call them hard.

    Seriously, though, yes, they're very difficult. But while an unavoidable part of the process, I do find that the idea behind them is invaluable.

    IMHO, less is almost always more when it comes to good writing. At least in this century ... And if you can write a good query letter, that skill should carry over into the rest of your writing.
     
  16. Chris_KW

    Chris_KW Registered User

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    No Tolkien reference? Come on, that guy's got nothing on me. :)

    I like some of what you did in your rewrite, but I'll have to see if I can pull any of my voice out of it. And, of course, why a character is doing something is far more important than what they're doing, and that's why in my previous version, I wanted to leave the heroes out of the query completely, since Hannibal's dilemma is the main conflict. But then again, they play a big role in the book, as well, so it simply boils down to me making a decision, because I don't think it's possible to fit all 5 of the heroes into anything less than 3 sentences ...

    With regards to Salvatore, I made it about 2/3's of the way through The Demon Awakens, and I just wasn't impressed. I've tried to pick up it again a couple times, but I've been so burned by Salvatore's more contemporary Drizzt books that I just couldn't get back into it. Shame on me, I know, but the man was such a master for the first 12 books of that series that reading anything that's not up to that standard is just difficult.

    Alright, gotta do some bill-paying work before I continue my QUERY adventure.

    Thanks for your insight. P.S.- if you have the time you could always read my book, as I'd be happy to give you and anyone else on this forum a free copy. I really think you'd enjoy it.
     
  17. kissmequick

    kissmequick bingley bingley beep

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    It becomes an invaluable skill when you get the 'Please write a 500 word proposal for your next book. By this afternoon' email.


    Yeah, it's probably a good plan to stick with one character. But you need to show more about what all this means for him. Show what it all means. Show the dilemma he faces, make it really personal to him. Because that's your story - how events affect the character(s) and vice versa. Currently I know little about him, apart from this lich wants him to do something, and holds his life force.
     
  18. KatG

    KatG The Bony Hand of Death Staff Member

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    It just tells them nothing about the book. :)

    You are welcome to do whatever you like with it, including not using it; it's just meant to show you how the key details can be condensed. However, it's the "any of my voice out of it" part that worries me. Again, query letters are not about your "voice," or your prose skills. You seem to me to be worrying too much about how the query letter sounds and its style than the content of what it's saying, which is the only purpose of the query letter.

    Again, that wasn't my point. Why they're doing something is important, but it's important to make what they are doing more clear and more interesting. If you just tell us that a character wants revenge or has an adventure because he wants to find himself but give us no info about plot, it's not interesting. It's not information because it's too vague. The person who reads this query letter is not going to pull info out of you about the story, like we are. They aren't going to ask you twenty questions. They're just going to reject the query because however nicely written it might be, it didn't tell them enough clearly that they could assess.

    So do the 3-5 sentences. You are asking them to read this book. They're going to think it's all about Hannibal. Then the ms. is going to be spending lots and lots of time on these 4-5 characters and not Hannibal. And they're going to be wondering, who are these people. That is, if they ask for it. You're basically putting all the pressure on Hannibal to sell the interest. So either you have to cough up more info about Hannibal and his plot, or, if half the book isn't about Hannibal, you might want to give a few sentences about these characters. Again, my suggestion would be to stop worrying about the length of the query letter. Write it out, even if it's longer than a page. Then you can start condensing. Fill the pot and then boil it down. What sometimes helps is to write a plot synopsis -- 1-2 single spaced pages of the main plot information with character details, and then pull the query letter paragraphs out of that, and you can often attach the plot synopsis to the query letter.

    That's interesting because for me, The Demon Awakens is a way better book than his first, The Crystal Shard, although there are some very good things in Crystal Shard. The characters are for me better rendered, the dialogue is a bit better, and the descriptions are much improved. But while it has quite a lot of battle scenes, it doesn't have as many battle scenes as Crystal Shard. So if this is really a war fantasy that you've written, with lots and lots of battles, again the description isn't presenting that by just talking about Hannibal's dilemma. If you're going to pick a book as a reference point, it needs to be similar in type of story and style to what you are doing. If you're going to pick an author, you can't pick only a few attributes of that author and you need authors who again do something similar in type of story and style to yours. Because when they read the reference title or author, then that gives them an idea of where you are going with your story. That's why using Tolkien as a reference point is useless at this point. It's like trying to explain what flavor of ice cream you've made by saying you used sugar in the ice cream just like Tolkien.

    So you're getting the hang of it, but remember, it's the content of the story, the plot with key details of characters, setting, and tone (style/theme) that goes in the query letter. Your writing flourishes go in the manuscript.
     
  19. Chris_KW

    Chris_KW Registered User

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    KatG, I agree THE CRYSTAL SHARD wasn't Salvatore's finest piece of work, as I felt he really caught his stride somewhere around books 3-5 in that series, but I just didn't like the plot of THE DEMON AWAKENS. While there was added character depth, stones raining down on an island as the sources of power in the world and a boy living with fairy elves on a mountaintop and getting trained to be a great ranger by them ... Eh, I don't know, it just didn't do it for me. I'm sure I'll try and pick it up again some day.

    Here's where I'm at regarding my latest efforts on my query:



    Hannibal had killed so many times for the lich there was barely a shred of his humanity left, and when his master finds the Stones of Alcari, the keys to unlocking his conquest of the Andoran nation, he demands Hannibal’s services once again. Hannibal would slit his own throat to escape his maniacal master if it was possible, but the price is too high. The lich controls his life force in a phylactery, as well as that of his true love, Elanor, Hannibal’s only reason for living. The lich knows of Hannibal’s insecure obsession with the woman, and realizing that he’ll never accomplish his lifelong desire to conquer Andora without Hannibal’s unique necromantic talents, he promises the couple’s freedom if Hannibal can utilize one of the stones to resurrect a group of priests buried beneath the ruined city of Essen, and bring them in time to crush the Andorans. But as Hannibal rushes to meet the lich’s deadline, he must decide if he can live a quiet life beside Elanor if it costs his own nation’s destruction.

    As Hannibal wrestles with his dilemma, a small group of five friends, while on assignment for the Andoran authorities, stumble across Hannibal and the lich’s plot. As they fight back against the lich and help to save Andora just in time, they come to understand something both frightening and awe-inspiring: the lich was nothing more than a puppet to the true masters of power in Andora, and the chaos they assumed over has only just begun.

    SERVANT OF THE LICH takes place in the nation of Andora, a country progressing ahead of its neighbors, as its governing body is based on principles of freedom and democracy. It contains 89,000 words. It’s fast-paced and occurs over the span of one week. Fans of R.A. Salvatore’s work should find this piece to their liking.
     
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2012
  20. KatG

    KatG The Bony Hand of Death Staff Member

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    Getting there, I think. You can see your gears whirring. :)

    Hannibal had killed so many times for the lich, there is barely a shred of his humanity left, and when his master finds the Stones of Alcari, the keys to unlocking his conquest of the Andoran Republic (or Union, or some word they call themselves that indicates a possible democracy over a feudalistic kingdom; alternately "of the democratic Andoran nation",) he demands Hannibal’s services once again.

    -- Peachy, that's a stronger way to put it, I think.

    Hannibal would slit his own throat to escape the maniacal necromancer if it was possible, but the price is too high. The lich controls his life force in a vessel, (define lich, give up the word phylactery,) as well as that of his true love, Elanor, Hannibal’s only reason for living. The lich promises the couple’s freedom if Hannibal applies his unique talents and uses the stones to resurrect the sorcerous priests buried beneath the ruined city of Essen. With the priests' powers under his control, the lich can consign Andora to Essen's fate (and enact a long-awaited revenge maybe. He's got to have some reason for wanting to crush Andora.) As Hannibal attempts the task, he must decide if he can live a quiet life beside Elanor if it costs his own nation’s destruction. (Again, and this is just me, my first thought would be why does Hannibal think the lich will keep his word. I figure there must be some reason Hannibal believes he can actually have a quiet life and the lich will let him go.)

    Five agents of the Andoran Council, (government, chieftains, etc. whatever arrangement they have,) on different missions stumble across Hannibal and the lich's plot. They hold the key to Hannibal's fate and to the survival of Andora, but as they save their country, the true (demonic) powers behind the lich are brought to light and reveal that the chaos is just beginning.

    -- Or something like that. I don't have it quite right either, but your present form seems a bit confusing to me. I still think that by not giving any detail here, you're underselling highlight attributes of the story in these characters who make up a big chunk of the story, but this can work okay as long as there's a clear line for why you're bothering to mention them re Hannibal and as long as the info on Hannibal is clear, I think.

    SERVANT OF THE LICH is a 89,000 word epic fantasy novel about the costs of sacrifice and destiny that will likely appeal to fans of R.A. Salvatore and (insert other author name here.)

    -- Progressive isn't a word I'd recommend as it's a modern political philosophy and so the use of the word may possible confuse readers of the query about what sort of world you're doing and the convoluted explanation doesn't help. Saying they don't have a king, that they are a republic, etc., something not 20th century, would probably be better and faster.

    -- There's no point in calling your work fast-paced or any other compliment. Why should they care and believe if an author compliments his own work? Saying what the theme is, however -- and clearly I can have the theme wrong so change accordingly -- can be useful information as it tells them about the tone and approach you've chosen for your story.

    -- They don't care if the story takes place over the span of one week, one month, fifty years or whatever at this point. That's not info you need to spend time on, it would seem to me. Info on characters and major plot events is more important.

    Anything that is your favorite part of the book that is a contributor to the central plot should be mentioned in the query letter description. They're looking for things that make them go "hmmm." Not necessarily super wild things they've never heard of before, but a combo of character, world, emotional theme and plot that sounds like it could be interesting if they like your writing. You've given them a good bit with Hannibal; I'm just not sure that's your only big offering.
     
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2012