The Infamous Query Letter

Discussion in 'Writing' started by Abby, Oct 15, 2004.

  1. Abby

    Abby enslaved to my writing

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    Does anyone here have experience with query letter writing? I'm seeking feedback. Any and all criticism is welcome.

    Dear ______,

    I recently heard about your new position with [agency], and that you're interested in adult science fiction that's character-oriented. My 112,000 word novel, Slaves to the New World, is about a telepathic genius, Thomas Hill, who lives in modern America and believes himself to be unique in his ability to absorb knowledge--until other telepaths show up and begin to stalk him. The mind readers soon transport Thomas and his friends to an alien world of advanced technology and brutal slavery, and offer Thomas an opportunity to accept telepathic godhood at the price of forsaking his friends to slavery and death.

    I'm a graduate of the 2004 Odyssey writing workshop, and my short stories have been featured in Cyberpulp Magazine, Neverary, Twilight Times, Deep Magic, and other web publications. I also write and direct short films, some of which have been hosted on MotionZoo.com and screened at international film festivals.

    Please let me know if I can send you the first chapters of Slaves to the New World, or the complete manuscript. Thank you for your consideration.

    Sincerely,
    Abigail Goldsmith

    Enclosures:
    SASE


    Okay, so does my book sound stupid? Do I sound stupid? Did I make the agent sound stupid? Is there anything in here that seems annoying or extraneous?
    P.S.--If you reply (and I will appreciate it), I'd also appreciate hearing about your past experience with literary agents and query letters.
     
    N. E. White likes this.
  2. SubZero61992

    SubZero61992 Registered User

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    I don't see any reason to talk about his new position, or why he would want you to say it in this, Query Letter :confused:
    Otherwise, I suppose everything would be alright.
    Though somethings if I were him I would skip through, such as the past of yourself. But that may be important to him, I dont know.

    I havent had any experience with this at all.
     
  3. Abby

    Abby enslaved to my writing

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    Thanks for your input, SubZero. This is a one-case-scenario; I would change the opening line of the query letter depending on who I'm querying.
    Most agencies want to know about your previous writing experience.
     
  4. Expendable

    Expendable infomaniac

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    What you've got there sounds very professional to me but I've never sent a query letter.
     
  5. Drew

    Drew Narcoleptic Insomniac

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    I agree.

    Short and to the point is good. ;)
     
  6. Abby

    Abby enslaved to my writing

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    Thanks, guys. I've received some advice on other web forums that I should compress my small press publications to just "web publications," since most agents/editors aren't familiar with the smaller venues. I'm also going to tamper with my "pitch" and see if I can't summarize the story better. I hate summarizing.
     
  7. KatG

    KatG Effulgent Staff Member

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    Don't tamper with your pitch -- you've got it down. This is shorter in the description part than previous versions I've seen. While you could go a little longer in the description part of the letter -- another paragraph if you wanted, the summary description you have fits the story and sounds interesting, I think. The author bio is perfect. Are you sending a synopsis with the letter or no? You could add "a young telepathic genius," but I know you're leary about making too much of the hero's age.
     
  8. Abby

    Abby enslaved to my writing

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    Thanks, Kat! I couldn't resist tampering. I'm overly worried that the story isn't coming across in the awesome, kick-ass way I envision it. I think this one might sound better:

    My 112,000 word novel, Slaves to the New World, is about a conflict between the Torth--an emotionless, totalitarian society of telepaths--and their brutally oppressed, non-telepathic slaves. At the heart of this conflict is Thomas Hill, a mind reader who lives in present-day America and believes himself unique in his ability. When he learns of his otherworldly Torth heritage, he is torn between a desire to join the godlike Torth, or to remain loyal to his friends, who are targeted by the Torth for slavery and death.

    Now I'm working on my synopsis . . . and my eye twitch is back.
     
    Last edited: Oct 19, 2004
  9. KatG

    KatG Effulgent Staff Member

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    "My 112,000 word novel, Slaves to the New World, is about a telepathic genius, Thomas Hill, who lives in modern America and believes himself to be unique in his ability to absorb knowledge--until other telepaths show up and begin to stalk him. The mind readers soon transport Thomas and his friends to an alien world of advanced technology and brutal slavery, and offer Thomas an opportunity to accept telepathic godhood at the price of forsaking his friends to slavery and death."

    I like this one better. It's clearer, gets across Thomas' moral dilemma and is catchy. The second one focuses on the Toth, not Thomas, and doesn't sound as interesting to me.
     
  10. Expendable

    Expendable infomaniac

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    I don't like the re-write either. First one was much better.

    -Ex.
     
  11. Abby

    Abby enslaved to my writing

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    Thanks for your feedback. How about this one?

    Slaves to the New World is about a telepathic genius, Thomas Hill, who lives in present-day America and believes himself to be unique in his ability to absorb knowledge--until other telepaths seize him and his closest acquaintances, and transport them to a world where mind readers brutalize their non-telepathic slaves. Thomas is manipulated into a game of politics among his otherworldly kin. But when Thomas's friends from Earth become leaders of a slave revolt, Thomas accepts a subordinate position among the slaves in a quest to regain his humanity and self-respect.

    This is really a summary of the first two books in the series. I hope that wouldn't be a problem. I just want to get someone interested in reading the synopsis and/or first chapters, and I'm up front about the fact that it's a trilogy in my synopsis.
     
    Last edited: Oct 21, 2004
  12. KatG

    KatG Effulgent Staff Member

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    It's still not as good, and now you're summarizing two books, not one, so if they read the manuscript and find it doesn't have the things that you told them would be there (since they are in Book 2,) they'll be confused. I still vote for the first version. :)
     
  13. Abby

    Abby enslaved to my writing

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    Thanks, all of you. One more. :D How does this one sound over the previous versions?

    Slaves to the New World is about a burgeoning conflict between the Torth--a totalitarian society of mind readers--and their brutally oppressed, non-telepathic slaves. At the heart of this conflict is Thomas Hill, a mind reader who grew up among humans, and who betrays his human friends in an attempt to save them from slavery, earning himself a place among the telepathic elite. But as Thomas loses his humanity among the emotionless Torth, his friends become heroes among the slaves.

    When I read these pitches to myself, I'm afraid my novel sounds like a wacky YA book, or a meandering philosophical literary piece. That's why I'm so desperate for your opinions.
     
    Last edited: Oct 22, 2004
  14. KatG

    KatG Effulgent Staff Member

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    That one sounds even worse to me, I'm afraid. You're giving a ton of detail, squished into a very tiny space. What was wrong with the first one?
     
  15. Expendable

    Expendable infomaniac

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    Good conflict but the kidnapping angle in the first one had a better hook. Do me a favor and send the first one in now so I'm that much closer to buying your book.

    -Ex. ^_^;
     
  16. Dawnstorm

    Dawnstorm Master Obfuscator

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    I like the first one best, too.
     
  17. Abby

    Abby enslaved to my writing

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    Thanks, all of you. I'll stick with the first one, and try to keep it memorized for the World Fantasy convention this coming week. I'll let you know how it was when I get back!
     
  18. Expendable

    Expendable infomaniac

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    *sigh*

    Wish I could go with you.

    Have fun! Don't worry about the book! You will anyway but try!

    -Ex.
     
  19. Gary Wassner

    Gary Wassner GemQuest

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    I agree with KatG. Query letters are so difficult to compose, simply because you really never know what the person on the receiving end is actually looking for. I think that your bio is concise and to the point. The synopsis is perhaps a little brief. It might not give the reader enough sense of the depth of your story or of the market you anticipate for it. Adult science fiction is a very broad area and it has suffered in sales recently due to the incredibly high expectations of readers today. With the advances in science, it is hard to write sci/fi that is technically enthralling. The YA sci/fi market has suffered even more for those same reasons.

    I think what you wrote is very good. My only advice would be to enhance the synopsis slightly if you can.
     
  20. Dawnstorm

    Dawnstorm Master Obfuscator

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    Just what she's been trying, lol. :D

    I actually like the first synopsis a lot, as it's straight to the point and gives the central dilemma nicely.

    One thing that could be done is tell the editor where the focus of the novel is.

    Plot? (Suspense...)
    Character? (dilemma...)
    Style? (Interesting modes of presentation...)
    Idea? (interesting twist on the concept of telepathy, impact of telepathy on society...)

    If the focus was on plot, the synopsis would have to be expanded, I agree. The way it is now, I'd suspect the focus to be on character.