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Thread: The Infamous Query Letter
November 9th, 2007, 10:36 PM #166
Thanks folks, helpful as always.
Ranke, whose nerve did you think I might hit?
Naturally I'll consider what you've written. Some of the streamlining is great, I'll probably use. Sharpe's problem is more the prejudice leveled against him.
I don't think I need to make up anything for the query that isn't in the story. There's enough that's really in the story; hundred of details are vying for control of the query.
Yeah, I didn't like the last line either.
Really, in the last sprint, Sharpe and Escapade are virtually on equal time. I would be hard pressed to say one is the protagonist and the other isn't. I don't think that's a problem, it just is.
I'll edit for a while, and see if I can sharpen the query a bit.
Last edited by MrBF1V3; November 9th, 2007 at 10:46 PM. Reason: should have paid more attention in English class
November 9th, 2007, 11:09 PM #167Ranke LidyekGuest
Ah, but only if I can produce a good query.... lol.
I am a pain, though. True...
Is it common practice to put up synopses here? I might do so. Not sure yet. I'll give it a thought or two.
I wish I could say who exactly would want your novel, but I do think the theme is very socially conscious and has a good shot at getting a few nibbles. Sharpe, then, would be unaccustomed to experiencing prejudice until now. Does he have some of his own that he doesn't fully understand? Does he fear the influx of superior, "designer" humans and his own place in the world? Some interesting ethical questions, really. In some respects, he is a different "species"--a species that may dwindle as the advent of this technology takes root.
I'd focus it more on Sharpe, I think. But I could be wrong. Give your query a few rounds and drafts and get it out there! I assume you have a full synopsis at hand?
November 9th, 2007, 11:18 PM #168
Well, it was worth a shot. I was trying to present something that might make for a compelling story. Sorry for the bad advice.
November 10th, 2007, 04:20 AM #169
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Might I suggest you ditch the email query process if you don't like it. A lot of US agents say they do accept the synopsis/three chapter submission by snail mail. Though you still need a good cover letter. They will read your manuscript, no matter what you have heard. If they get past page five is up to you.
I'm not trying to be negative, I'm just being honest. And this isn't to say you "can't" break through as a writer. I think, with persistence, one might eventually have a shot. But it IS a lottery and each query is merely a ticket.
Also your comments about a submission process. Nearly all the agent/publisher submission guidelines I have read state NOT to approach them unless the manuscript is complete and edited to within an inch of its life.
John Jarrold told me that the reason most ask for the first three chapters is to find out if the writer can carry the story forward. (He asks for five, no synopsis or pitch. He judges the work on those chapters)
Somehow Ranke, you seem to have developed a "them and us" situation in your mind, and there isn't one, not really.
I have personally found agents work at their own pace to their own agenda. You need to find out if your work fits into that before you submit to them. I had a request in August for a sample of one of my novels from a query I had sent back in March! Yet, I have had a query rejected within an hour of sending the email.
November 10th, 2007, 04:23 AM #170
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November 10th, 2007, 05:04 AM #171Ranke LidyekGuest
I'm not sure how you feel that I have an "us vs. them" mentality. I'm agnostic about it. It is what it is and we can do nothing to change it--but I'm not going to lie to people about it. Reality is reality. If some people indeed read first chapters, then I'm better off for it. I prefer to let my writing speak for itself and I have a good synopsis on hand. If someone reads it and dislikes it, then I'm happy enough. Being judged for one's writing is all one can ask. The cost of copying and mailing manuscripts can become restrictive, of course. Cons cost money (and time), though I've been to one and met plenty of the players involved. I made a suggestion for a change--a submission database shared by agents and editors. MOST queries are for unfinished novels (they often neglect to tell the agent/editor) and, as such, flood the market (which is why I require first and last chapters). I've printed out copies of my novel and will send to the associated slush piles, though I'm still in the final editing stages of the last few chapters (they haven't been through the various critique groups yet). I've done my research and I know who to send to. The rest is beyond my control. I also know that I need to be lucky more than talented. Or I need to network, which is hard with my schedule and demanding vocation.
This is not something limited to the world of publishing and I don't feel it is the "fault" of any group of people. By the same token, I will call it like I see it. I "accept" it. Many prefer not to because they want to believe in the "publishing fairy". I don't believe in her, sorry. Queries mostly work only for scattered, high concept novels (right place, right time, right person) and there are many talented and deserving writers jockeying for position. The odds of my novel, however well written, being published are slim to none. I understand this and seek only to do the story justice. From there, I'll just keep a baited line in the water and wait it out.
I certainly don't begrudge those who have been fortunate. I find that most of the success stories involve people they know referring them to which ever agent or editor they have connections with. This doesn't take away from the fact that they wrote a novel, and it doesn't diminish that work either. It simply is the way of the world.
A lot of what I say is with my tongue firmly planted in cheek, by the way. It's amusing once I'm able to distance myself from the tragedy of it all.
November 10th, 2007, 07:41 PM #172
Ranke -- yes, we've had synopses up in this thread. Go ahead, unless you're uncomfortable doing so. Really. Please. It will give me something to ask questions from.
Optimutt -- The link did not take me to a query letter, just text. It's good text though.
MrB -- Sharpe or Escapade is the protagonist, depending on what the main focuses of the story are. If it's Escapade, then you could adjust the description somewhat along the lines of:
Escapade and her sister Charade are the children of wealth and privilege, genetically designed to be all that humans could possibly be, healthy, eerily beautiful and super intelligent. But there are factions who object to their existence and fear it means the end of "true" mankind. When a bio-engineered suicide bomber attacks a resort space station in Earth's orbit......Escapade finds herself teaming with her sister's lover....and so on.
You can cast it to Escapade's dilemma or Sharpe's. Either way will work -- it just depends on what you did in the story. If the story is Sharpe's, then I agree that a little more on Sharpe, a tweak here and there, might be good. But only a tweak and maybe a little more detail about final confrontations to make sure all the suspense aspects are presented. It's pretty straight-forward otherwise.
Have you read Nancy Kress' Beggars in Spain? If not, it would be good to familiarize yourself with that novel.
November 11th, 2007, 08:20 AM #173
Regarding Escapade and Goodbye:
Wow! It sounds like a fun novel. The only thing I'd get rid of in your original query is the last sentence:
I hope to read it someday ... and buy it first, and maybe get an autographed copy. Good luck!
November 11th, 2007, 10:16 PM #174
Thanks all for the help, I'm in the midst of editing. Making the whole thing just a bit better.
Actually, Abby, I found the ending too complicated to put into a sentence or two, but I'll need to give it a try.
And thanks for the support. If it sells I'll set aside an autographed copy for you.
Also, Optimutt--no big deal... actually an interesting idea.
Last edited by MrBF1V3; November 12th, 2007 at 01:43 AM.
November 12th, 2007, 12:23 AM #175Ranke LidyekGuest
I hope you have to send that copy to Abby. Best of luck and stay persistent.
I've decided not to post a full synopsis here. I don't like the idea of telling the whole story here. Though I'm willing to send the synopsis privately. And the novel's available to those who'd like to read it as well. Right now I'm swamped with critiquing obligations, but I hope to spare some time in the coming weeks.
November 14th, 2007, 02:44 PM #176
I just realized that the big, long synopsis I wrote for the site didn't take fully. My apologies for that. Here we go again:
The Succession Wars that swept through Laonic in the wake of royal assassination left the land of Cadous a barren waste, and the few survivors desperate. Yet, reduced to grubbing for insects and the banditry of the infrequent traveler, Daniel has still not abandoned the gods. When a merchant named Callen begs Daniel's mercy, claiming that a debt-collector named Huo Ping rides on his heels and has threatened unjustly to kill Callenís family, Daniel releases him and promises to waylay his pursuer. The mercenary falls into Daniel's ambush, but easily subdues Daniel. When Huo Ping realizes that Daniel is not Callen in disguise, he releases Daniel and apologizes, explaining that he is sworn to prevent death, and that Callen is no merchant but really the Assassin who caused the Succession Wars and the destruction of Daniel's home.
Given the opportunity to escape starvation in his wasteland home, Daniel accompanies Huo Ping on his hunt of Callen/ the Assassin. During their pursuit, Daniel learns that nothing is as simple as he assumed; that the world of Laonic has no strict definitions of good and evil, and that the concepts of cause and effect are expressions of this moral grey-scale. Enemies become allies, gods consult with Humans, friends define themselves by the pain they cause loved ones, and the Assassin reveals himself during a cataclysmic battle that could mean the destruction of not only an exiled race of Monkey/Human hybrid psychics, but the eradication of Humanity as a whole.
November 14th, 2007, 04:28 PM #177
I think this query synopsis is much stronger. Yay for the Monkey/Human hybrid psychics!!! It sounds like this could be an interesting quest, since there's a bad guy who can either shapeshift or make illusions, and the world sounds original and fleshed out.
Two questions pop up when I read it:
1) Why didn't Daniel ever try to escape his devastated homeland before? You indicate that Huo Ping gives him the opportunity, but it might be risky to leave this opportunity up to the agent's imagination. It could be that Huo Ping has a horse, or it could be that Daniel never thought to escape on his own (which indicates a stupid hero). You may want to mention that Huo Ping has a horse or transportation means.
2) "(...) the concepts of cause and effect are expressions of this moral grey-scale." This sounds extremely vague, as if you might be stepping around what you really want to say. Cause and effect ... you mean like, "I kill your spouse, so you kill my child?" How would the concept of that be an expression of a moral grey-scale? I don't know what you mean here, and I think it could be clearer.
November 14th, 2007, 04:49 PM #178
Abby, as always, you've given me some great concepts to ponder.
To answer the first, Daniel HAS tried to escape, but has been repelled several times. The Province of Cadous is surrounded by a Wall - courtesy of my years in China - and Daniel's been terrified of it. Do you think I should include this?
The second... I wanted to include "moral greyscale" somewhere in the query. But after Abby's simple question of "I kill your spouse, so you kill my child?" I guess it doesn't leave the story in as much of a moral grey-scale as I thought. I'll cut it.
November 14th, 2007, 05:12 PM #179
The Wall sounds interesting, especially based on some firsthand "exotic" (to most English speakers) experience. I'd mention it.
November 14th, 2007, 05:14 PM #180
Once again, m'lady, thank you muchly.