Monday, November 24, 2008

Monday Mania--Query Letter

One of our readers submitted a query letter. Feel free to make comments, but please keep them constructive.

Critique Archive 0019:

Dear Mr. XXXXX,

I have contacted you due to your representation of authors whose work I admire, XXXXX and XXXXX. I thought you might be interested in my 90,000 word Fantasy manuscript, THE THORN. I believe there is potential to serialize the characters in a trilogy.

Under the twin blue suns, Azure and Aqua, war rages between the tribes of Gideon, Daniel, and Uzzah. Jonathan son of Samuel, the last living Heir to the Throne of Daniel, finds himself staging an opportunistic rescue of his childhood friend Eli, Uzzahite Warrior and a Temple Priest, from a small band of Gideonite soldiers. After the swift skirmish has ended, a young Gideonite soldier by the name of Pekah joins Jonathan in the cause of the Tribe of Daniel, and discovers the truth about the true motives of the Gideonite Emperor. Pekah's eyes are opened, and he becomes the instrument by which the Three Brothers are united once again. Jonathan, Eli, and Pekah work together to keep General Rezon of Gideon from accomplishing his evil designs -- the total annihilation of the other two tribes. As peace returns to their lands, Pekah finds himself a changed man, and with a new found love by his side, they watch together as the promised sign of a special birth appears in the heavens above Gan. Worlds away, "The One Who Would Suffer" has been born.

I would be pleased to send the entire manuscript (or just sample chapters if you would prefer), for your consideration. I have included a SASE for your convenience. Thank you in advance for your time. I look forward to hearing from you.




Sue said...

All I really know about query letters is what I've read on various agent blogs like Query Shark, so take my comment with a grain of salt, but - the thing that jumps out at me is that it reads like a short synopsis, not a query letter. The goal of a query letter, from what I understand, is to make them interested in your WRITING - informing them about the plot is secondary.(I realize that probably varies from agent to agent though.)

Annette Lyon said...

I agree with Sue. Your goal is to whet the agent's appetite with a cool idea, make them want more. An actual synopsis is the time to tell the end of the story.

So forget retelling the story and instead focus on who the main character is, what the problem is, and what's at stake if he/she doesn't fix it. Leave everything else out.

Most agents don't want the pressure of an entire series, so mentioning the potential of one may or may not be a good thing.

The plot seems like a thinly veiled Biblical story. While you can certainly retell biblical stories in fantasties, I'd suggest doing so in a way that's less obvious--like changing the names to ones you'd read in a typical fantasy novel rather than ones lifted straight from the Bible.

Good luck!

Julie Wright said...

I agree with Sue and Annette. There's a lot of names, and character reference but no clear idea of the plot. Keep it brief and tight. Don't reference so many characters in so short a space. Mention the very few key players in the book, and what is stake.

I would also leave off the names of the twin suns in the query. It isn't relevant to the story and detracts from everything else.

Not having read the book, this caution may be unnecessary, but keep in mind what suns can do from a scientific stand point. Is the planet far away from the suns so that it isn't some scalded arid terrain? Or is it one of those blisteringly hot places where humans are living under the ground in order to stay out of the scorching heat? I know it's fantasy so we sometimes put stuff in because we think it might be cool, but always in the back of your mind understand the implications of what your world's ecosystem is like. If there are two suns, then consider how that might affect your story. This reminds me of George Lucas and his Banthas out in the desert. An animal that huge in the desert and covered in hair? Nature wouldn't spin that one out and design wouldn't be that cruel. Like I said, I haven't read your story, and you probably already have that information covered, but I thought I'd mention it just in case. :) Good luck with your manuscript!!!

lachish said...

I really appreciate the feedback. I will do my best to pull the query into just a few sentences and focus on the main character(s) instead of the plot.

The biggest OUCH! here is Annette's comment: "thinly veiled Biblical story".

I am going to have to figure out how to get past that. The story is actually not veiled at all. The allusion to a biblical type and setting was 110% intentional. Even 200% intentional.

The whole reason I wrote the story was this:

DC 88:37 And there are many kingdoms; for there is no space in the which there is no kingdom; and there is no kingdom in which there is no space, either a greater or a lesser kingdom.

Moses 1:33 And worlds without number have I created...

The whole question of the book is this:
What might it be like on one of the other creations with people who KNOW their Savior was born elsewhere?

Perhaps I chose the wrong genre description. Maybe "Christian Fiction" or simply "LDS Fiction" would have been so much better. I was told by someone else to call it fantasy because of the "other world" setting.

As for the twin blue suns.... I spent hours and hours researching this one, and made special efforts in the descriptions to be sure the planetary distance, the atmosphere thickness, and the magnetosphere would all work and be scientifically plausible. I appreciate Julie noticing that though! I had the same concerns.

Anyway, thank you all for the thoughts. I am going to have to noodle on this for a bit and see if I can create a hook which doesn't immediately raise those concerns. Once past that stage, I will have to adjust the synopsis in a way that an agent or editor won't have the red-flags before reading the story.

Thank you!

Tristi Pinkston said...

I'd explain the purpose of your book in your query letter just like you explained it here. You just might hook a publisher with it, primarily if it's an LDS publisher. If Annette's first instinct is that it's a thinly veiled Bible story, and she's reading the same query you've sent in, the other person reading the letter might think that too. I'd give the plot details (minus the suns, without so many character names) and then tell about the book. It makes the letter richer and if you're gearing toward an LDS or religious publisher, could be a great hook to help you over the slush pile.