a Query Letter—what it means for me...

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a Query Letter—what it means for me...

Post by Wandaduplooy » December 15th, 2009, 11:16 pm

A query letter is for me like an appetiser—a small meal designed to awaken the palate and tantalise the senses. It is a teaser, a promise of the meal to come…

The query letter is no a plate laden with the fish- and meat courses, topped with a dollop of ice cream and a cherry, because you fear that the diner (agent) would leave before experiencing the full impact of your meal.

I believe the agent should not know all the plot lines, characters etc. etc. The query letter should either invoke a “Wow, I really love this and would like to read the first 5 pages,” or “No, this is definitely not for me—pass,” reaction.

After reading the pages, only then should he ask for the synopsis and thus understand the plot lines, characters etc. etc.
And even then he should not just be satisfied with the synopsis and want to read the whole book—and then get to the ice cream with the cherry on top and ask you to become a client…

Wanda du Plooy

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Re: a Query Letter—what it means for me...

Post by Mira » December 16th, 2009, 10:26 am

Wanda - that's interesting. I admit to being confused at this point.

I've heard that agents want to know the plotline - they want to get a picture of the book in one quick shot to help them make a decision. Leaving the ending out will irritate them, actually.

But lately, it seems as though people are talking more in your vein. Get the agent wanting to read more.

So, I'm confused. I think there is alot of merit to your approach.....I'm not writing queries, but I am giving feedback on them, and I'm not sure which way to recommend.....

Interesting topic - thanks for raising it.

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Re: a Query Letter—what it means for me...

Post by Chazz » December 16th, 2009, 4:55 pm

I've been told that queries should sketch what the story is about but stick to themes rather than details. (That always seems disingenuous to me, like Good Fellas is about the importance of family.) There has to be enough detail--this expert said--but don't give away too much plot, either because it inevitably sounds stupid. Interesting point, since if you boil any plot down, yeah, it can easily sound pretty stupid without the context. (I just watched Them!,the fun movie about ants getting irradiated and growing huge through mutations. It not a great or especially smart movie, but they worked hard to contextualize it so it wasn't too dumb, either.)

i.e. Whaling captain gets obsessed with one particular whale and sacrifices everything to kill it. (This does sound silly, except there actually have been whales that carry a grudge and purposely attack whaling vessels. There's a seed of a true story behind Moby Dick.)

or a better example:

Young dude who's kind of a whiner gets mixed up in political intrigue after his family is murdered and a cult leader trains him to fight an evil government. Even in the broad strokes, that sounds pretty dumb--and I guess it is. It's also Star Wars.

Query letters are tough and agents and editors always want more detail, except when they want less.

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