Query: Bring Me Back, women's fiction--Updated 9/23

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Query: Bring Me Back, women's fiction--Updated 9/23

Post by karenbb » May 31st, 2010, 4:15 pm

Still page 3 for latest version. Thanks!


Below is the query I've been working on for my book, Bring Me Back. I would appreciate any and all feedback. I can't even look at the thing anymore!

Dear Agent,

Claire Abby is dreading her future. She’s uncomfortably close to the big 4-0, old for a music writer but ancient for a single mom. The center of her life, her daughter Sam, is a year away from leaving for college and the rest of life isn’t much better. Her dad would rather fix a leaky faucet than try to understand her, and her mom’s death seventeen years ago feels so close it’s like Claire is carrying it in her pocket.

She’s thrilled when she lands a hard-earned Rolling Stone cover story, but now her professional future hinges on interviewing 80s British rock legend Christopher Penman, notorious for zipping his lip. Even so, there’s girly delight at the assignment because Claire had an all-consuming crush on the young and newly famous Christopher twenty-two years ago.

Christopher surprises Claire by opening up to her and a friendship is formed, but he wants more. Claire is a first for him—a woman with a brain and a cute butt, who wants absolutely nothing from him. She resists because a romance would destroy her credibility as a writer, but Christopher is a lethal package—unfairly charming and relentless. It’s exhilarating to be in his life until the real world comes knocking with tabloid photos that ruin Claire’s Rolling Stone prospects, a tell-all book about Christopher, and then the truly unexpected, a baby on the way.

Christopher is ecstatic about the baby but Claire is freaked out, scared of starting over when her career is down the tubes. A car accident changes everything, nearly killing Claire and claiming the pregnancy. It prompts her distant dad to interfere by sneakily convincing Christopher to end the romance. When Claire discovers the meddlesome deed, she rushes to repair the damage but must first wrench a pigheaded Christopher from a dark existence Claire never expected, all while her writing prospects take a surprising turn.

Bring Me Back is a work of women’s fiction and complete at 102,000 words. The full or partial manuscript is available at your request.

Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,

Karen B
Last edited by karenbb on September 23rd, 2010, 9:04 am, edited 4 times in total.

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Re: Query: Bring Me Back, women's fiction

Post by Quill » May 31st, 2010, 4:43 pm

karenbb wrote:
Claire Abby is dreading her future.

Dreads her future, is stronger.
She’s uncomfortably close to the big 4-0, old for a music writer but ancient for a single mom.
Not sure "uncomfortably" works or is needed. Definitely substitute "and" for the "but". Music writer seems like an odd term; composer? Song writer? And why is 40 ancient for a single mom??
The center of her life, her daughter Sam, is a year away from leaving for college and the rest of life isn’t much better.
I don't see how her approach of 40-yrs-old or the fact that her daughter is leaving in a year makes her life less than good. She sounds like a whiner.
Her dad would rather fix a leaky faucet than try to understand her, and her mom’s death seventeen years ago feels so close it’s like Claire is carrying it in her pocket.
Seems like she needs a therapist. Hope there's one in her future.
She’s thrilled when she lands a hard-earned Rolling Stone cover story,
Oh.

She writes about music. About the music business.

Omit "hard-earned" as it slows us down and adds little.
but now her professional future hinges on interviewing 80s British rock legend Christopher Penman, notorious for zipping his lip.
Sounds melodramatic. Why does her professional future hinge on one interview?
Even so, there’s girly delight at the assignment because Claire had an all-consuming crush on the young and newly famous Christopher twenty-two years ago.

Christopher surprises Claire by opening up to her and a friendship is formed, but he wants more. Claire is a first for him—a woman with a brain and a cute butt, who wants absolutely nothing from him.
Okay.
She resists because a romance would destroy her credibility as a writer,
I have no idea how this could do this. Sounds like the opposite would be true...
but Christopher is a lethal package—unfairly charming and relentless.
Suggest removing "unfairly". Understand you are trying to inject voice, but this one sticks out as an author aside. "Lethal package" may be unneeded as well. How about just "but Chris is both utterly charming and relentless." Something like that.
It’s exhilarating to be in his life until the real world comes knocking with tabloid photos that ruin Claire’s Rolling Stone prospects, a tell-all book about Christopher, and then the truly unexpected, a baby on the way.

Christopher is ecstatic about the baby but Claire is freaked out, scared of starting over when her career is down the tubes. A car accident changes everything, nearly killing Claire and claiming the pregnancy. It prompts her distant dad to interfere by sneakily convincing Christopher to end the romance. When Claire discovers the meddlesome deed, she rushes to repair the damage but must first wrench a pigheaded Christopher from a dark existence Claire never expected, all while her writing prospects take a surprising turn.
This is starting to be way to much exposition for query. Can this be boiled down to state the main conflict?
Bring Me Back is a work of women’s fiction and complete at 102,000 words. The full or partial manuscript is available at your request.

Thank you for your time.
If your manuscript is complete and you are querying, then your willingness to send is understood; no need to state it.



Sincerely,

Karen B

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Re: Query: Bring Me Back, women's fiction

Post by wilderness » May 31st, 2010, 7:16 pm

I like your title; it fits the mood of the story well (I remember you had a separate discussion about it).

But I think that right now the query reads more like a synopsis. I think you should focus on one central conflict. Currently, the third and fourth paragraphs are sort of a laundry list of problems. Usually, the pitch only includes events from the first 1/3 of the book.

Also, you might want to start with a log line. To differentiate from other women's fiction, you need to emphasize the unique hook you have. In your case, I would say something like "In Bring Me Back, an over-the-hill single mother regains her youth by kindling a romance with the rockstar she had crushed on twenty years ago." (Obviously, boil it down in your own words). And then go from there with a 2 or 3 paragraph pitch, a la Nathan's recent post.

I think your story sounds fun - who wouldn't want to have an affair with the favorite celebrity from their youth? Good luck!

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Re: Query: Bring Me Back, women's fiction

Post by writeaskew » May 31st, 2010, 8:19 pm

Hi Karen.

I think you've got a great plot idea here. There's so much potential for drama in it. The problem for me is, I can't feel drawn in about it, and Ithink the problem is we're missing your voice in the query.

When you look at the facts, we've got a middle aged women going through mid-life crisis and struggling with her career, romance and the loss of her child from a near death experience. Add in a conniving father, and that's a lot of emotion to deal with. The query is lacking that emotion. I think if you condensed the action, and gave us richer detail, there would be a lot more potential for you to showcase your voice and talent with a unique plot.

I love the idea, and I can't wait to see what you come up with next.

A sidebar, I think agents assume when you query a novel that you'll give them a partial or a full when they ask for it. I think thanking them for their time is enough.

Good luck!

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Re: Query: Bring Me Back, women's fiction

Post by karenbb » June 7th, 2010, 4:50 pm

First off, I just want to thank the folks who took the time to provide feedback on the first round. I really appreciate it.

I tore up the old version, started over, deleted that, started over again and you get the idea. That's why this newest version is more than a week later. This is so much harder than writing the actual book!

So, here's the latest:

Dear Agent,

Claire Abby was seventeen when she fell ass over teakettle for newly famous British rock star Christopher Penman—madly, deeply in love. Christopher brought Claire joy at a time when boys at school were crude and her dad was disappointed by her lack of focus. The only problem was that they’d never met.

Twenty-two years later, single mom Claire has struggled to make ends meet as a freelance music journalist. That’s why she’s so determined to ace her first Rolling Stone cover story, a goal she has chased her entire career. The hitch is that she’s interviewing 80s rock legend Christopher Penman, notorious for zipping his lip and hating writers, and of course, there’s the matter of Claire’s pesky crush that she now can't stop thinking about.

After an intense interview, Christopher and Claire form a friendship. She can’t help but feel sparks but chalks it up to the return of her long dormant teenage dream. It seems ludicrous that he would even think twice about her, even though he’s calling all the time, nudging the professional boundaries a little further every day.

Claire’s editor at Rolling Stone is not amused when romantic rumors circulate about the pair. He doesn’t care if Claire denies it—it’s his butt on the line if her story, soon to be the hottest entertainment tell-all of the year, is overshadowed by questions of her journalistic integrity. She tries to find a way to keep her editor happy and things with Christopher a possibility, but that means lying to just about everybody about what’s really going on.

BRING ME BACK is a work of women’s fiction and complete at 103,000 words.

Thank you for your time and attention.

Sincerely,

Karen B

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Re: Query: Bring Me Back, women's fiction

Post by Quill » June 7th, 2010, 9:13 pm

karenbb wrote: Claire Abby was seventeen when she fell ass over teakettle for newly famous British rock star Christopher Penman—madly, deeply in love.
"Ass over teakettle" is obscure -- and you repeat the sentiment (twice) with "madly, deeply in love".

Why not be direct:

"Claire Abby was seventeen when she fell madly in love with famous British rock star Christopher Penman."

I also dropped the modifier "newly" as it wasn't doing enough work.

Christopher brought Claire joy at a time when boys at school were crude and her dad was disappointed by her lack of focus. The only problem was that they’d never met.
I like the idea. I would like to see a better word for "brought." Something like "filled Claire with joy". And I'd like to see "was disappointed" replaced with something brighter and more direct, like, "her dad constantly harped about her lack..."
Twenty-two years later, single mom Claire has struggled to make ends meet as a freelance music journalist.
"...is struggling..." Otherwise good.
That’s why she’s so determined
Omit "so". Determined says it. She's determined.
to ace her first Rolling Stone cover story,
Good.
a goal she has chased her entire career.
Unneeded and actually weakens the previous high point. We get it, it's big.
The hitch is that she’s interviewing 80s rock legend Christopher Penman, notorious for zipping his lip and hating writers,
How about streamlining to "notorious lip-zipper and writer-hater." Again, try to brighten.
and of course, there’s the matter of Claire’s pesky crush that she now can't stop thinking about.
This is a big deal and I think you can say it better. She getting to interview a hard case who she ALSO HAD A BIG CRUSH ON when she was a teen. What do you mean by "pesky crush"? Has she been holding a candle for this guy for 22 years? Or is something re-ignited as she anticipates the interview. This is a chance to set us up for the book. Everything up to now feels like prelude. What is she going through now?
After an intense interview, Christopher and Claire form a friendship.
Sorry this sounds too clinical. Form a friendship?
She can’t help but feel sparks but chalks it up
I don't want her to "chalk it up". I want an original phrase.
to the return of her long dormant teenage dream.
I think this should have be covered in the transition from prelude to the present, as I mentioned above. It's feeling a little too "blow by blow" when we should be zooming.
It seems ludicrous that he would even think twice about her, even though he’s calling all the time, nudging the professional boundaries a little further every day.
Again, a bit too much introspection for a query, I think. Too much detail. Except for the professional boundaries, which, I confess, I don't understand. I figure journalists sleep with rock stars every day, it's part of the biz. If you are writing something different, state your case!
Claire’s editor at Rolling Stone is not amused when romantic rumors circulate about the pair.
He sounds like a turkey. Isn't that how some great stories are gotten? Wouldn't the proof be in the piece she writes?
He doesn’t care if Claire denies it—it’s his butt on the line if her story, soon to be the hottest entertainment tell-all of the year, is overshadowed by questions of her journalistic integrity.
Again, I could see this if it was the U.S. President she was interviewing. It doesn't seem believable that this is a prevalent attitude in the music business. Am I all wrong?
She tries to find a way to keep her editor happy and things with Christopher a possibility, but that means lying to just about everybody about what’s really going on.

BRING ME BACK is a work of women’s fiction and complete at 103,000 words.
I like the story. Not sure you are showing it to its best advantage yet. Agree that writing a query is worse than writing the book!

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Re: Query: Bring Me Back, women's fiction--Updated

Post by karenbb » June 8th, 2010, 11:33 am

Quill,

Thank you for your feedback. It is much appreciated and I think many of the things you said will help greatly.

I worked in the music industry for 15 years. I have worked at record labels and with bands and my husband manages and has managed some very well-known artists, some of whom still tour arenas. Music journalists take their jobs very seriously because like all writing fields, your reputation is everything. Sure, you could sleep with the rock star you just interviewed, but be prepared for everybody to talk about you non-stop until no editor wants to touch you. Every music writer I know would never do something like this--it's unprofessional and jobs are hard to come by. I spoke with several music publicists when doing research for the book and they all felt that angle of the story reflected the industry today and for the last twenty years. Things were somewhat different in the 60s and 70s. I hope that makes my point clearer (although there's no way to put that in my query!).

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Re: Query: Bring Me Back, women's fiction--Updated

Post by Holly » June 8th, 2010, 5:54 pm

karenbb wrote:Quill,

Thank you for your feedback. It is much appreciated and I think many of the things you said will help greatly.

I worked in the music industry for 15 years. I have worked at record labels and with bands and my husband manages and has managed some very well-known artists, some of whom still tour arenas. Music journalists take their jobs very seriously because like all writing fields, your reputation is everything. Sure, you could sleep with the rock star you just interviewed, but be prepared for everybody to talk about you non-stop until no editor wants to touch you. Every music writer I know would never do something like this--it's unprofessional and jobs are hard to come by. I spoke with several music publicists when doing research for the book and they all felt that angle of the story reflected the industry today and for the last twenty years. Things were somewhat different in the 60s and 70s. I hope that makes my point clearer (although there's no way to put that in my query!).
I thought the ass over teakettle phrase was perfect. It grabbed my attention. I've never heard it before, but so what? The words fit the tone of the story.

I'm not an expert, but I like your query. My only question: is it okay to use Rolling Stone?

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Re: Query: Bring Me Back, women's fiction--Updated

Post by karenbb » June 9th, 2010, 10:35 am

Holly,

Thanks for the feedback--very helpful. Glad you asked the question about Rolling Stone because I had the same question. Luckily, a very good friend of mine and my lawyer is a trademark attorney and he gave me this bit of advice:

This is an excellent question, and fortunately there is an easy answer - the First Amendment. There's a doctrine in Trademark called Fair Use - not to be confused with the Fair Use doctrine in Copyright. Basically you can refer to trademarks in works of fiction so long as you're not creating a likelihood of consumer confusion as to endorsement. So you couldn't claim that Rolling Stone "presents" the book or some such thing, but if a character has a job working for Rolling Stone - that's fine. The crux of trademark law is consumer protection, and the First Amendment safeguards against trademarks causing a chilling effect on expression and communication. Therefore, no problem.

Now, of course, he is my lawyer and I hope everyone who reads this understands that this was just the advice he gave to me in respect to my particular book. I know this sort of question runs through the forums now and then, so hopefully it's of use to someone.

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Re: Query: Bring Me Back, women's fiction--Updated

Post by Holly » June 9th, 2010, 1:05 pm

Thanks, Karen. The question interests me because my novel takes place in D.C. and I mention real places (nothing derogatory, nothing endorsed, just there). I figured it was okay because I've seen it in other novels, but it's good to run it by a lawyer. Good luck!

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Re: Query: Bring Me Back, women's fiction--Updated

Post by capaloha » June 9th, 2010, 3:01 pm

I love the ass over tea kettle line, and believe it speaks for itself as "madly in love". You could delete the reference to madly in love to tighten it up.

As for nudging professional boundaries, I'd love an example. What if he mentions her in a TV interview, or better yet, writes a song about her? I'm sure he did something specific in your manuscript. Why not mention it for a specific example of how he pushes those boundaries. Then you could quickly show the stakes involved should she fall for him.

You start off with a very distinctive almost sassy tone. I'd like to hear more of that in the 2nd and 3rd graf. That said, you had me in the first graf.

I would read this book.

Capaloha---

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Re: Query: Bring Me Back, women's fiction--Updated

Post by Krista G. » June 9th, 2010, 3:12 pm

Just wanted to say that the second query is a heck of a lot better than the first. And I agree with Holly (and Quill, interestingly) - keep the "ass over teakettle", but nix the "madly, deeply in love."

Hmm, didn't read the previous post until after I posted. I guess I agree with capaloha, completely:)
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Re: Query: Bring Me Back, women's fiction--Updated

Post by GeeGee55 » June 9th, 2010, 5:38 pm

I think you've got a good query here, gives a good idea about the story line and it's interesting. Love the ass over tea kettle line, too.
Dear Agent,

Claire Abby was seventeen when she fell ass over teakettle for newly-cut famous British rock star Christopher Penman—madly, deeply in love. Christopher brought Claire joy at a time when boys at school were crude and her dad was disappointed by her lack of focus. The only problem was that they’d never met.

Twenty-two years later, single mom Claire has struggled to make ends meet as a freelance music journalist. That’s why she’s so determined to ace her first Rolling Stone cover story, a goal she has chased her entire career. The hitch is that she’s interviewing 80s rock legend Christopher Penman, notorious for zipping his lip and hating writers, and of course, there’s the matter of Claire’s pesky-maybe a different word, old crush that she now can't stop thinking about.

After an intense interview, Christopher and Claire form a friendship - I question this word, she wants to think of it as a friendship, but.... She can’t help but feel sparks but chalks it up to the return of her long dormant teenage dream. It seems ludicrous that he would even think twice about her, even though he’s calling all the time, nudging the professional boundaries a little further every day.

Claire’s editor at Rolling Stone is not amused when romantic rumors circulate about the pair. He doesn’t care if Claire denies it—it’s his butt on the line if her story, soon to be the hottest entertainment tell-all of the year, is overshadowed by questions of her journalistic integrity. She tries to find a way to keep her editor happy and things with Christopher a possibility, but that means lying to just about everybody about what’s really going on. - I like the contrast of integrity versus lying to everybody

BRING ME BACK is a work of women’s fiction and complete at 103,000 words. And here's where I think you should add your background in the music industry, because it's pertinent to the story and would avoid the agent questioning the authenticity of the situation you've created.
Thank you for your time and attention.

Sincerely,

Karen B[/quote]

Good luck with your story.

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Re: Query: Bring Me Back, women's fiction--Updated

Post by Ghost in the Machine » June 10th, 2010, 10:39 am

Hi Karen,

I love ‘ass over teakettle’. It captures the clumsiness and silliness of hopeless crushes. Looking through this thread, I see you have a platform, my friend. The information about your past should be in your query. See bigheadx's thread Query-crime/police on page two where he inserted his familiarity with Las Vegas back in the day for a good example of this. But to make room, you need to take a wrecking ball to the mini-synopsis/pitch part. Here’s some possible cuts for the first few paragraphs:

Dear Agent,

Claire Abby was seventeen when she fell ass over teakettle for newly famous British rock star Christopher Penman. Twenty-two years later, single mom Claire struggles to make ends meet as a freelance music journalist. Determined to ace her first Rolling Stone cover story, she’s ready to kick ass and take names.

Hmmm, that may be one 'ass' too many.

Then Claire gets her subject: 80s rock legend Christopher Penman. The man hates writers, is notorious for zipping his lip, and what is she going to do about the heart palpations she has every time she thinks of him? This is worse than being seventeen.

Note: Querying an agent who likes super short descriptions? Feel free to stop here. Cull down the rest to include the surprise relationship and the professional conflict Claire now faces.

Good query luck,

Ghost

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Re: Query: Bring Me Back, women's fiction--Updated

Post by karenbb » June 10th, 2010, 2:38 pm

A million thanks again to everyone for the input. It has been invaluable and I am hard at work on the latest version, but it's still not exactly where I want it.

It sounds like I should include a very short mention of my experience in the music industry since that does have a bearing on the story and it's not a business that many people are involved with. I was on the fence about this, because I know how much agents don't want their time wasted. Considering everyone's comments, I think one sentence is warranted but I can't figure out how to make it sound like anything more than a snippet from a resume.

Anyone have any pointers? Here's what I have:

I drew upon my fifteen years of experience and extensive contacts in the music business to ensure that BRING ME BACK is a story that accurately reflects that industry.

It feels so stiff compared to rest of it but maybe that doesn't matter. I wish I could find a sexier way to say it...

I'll post my latest version of the query later today or tomorrow after I've had more time to percolate.

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