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Query Review and some helpful hints

Posted: December 7th, 2009, 8:02 pm
by drbarre11
If I can offer any helpful advice to an aspiring writer it's this; take your first draft of your query letter, admire it and then throw it away. Once your second version is complete; bask in the glow of your accomplishment and then burn it. Take the best sections from your next four rewrites and then, maybe, you will begin to have the makings of a query letter that will grab the attention of your dream agent

When I started this journey I was extremely green to the query process. I read books and gathered information from blogs and studied examples of solid letters, put pen to paper and thought I had the best *&^ damn query letter that was ever written and submitted it to several agents (including Nathan). I should have taken by own advice and burned it as an offering to the query Gods! As I learned the process my green tint began to fade and I rewrote, revised, edited and hacked until my query letter began to look and sound professional. To make a long story short my seventh version began to gather attention and some partial requests. My eight version (the one posted below) was the one that started to garnish full submissions.

For some the query process comes naturally and you may hit it of the park on your first draft but for others, like myself, it has been a learning experience, hence my reason for posting it below to see if there is anything I should change. IT can always be better!

Thank you in advance for your help and this board.

Dave B

Query Letter

Dear Mr. Agent:

Jeff Russell was on the verge of financial ruin and desperately looking for help, what he received instead was an invitation to meet a perfect stranger on the other side of the world.

In London’s West End, at exactly 5:00 PM on Saturday, Dec. 9, 2000, seven unknowns, from around the globe, arrived at an abandoned restaurant with no name, staffed by misfits only found in a Monty Python skit, serving cuisine cooked by a vulgar French chef and owned by a mysterious man named Todd. Before the first cocktail was even served, Jeff struggled with the fact that he might never see his family again as it was revealed that Todd believed himself God, “The Heart” and his restaurant was a weigh station for the dead, he called Passers, and the waiters their guardians.

In between appetizers and abated fist fights Todd informed the guests that he needed their help in deciding the fate of his eighth guest, a man he called his greatest mistake, an insane ex-con nicknamed “The Freak.” In return for their judgments each guest would enjoy a feast beyond their dreams and be rewarded their fondest wish.

But like all dinner parties nothing went according to plan as more and more passers arrived before heading home, party crashers accidentally exploded, a guest and his guardian battled one last time, secrets of the dead were revealed and Jeff learned the truth of how his past and future brought him to sit at the table of eight.

My name is David B and I created Jeff Russell and The Table of Eight. It is a 106,000 word commercial novel about a man, who thought he was God, and what happened when he opened his little restaurant to the general public. I am a member of the Chicago Screenwriters group where I learned character and plot development. I can be reached at ***-***-**** or at


Re: Query Review and some helpful hints

Posted: December 7th, 2009, 9:17 pm
by denverbennett
Good Post

Many novice writers begin querying their favorite agents first, with version 1-6 of their query letter. By the time the QL is just right they have burned through their top agents.

Advice 1 - Take the tip from the poster and only send QL v7.0. If you can't wait to begin the query process (like me), go to # 2.

Advice 2 - Begin the querying with agents who are not necessarily your 'dream agent'. You may get feedback (i.e. 'rejections') from these agents while going through the process of writing QL v 2.0 to v7.0. You still have your dream agents to query.

Re: Query Review and some helpful hints

Posted: December 7th, 2009, 10:00 pm
by Nathan Bransford
I think the idea to work on the query through multiple drafts is good. Thanks for sharing the one that worked for you.

Re: Query Review and some helpful hints

Posted: December 8th, 2009, 2:10 pm
by Mira
I like this query. Like the last paragraph and how you worded it.

Thanks for sharing it. :)

Re: Query Review and some helpful hints

Posted: December 9th, 2009, 10:18 am
by ronalb
I liked the idea of working through several drafts and the one in the later post about not querying our 'favorite' agents.

I like this query and that's I'm taking my time to 'try' to give you some hints and ideas.

I'm struggling with my query since months, trying to get it right, so I'm not an expert in the field, but I found some details of the query a bit difficult to follow. First, everything I've heard and read about query letters is that each word written there should weight at least a ton, and you shouldn't be able to cut out any of them without messing up the meaning of the sentence, and that they should be written in present tense, so change all the verbs' tenses.

If you allow me, I'd like to get into detail now.

The first sentence begins great. It really made me want to read the story. Also the second sentence starts good, although I'm not sure the exact time, location and date are interesting for an agent at this stage. I think you are giving unnecessary information here. You said it perfectly well with: on the other side of the world.
This paragraph consists of two very long sentences, containing lot of information to process. Maybe: ... staffed by misfits and a vulgar french chef, and owned by a mysterious man named Todd... will transmit your message that something is out of place in the restaurant and keeps the curiosity high. Then the beginning of your second sentence: Before the first cocktail was even served... I'm not sure if you need to be this precise, see what others think, though. In the middle of the second sentence you raise the tension with the possibility of Jeff never seeing his family again. But you stop there and then you move slowly to Todd. From here on, Todd becomes the center of the QL. Now I'm confused about who is the main character in the novel.

In the next paragraph, I think you need some explanation on the possible fates of the 'guests', what actually happens to them. The rest of it seems well crafted to me.

The first sentence of the next paragraph "But like all dinner parties nothing..." is the 'suicide sentence' in my opinion. You're just letting the agent know that your novel contains nothing innovative, that it's just like everything they've read so far. The rest of this paragraph is just hints of, but I think it needs some more in-depth analysis of the plot.

Okay, these are my thoughts. They might not make any sense, so just forget about them. As I said, I'm not an expert on this. I'm even too frightened to query agents myself, so don't take my words seriously, especially those you don't like. And if I sound to harsh, forgive me, it was not my intention. I'm just trying to help.

Re: Query Review and some helpful hints

Posted: December 9th, 2009, 10:52 am
by drbarre11
Thanks for your input. It gives me something to look at and possible make my query better

I am going to ask you a favor. Please post your query. Maybe some of us can lend a hand and help you out.
Then when you feel comfortable with it choose five agents and see how you do. You never know until you try and there are people on this board who will try to assist you

Dave (drbarre11)

Re: Query Review and some helpful hints

Posted: December 10th, 2009, 3:38 am
by ronalb
I really hope I could help, but once again, I'm not a professional. And thanks for encouraging me to post my query. I think, if I don't do it now, I never will. so here it comes... And please be direct and open with any suggestions. That's what I need.

Dear ...,

(here would be the part about the agent. Why I decided to query her/him)

James Brightman has no memories of his childhood and is tormented by nightmares. Yet, he’s a good-mannered bank manager, with trust in people. Even as three killing attempts throw his idyllic life off the rails, he believes the attempts to be accidents. But the doubts clear as he faces a corrupt detective, who tries to execute him while he’s under protective custody.

Feeling as if being chased by shadows, James senses that his past is overtaking him. Only now, his grandmother reveals her half-century-old secret. He is the unlawful grandson of a German finance wizard, who had taken the identity of a Jew and immigrated to New York. He died recently and left behind an internationally spread conglomerate. The Israeli Mossad has found his trace and is after him, because of his origin. James realizes that if he wants his life back, he will have to compromise the Israelis. And his first challenge is frightening: an internationally wanted assassin, who kills James’s grandmother to lure him out of the hideout.

In search for proofs, James digs out the truth. Behind the conspiracy are alleged relatives from his grandfather’s buried past. They ally with the conglomerate’s CEO, who’s connections reach up to the Oval Office. Using his friendship with high-ranking officials in the government and the President, the CEO sics an ultra-secret agency of the government on James.

The Greenberg Conspiracy is a 135,000 word manuscript in the genre suspense.
Besides daily publications as a journalist of printed and electronic media, I haven’t published anything marketable.

I’d be glad to send you an excerpt or the entire manuscript upon request.

Thank you for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Best wishes,

Thanks to anyone for taking a look at this!
And, Dave, thanks for the encouragement.

Re: Query Review and some helpful hints

Posted: December 10th, 2009, 8:11 am
by drbarre11

First - Right on for posting your letter!!!!
It sounds like a cool story
Give me a few days to look this over but I do have one question - what is an internationally spread conglomerate?.


Re: Query Review and some helpful hints

Posted: December 10th, 2009, 11:08 am
by ronalb
Hi Dave,
thanks for taking a look at this. An internationally spread conglomerate is a company operating in numerous branches around the world.


Re: Query Review and some helpful hints

Posted: December 13th, 2009, 9:53 am
by drbarre11

I have been looking at your query letter and working with it
I am doing it in sections

Here is what I came up with for the opening paragraph - please keep in mind that I am not an expert but it might give you some ideas

More to come

Despite the fact that he has no memories of his childhood and experiences the occasional nightmare bank manager James Brightman has built a nice life for himself, so why are people trying to kill him?

Re: Query Review and some helpful hints

Posted: December 13th, 2009, 12:54 pm
by Dakota388
Great advice. I kick myself for wasting my chance with my top agents with my terrible early queries.

Re: Query Review and some helpful hints

Posted: December 16th, 2009, 4:46 pm
by Heather Bahnard
Really liked your querry letter and would love to read the book when it comes out. I like the idea of going through multiple drafts but am afraid that impatience gets the best of me most of the time. Great advice on querrying your top agents last.