Query letter for "Born to Bondage"

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GaoYuQing
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Query letter for "Born to Bondage"

Post by GaoYuQing » February 14th, 2011, 8:34 am

Howdy all! Was very excited when I found this forum, and found it actually alive. Hope to find a reading partner on here sometime too. I just got my account confirmation and had to post here even though I'm at work and shouldn't. >.> Hope to have a chance to post more on here soon life permitting. In the meantime, wanted to post my query letter as I swear I've been stressing more over this than my 250,000+ word novel >.< I've sent a version of this out to 4 different agents so far and recieved 3 refusals. And I've re-written it every time as I'm never satisfied. Wanted to run it through the meatgrinder here before burning any more bridges.

<agent address>

Greetings! I have just finished my first novel, a 250,000 word "fantasy" (I see you cringing, please don't. I'm told it doesn't read as long) and am looking for an agent to help me down this unfamiliar road. Being new to the field, I would feel more comfortable having someone in the know represent me. I chose your agency <insert agent info based on research>.
My book is entitled "Born to Bondage," and I’ve included a brief synopsis as well as the first page of my manuscript. <this varies depending on requirements>

Paul is a broken man. He’s lost everything that gave his life meaning and has turned at last to suicide in order to escape it all. Unfortunately he wakes up on an alien world to find that not only is he not dead, but he’s even worse off than before. Trapped in a fate worse than death as the pawn and prisoner of a monstrous creature known only as the Banshee, he makes a desperate bargain with the one being that can save him—a giant sorceress named Dawn. The price of escape…his freedom.

Now enslaved to his strange savior, he faces an uncertain future. As part of his servitude, Dawn’s magic has begun to change him in a way even she can’t predict. His first life had been a failure and now he has a chance for a new one, on a new world, with a new identity. But what will he become? What does Dawn want with him? What meaning does the life he had once tried to end now have? As he tries to answer these questions he travels with his Mistress and his enigmatic fellow slave Sharn through worlds both familiar and strange, Paul changing both physically and mentally along the way. In the process he finds himself involved in struggles that will affect the fate of millions of people and the future of worlds. And in the end he learns that you can only find your life after you’ve surrendered it.

Up until now I have written only for myself. I was inspired several years ago to think that I might be able to fulfill one of my life-long dreams of writing a novel when I found myself in charge of orchestrating a world for an interactive fiction role-play forum—in the process receiving much acclaim from the other participating writers. The forum eventually closed, but I left feeling determined to try my skill in world-building and character creation on a different stage. The first fruits of this desire are born out in this manuscript. In addition I have a different series I’m working on: one partially written and several more existing in ever-growing outlines and notes waiting their turn to be put on paper. All of these are inter-connected, with many of the same characters appearing and interacting with eachother in their respective novels, yet each is a stand-alone piece focused on one life. <included this info not to pitch them, but to let agent know I have more works in store and don't plan on being a one-shot>

Thank you for your time in reading this and I hope to hear from you soon.


And thank you for your time in reading this, and the same.

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Re: Query letter for "Born to Bondage"

Post by GaoYuQing » February 14th, 2011, 9:00 am

Sorry about the double post. I keep getting error messages when I post so thought it didn’t get posted and tried again. Deleted my message in second one, but admin can remove the post entirely.

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Re: Query letter for "Born to Bondage"

Post by Guardian » February 14th, 2011, 9:28 am

GaoYuQing wrote:Greetings! I have just finished my first novel, a 250,000 word "fantasy" (I see you cringing, please don't. I'm told it doesn't read as long) and am looking for an agent to help me down this unfamiliar road. Being new to the field, I would feel more comfortable having someone in the know represent me. I chose your agency <insert agent info based on research>.
My book is entitled "Born to Bondage," and I’ve included a brief synopsis as well as the first page of my manuscript. <this varies depending on requirements>
Hi Gao! Well, I'm not a pro in queries, but I'll try to help. So, let's see... first. Start with the query and take this upper part after the story desciption. Second. 250,000 word fantasy is enough for two, maybe for three volumes. Consider to make two volumes and present the very first in the query from the beginning to the end. Remember. Each of the volumes must have a beginning and an ending (Secondary story arcs are usually solve this problem when you make volumes from a longer work. i.e.: My WIP is 350k+ and I was able to make three volumes from that one. But in the query, I must mention only the first one as the other volumes are different stories and sometimes they're also evident after the first one. But the first volume must work as a standalone novel.).

Now, this is how a query should look like... but as I said, I never was a pro in queries. So, here is my attempt, based on your query...
GaoYuQing wrote: Dear Agent X,

Paul (full name, age) is a broken man; lost everything that gave meaning to his life and he committed suicide to escape all the misery (You also should tell what he lost, what gave the meaning to his life... lost wife, family, etc, etc...). But sometimes even suicide can’t give the desired redemption.

Waking up to be trapped on a strange alien world / underworld (I don't know your story, so pick the right one) which is worse than death, and becoming the pawn and prisoner of a monstrous creature, known as the Banshee, he must seek a true way to find his redemption and a way back home. His only hope to escape is a giant sorceress, Dawn. But the price of freedom is high; his free life as he must serve the sorceress for the eternity (I don't know it's eternal or not, so I just guessed here.).

Enslaved by his strange savior, finding himself involved in a struggle that is going to affect the fate of millions of people, and the future of worlds, his future is uncertain (Here, tell what this struggle is all about. Two or three sentences max. Then last lines...). The journey is changing Paul as he is slowly realizing; the hated life what he wanted to leave behind so much is much more desirable then the life he is living now - as the true values of life always can be seen when it’s no more.

The series opener of [Name of the novel, in capital letters] is a fantasy novel, complete at XXX,XXX words. (As I wrote above, consider to create two volumes from this 250k monster. :) ).

[Then your name comes, along with a very short bio about you. But never tell your entire life. Never mention anything about forums, etc, etc... no one cares about that. If you have credits tell those things. If you're not published... don't mention it.]

Thank you for your time and consideration, and I look forward to your reply.

Respectfully Yours,

Mr. X
Maybe it's far from being perfect, but maybe it's a good start and I hope it helps.
Last edited by Guardian on February 15th, 2011, 2:59 pm, edited 7 times in total.

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Re: Query letter for "Born to Bondage"

Post by Quill » February 14th, 2011, 10:20 am

GaoYuQing wrote:Sorry about the double post. I keep getting error messages when I post so thought it didn’t get posted and tried again. Deleted my message in second one, but admin can remove the post entirely.
I basically agree with Guardian's comments about splitting your book in two if at all possible, and about reformatting your query. Good luck!

As for the double thread, you can delete it by clicking on the 'x' next to 'edit' in the post. You can delete any post you make, as long as no one has posted after you.

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Re: Query letter for "Born to Bondage"

Post by GaoYuQing » February 15th, 2011, 9:58 am

*Taking a change of pace from writing SOP's and Protocols...I was going stir crazy*

Thank you both for your comments. I'll try and play with the query letter and perhaps post the revised version.

It's interesting you both want to change the format. I've found that no two sites seem to have a consistant format. The one I used was one that was laid out on another website designed to help writers create query letters. Irony. Queryshark agrees with you so I think I'll follow the advice.

Clicked the red X on my post and deleted it, but don't see a red post on the tread header.

Splitting book: God I know I've thought this might come up. I'm just not sure how honestly. The story is complete in itself. I'd have to create some dilemma or new storyline to split it. I'm just hoping I don't have to. Goodkind's Wizard's First Rule was accepted as his first novel at over 300k words, and Wheel of Time couldn't be much less, so I have hope though. Course I'm not to either of their ability I daresay.

Oi...ok, least I have some feedback now aside from form letters. Thanks again :)

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Re: Query letter for "Born to Bondage"

Post by D.T.Roberts » February 15th, 2011, 10:13 am

I am by no means an expert, but the opening paragraph is dripping with lack of confidence. I found it a complete turn off. Never point out your weaknesses right off the bat. Never make excuses or say anything negative about your work. (I see you cringing, please don't. I'm told it doesn't read as long) and am looking for an agent to help me down this unfamiliar road.
You only have one chance to make a first impression. Don't use the 1st paragraph to point out weakness. Use it to GRAB them and make them want to read more.
It has been said that writing comes more easily if you have something to say.

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Re: Query letter for "Born to Bondage"

Post by GaoYuQing » February 15th, 2011, 10:47 am

Thanks DT. I was torn by that. Wanted to interject a little humor/personality into the query and wasn't sure how it was coming off. You've also reinforced the message I've been getting here that I should ignore the earlier advice on my letter format.

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Re: Query letter for "Born to Bondage"

Post by Guardian » February 15th, 2011, 11:07 am

GaoYuQing wrote:Queryshark agrees with you so I think I'll follow the advice.
Always listen to Janet (Queryshark). She is a treasure between the agents and she is always giving good advices.
I'll try and play with the query letter and perhaps post the revised version.
Post it bravely. We're here to help each other.
Thanks again :)
You're welcome.

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Re: Query letter for "Born to Bondage"

Post by Evelyn » February 15th, 2011, 12:00 pm

Hi GaoYuQing,

Welcome!

I agree with everything the others have said. Also - I think your story itself sounds wonderful!

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Re: Query letter for "Born to Bondage"

Post by GaoYuQing » February 15th, 2011, 2:39 pm

Thanks Evelyn! I hope it's as good as it sounds. If you wanted to find out firsthand, I am on the hunt for a reading partner :D ;)

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Re: Query letter for "Born to Bondage"

Post by Ermo » February 15th, 2011, 3:39 pm

The best way to make your query have personality, in my opinion, is to interject something that only pertains to that agent. Read their blogs, follow them on twitter or just google them, and you'll likely find something that you can use to show that you've done your homework and they are more than just another agent to you.

I have two comments about your query.

First, don't ask questions. Let the reader naturally ask those questions in their head from the prose.

Second, need more detail. How does he change physically and why does that matter? Does he want to escape? What happens if he tries? You allude to a struggle that involves millions of people but give no detail as to what that struggle is or what Paul's role is in that struggle.

You can definitely write - I like the prose. Good luck!

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Re: Query letter for "Born to Bondage"

Post by Hillsy » February 15th, 2011, 6:02 pm

Hi Gao,

Not a query god myself (as you can see form my posted effort) but I'll try and point out where I think Agents my stop and think etc...give you something to revise on.

FIrst off the story has a very distinct feel to it, as does your tone - the choice of words and prose style suits the sombre mood really well. Also, the concepts of redemption, suicide, sacrifice and an unknowable God-figure has some very good things going for it. As I understand it (from what I've read), greek mythology stuff is quite hot at the moment and this appears to have that parable approach

On to nit-picking.
GaoYuQing wrote:
Greetings! I have just finished my first novel, a 250,000 word "fantasy" (I see you cringing, please don't. I'm told it doesn't read as long) and am looking for an agent to help me down this unfamiliar road. Being new to the field, I would feel more comfortable having someone in the know represent me. I chose your agency <insert agent info based on research>.
My book is entitled "Born to Bondage," and I’ve included a brief synopsis as well as the first page of my manuscript. <this varies depending on requirements>
A couple of notes. "fantasy" makes it sound sarcastic - it either is or isn't Fantasy. If it's not, use the genre it should be. If it's Fantasy, call a spade a spade. Also, a real minor nit-pick, don't use 'just finished my first novel' - makes it sound like you're presenting your first draft.

Paul is a broken man. He’s lost everything that gave his life meaning and has turned at last to suicide in order to escape it all. What did he lose? Wife? Job? Kids? His favourite baseball card? You've got a real opportunity to give a real insight into his character by listing the things it took to break him. If he wants to off himself just because he's a bit destitute, makes him look a bit weak. If he's lost 5 kids, two wives, has a drink and drug habit AND accidentally machine washed a winning pools ticket...he looks a lot stronger.

Unfortunately I can't tell if this is a joke or not, but if it is it doesn't fit the tone of the rest of the queryhe wakes up on an alien world to find that not only is he not deadToo many 'not's. Also how does he know this isn't the afterlife?, but he’s even worse off than before. Trapped in a fate worse than deathcliche - try and reword as the pawn and prisoner of a monstrous creature known only as the Banshee, he makes a desperate bargain with the one being that can save him—a giant sorceress named Dawn. The price of escape…his freedom.OK...feels like you've skipped over a big old chunk here. World implies scope and size, so I infer he wanders about a bit before the Banshee gets him. So what's the world like? Hawaii? Iceland? Arizona? Is it just a series of mile square chunks of land floating in an endless cosmic blackness? If he wakes up in a cave, trapped in a cage, forced to do the Banshee's laundry, he doesn't wake up in an "alien world", he wakes up in a cage, in a cave. The are other chunks missing here. How did he find Dawn? How did he get a message to her? Is Dawn Friends with the Banshee? If not, why is she close enough to make a bargain with one of the Banshee's prisoners? There are a lot of questions here. Either answer them or (as the Banshee doesn't appear again) skip the Banshee part altogether and just put "to survive Paul must make a deal with Dawn......etc"

Now enslaved to his strange savior, he faces an uncertain future. As part of his servitude, Dawn’s magic has begun to change him in a way even she can’t predict.How? His first life had been a failure and now he has a chance for a new one, on a new world, with a new identity.Why the identity? Who knows him here? Also seems, as he's enslaved, he doesn't have much of a choice anyway But what will he become? You need to hint at that. Is he changing for better or worseWhat does Dawn want with him? Again, your job to show us.What meaning does the life he had once tried to end now have? As he tries to answer these questions he travels with his Mistress and his enigmatic fellow slave Sharn through worlds both familiar and strange, Paul changing both physically and mentally along the way. In the process he finds himself involved in struggles that will affect the fate of millions of people and the future of worlds. And in the end he learns that you can only find your life after you’ve surrendered it.Woah, woah, woah - time out? So he's traveling, I presume dimensionally, with Dawn & Sharn and you arn't going to tell us where? And millions of lives rest on his shoulders? I thought he was just dealing with Dawn and escaping her enslavement? This is a whole new book here!
I know - it's very hard trying to condense a fair old tome into a short query letter. My own project is 200K (editted down from 287!) and I refuse to listen to how it's "too long". It's not - it's exactly the length required to tell the story. The query on the other hand needs to tell a leaner story, while hinting at scope and scale. I know exactly why it's turned out like it did, namely cos I've done it more than a few times. How do you get such huge themes and ideas into a sentence? I always think it's helpful to turn to Lord of the Rings at times like these. Just from memory you can probably wrap up the main plot in 200 words. Now look at what you've left out. This is the fat you don't need. No Tom Bombadil, no weathertop, no arwyn. All of this stuff is what makes the book amazing, but it doesn't tell the story.

It's really hard and it'll take a lot of revisions, sometimes just to change one word.

Good luck, I'm sure you'll get there

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Re: Query letter for "Born to Bondage"

Post by Joel Q » February 15th, 2011, 6:15 pm

Hillsy wrote: How do you get such huge themes and ideas into a sentence? I always think it's helpful to turn to Lord of the Rings at times like these. Just from memory you can probably wrap up the main plot in 200 words. Now look at what you've left out. This is the fat you don't need. No Tom Bombadil, no weathertop, no arwyn. All of this stuff is what makes the book amazing, but it doesn't tell the story.
That's great advice.
JQ

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Re: Query letter for "Born to Bondage"

Post by GaoYuQing » February 15th, 2011, 8:38 pm

*reads Hillsy's comments raptly*
VERY helpful, thank you. Noticing a theme to several of the comments I've gotten. Need more details in the synopsis. The trick is I've heard that this needs to be about the size and nature of the intro on the back of a book. Again going on past advice I've read online, I tried to limit it to 2 paragraphs, with only a couple sentences apiece. In light of all the requests for more info, I feel that I can expand more freely.

FYI Ermo, I do include personal info about the agent in the first part of my query, I just cut that out for my post. And you're one more that's asked for more detail.

Thank you both.

Ok then....*stretches and cracks his knuckles* Let's see what I can come up with while I'm in the mood and inspired.

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