VANGUARD query

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cjmarkusfeld
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VANGUARD query

Post by cjmarkusfeld » February 24th, 2011, 9:27 pm

I could really use some advice.

I've queried 15 or so agents over the last several months with no results. I thought my query was pretty good, but now I'm waking up in the night and wondering if it, in fact, blows. I'd greatly appreciate any feedback that folks can offer. Do your worst ...


Dear agent,

I am seeking representation for my romantic thriller, VANGUARD, set in a fictionalized redrawing of Northern Europe. The manuscript is complete at 91,000 words.

After years of missed connections and career ambitions that didn’t allow for love, Sophie Swenda and Dr. Michael Nariovsky Gray are finally in the same city at the same time. But when a world superpower invades Michael’s beloved homeland, the fiery-tempered field doctor covertly returns to occupied Orlisia to join the resistance. Two months later, he disappears without a trace.

As Northern Europe erupts in war, a massive refugee camp called Parnaas springs up on the Orlisian border, creating one of the largest humanitarian disasters ever seen in the western world. Controlled by a man and a nation consumed with vengeance, the refugees inside Parnaas are in deadly peril. Sophie, an up-and-coming international development hotshot, must use all her expertise in refugee crises to bring a coalition of aid agencies into the camp.

Her motivation is more than professional. Sophie believes Michael is alive, caught in the desperate mass of humanity inside Parnaas. As the search begins, Sophie and her colleagues discover that Parnaas is less a refugee camp than a sinister trap designed to serve its Commandant's thirst for revenge. If the coalition cannot persuade the international community to intervene, the nation of Orlisia – its people and its culture – may be extinguished forever.

While the coalition races to save the camp’s inhabitants from an outbreak of infectious pneumonia, Sophie engages the Commandant in an epic battle of wits. Hanging in the balance are diplomatic relations, a nation’s future … and the one person Sophie cannot live without.

I am a professionally trained journalist and have worked as a marketing writer for the last 18 years. My experience includes four years writing for an international development agency.

Thank you for your time. I hope to hear from you.

my name here

Collectonian
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Joined: February 17th, 2011, 4:42 pm

Re: VANGUARD query

Post by Collectonian » February 24th, 2011, 10:19 pm

First, I think this is a very interesting sounding story and I look forward to reading it when it hits the shelves :-) Your query isn't horrible by any means, but I do think it may not be presenting the story in the best possible light. I'd say the main weakness I see with the query is a mix of vagueness, and telling rather than showing. I made some notes below that hopefully will help.
cjmarkusfeld wrote:I am seeking representation for my romantic thriller, VANGUARD, set in a fictionalized redrawing of Northern Europe. The manuscript is complete at 91,000 words.I'd move the title, genre, word count line to the end, before your credentials. Start with the story.

After years of missed connections and career ambitions that didn’t allow for love, Sophie Swenda and Dr. Michael Nariovsky Gray are finally in the same city at the same time.But who are they? Why should we care? What kind of missed connections? I'd redo this bit to give quick introductions on who Sophie and Michael are, why their careers were in the way, and if they do, in fact, have feelings for each other but have just not acted on them. But when a world superpower invades Michael’s beloved homeland, the fiery-tempered field doctor covertly returns to occupied Orlisia to join the resistance. Two months later, he disappears without a trace.I'd move this to the second paragraph, and perhaps give more context. It seems to come a bit out of left field as there is no mention of war going on or brewing until the next paragraph.

As Northern Europe erupts in war, a massive refugee camp called Parnaas springs up on the Orlisian border, creating one of the largest humanitarian disasters ever seen in the western world.Why is it one of the largest humanitarian disasters? Controlled by a man and a nation consumed with vengeance,against? what kind of vengeance? "consumed by vengeance" is a kind of pat phrase the refugees inside Parnaas are in deadly peril.from starvation, neglect, concentration camp style murders, etc? Reading on, I see you put this below. I'd move that info here, "If the international community doesn't intervene..." then jump to the next paragraph where Sophie enters the picture again. Sophie, an up-and-coming international development hotshot, must use all her expertise in refugee crises to bring a coalition of aid agencies into the camp.I'd again move this to the next paragraph, and have the part about her being in international develop up above. How does international development relate to expertise in refugee crisis?

Her motivation is more than professional. Sophie believes Michael is alive, caught in the desperate mass of humanity inside Parnaas. As the search begins, Sophie and her colleagues discover that Parnaas is less a refugee camp than a sinister trap designed to serve its Commandant's thirst for revenge.How so? "sinister trap", "thirst for revenge" are kind of vague catch phrases; make us get why he is the bad guy we should hate If the coalition cannot persuade the international community to intervene, the nation of Orlisia – its people and its culture – may be extinguished forever.See above.

While the coalition races to save the camp’s inhabitants from an outbreak of infectious pneumonia, Sophie engages the Commandant in an epic battle of wits.Already said the coalition was intervening so the first bit is repetitious. What sort of "epic battle of wits"? Negotiating, tricking, etc? Hanging in the balance are diplomatic relations, a nation’s future … and the one person Sophie cannot live without.I'd strike the diplomatic relations part, it goes without saying....The ending line is a good one for this genre I think, though it would have even more impact if that first paragraph better clarified that their relationship status :-)

I am a professionally trained journalist and have worked as a marketing writer for the last 18 years. My experience includes four years writing for an international development agency.Could merge this into one sentence for better flow

Thank you for your time. I hope to hear from you.

my name here

queryguppy
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Re: VANGUARD query

Post by queryguppy » February 24th, 2011, 10:49 pm

I also think this is an interesting premise, and I am a sucker for romance!

Here are some general observations...

-I find the made-up country names distracting. They sound more like fantasy realms, and even though you only mentioned two, I was already getting confused... which makes me think that I'd be very confused reading the book. Is it possible to use actual places? It's fiction, so there doesn't have to actually be a conflict there. It just might be easier for readers to connect to something more familiar.

-You assume the reader knows that Sophie and Michael have a developed relationship - I actually got the impression they'd met a few times but it never went anywhere, and suddenly she can't live without him!

-I'd hone in the focus of your query and end on the high note of Michael's disappearance and Sophie having to go after him at risk of her life. You give to many details after that, and by the time I got to pneumonia I was wondering how hard the plot was going to be to follow.

I think if you trim this down and focus on one or maybe 2 main plot elements, this will be a more convincing letter for what sounds like a really interesting book.

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Quill
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Re: VANGUARD query

Post by Quill » February 24th, 2011, 10:57 pm

cjmarkusfeld wrote:
I am seeking representation for my romantic thriller, VANGUARD, set in a fictionalized redrawing of Northern Europe. The manuscript is complete at 91,000 words.
I'd streamline and omit the "representation" part, which is obvious by dint of you querying:

"My romantic thriller, VANGUARD, complete at 91,000 words, is set in a fictionalized redrawing of Northern Europe." Or some such.
After years of missed connections and career ambitions that didn’t allow for love, Sophie Swenda and Dr. Michael Nariovsky Gray are finally in the same city at the same time.
Streamline: "After years of missed connections and careers that didn’t allow for love, Sophie Swenda and Dr. Michael Nariovsky Gray are finally in the same city." No loss of meaning.
But when a world superpower invades Michael’s beloved homeland, the fiery-tempered field doctor covertly returns to occupied Orlisia to join the resistance. Two months later, he disappears without a trace.
Streamline and clarify: "But when a world superpower invades Michael’s homeland, he feels compelled to return there to join the resistance. Two months later, his letters to Sophie cease."

As Northern Europe erupts in war, a massive refugee camp called Parnaas springs up on the Orlisian border, creating one of the largest humanitarian disasters ever seen in the western world.

"As Northern Europe erupts in war, a massive refugee camp called Parnaas springs up on the border, creating a humanitarian disaster." You have only seconds to grab an agent's attention. Every word must count, even if you don't convey the full story.
Controlled by a man and a nation consumed with vengeance, the refugees inside Parnaas are in deadly peril. Sophie, an up-and-coming international development hotshot, must use all her expertise in refugee crises to bring a coalition of aid agencies into the camp.
"The camp is controlled by a man and a nation bent on violence. The refugees are in peril. Sophie, a young, international development hotshot, must use all her expertise to bring aid agencies into the camp."
Her motivation is more than professional. Sophie believes Michael is alive, caught in the desperate mass of humanity inside Parnaas. As the search begins, Sophie and her colleagues discover that Parnaas is less a refugee camp than a sinister trap designed to serve its Commandant's thirst for revenge. If the coalition cannot persuade the international community to intervene, the nation of Orlisia – its people and its culture – may be extinguished forever.
This can probably be omitted altogether, as it contains info already in the previous and next paragraphs.
While the coalition races to save the camp’s inhabitants from an outbreak of infectious pneumonia, Sophie engages the Commandant in an epic battle of wits. Hanging in the balance are diplomatic relations, a nation’s future … and the one person Sophie cannot live without.
Okay.
I am a professionally trained journalist and have worked as a marketing writer for the last 18 years. My experience includes four years writing for an international development agency.

Thank you for your time. I hope to hear from you.

my name here
Okay.

cjmarkusfeld
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Re: VANGUARD query

Post by cjmarkusfeld » February 25th, 2011, 10:46 am

This is great feedback - thank you very much to Quill, Guppy and Collectonian. Looks like I've got some work ahead of me! Much needed inspiration and constructive crit - not to mention a friendly kick in the a**. Just what the doctor ordered.

littlebird
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Re: VANGUARD query

Post by littlebird » February 25th, 2011, 1:56 pm

I neither read nor write romance, so please take my comments with that in mind.


Dear agent,

I am seeking representation for my romantic thriller, VANGUARD, set in a fictionalized redrawing of Northern Europe. The manuscript is complete at 91,000 words. I'd move that to the end.

After years of missed connections and career ambitions that didn’t allow for love, Sophie Swenda and Dr. Michael Nariovsky Gray are finally in the same city at the same time. I'm not sure that sentence is really important. Maybe start with something a little more clear. Dr. Michael Gray leaves behind his love and career to join the resistance of his occupied homeland OrlisiaBut when a world superpower invades Michael’s beloved homeland, the fiery-tempered field doctor covertly returns to occupied Orlisia to join the resistance.Two months later, he disappears without a trace. His girlfriend, Sophie Swenda is convinced Michael is alive and trapped inside Parnass, a massive refugee camp on the Orlisian border.

As Northern Europe erupts in war, a massive refugee camp called Parnaas springs up on the Orlisian border, creating one of the largest humanitarian disasters ever seen in the western world. Controlled by a man and a nation consumed with vengeance, the refugees inside Parnaas are in deadly peril. Sophie, an up-and-coming international development What does that mean? When I hear development, I think condos and vactation resorts. What does that have to do with aid agencies? hotshot, must use all her expertise in refugee crises to bring a coalition of aid agencies into the camp.

Her motivation is more than professional. Sophie believes Michael is alive, caught in the desperate mass of humanity inside Parnaas. As the searchfor Michael begins, Sophie and her colleagues discover that Parnaas is less a refugee camp than a sinister trap designed to serve its Commandant's thirst for revenge. If the coalition cannot persuade the international community to intervene, the nation of Orlisia – its people and its culture – may be extinguished forever.

While the coalition races to save the camp’s inhabitants from an outbreak of infectious pneumonia, Sophie engages the Commandant in an epic battle of wits(Wait...what? How does she even met him? A battle of wits is sort of a cliche statement. Maybe she tries to outmanuever the Commandant by seeking the aid of...) . Hanging in the balance are diplomatic relations, a nation’s future … and the one person Sophie cannot live without.

I am a professionally trained journalist and have worked as a marketing writer for the last 18 years. My experience includes four years writing for an international development agency.

Thank you for your time. I hope to hear from you.
I might add, "Per your submission guidlines, I've pasted X number of pages below. The rest of the manuscript is available at your request.
my name here[/quote]

I think that if you trim off a little of the excess fat and focus on the MC, their motivations, the conflict and the stakes, you'll be closer to your goal. Good luck!

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