Query for Debut novel

Share your blood sweat tears query for feedback and lend your hard-won expertise to others
casnow
Posts: 159
Joined: December 7th, 2009, 1:51 pm
Location: Cairo, Egypt
Contact:

Query for Debut novel

Post by casnow » December 8th, 2009, 6:37 am

There is an updated version of the query about 6 or 7 posts down. Let me know what you think about the changes
Thanks in advance for any help or suggestions you have to offer!

Dear ---,

It’s called the fight or flight instinct, but in reality it is a probability analysis made from thousands of pieces of data that occurs over the course of seconds, hours, or days. The analysis changes and evolves with the situation and the severity of the outcome – the result determines who we are.
Derek Janson’s world is shaken when his grandfather dies and leaves him an inheritance of several million dollars; far more than anyone imagined he had. Trying to ease the tensions created by the inheritance he gives much of the estate to his aunt, uncle, and mother to bring them together; money that they all desperately need.
Derek also received his grandfather’s journals, which documented his life: his first kiss, his first love, and a mistress he never spoke of. The more Derek reads the more he struggles to reconcile his childhood memories with the life he is reading about. When the children Derek’s grandfather had with his mistress sue him for the inheritance Derek finds himself facing massive debt as his family has already spent the money he gave them.
James Cohen feels like he is being railroaded into a guilty verdict by a district attorney with political aspirations and a tough-on-crime judge after accidentally killing a girl while driving home late one night. Feeling trapped by a ruthless bail bondsman and drowning in guilt over the girl’s death, James sees no way out. Facing seemingly inescapable legal problems and disappearing options, the two best friends decide to make an impromptu run for the border, while being hunted by a bail bondsman chasing his money.
HEADING SOUTH, complete at 81,500 words, is a work of contemporary literary fiction that explores family relationships, friendship and loss. Although this is my first fictional work, I have authored several academic articles for scholarly journals, field guides, and academic publications. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

Cameron A. Snow
Last edited by casnow on December 8th, 2009, 11:24 am, edited 1 time in total.

Jude Hardin
Posts: 13
Joined: December 7th, 2009, 5:05 pm
Contact:

Re: Query for Debut novel

Post by Jude Hardin » December 8th, 2009, 7:41 am

It’s called the fight or flight instinct, but in reality it is a probability analysis made from thousands of pieces of data that occurs over the course of seconds, hours, or days. The analysis changes and evolves with the situation and the severity of the outcome – the result determines who we are.This entire first paragraph should be deleted, IMO.

Here's your start:Derek Janson’s world is shaken when his grandfather dies and leaves him an inheritance of several million dollars;(a dash would work here, but a semi-colon is not the appropriate punctuation) far more than anyone imagined he had. Trying to ease the tensions created by the inheritance, he gives much of the estate to his aunt, uncle, and mother in order to bring them together;(Again, not the right punctuation. Just go with a period and delete this last part of the sentence) money that they all desperately need.

Derek also receivedYou need to stay in present tense. his grandfather’s journals, which documented his life: his first kiss, his first love, and a mistress he never spoke of. The more Derek reads, the more he struggles to reconcile his childhood memories with the life he is reading about. When the children Derek’s grandfather had with his mistress sue him for the inheritance, Derek finds himself facing massive debt as his family has already spent the money he gave them.Clunky. Rework.

James Cohen feels like he is being railroaded into a guilty verdict by a district attorney with political aspirations and a tough-on-crime judge after accidentally killing a girl while driving home late one night. Feeling trapped by a ruthless bail bondsman and drowning in guilt over the girl’s death, James sees no way out. Facing seemingly inescapable legal problems and disappearing options, the two best friendsWhat two best friends? decide to make an impromptu run for the border, while being hunted by a bail bondsman chasing his money.This sounds like an entirely different story, and a more interesting one at that. If James and Derek are best friends who end up living as fugitives in Mexico, if that's what this book is about, then I think that relationship and the resulting conflicts need to be presented up front and with more clarity.

HEADING SOUTH, complete at 81,500 words, is a work of contemporary literary fiction that explores family relationships, friendship and loss. Although this is my first fictional work, I have authored several academic articles for scholarly journals, field guides, and academic publications. Thank you for your time and consideration.

The formatting made this difficult to read, and the punctuation errors were a big turn-off as well. Those things count, IMO, and you don't want to prejudice an agent right off the bat. I think you probably have a good story here somewhere, but you need to work on presenting it as consisely as possible for the query.

gilesth
Posts: 149
Joined: December 7th, 2009, 2:54 pm
Location: Denver, CO
Contact:

Re: Query for Debut novel

Post by gilesth » December 8th, 2009, 7:52 am

For the first paragraph, I agree with Jude. It's almost scientific, and while it might work in the book, it feels long-winded here.

Overall, it sounds like you have a fascinating book, but once I hit the third paragraph, it sounded like you lost momentum and energy.

One of the hardest things I've had to figure out with my queries is what information to put in and what to leave out. Here's what I learned: put in the MOST important aspects of the plot, the protagonist(s)'s greatest motivation to act the way they do, and then try to fit those into two to five sentences. If it helps, try writing a three page synopsis, first (which I recommend, anyway - a lot of agents require a synopsis to be included with your query).

Anyway, feel free to take my advice with a grain of salt. I hope it helps :)

taymalin
Posts: 9
Joined: December 7th, 2009, 9:56 pm
Location: Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada
Contact:

Re: Query for Debut novel

Post by taymalin » December 8th, 2009, 8:20 am

Hi Cameron! I really like the premise for your story, and I think that with a little work you will have a solid query letter that will garner response.
[quote="casnow"]

It’s called the fight or flight instinct, but in reality it is a probability analysis made from thousands of pieces of data that occurs over the course of seconds, hours, or days. The analysis changes and evolves with the situation and the severity of the outcome – the result determines who we are.

I agree with the previous comment that the first paragraph is superfluous. The most interesting things about a book, imo, are the characters and the challenges they are facing. I would start with the introduction of Derek. Actually, I just reread the rest of the query, and I would start with your hook instead of the description of why Derek and James are running. The fact that they're running for the border is more likely to grab interest than someone being left some money. Or at least it was the part that grabbed my interest and gave me something to imagine.

I found the switch from Derek to James jarring. It might be easier on the reader if you mention that there are two protagonists right from the beginning (eg. Best friends Derek and James are making a run for the Mexican border. Pursued by a ruthless bondsman, etc.)

I'm a bit unsure about what the main conflict is in the story. I can't tell if the story is about the trip to the border, or the events leading to the decision. In either case, I think that the paragraph outlining Derek's problems could be shortened and made more effective. (eg. When Derek's grandfather dies and leaves him a large inheritance, he uncovers his grandfather's dirty little secret: a mistress and the three illegitimate children she bore him. Now his grandfather's secret family are suing Derek for their share of the inheritance money. There's just one small problem: Derek's family has already spent the money.)

I hope I helped. Good luck with this project. It sounds like it will be a great read!

Therapist_Writer
Posts: 7
Joined: December 8th, 2009, 9:25 am
Contact:

Re: Query for Debut novel

Post by Therapist_Writer » December 8th, 2009, 9:46 am

Dear ---,

It’s called the fight or flight instinct, but in reality it is a probability analysis made from thousands of pieces of data that occurs over the course of seconds, hours, or days. The analysis changes and evolves with the situation and the severity of the outcome – the result determines who we are. It's unanimous. This paragraph, while interesting, is too academic for a hook.
Derek Janson’s world is shaken when his grandfather dies and leaves him an inheritance of several million dollars-- far more than anyone imagined he had. Trying to ease the tensions created by the inheritance he gives much of the estate to his aunt, uncle, and mother to bring them together; money that they all desperately need.
Derek also received his grandfather’s journals, which documented his life: his first kiss, his first love, and a mistress he never spoke of. The more Derek reads the more he struggles to reconcile his childhood memories with the life he is reading about. When the children Derek’s grandfather had with his mistress sue him for the inheritance Derek finds himself facing massive debt as his family has already spent the money he gave them. I think this whole paragraph can be shortened to something like, "When Derek discovers his grandfather's illigitimate children are suing him. . . etc. (But I also wonder what good would it do for them to sue Derek if he indeed was the specified inheritor.
James Cohen feels like he is being railroaded into a guilty verdict by a district attorney with political aspirations and a tough-on-crime judge after accidentally killing a girl while driving home late one night. Feeling trapped by a ruthless bail bondsman and drowning in guilt over the girl’s death, James sees no way out. Facing seemingly inescapable legal problems and disappearing options, the two best friends decide to make an impromptu run for the border, while being hunted by a bail bondsman chasing his money. I had no idea where this was going and had to read it several times. It wasn't until the last sentance of this paragraph that I realized the REAL point of your story is the friends border run. Which means everything about Derek's inheritance is backstory. Very confusing. And if the run to the border is the main point, I realize after reading the whole query that I know very little about it.
HEADING SOUTH, complete at 81,500 words, is a work of contemporary literary fiction that explores family relationships, friendship and loss. Although this is my first fictional work, I have authored several academic articles for scholarly journals, field guides, and academic publications. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

Cameron A. Snow[/quote]
Once this query gets restructured, I think you will have a good shot. It's a very interesting premise. Good luck!! Donna Glaser[/color]

casnow
Posts: 159
Joined: December 7th, 2009, 1:51 pm
Location: Cairo, Egypt
Contact:

Re: Query for Debut novel

Post by casnow » December 8th, 2009, 10:22 am

Thank you all so much for the quick feedback - I'm going to try and do some edits tonight and post an updated version of it in this post.
I had a second version of the query that was just like the first, but minus the opening paragraph - i sent out 10 queries with it, 10 without it to test, and surprisingly I got 3 requests for partials with the ones that had it... maybe they requested b/c of the underlying material and looked through my overly gimmicky start.

Sadly, I'm in love with the semi-colon - I use them way too often in my writing, which is a hangover from academic writing.

Thanks much and keep the feedback coming!

Cam

casnow
Posts: 159
Joined: December 7th, 2009, 1:51 pm
Location: Cairo, Egypt
Contact:

Re: Query for Debut novel

Post by casnow » December 8th, 2009, 11:23 am

HERE IS AN UPDATED VERSION OF THE QUERY - Thank you all for your feedback!

Dear ---,

Facing seemingly inescapable legal problems and disappearing options two best friends, James Cohen and Derek Janson, have to decide between fighting for their future and running for their freedom.

After accidentally killing a girl while driving home late one night, James Cohen feels like he is being railroaded into a guilty verdict by a district attorney with political aspirations and a tough-on-crime judge. Feeling trapped by a ruthless bail bondsman and drowning in guilt over the girl’s death, James sees his life slipping away from him.

Derek Janson’s world is shaken when his grandfather dies and leaves him an inheritance of several million dollars – far more than anyone imagined he had. To ease tensions created by the inheritance, he gives much of it to his family who waste no time spending it. While reading his grandfather’s journals Derek discovers a mistress and three illegitimate children who claim to have a copy of the will naming them as the heirs to his grandfather’s fortune. Willing to do anything to get the inheritance they sue Derek for the money - unfortunately for Derek, it’s money he no longer has.

HEADING SOUTH, complete at 81,500 words, is a work of contemporary literary fiction that explores family relationships, friendship, and loss. Although this is my first fictional work, I have authored several academic articles for scholarly journals, field guides, and academic publications. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

Cameron A. Snow
[contact info here]

p.s. - I can't figure out how to put "tabs" in these boxes, so I put an extra space in between the lines to make it easier to see paragraph breaks.

Jude Hardin
Posts: 13
Joined: December 7th, 2009, 5:05 pm
Contact:

Re: Query for Debut novel

Post by Jude Hardin » December 8th, 2009, 11:57 am

casnow wrote:HERE IS AN UPDATED VERSION OF THE QUERY - Thank you all for your feedback!

Dear ---,

Facing seemingly inescapable legal problems and disappearing options, best friends Derek and James have to decide between fighting for their futures and running for their lives.

After accidentally killing a girl while driving home late one night, James Cohen feels like he is being railroaded into a guilty verdict by a district attorney with political aspirations and a tough-on-crime judge. Feeling trapped by a ruthless bail bondsman and drowning in guilt over the girl’s death, James sees his life slipping awayperiod.

Derek Janson’s world is shaken when his grandfather dies and leaves him an inheritance of several million dollars – far more than anyone imagined he had. To ease tensions created by the inheritance, he gives much of it to his family who waste no time spending it. While reading his grandfather’s journals Derek discovers a mistress and three illegitimate children who claim to have a copy of the will naming them as the heirs to his grandfather’s fortune. Willing to do anything to get the inheritance they sue Derek for the money - unfortunately for Derek, it’s money he no longer has.Edit this graf down to three lines like the one about James, and then write another graf tying the two together again. This is looking a lot better. Keep working on it!

HEADING SOUTH, complete at 81,500 words, is a work of contemporary literary fiction that explores family relationships, friendship, and loss. Although this is my first fictional work, I have authored several academic articles for scholarly journals, field guides, and academic publications. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

Cameron A. Snow
[contact info here]

p.s. - I can't figure out how to put "tabs" in these boxes, so I put an extra space in between the lines to make it easier to see paragraph breaks.

Krista G.
Posts: 192
Joined: December 7th, 2009, 4:47 pm
Contact:

Re: Query for Debut novel

Post by Krista G. » December 8th, 2009, 6:05 pm

Having not read the previous version, I have a few questions. First off, I don't see how James's and Derek's stories overlap. Are they running off together? And is it merely coincidental that they decide to run away at the same time?

Secondly, how does Derek lose all this money? I didn't make the leap in logic that would explain how Derek lost it.

A few smaller nitpicks: You might try rounding your word count to the nearest thousand; anything else screams amateur. Also, in the sentence "HEADING SOUTH, complete at 81,500 words, is a work of contemporary literary fiction that explores family relationships, friendship, and loss," I'd scrap everything after the word "fiction." The summary makes it clear that the book will explore family relationships, friendship, and loss; you don't need to tell us. Finally, you mentioned in your P.S. that you added extra spaces between the paragraphs because you couldn't figure out the tabs - THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT YOU SHOULD DO WITH YOUR QUERY, ANYWAY. Format it like a business letter - no tabs needed.

Good luck with this.
Author of THE REGENERATED MAN (G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers, Winter 2015)
Represented by Kate Schafer Testerman of kt literary
www.motherwrite.blogspot.com

J.Jessamyn
Posts: 27
Joined: December 7th, 2009, 5:06 pm
Location: Southern Tier of New York
Contact:

Re: Query for Debut novel

Post by J.Jessamyn » December 8th, 2009, 7:06 pm

I'm far from an expert, but here's what made me rather confused about the "after" query (it was better, though, bravo!):

-the main conflict of the plot still isn't clear: is it their individual struggles, or their escape afterward? It strikes me that their separate trials are, but I can't know if that's the case without having read the actual book.

-agree about making the paragraph about Derek shorter. Can say something along the lines of "Derek discovers that his late grandfather left behind a secret illegitimate family that is now suing him for his inheritance - all of which has already been spent by the rest of Derek's family." That may be a poor sentence, but I'm just trying to illustrate how to compress the information together.

-and there really should be something bringing their stories back together again to conclude the "plot" section of the query. Even a simple sentence mentioning that their decision - that you eluded to in the opening line - is to run south. Otherwise, the format still gives the illusion that these two stories have nothing to do with each other.

Hope this helps, even a little. ;-)
~J. Jessamyn~

User avatar
Lorelei Armstrong
Posts: 65
Joined: December 7th, 2009, 5:42 pm
Location: Kauai, Hawaii
Contact:

Re: Query for Debut novel

Post by Lorelei Armstrong » December 8th, 2009, 7:12 pm

Be sure you consult an estate attorney and understand how inheritance works.

casnow
Posts: 159
Joined: December 7th, 2009, 1:51 pm
Location: Cairo, Egypt
Contact:

Re: Query for Debut novel

Post by casnow » December 9th, 2009, 12:03 am

Once again, thank you all for the help (especially Jude for the edits to make it more concise).

I agree with you all that the paragraph about Derek needs tweaking... his story is a long one, that has many subtle twists. It's equally about the image of a man he idolized (his grandfather) being destroyed by what he find out about him, and about how he gets this big inheritance ($4 million), gives 1/2 of it away (to family), and then gets sued by his grandfather's mistress and 3 illegitimate children; however, his family has already spent it and now he is on the hook for the two million he gave them (a crushing debt, their case against him is iron-clad, he realizes he'll never get out of that debt, etc... except wait! All the money he inherited was in offshore accounts, and now he has the option of being a millionaire on the run or to be trapped for life at home)

Whew, that took a while to spit out... so, that's what it's about. James's story is very much straightforward (he's trying to avoid prison)... Derek though, is tormented by finding out things he never wanted to know and essentially has to pay for his grandfather's sins.

Tough to make that come out in 3 sentences!

I'll re-post in a few days if I can smooth this out. (it's also made me realize that I need to print out the whole novel and go through and thoroughly edit it off the computer, b/c I know there are thins I should get rid of...

Thanks much,

Cam

Jude Hardin
Posts: 13
Joined: December 7th, 2009, 5:05 pm
Contact:

Re: Query for Debut novel

Post by Jude Hardin » December 9th, 2009, 8:55 am

Just remember that the main function of a query is to entice an agent to read the manuscript. Good luck!

casnow
Posts: 159
Joined: December 7th, 2009, 1:51 pm
Location: Cairo, Egypt
Contact:

Re: Query for Debut novel

Post by casnow » December 9th, 2009, 4:19 pm

Lorelei Armstrong wrote:Be sure you consult an estate attorney and understand how inheritance works.
Oh, I know how it works... the plot twist is this.

Derek gets a copy of the will from his gfather's attorney - gives him everything. His mistress has a previous version that is older; however, they make the case the he was not of sound mine when he made the new version. Hence, their copy is valid, and Derek's is not, b/c he was not able to reasonably make decisions for himself (well, duh, it's on page 178 of the text... didn't you read the whole novel?) :)

Trust me, I've got the plot thought through, it's just that there are a lot of subplots with this one character.

Thanks,

Cam

hartjohnson
Posts: 10
Joined: December 18th, 2009, 11:11 am
Contact:

Re: Query for Debut novel

Post by hartjohnson » December 18th, 2009, 11:36 am

I would agree that I'd like some summary of how the two story threads intertwine and why the two, facing such different obstacles, are debating throwing their fates into the same ring. It SEEMS the latter would be easier to fight (if there's no money left, there's no money--it's not HIS fault the wrong will was followed initially-is it?), so does he feel obliged to help his friend? I don't really understand the incentive for him to think he needs to run.

Edit: Aha! I see why challenged one post up--yes, into the query with that twist so readers don't argue with it... hard to sell something if people are arguing with the premise. STILL, I think wrongly dispursed funds that are partially used just aren't necessarily retrievable.

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 3 guests