Query - "Annie and Will" - A Family Drama

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johnh27
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Query - "Annie and Will" - A Family Drama

Post by johnh27 » June 24th, 2011, 3:58 pm

Would really like to get feedback on my query letter. I'm new to the game and this is my first effort.

What happens when a sixteen-year-old girl and her eighteen-year-old adopted brother fall in love? "Annie and Will", a 106,000-word novel set in the 1960's, is a family drama that follows the Gunderson family and the relationship between Annie and Will from Will's arrival as a ten-year-old orphan to his shocking and heart wrenching departure.

Will's adoptive father, Reverend Carl Gunderson, is bent on utilizing Will's sizable trust fund to his own advantage while his natural father, Duke Callahan, is forced to maintain an arm-length's relationship with the boy in order to keep the truth from his wife, Kay. Over the eight years that Will is with the Gundersons, Annie's feelings for him evolve from big brother adoration to deep love. When Reverend Gunderson realizes what is happening between Annie and Will, he seizes a lurid opportunity to try to separate Will from both his money and Annie.

"Annie and Will" should appeal to a wide audience including readers of Richard Russo and Anna Quindlen. The culture, events and music of the Sixties are woven into the story, so this work will also be attractive to many Baby-Boomers.

While this is my first novel, I have been writing technical literature in the telecommunications and scientific domain for many years and am a recipient of the Bell Labs President's Award. Recently retired, I am enjoying my foray into the world of fiction and am currently at work on the sequel to "Annie and Will". I was heartened to see that your agency took a chance on John Verdon’s first novel, “Pick a Number”, and it has been a huge success. I’m hoping you’ll give “Annie and Will” a shot at seeing the light of day.

I'd be thrilled if you would consider "Annie and Will" for representation. Thanks very much, and hope to talk with you soon.

John Hopkins

glj
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Re: Query - "Annie and Will" - A Family Drama

Post by glj » June 24th, 2011, 6:43 pm

This has some weak spots, but it has some real strong areas, too. Comments and suggestions below.


What happens when a sixteen-year-old girl and her eighteen-year-old adopted brother fall in love? "Annie and Will", a 106,000-word novel set in the 1960's, is a family drama that follows the Gunderson family and the relationship between Annie and Will from Will's arrival as a ten-year-old orphan to his shocking and heart wrenching departure.
The title is typically in all caps.
The use of both "shocking" and "heart wrenching" is redundant. Plus, it is always better to make the reader FEEL it than for you the author to tell the reader what the emotional impact is to the characters.
Using a rhetorical question in a query is a dangerous technique. Few queries do it successfully. How do you know the reader won't insert something totally ridiculous or inappropriate? I did. My reaction was "They move to Arkansas, naturally." Granted, most agents won't be as twisted as me, but why take a chance? You have a very small space for making a great first impression, so don't waste it. You are going to tell us what happens in the query, after all.
Don't use this paragraph to tell us "this is the story of blah, blah, blah ..." You tell it below, so you are saying it twice, in essence. And in bland language here.


Will's adoptive father, Reverend Carl Gunderson, is bent on utilizing Will's sizable trust fund to his own advantage while his natural father, Duke Callahan, is forced to maintain an arm-length's relationship with the boy in order to keep the truth from his wife, Kay. Now this is a GREAT sentence! It is loaded with information and implicit conflict. This is the absolute heart of your query, and makes me very curious about what might happen. Over the eight years that Will is with the Gundersons, Annie's feelings for him evolve from big brother adoration to deep love. Then this sentence slips into a dry, after-the-fact historical tone, like what a voice-over in a soap opera would convey. When Reverend Gunderson realizes what is happening between Annie and Will, he seizes a lurid opportunity to try to separate Will from both his money and Annie. The wording "seizes a lurid opportunity" really bothers me. How does one seize a lurid opportunity? Reads as if you condensed it too much. I would suggest that you show us (in few words) how they fall in love. And how the reverend sabotages them (this is an opportunity to make the reader sympathetic to Will and Annie's plight).

"Annie and Will" should appeal to a wide audience including readers of Richard Russo and Anna Quindlen. The culture, events and music of the Sixties are woven into the story, so this work will also be attractive to many Baby-Boomers. The "should appeal" comes across as lacking confidence. I understand that you don't want to come across as arrogant, but maybe there is a better way to word it? Sorry, I don't have any suggestions.

While this is my first novel, I have been writing technical literature in the telecommunications and scientific domain for many years and am a recipient of the Bell Labs President's Award. Recently retired, I am enjoying my foray into the world of fiction and am currently at work on the sequel to "Annie and Will". I was heartened to see that your agency took a chance on John Verdon’s first novel, “Pick a Number”, and it has been a huge success. I’m hoping you’ll give “Annie and Will” a shot at seeing the light of day.

Please don't take this as being too critical. But agent advice generally seems to say that they want to know if you have any writing credits for fiction if you are selling a fiction manuscript. They don't care about non-fiction writing expertise. It is a completely different type of writing.
The second-to-last sentence above looks appropriate, but I would recommend dropping the rest and using the space to flesh out the story portion more.


I'd be thrilled if you would consider "Annie and Will" for representation. Thanks very much, and hope to talk with you soon.

This is easy to say and harder to do, but the query should be written in the tone of the story, and not a dry, impersonal, after-the-fact recitation of the main plot events. I say that after realizing that my current query does the same thing. I suspect that we are all unconsciously conditioned to write a query that way from being subjected to movie and TV teasers. But this is a different medium, and we can't rely on snippets of scenes to draw interest. I hope this helps.

johnh27
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Re: Query - "Annie and Will" - A Family Drama

Post by johnh27 » June 25th, 2011, 9:58 am

Thank you so much for the enlightening and comprehensive review. I appreciate the time you took and your insights. My next version will reflect many of your suggestions.

Sincerely,

John H

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Quill
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Re: Query - "Annie and Will" - A Family Drama

Post by Quill » June 25th, 2011, 11:43 am

John, hope you checked out the responses to the same version you posted on June 13, too!

L-live
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Re: Query - "Annie and Will" - A Family Drama

Post by L-live » June 25th, 2011, 1:38 pm

This is only my two cents, but it's typically better to not start with a question: "what happens when she falls in love with her adopted brother" ... Well, the reader would't know. There are a million answers to that.
Anyway that's just my opinion.

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