Revised Query: Brotherly Love

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johnh27
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Revised Query: Brotherly Love

Post by johnh27 » May 10th, 2012, 5:52 pm

Thanks for the feedback. I've done a little more research and a lot of revision. Please let me know what you think.

John H

Subject: Query – Literary Fiction

When eighteen-year-old Will and sixteen-year-old Annie fall in love, there is a major complication – he is her adopted brother. BROTHERLY LOVE, my first novel, is complete at 90,000 words. The culture, events, and music of the Sixties are woven into the fiber of this character-driven story as it winds its way through the Kennedy – Nixon election, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Civil Rights movement, and the Kennedy assassination.

Will came to the Gunderson’s as a ten-year-old with a broken heart and a sizeable trust fund. His adoptive mother, Beth, tended to his emotional wounds while her husband, Reverend Gunderson, focused on the boy’s money and how to make a sizeable chunk of it his own. Little Annie Gunderson was delighted to have a big brother, but as the years passed, she and Will found themselves falling in love with each other. The prim Reverend Gunderson, horrified by the “inappropriateness” of the relationship, takes advantage of circumstances and attempts to separate Will from both Annie and his money. The tale moves toward its conclusion with Will in harms way in Viet Nam and Annie mired in a depression that calls for her to end it all.

I have queried you specifically because of your success in representing debut authors and your expertise in bringing literary fiction to the marketplace. Per your query guidelines, I have pasted in the first five pages for your review. Thanks so much for your time and consideration.


Original version
Dear Ms.

The girl and her adopted brother became best friends as children, fell in love as teenagers, and had their lives wrenched apart by unjust circumstances in the end. BROTHERLY LOVE is the story of one man’s greed, another man’s failure to save his son, and a young couple’s fight to live their dream. Set in the turbulent times of the Sixties, the culture, events, and music of the era are woven into the fiber of this family drama. Annie and Will’s story begins with a mother’s death and ends ten years later on a mountaintop in Viet Nam. Or does it?

The year is 1958 and Will’s dying mother brings him to her hometown with the hope that upon her impending death, her old friend Beth Gunderson and her husband, a minister, will adopt the ten-year-old boy. Reverend Gunderson initially opposes the idea, but relents when he learns of the sizeable trust funds in place for Will’s care and is soon bent on using the money to his own advantage. Eight-year-old Annie is delighted to have Will in the household and they grow up together nurtured by Beth’s love and amused and sometimes frustrated by Reverend Gunderson’s prim ways. Their platonic friendship turns to romantic love during Will’s senior year in high school and Reverend Gunderson is horrified by the “inappropriateness” of the relationship. When Will and Annie are wrongly arrested for drug possession, the Reverend takes advantage of the situation and attempts to separate Will from both Annie and his money. Will’s natural father, who has surreptitiously watched over the boy growing up, holds the key that could exonerate Will. Reverend Gunderson however threatens to ruin the man’s marriage and reputation by identifying him as Will’s father if he comes to the boy’s defense. He backs down allowing the Reverend to engineer a plea deal that clears Annie and lands Will in the Army.

BROTHERLY LOVE, my first novel, is complete at 90,000 words. It will appeal to a wide audience including readers of Richard Russo and Wally Lamb. It will also be attractive to the many people with nostalgic interest in the Sixties.

I’ve researched numerous agencies and feel that the editorial and marketing guidance you offer will provide me with the best chance of success. I'd be thrilled if you would consider BROTHERLY LOVE for representation. I've pasted in the first five pages for your review.
Last edited by johnh27 on June 15th, 2012, 11:45 am, edited 1 time in total.

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wilderness
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Re: Query: Brotherly Love

Post by wilderness » May 14th, 2012, 6:18 pm

johnh27 wrote:Would be very appreciative of feedback on this:

Dear Ms.

The girl and her adopted brother became best friends as children, fell in love as teenagers, and had their lives wrenched apart by unjust circumstances in the end. BROTHERLY LOVE is the story of one man’s greed, another man’s failure to save his son, and a young couple’s fight to live their dream. Set in the turbulent times of the Sixties, the culture, events, and music of the era are woven into the fiber of this family drama. Annie and Will’s story begins with a mother’s death and ends ten years later on a mountaintop in Viet Nam. Or does it?
You don't need this abstract summary -- it's not specific enough and reads a little like a movie trailer. Not quite the right format for a query.

The year is 1958 and Will’s dying mother brings him to her hometown with the hope that upon her impending death, her old friend Beth Gunderson and her husband, a minister, will adopt the ten-year-old boy. Reverend Gunderson initially opposes the idea, but relents when he learns of the sizeable trust funds in place for Will’s care and is soon bent on using the money to his own advantage. Eight-year-old Annie is delighted to have Will in the household and they grow up together nurtured by Beth’s love and amused and sometimes frustrated by Reverend Gunderson’s prim ways. This sentence feels a little awkard to me -- too many clauses. Simplify. Their platonic friendship turns to romantic love during Will’s senior year in high school and Reverend Gunderson is horrified by the “inappropriateness” of the relationship. When Will and Annie are wrongly arrested for drug possession, the Reverend takes advantage of the situation and attempts to separate Will from both Annie and his money. Will’s natural father, who has surreptitiously watched over the boy growing up, holds the key that could exonerate Will. Reverend Gunderson however threatens to ruin the man’s marriage and reputation by identifying him as Will’s father if he comes to the boy’s defense. He (who?) backs down allowing the Reverend to engineer a plea deal that clears Annie and lands Will in the Army. I don't understand what the plea deal is or why the Reverend is willing to make it. However, it is moot because I think you're giving away too much of the story. You don't need to tell us where Will ends up. Focus on the opening chapters, or at most the first 1/3 of the novel. Also, it's not clear to me who is the main character/protagonist? Is it Will? Then I think it's important to include something proactive he is doing. His father stepping in at the last second feels like a deus ex machina. Also you're not ending with a choice or conflict. Focusing may be hard to do because it sounds like you're going for a life story but for the purposes of the query focusing on a single conflict is probably for the best.

BROTHERLY LOVE, my first novel, is complete at 90,000 words. It will appeal to a wide audience including readers of Richard Russo and Wally Lamb. It will also be attractive to the many people with nostalgic interest in the Sixties. You can say it is in the vein of Richard Russo and Wally Lamb but I wouldn't use the words "it will appeal to". Also, you haven't included the genre.
I’ve researched numerous agencies and feel that the editorial and marketing guidance you offer will provide me with the best chance of success. That seems rather vague in terms of why you're querying. You don't need to include it. I'd be thrilled if you would consider BROTHERLY LOVE for representation. I've pasted in the first five pages for your review.
Good start, but you haven't made me like Will yet. I think getting him to be more of an active player would help. Hope that helps!

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GaoYuQing
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Re: Query: Brotherly Love

Post by GaoYuQing » May 15th, 2012, 9:31 am

johnh27 wrote:Would be very appreciative of feedback on this:

Dear Ms.

The girl and her adopted brother became best friends as children, fell in love as teenagers, and had their lives wrenched apart by unjust circumstances in the end. BROTHERLY LOVE is the story of one man’s greed, another man’s failure to save his son, and a young couple’s fight to live their dream. Set in the turbulent times of the Sixties, the culture, events, and music of the era are woven into the fiber of this family drama. Annie and Will’s story begins with a mother’s death and ends ten years later on a mountaintop in Viet Nam. Or does it?
This just feels like too much, and it's too dry. It feels like the abstract of a book report, and the final rhetorical question, coming from someone who has been chastized for using them before, just doesn't work.

The year is 1958 and Will’s dying mother brings him to her hometown with the hope that upon her impending death, her old friend Beth Gunderson and her husband, a minister, will adopt the ten-year-old boy. Reverend Gunderson initially opposes the idea, but relents when he learns of the sizeable trust funds in place for Will’s care and is soon bent on using the money to his own advantage. Eight-year-old Annie is delighted to have Will in the household and they grow up together nurtured by Beth’s love and amused and sometimes frustrated by Reverend Gunderson’s prim ways. Their platonic friendship turns to romantic love during Will’s senior year in high school and Reverend Gunderson is horrified by the “inappropriateness” of the relationship. When Will and Annie are wrongly arrested for drug possession, the Reverend takes advantage of the situation and attempts to separate Will from both Annie and his money. Will’s natural father, who has surreptitiously watched over the boy growing up, holds the key that could exonerate Will. Reverend Gunderson however threatens to ruin the man’s marriage and reputation by identifying him as Will’s father if he comes to the boy’s defense. He backs down allowing the Reverend to engineer a plea deal that clears Annie and lands Will in the Army.
Again this is too much, too dry, and too book-reportish. If Sheldon Cooper from Big Bang Theory wrote a summary of a book, this would be it. You've sketched the whole book out, the only reason why we would read the book now is to fill in the details. You need some kind of hook to make us care about your protagonist. Right now he is coming across as a chess piece.

BROTHERLY LOVE, my first novel, is complete at 90,000 words. It will appeal to a wide audience including readers of Richard Russo and Wally Lamb. It will also be attractive to the many people with nostalgic interest in the Sixties.
Subjectively speaking, this comes across as presumptuous. I'm pretty sure I've read query-writing posts that have said not to list comparisons like this. You also risk pigeon-holing yourself. Also, I've never read Russo and never heard of Lamb. What genre is this?

I’ve researched numerous agencies and feel that the editorial and marketing guidance you offer will provide me with the best chance of success. I'd be thrilled if you would consider BROTHERLY LOVE for representation. I've pasted in the first five pages for your review.
Warning: don't paste in the text of the story unless the agent or publisher asks for it. They'll give guidelines what they expect. If you don't follow them, that's an immediate turn-off that shows you didn't do your homework. Also, your first sentence makes it all about you. "I have researched the agencies and you'll work for me." What about how you might be good for them as well? You'll want to strike a balance between being presumptuous and arrogant ("I'll be a great asset for you, you'd be lucky to have me!") and too humble ("I'm not worthy to lick your shoes, but please deign to consider my unworthy manuscript"). Something to think about. Or/and, perhaps explain what facts in your research led you to your conclusion? Show you really did do your homework.
These are just some thoughts. I'm still working out my own query-writing skills, so this is all just subjective for the most part. Good luck!

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