Query: Aussie needs international feedback

Share your blood sweat tears query for feedback and lend your hard-won expertise to others
User avatar
StayPositive
Posts: 20
Joined: February 14th, 2010, 10:19 am
Location: Europe
Contact:

Query: Aussie needs international feedback

Post by StayPositive » February 14th, 2010, 12:38 pm

UPDATE - HERE IS VERSION 6.5 - the latest and with huge thanks to Forum members

PLEASE SKIP OVER EARLIER VERSIONS

Dear [Agent Name],

I chose to submit to you because of your tastes in literary fiction and suspense, and because your blog is a consistent source of information and a pleasure to read.

Home-raid survivor Ella knows about pain and the horror of needing to kill. Six years later she faces an inner battle that could lead to redemption. Her former boss and lover, Grant, knows Ella shields great power and passion behind her easy-going façade, yet either quality could help Ella cooperate with or eliminate nine others in a new challenge, including Grant.

Following their teenage experiences - both terrific and terrible - the ten are pitted against each other in a most exacting arena - desire. Events in Australia, France, San Francisco and Prague bring the finalists together for an international showdown like no other. Life gave them bad knocks and now they have the opportunity to even the score.

Participation in the super-rich and exclusive contest could help all achieve fulfillment - even love - along with at least one million dollars. From Barbies to goths, playboys to hedonists and models to masochists, each challenge reveals deep strengths and weaknesses. How the five women and five men use their successes raise strong questions about right and wrong.

THE RED DIAMOND is a novel of passion that addresses a universal theme - nature or nurture. It is 98,000 words.

I have been a journalist, editor and publisher for 22 years in the magazine sector; webmaster and blogger for three years; and my right brain an aspiring novelist for ever.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

Brian .....
Last edited by StayPositive on March 19th, 2010, 9:00 am, edited 9 times in total.

User avatar
maybegenius
Posts: 349
Joined: December 7th, 2009, 4:49 pm
Location: Northern California
Contact:

Re: Query: Aussie needs international feedback

Post by maybegenius » February 14th, 2010, 1:15 pm

Hi Stay Positive, welcome to the forum :) Here are my thoughts:
StayPositive wrote:Hello XXX

The “one good novel inside me” didn’t rest. It demanded, took control, used my fingers for its own ends. Hoping your banned word perspective might consider it for appraisal. I would either reword this to something more standard (see some of the other queries in this section), or cut it. First, saying "one good novel" isn't something an agent/editor usually wants to hear - they want you as a career writer who will continue producing work, not as a one-shot. The second sentence doesn't do you many favors either - all writers feel connected to their work and as though it "demanded" itself be written. Keep it straightforward: you are a writer who has completed a _____ novel, and you would like this agent to represent it, presumably because they represent ______ work.

Personas and pretence are just the tip of the iceberg as modern, adult attitudes and activities crash into each other in unexpected ways after teenage experiences - both terrific and terrible - drive ten people to new levels of self-understanding and achievement in a most exacting arena - desire. (I'm not sure what's going on here. From what I can gather, ten people grow from adolescence to adulthood, and their teen experiences shape who they become? And they all desire one another? It's not clear.)

Ella’s journey to self-worth is linked with Grant’s, but will her powerful facade crumble on one of his tasks? Their private and public lives help and hinder when fate brings them back together in Moscow with eight other great pretenders - male and female - in a very public way. (Are Ella and Grant the main characters? If so, I'd focus on them. This is vague - it doesn't tell me what's going on, just that something happens "in a very public way.")

Huge success in a super-rich and exclusive subscriber-only contest could help all achieve fulfillment - even love - along with at least one million dollars. From Barbies to goths, playboys to hedonists and models to masochists, each challenge builds to many climaxes - in Australia and France, San Francisco and Prague - until the international showdown like no other. (So... this is like some sort of Amazing Race competition these ten people are participating in?)

If Ella wins a unique gold necklace the world becomes her oyster - she can then choose to be really good or even really bad with just a flick of yet another persona. (Wait... there's a competition, and the prize is a golden necklace? I thought it was a million dollars? And the bit about changing her persona... does she have a multiple personality disorder? Is she a spy?)

Part One: ‘chameleons’ meet, fight & separate with future hope.
First 5 main characters developed; Ella and Grant sections interwoven until their first meeting.
Part Two: ‘performers’ meet, participate & stay locked in dependencies.
Second 5 main characters developed; subplots of important secondary characters progressed.
Part Three: ‘strangers’ become actors, enablers & broadcasters in a surprise win-win.
Remaining relationships exposed; full contest revealed; winners’ revelations and choices.


(Cut the above. This reads like a mini-synopsis, and doesn't really fit into a query. It's also vague - you say "characters are developed," but you don't say how. Focus on revealing your story arc through the letter itself.)

Thank you for your time.

- Brian
(journalist, editor & publisher past 22 years; webmaster & blogger past 3 years) (Make this into its own paragraph above, not as an addendum to your signature)

... then full contact details
My biggest sticking point here is that you are overly vague, and at the end of it, I have very little idea about the plot of your story and what actually happens. I gathered that there are ten people, they compete against each other for a lot of money, there's something about desire, and not much else. You mention Ella and Grant by name, but I have no idea if you just brought them up as an example, or if they are the main characters of the story.

Is this one of those novels that is told from the viewpoint of ten different people? You may want to mention that. If it's told from the POV of one person, focus on them and their journey. Give us specifics. WHY are they participating in this competition? HOW do they grow and change?
aka S.E. Sinkhorn, or Steph

My Blog | My Twitter | YA!Flash Tumblr

Represented by Michelle Andelman of Regal Literary

User avatar
StayPositive
Posts: 20
Joined: February 14th, 2010, 10:19 am
Location: Europe
Contact:

Re: Query: Aussie needs international feedback

Post by StayPositive » February 14th, 2010, 2:39 pm

Thanks maybegenius

You highlight the big question of tone and emphasise an interesting contrast. There is an enormous difference in pace in movies today - like 5 times faster than 20 years ago - and mostly huge on action and plot rather than character development. Your critique suggests everything needs to be up-front, explicit, raw.

However your are correct about the first paragraph: From what I can gather, ten people grow from adolescence to adulthood, and their teen experiences shape who they become? And they all desire one another? So do I need to make it more wordy?

Ella and Grant are the two main characters in terms of plot ("when fate brings them back together in Moscow") although the other eight characters are very significant as their back-stories (and contact points and familes) are revealed.

Perhaps the third paragraph does need to be more explicit because it hints at the contest (super-rich, personas, climaxes in exotic locations) and so it is nothing like Amazing Race. But to call it a sexual Olympics would be sensationalism. (For example, Cirque du Soleil is beautiful and passionate and extravagant, but brimming with skill and control - it is so much more than a traditional circus.) So although the contest is a highlight of the story - unrestrained and lavish - the how and why of the characters is far more important.

Yes the unique gold necklace unlocks many more doors than a million dollars. And yes, Ella and Grant are revealed to have more than one alias.

Understand totally about removing the mini-synopsis.

Thanks again for taking the time to be so thorough.

- Brian

User avatar
maybegenius
Posts: 349
Joined: December 7th, 2009, 4:49 pm
Location: Northern California
Contact:

Re: Query: Aussie needs international feedback

Post by maybegenius » February 14th, 2010, 4:52 pm

Not a problem at all! I'm glad to help. Do keep in mind that I'm not an agent/editor, so I can't speak for them... I give my advice based on what I've read and absorbed as to what they say they want :)

Primarily, agents (American agents, that is) want the query to be a vehicle to sell them on your story. They want it to convey, clearly and concisely, the meat of your plot. It should focus on the overall story arc, and the actual forward momentum and action of the plot. WHO is the main character? WHAT is their dilemma? WHAT are the stakes? WHY do they need to do this? HOW will they do it?

I wouldn't necessarily make anything more wordy, but I would rework it to include more action and plot elements, rather than character development and back story. Queries are (in my understanding) something American agents tend to do more than agents in other countries, and because they tend to be so short (250-300 words is generally what I hear), it means writers usually have to cut right to the chase, so to speak.
aka S.E. Sinkhorn, or Steph

My Blog | My Twitter | YA!Flash Tumblr

Represented by Michelle Andelman of Regal Literary

astrogirl
Posts: 5
Joined: February 15th, 2010, 4:49 am
Contact:

Re: Query: Aussie needs international feedback

Post by astrogirl » February 15th, 2010, 4:59 am

Altho I like the overall impression, the opening sentence/paragraph is 'packing them in' but maybe 2 much.

Personas and pretence are just the tip of the iceberg as modern, adult attitudes and activities crash into each other in unexpected ways after teenage experiences - both terrific and terrible - drive ten people to new levels of self-understanding and achievement in a most exacting arena - desire.

Suggest splitting this and adding more detail:

Personas and pretence are just the tip of the iceberg as modern, adult attitudes and activities crash into each other in unexpected ways in Moscow. Following teenage experiences - both terrific and terrible - ten people achieve new levels of self-understanding in a most exacting arena - desire.

User avatar
StayPositive
Posts: 20
Joined: February 14th, 2010, 10:19 am
Location: Europe
Contact:

Re: Query: Aussie needs international feedback

Post by StayPositive » February 15th, 2010, 12:10 pm

Thanks for the comment Astrogirl - love the name by the way.

Although I know the Query needs to be clear and crisp - agents are busy and probably overloaded - there is a nagging thought that something needs to stand out. If 20 Queries arrive with similar clean styles, almost to a formula, what sets them apart?

Having heard the same problem with music - most indie bands sound much the same - am hoping my Query will not recede into the wallpaper.

Continuing the indie music style analogy: if an A&R person hears just 30 seconds each of 20 tracks, what will catch his ear? Nothing may stand out if the instruments are more or less the same in each (the way the plots are described) and the melodies similar (the words and style of presenting the Query).

What do others think?

User avatar
maybegenius
Posts: 349
Joined: December 7th, 2009, 4:49 pm
Location: Northern California
Contact:

Re: Query: Aussie needs international feedback

Post by maybegenius » February 15th, 2010, 2:04 pm

It's definitely a tall order to fill. Probably why queries are so notoriously difficult to write - they have to convey so much information, but still stand out and contain some element of your authorial voice. All in so few words!

At the end of it all, your voice is the most important thing, of course. You can use or cast away advice, but if it's not coming from you at the core, it probably won't read as authentic.
aka S.E. Sinkhorn, or Steph

My Blog | My Twitter | YA!Flash Tumblr

Represented by Michelle Andelman of Regal Literary

User avatar
StayPositive
Posts: 20
Joined: February 14th, 2010, 10:19 am
Location: Europe
Contact:

Re: Query: Aussie needs international feedback

Post by StayPositive » February 16th, 2010, 4:50 pm

Thanks again maybegenius. As there have been little other comment that could mean little interest (in the Query and/or the theme) or no other recommendations. So wonder if I should send the Query to 10 agents and see if there is response. Even negative data is better than no data at all - lol.

bcomet
Posts: 588
Joined: January 23rd, 2010, 2:11 pm
Contact:

Re: Query: Aussie needs international feedback

Post by bcomet » February 16th, 2010, 5:53 pm

StayPositive wrote:Thanks again maybegenius. As there have been little other comment that could mean little interest (in the Query and/or the theme) or no other recommendations. So wonder if I should send the Query to 10 agents and see if there is response. Even negative data is better than no data at all - lol.
Hi Stay Positive!
I think you have been working quite earnestly with your theme.
I personally love themes in novels and find them quite interesting material. They are a very intellectual place to hang out and may even be the inspiration of a novel, and it is obvious that you are passionate about the themes in your book.
Still, I am not sure that is what a Western Query letter is all about.

A query letter, I believe, needs to focus primarily on the story's ACTION (internal or external).
(And if you still feel it's that important to put in something about the theme, I would keep it to a paragraph. Some people would argue against putting in even that, but you are the writer and you have to decide.)

There are some wonderful and clarifying posts on Nathan's main site about query letters. This is a good one:

http://blog.nathanbransford.com/2008/03 ... d-lib.html

My thoughts for you: Read Nathan's blogpost suggestions above. Play around with an ACTION oriented letter and then post it here first.
There seem to be a lot of really helpful, well informed folks here that can give you feedback on shaping it up if it needs it too.

I hope this is helpful.

You certainly made my day last weekend with your so positive remarks my way. :-D

Kindest regards,
bcomet

Yoshima
Posts: 93
Joined: January 3rd, 2010, 4:34 pm
Contact:

Re: Query: Aussie needs international feedback

Post by Yoshima » February 18th, 2010, 4:17 pm

Hey StayPositive! Thanks for your feedback on my query conundrum. I hope my comments will be helpful to you. :)
StayPositive wrote:Having read through many entries on these forums, plus other "agent help" blogs referenced here, I have rewritten a Query in a style I hope is more Northern Hemisphere. Although I have lived in California briefly and Europe for a number of years, my direct and laid-back Oz style was strongly formed in my teens and twenties - and seems to inform my writing style. Here, then, is version 3 - and I hope 'properly' mid-Atlantic :)

----------------------------
Hello XXX

The “one good novel inside me” didn’t rest. It demanded, took control, used my fingers for its own ends. Hoping your banned word perspective might consider it for appraisal. (This really doesn't say anything about your book. Cut.)

Personas and pretence (pretense?) are just the tip of the iceberg as modern, (no comma) adult attitudes and activities crash into each other in unexpected ways after teenage experiences - both terrific and terrible - drive ten people to new levels of self-understanding and achievement in a most exacting arena - desire. (Whew, that was a long one. Consider splitting it into two sentences to avoid reader skimming.)

Ella’s journey to self-worth is linked with Grant’s, but will her powerful facade crumble on one of his tasks? (I think this rhetorical Q doesn't help you much; it makes me think 'just tell me the darn answer already.') Their private and public lives help and hinder (hinder what? each other? This type of verb (transitive, I think) needs a direct object in order to make sense) when fate brings them back together in Moscow with eight other great pretenders - male and female - in a very public way. (I feel like you're dancing around the point. Dancing beautifully, of course, but agents don't have time for dancing. Tell them what happens.)

Huge success in a super-rich and exclusive subscriber-only contest could help all achieve fulfillment - even love - along with at least one million dollars. From Barbies to goths, playboys to hedonists (comma) and models to masochists, each challenge builds to many climaxes - in Australia and France, San Francisco and Prague - until the international showdown like no other.

If Ella wins a unique gold necklace the world becomes her oyster - she can then choose to be really good or even really bad with just a flick of yet another persona. (I really enjoy your writing style, I just have no idea what happens in your book. It's like event soup right now. Like this gold necklace thing--when did that come about? Before you just said there was an international showdown (and I'm not sure what that entails...). I know you've got a ton of characters to play with, and I'm not sure how you should go about translating that into a query, but I'd say focus on the one that is in all parts of the plot and use that to get your plot points across. If you don't have one character like that, then...I'm sorry, but I'm not sure what to advise. I'm not an expert on queries, and even less an expert on literary fiction (which is what I'm guessing yours is...maybe mention your genre somewhere?), so please feel free to ignore me.)

Part One: ‘chameleons’ meet, fight & separate with future hope.
First 5 main characters developed; Ella and Grant sections interwoven until their first meeting.
Part Two: ‘performers’ meet, participate & stay locked in dependencies.
Second 5 main characters developed; subplots of important secondary characters progressed.
Part Three: ‘strangers’ become actors, enablers & broadcasters in a surprise win-win.
Remaining relationships exposed; full contest revealed; winners’ revelations and choices.

(I'm not positive, but I don't think the above belongs in your query. It sounds synopsis-y to me.)

Thank you for your time.

- Brian
(journalist, editor & publisher past 22 years; webmaster & blogger past 3 years) (Sweet creds!! :) )

... then full contact details

jordynface
Posts: 31
Joined: February 19th, 2010, 5:41 pm
Contact:

Re: Query: Aussie needs international feedback

Post by jordynface » February 19th, 2010, 10:43 pm

Some thoughts/suggestions.

1. Cut the first paragraph.
2. Look at how vague your query is -- choose one or two main characters to focus on (Ella and Grant, I'm guessing) and focus on their character development & journeys. Your query seems to be very abstract; it needs to be more concrete. Use specific examples, get into the plot of your novel instead of just the theme.
3. The "synopsis" near the end should be cut.
4. You might want to take your bio and make it its own paragraph instead of an addendum at the bottom.

Hope I've helped some.

User avatar
StayPositive
Posts: 20
Joined: February 14th, 2010, 10:19 am
Location: Europe
Contact:

Re: Query: Aussie needs international feedback

Post by StayPositive » February 22nd, 2010, 6:26 am

Hello again and here is version 4 - with huge thanks to maybegenius, Astrogirl, bcomet, Yoshima and jordynface.

I also liked the idea of Nathan’s Query Template, so here goes:

Dear Nathan,

I chose to submit to you because of your tastes in literary fiction and suspense, and because your blog is a consistent source of information and a pleasure to read.

Personas and pretence are just the tip of the iceberg as modern adult attitudes and activities crash into each other in unexpected ways in Moscow. Following teenage experiences - both terrific and terrible - ten people achieve new levels of self-understanding in a most exacting arena - desire.

Ella’s journey to self-worth is linked with Grant’s new, exclusive and unique challenge. Ella holds both power and pain behind her facade and either could help her cooperate with or eliminate the nine other great pretenders.

Huge success in a super-rich and exclusive subscriber-only contest could help all achieve fulfillment - even love - along with at least one million dollars. From Barbies to goths, playboys to hedonists, and models to masochists, each challenge reveals deep strengths and weaknesses. The events - in Australia and France, San Francisco and Prague - determine the finalists for an international showdown like no other.

THE RED DIAMOND is a novel of passion and redemption that addresses a universal theme - nature or nurture.

Thank you for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Best wishes,

Brian .....
(journalist, editor & publisher past 22 years; webmaster & blogger past 3 years)

astrogirl
Posts: 5
Joined: February 15th, 2010, 4:49 am
Contact:

Re: Query: Aussie needs international feedback

Post by astrogirl » February 23rd, 2010, 12:25 pm

Version 4 reads stronger.

However I wonder if Ella's "power and pain" are the strongest hooks, so maybe they should be mentioned earlier.

What do others think?

GeeGee55
Posts: 173
Joined: February 19th, 2010, 11:01 pm
Contact:

Re: Query: Aussie needs international feedback

Post by GeeGee55 » February 23rd, 2010, 1:05 pm

First, let me say, this does read better than the first. Second, this is the hardest thing in the world to do, isn't it? Third, your laid-back Aussie voice will make you unique, and that's a good thing.

Dear Nathan,

I chose to submit to you because of your tastes in literary fiction and suspense, and because your blog is a consistent source of information and a pleasure to read.

Personas and pretence are just the tip of the iceberg as modern adult attitudes and activities crash into each other in unexpected ways in Moscow. Following teenage experiences - both terrific and terrible - ten people achieve new levels of self-understanding in a most exacting arena - desire. (I think you are still missing the action. Ten people enroll in a contest of some sort and learn some things about themselves. Through what action that takes place in the story?)

Ella’s journey to self-worth is linked with Grant’s new, exclusive and unique challenge. (How is it linked, by what?) Ella holds both power and pain behind her facade (what facade? beauty? intellect?)and either could help her cooperate with or eliminate the nine other great pretenders. (why are they pretending? as all humans pretend to be something they aren't? That's not the action. Does she discover/confront her pain and power and cause others to confront theirs? How does that affect the choices she must make? And where does the desire come in?)

Huge success in a super-rich and exclusive subscriber-only contest could help all achieve fulfillment - even love - along with at least one million dollars. From Barbies to goths, playboys to hedonists, and models to masochists, each challenge reveals deep strengths and weaknesses. The events - in Australia and France, San Francisco and Prague - determine the finalists for an international showdown like no other.

THE RED DIAMOND Love the title is a novel of passion and redemption that addresses a universal theme - nature or nurture.

Thank you for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Best wishes,

Brian .....
(journalist, editor & publisher past 22 years; webmaster & blogger past 3 years) Make this into a sentence and put it in the above para

Please know that this is all just my opinion. Good luck.

User avatar
StayPositive
Posts: 20
Joined: February 14th, 2010, 10:19 am
Location: Europe
Contact:

Re: Query: Aussie needs international feedback

Post by StayPositive » February 24th, 2010, 10:04 am

Hello again and here is version 5 and this time I need to add GeeGee55 to the thank you list.

Dear Nathan,

I chose to submit to you because of your tastes in literary fiction and suspense, and because your blog is a consistent source of information and a pleasure to read.

Ella knows about pain and the horror of needing to kill. Ten years later she is in a new battle with Grant although this time the stakes are very different. Ella shields great power and passion behind her easy-going facade and either could help her cooperate with or eliminate nine other great pretenders.

Huge success in a super-rich and exclusive subscriber-only contest could help all achieve fulfillment - even love - along with at least one million dollars. From Barbies to goths, playboys to hedonists, and models to masochists, each challenge reveals deep strengths and weaknesses. The events - in Australia and France, San Francisco and Prague - determine the finalists for an international showdown like no other.

After their teenage experiences - both terrific and terrible - the five women and five men achieve new levels of self-understanding in a most exacting arena - desire.

THE RED DIAMOND is a novel of passion and redemption that addresses a universal theme - nature or nurture. I have been a journalist, editor & publisher for 22 years in the magazine sector; webmaster & blogger for 3 years; and my right brain an aspiring novelist for ever.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

Brian .....

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 13 guests