Query: SHADOW ON THE HILL

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kansaswriter
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Query: SHADOW ON THE HILL

Post by kansaswriter » February 16th, 2010, 11:33 pm

Apparently, I was on a distant planet and didn't realize Nathan had added forums to his site until he mentioned it the other day! As a newbie, I'm not sure how much I can offer, but I promise I'll be as helpful as I can when it comes to feedback.

In the meanwhile, I would really appreciate getting a sense whether or not this query draft feels successful to you.

---------------

Dear Prospective Agent:

I offer for your consideration SHADOW ON THE HILL: The true story of the 1925 murder of Florence Knoblock and the library assistant who searched for her killer. This narrative non-fiction manuscript is approximately 75,000 words in length.

On Decoration Day in 1925, John Knoblock returned to his Kansas farm to find his wife slaughtered on the kitchen floor. Four different people were arrested. John Knoblock was arrested and tried twice before he was finally acquitted. The murder remained unsolved and nearly forgotten until 2007, when a mysterious folder of newspaper clippings appeared at the library where I work.

Frustrated to find a story with no end, I began my own investigation. What I discovered was a series of bizarre circumstances that turned an unfortunate murder into the lead story of the daily newspapers for nearly a year. A sheriff with no law enforcement experience. The disappearance of several key witnesses, including the coroner. A community leader with an unhealthy interest in the murder victim. A crime scene that was cleaned before it can be processed. Whispers of infidelity. And a key witness who held back crucial information out of fear for her family’s safety.

While SHADOW ON THE HILL is my first non-fiction work, I have been researching and writing the history of this area for a decade as the editor of two local college alumni publications and have helped others dig into local history in my capacity as a library assistant.

I look forward to hearing from you!

Sincerely,

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JustineDell
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Re: Query: SHADOW ON THE HILL

Post by JustineDell » February 17th, 2010, 8:20 am

kansaswriter wrote:
Dear Prospective Agent:

I offer for your consideration SHADOW ON THE HILL: The true story of the 1925 murder of Florence Knoblock and the library assistant who searched for her killer. This narrative non-fiction manuscript is approximately 75,000 words in length. Check with agents specifics, some like this a the beginning - some at the end.

On Decoration Day in 1925, John Knoblock returned to his Kansas farm to find his wife slaughtered on the kitchen floor. Four different people were arrested. John Knoblock was arrested and tried twice before he was finally acquitted. The murder remained unsolved and nearly forgotten until 2007, when a mysterious folder of newspaper clippings appeared at the library where I work. What's 'decoration day'? Were the other 3 people arrested tried or just let go?

Frustrated to find a story with no end, I began my own investigation. What I discovered was a series of bizarre circumstances that turned an unfortunate murder into the lead story of the daily newspapers for nearly a year. <-This sentence isn't powerful enough. It was big deal, right? Maybe it could say something like this: What I discovered about the murder dominated the daily newspapers for nearly a year. A sheriff with no law enforcement experience. The disappearance of several key witnesses, including the coroner. A community leader with an unhealthy interest in the murder victim. A crime scene that was cleaned before it can (could) be processed. Whispers of infidelity. And a key witness who held back crucial information out of fear for her family’s safety. Wow, I want to read this. You've totally hooked me with all the facts.

While SHADOW ON THE HILL is my first non-fiction work, (let out the first work part) I have been researching and writing the history of this area for a decade as the editor of two local college alumni publications and have helped others dig into local history in my capacity as a library assistant. This is good personal information regarding your writing expertise in this area.

I look forward to hearing from you!

Sincerely,
First, awesome real-life story. I NEED to know if you solved this case!!!!!! I'm a sucker for real-life murder mysteries.

I don't know anything about non-fiction queries/proposals, so I just plugged in my thoughts as a standard fiction writer. It may or may not help. I love the idea, love the way your put all the facts into that third paragraph and peeked my interest.

~JD

http://www.justine-dell.blogspot.com/

"Three things in life that, once gone, never return; Time, Words, & Opportunity"

CoachMT
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Re: Query: SHADOW ON THE HILL

Post by CoachMT » February 17th, 2010, 11:01 am

I'd do a search for some non-fiction query forms. To me, this is written as a fiction query — a fascinating one to be sure — but I think the form and tone might be confusing to an agent. Is it non-fiction? or a detective/mystery?

CC13
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Re: Query: SHADOW ON THE HILL

Post by CC13 » February 17th, 2010, 12:32 pm

I'm not an expert on non-fiction queries either, but Justine got all the things I was planning on saying. Sorry I can't be of no further help.

However, I'm thinking for nonfiction, it isn't a query exactly, but a proposal, right? Here is a link to something Nathan blogged about concerning nonfiction proposals:

http://blog.nathanbransford.com/2007/02 ... posal.html

I hope this helps.

kansaswriter
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Re: Query: SHADOW ON THE HILL

Post by kansaswriter » February 17th, 2010, 12:37 pm

I've been waffling on the query method. I follow several agent blogs, and they all say that narrative non-fiction should be treated like fiction when querying. Some blogs say narrative non-fiction is exclusively memoir; others say that it's anything written in a novel-like format.

What do you think?

CC13
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Re: Query: SHADOW ON THE HILL

Post by CC13 » February 17th, 2010, 1:09 pm

I think you probably know way more about it than I, I've never dabbled in any sort of nonfiction. Personally, I like your query (other than the notes that have already been voiced). I checked another blog, BookEnds, specifically this link: http://bookendslitagency.blogspot.com/2 ... ction.html

And someone asked in the comments (one of the very first ones) about narrative nonfiction, and Jessica did say exactly what you did, so I think you're on the right track.

kansaswriter
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Re: Query: SHADOW ON THE HILL

Post by kansaswriter » February 17th, 2010, 1:31 pm

Thanks for all of the replies!

And to answer one of the questions asked, Decoration Day was the predecessor to Memorial Day, and was always on May 30 regardless of what day of the week May 30 fell on. Since it's not clear, maybe I should just say 1925 and not worry about the Decoration Day part?

Lunetta22
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Re: Query: SHADOW ON THE HILL

Post by Lunetta22 » February 17th, 2010, 4:02 pm

Sounds interesting! I don't know much about non fiction proposals, but I would read this.

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JustineDell
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Re: Query: SHADOW ON THE HILL

Post by JustineDell » February 17th, 2010, 7:32 pm

kansaswriter wrote:Thanks for all of the replies!

And to answer one of the questions asked, Decoration Day was the predecessor to Memorial Day, and was always on May 30 regardless of what day of the week May 30 fell on. Since it's not clear, maybe I should just say 1925 and not worry about the Decoration Day part?
That's up to you. I didn't know what it was and I don't know how many other people will either. I'd be concerned that the agent wouldn't know either. If it's not too important, you could leave it out.

~JD

http://www.justine-dell.blogspot.com/

"Three things in life that, once gone, never return; Time, Words, & Opportunity"

cjtrapp
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Re: Query: SHADOW ON THE HILL

Post by cjtrapp » February 17th, 2010, 7:47 pm

I would leave Decoration Day, it adds color. Professional agents will do a quick search if they don't know and find the rest of the query interesting. Agents are a curious bunch, imo.

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