Query for "Problem Child: Confessions of an Aspie" (Take 3)

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Daryl_Blonder
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Query for "Problem Child: Confessions of an Aspie" (Take 3)

Post by Daryl_Blonder » May 26th, 2010, 10:24 pm

New version is post #11

This is the query for my project.

So far as I can see, this letter follows all the guidelines for queries, and it's been very disheartening to have been unable to kindle any interest in this project. I sent out two dozen queries in early April and am going to do another round in about a week or so. I want to make it the best it can be, so if anyone would be so kind as to give some pointers, it would be much appreciated.

****************************************************************

Dear Agent:

I have completed a full-length memoir of living with Asperger’s syndome, tentatively titled “Problem Child: Confessions of an Aspie.”

It is a passionate, intense, and heartfelt chronicle through the journey of my life . From the developmental issues I faced growing up, to the lost years of adolescence, through my years of working entry-level jobs, to my days of a successful career in the motion picture industry—my childhood dream come true—this is the story of how I have overcome the cognitive difficulties and social awkwardness, and resulting heartache and loneliness, that are universal traits of those living with Asperger’s syndrome.

There is clearly a viable marketplace for a work such as “Problem Child.” In recent years, books by actress Jenny McCarthy and baseball player Curt Schilling, whose children are autistic, have worked to draw public awareness to the condition. HBO recently produced the critically-acclaimed film “Temple Grandin,” a biopic of the world-renowned livestock researcher who has overcome the greatest challenges of autism and whose underlying genius has enabled her to become a pioneer in the field of animal behavioral studies. These works have been successful because people are fascinated with trying to understand this very complex condition in which the afflicted shares the feelings and emotions we all do, but is overwhelmed and confused by the complexities of humanity. But many of us do come to lead successful, productive lives, as have I. The story of my own success is a triumph over the greatest of adversities, and therefore, is a tale that even readers who are not on the autistic spectrum will identify with as they recognize in me the traits we all share: among many others, the desire to love and be loved, and the need for inner peace and spiritual fulfillment.

I have any or all of the completed memoir available for your review. I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,

Daryl Blonder
Last edited by Daryl_Blonder on June 1st, 2010, 5:54 pm, edited 4 times in total.

lachrymal
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Re: Query for "Problem Child: Confessions of an Aspie"

Post by lachrymal » May 26th, 2010, 11:01 pm

I don't know much about querying a memoir, so take my feedback with a grain of salt.

The biggest issue I have with your query is that not much of it is actually about you. Why should your memoir be published (compared with others')? What's interesting about your life? You have a very general (one sentence) overview, but almost no detail--and it's the details that will draw an agent in and make him/her want to see more. You're not giving the agent much to hold onto, apart from the fact that you have Asperger's. A triumph over adversity is compelling--but many people have written about that, so you must clearly and concisely convey to an agent why your life in particular is one people would want to read about. There are many, many books out there about living with an autism spectrum disorder (including memoirs--check Amazon), so you have to show the agent (rather than just tell the agent) how your life story is heartfelt and intense--and why it would sell well in a crowded marketplace.

Next, in terms of your writing, although most of them are grammatically correct, your sentences are incredibly long. At least two of them are over 60 words long. I suggest you shorten those by a third. Cut out all the extra words. Cut out all the cliches. Communicate just the essentials. The agent is going to be looking at your writing as much as your life story, so it has to be tight and neat. The length of the sentences makes them difficult to follow.

Best of luck to you. It sounds like you've got an important story to tell. Rewrite that query to show an agent know just how important it is!

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Re: Query for "Problem Child: Confessions of an Aspie"

Post by bigheadx » May 27th, 2010, 3:07 pm

This reader agrees with lachrymal's comments. Your personal experiences while growing up with this syndrome would be very powerful, but you have only described them in the most general terms: cognitive difficulties and social awkwardness.... I assume you have visited agent and agency websites/blogs to see how non-fiction queries should be structured. If not, that would be very useful. You appear to be hitting the topics I recall reading about, so now give the reader a sentence or two about how you triumph[ed] over the greatest of adversities. It might sound cold, but what makes your personal story more unique than any other Asperger syndrome patient's?
Good luck!!

Daryl_Blonder wrote:This is the query for my project.

So far as I can see, this letter follows all the guidelines for queries, and it's been very disheartening to have been unable to kindle any interest in this project. I sent out two dozen queries in early April and am going to do another round in about a week or so. I want to make it the best it can be, so if anyone would be so kind as to give some pointers, it would be much appreciated.

****************************************************************

Dear Agent:

I have completed a full-length memoir of living with Asperger’s syndome, tentatively titled “Problem Child: Confessions of an Aspie.”

It is a passionate, intense, and heartfelt chronicle through the journey of my life . From the developmental issues I faced growing up, to the lost years of adolescence, through my years of working entry-level jobs, to my days of a successful career in the motion picture industry—my childhood dream come true—this is the story of how I have overcome the cognitive difficulties and social awkwardness, and resulting heartache and loneliness, that are universal traits of those living with Asperger’s syndrome.

There is clearly a viable marketplace for a work such as “Problem Child.” In recent years, books by actress Jenny McCarthy and baseball player Curt Schilling, whose children are autistic, have worked to draw public awareness to the condition. HBO recently produced the critically-acclaimed film “Temple Grandin,” a biopic of the world-renowned livestock researcher who has overcome the greatest challenges of autism and whose underlying genius has enabled her to become a pioneer in the field of animal behavioral studies. These works have been successful because people are fascinated with trying to understand this very complex condition in which the afflicted shares the feelings and emotions we all do, but is overwhelmed and confused by the complexities of humanity. But many of us do come to lead successful, productive lives, as have I. The story of my own success is a triumph over the greatest of adversities, and therefore, is a tale that even readers who are not on the autistic spectrum will identify with as they recognize in me the traits we all share: among many others, the desire to love and be loved, and the need for inner peace and spiritual fulfillment.

I have any or all of the completed memoir available for your review. I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,

Daryl Blonder

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Bryan Russell/Ink
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Re: Query for "Problem Child: Confessions of an Aspie"

Post by Bryan Russell/Ink » May 27th, 2010, 3:40 pm

Remember, you query a memoir in the same way you query a novel (and not as you would normally query other non-fiction). So the focus here isn't to try and rationally explain the value of the story, but enact the story itself. The trick is to try and tell your life story in miniature. Think hook, conflict, rising action, climax and denouement. And think in terms of specifics. What are the events of your life that have shaped your story? The form and structure of your memoir should be able to provide the basic form for the query synopsis.

Best of luck,
Bryan
The Alchemy of Writing at www.alchemyofwriting.blogspot.com

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Re: Query for "Problem Child: Confessions of an Aspie"

Post by JadePhoenix » May 27th, 2010, 3:55 pm

As you mention in your query there are other books out there that deal with growing up with Autism so what sets yours apart from the others? Tim Page wrote "Parallel Play: Growing Up with Undiagnosed Asperger's" so there are definitely agents out there willing to take interest in such a project. Page wrote his book with the emphasis that his Asperger's was undiagnosed, that's the hook in his work and the angle from which he writes. I'm sure your book has a similar theme and hook, you just need to bring it out in the query letter so an agent reading it knows what sets it apart and makes it unique in the area of memoirs dealing with individuals who have Asperger's.

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Re: Query for "Problem Child: Confessions of an Aspie"

Post by cheekychook » May 27th, 2010, 4:41 pm

Your letter is well structured, informative and passionate; it's clear that you believe in both the significance of this memoir and its place in the market. I am not an agent, nor am I an experienced query writer, but I think the third paragraph is probably where you're losing the reader's interest. I'm sure you've thoroughly researched the agents that you've chosen to submit your queries to, and I'm certain that they are all quite familiar with the social relevance of your topic. Agents are usually very up-to-date on trends; they have to be. Instead of explaining why/how your work is important maybe it's better to just focus on the ways in which it is unique. It's a personal memoir, it's the story of you, that should be the focus of your query (in my very inexpert opinion). I think much of your letter should be left as is, but maybe consider the following changes to make it more concise and keep the focus on your story.

Dear Agent:

“Problem Child: Confessions of an Aspie" is an intense and heartfelt chronicle through the journey of my life . From the developmental issues I faced growing up, to the lost years of adolescence, through my years of working entry-level jobs, to my days of a successful career in the motion picture industry—my childhood dream come true—this is the story of how I have overcome the cognitive difficulties and social awkwardness, and resulting heartache and loneliness, that are universal traits of those living with Asperger’s syndrome.

This memoir is about triumph over the greatest of adversities, and therefore, is a tale that even readers who are not on the autistic spectrum will identify with as they recognize in me the traits we all share: among many others, the desire to love and be loved, and the need for inner peace and spiritual fulfillment.

Complete at xxx,xxx pages this manuscript available for your review. I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,

Daryl Blonder

Best of luck to you in finding an agent!
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Daryl_Blonder
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Re: Query for "Problem Child: Confessions of an Aspie"

Post by Daryl_Blonder » May 28th, 2010, 3:19 pm

Thank you, all, for your feedback, it's much appreciated. I'm going to make some major modifications. I'm going to more or less completely remove the third paragraph. My story very much has an intro, beginning, middle, and end (denouement, more accurately), so I will focus more on that.

The general feeling within the autistic community is that Tim Page's book is not very enlightening about the condition. It goes into little detail about how Asperger's really affected his life and the path it took, specifically his relationships. A lot of non-autistic readers feel this way as well judging by the reviews on Amazon.com. My memoir is different. How living on the spectrum has affected me is pervasive throughout the story, from my early childhood to the present day. I don't believe any of the memoirs out there even come close to this level of detail that is necessary if people are going to understand this extremely complex condition. A new memoir that does would be highly valuable in the marketplace. That's my hook, at least as I see it. The difficulty I have is conveying this message without coming across as too arrogant.

I have done my research on the agents I'm writing to, and although my previous letters were all pretty much the same, I'm going to take an even more individualistic approach this time. For example, one of the listings says that the agent is paricularly interested in "the downtrodden, the discouraged, and the downright disgusted." That fits me to a tee, so I'm going to mention that in my query to that agent for sure!

I'm pretty sure that once I've found an agent to work with, everything will flow, but it's taking this next step and getting to that point that's so hard for us writers!

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Re: Query for "Problem Child: Confessions of an Aspie"

Post by JadePhoenix » May 28th, 2010, 6:59 pm

Actually, your most recent post made me want to read your book more than your query letter. :) It shows exactly what your hook is, shows how your work is different from other works, shows the passion you feel for it, and sounds confident and not the least bit arrogant. While your query letter stated the work was passioniate the post you did SHOWED the passion you have for the project. You might be able to take that post and work it into a query. You could even keep in the part about Tim Page (or you could leave out his name and just refer to other works) and say something like, "Unlike other works that focus primarily on...my work takes the unique approach of...".

Anyway, I'm no expert of course but, for what it's worth, I liked your last post and think you could easily change it from a post into a query letter. It's up to you of course, it is your query after all! Good luck! :)

Daryl_Blonder
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REVISED Query for "Problem Child"

Post by Daryl_Blonder » May 30th, 2010, 7:23 pm

So here is my new query letter... I was surprised by how much I changed, but I think it's way better.

****************************************************************************************************************************************

Dear Agent:

I have completed a full-length memoir recollecting my life with Asperger’s syndome, tentatively titled “Problem Child: Confessions of an Aspie.”

The story chronicles my life from birth to adulthood. Born in 1981, I am the only child from a stable, two-parent family. I did not speak until I was four years old, but when I did, the sentences were long and eloquent, even though I still couldn’t learn how to zip up my jacket or tie my shoes. I was intensely fascinated with road atlases, collecting them and memorizing them down to the finest detail. In elementary school, I was a precocious student, but puberty introduced profound challenges, and my adolescence was lost and confused, my formerly excellent grades plummeting to Ds and Fs. I found the environment of academia counterproductive to my inner peace, so after high school, I worked in a fast-food restaurant instead of attending college. I was determined to enter show business, which I had identified as an interesting and exciting career that did not require a college diploma. After several bit parts in films and television shows, in 2006, I landed a principal acting role on an ESPN miniseries. Since then I have had a fulfilling and lucrative career as cast and crew on large-budget movie productions: my childhood dream come true against tremendous odds.

Current trends show that the public has great interest in autism. Two memoirs by authors living on the spectrum have been published in recent years: “Look Me in the Eye” by John Elder Robison and “Parallel Play” by Tim Page. However, neither of these works truly detail how Asperger's really affected the authors’ lives; specifically, their interpersonal relationships—that crucial element of humanity that people with Asperger’s struggle with intensely. How living on the spectrum has affected me is pervasive throughout my entire story. A new memoir that specifially relates all crucial life’s events to the presence of high-functioning autism would be highly valuable in the marketplace.

I have any or all of the completed memoir available for your review. I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,

Daryl Blonder

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Quill
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Re: Query for "Problem Child: Confessions of an Aspie"

Post by Quill » May 30th, 2010, 7:50 pm

That's worlds better, or at least more commercial, which is what you want.

Couple of suggestions:

1. Break the big paragraph into two. It's too big.

2. Strengthen the hook, that is, the problem or conflict in the story. Right now it seems a little to pat. What was the biggest obstacle to achieving your dream? Well, probably the Asperger's, though I'm not sure it fully shows in your query.

Daryl_Blonder
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Query for "Problem Child: Confessions of an Aspie" (Revision

Post by Daryl_Blonder » June 1st, 2010, 5:45 pm

Thank you Quill, I have modified per your suggestions. The large paragraph was broken up and some detail added; the rest is the same. I think both the revised query and this (hopefully final) version are effective, but of course I'm not a great judge of this, I'm quite the newbie... Will probably send the second version to some agents and the third to others...Daryl Blonder At any rate, I welcome further critique.

********************************************************************

Dear Agent:

I have completed a full-length memoir recollecting my life with Asperger’s syndrome, tentatively titled “Problem Child: Confessions of an Aspie.”

The story chronicles my life from birth to adulthood. Born in 1981, I am the only child from a stable, two-parent family. I did not speak until I was four years old, but when I did, the sentences were long and eloquent, even though I still couldn’t learn how to zip up my jacket or tie my shoes. I was intensely fascinated with road atlases, collecting them and memorizing them down to the finest detail. In elementary school, I was a precocious student, but puberty introduced profound challenges. I had extreme difficulty comprehending the dynamics of social interaction that are natural for most people, and my parents were no longer there to guide me. Unable to relate to my peers, my self-esteem suffered and my adolescence was lost and confused.

In high school, my formerly excellent grades plummeted to Ds and Fs. I found the environment of academia counterproductive to my inner peace, so after high school, I worked in a fast-food restaurant instead of attending college. I was determined to enter show business, which I had identified as an interesting and exciting career that did not require a college diploma. As an adult, I gradually discovered my strengths and learned how to prevail over my cognitive difficulties, while enduring the seemingly insurmountable angst and sorrow of loneliness. After several bit parts in films and television shows, in 2006, I landed a principal acting role on an ESPN miniseries. Since then I have had a fulfilling and lucrative career as cast and crew on large-budget movie productions: my childhood dream come true against tremendous odds.

Current publishing trends show that the public has great interest in autism. Two memoirs by authors living on the spectrum have been published in recent years: “Look Me in the Eye” by John Elder Robison and “Parallel Play” by Tim Page. However, neither of these works truly detail how Asperger's really affected the authors’ lives; specifically, their interpersonal relationships—that crucial element of humanity that people with Asperger’s struggle with intensely. How living on the spectrum has affected me is pervasive throughout my entire story. A new memoir that specifically relates all crucial life’s events to the presence of high-functioning autism would be highly valuable in the marketplace.

I have any or all of the memoir available for your review. I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,
Daryl Blonder

Daryl_Blonder
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Re: Query for "Problem Child: Confessions of an Aspie" (Take 3)

Post by Daryl_Blonder » June 8th, 2010, 5:29 am

Well, I've spent days and days researching all the agents in the Writer's Digest that would be interested in this project, and I've customized my revised query for each and every one. I've got 75 different letters/emails, and plot outlines and excerpts, going out this week. Wish me luck fellow wordsmithers...

lachrymal
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Re: Query for "Problem Child: Confessions of an Aspie" (Take 3)

Post by lachrymal » June 8th, 2010, 5:35 am

Hi Daryl--rather than sending out so many queries all at once, how about sending out a few at a time and gauging the response, then revising according to those responses? If you send out everything in one go, you give yourself no opportunity to modify based on feedback. If you send out, say 10 at a time, you'll have more changes to improve as you go. Just a suggestion.

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