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  1. #1
    Senior Member Zoe Saadia's Avatar
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    Question Talking of customised query letters...

    I've encountered one, interestingly sounding agent, who doesn't want neither QL nor synopsis.
    To quote some of her submission guidelines: "For fiction, please feel free to include a sample of 25-30 pages of manuscript–consecutive pages, and numbered, please–with your query. It’s not necessary to describe the plot of your novel, or to include a synopsis (I seem to be alone in this regard among agents; I hate reading synopses). I’m more interested in a sentence or two about what kind of novel you’ve written... what themes it explores... and possible comparisons to other contemporary works..."

    So, I was wondering, if I've sent her something along these lines:
    "Dear <>,
    Following your guidelines, outlined on the <> I’m sending you this query letter accompanied by the first <> sample pages of the manuscript.
    It’s an historical novel, based on the pre-contact North American cultures, which I’ve been researching for more than ten years. The story describes a clash between the two very different civilizations.
    The chief warlord of Cahokia - a magnificent center of the Mississippian culture - is embroiled in a dangerous, political conspiracy. An attempt to escape the consequences brings him northwards, down the O-hi-o River and into the lands of the powerful League of the Iroquois, where his life takes an unexpected turn.
    Inspired by “Shogun” of James Clavell, I’ve attempted to describe a comparable clash between two prominent cultures, with a fairly open-minded man caught in the middle of it."


    Will it sound reasonable enough?
    Or, in spite of the seemingly required plainness, I should try to spice it up? Or just to send her, even a little modified, but still a regular, WN approved, QL?


    Ah, and another question
    She wants those 25-30 pages numbered...
    Does it mean she expects it to be sent as an attachment?
    Or is there a way to paginate pages in the email's body?

    Thank you all in advance!


    p.s. Is it showing I'm preparing for the rejection from that partial I've sent two weeks ago?
    Last edited by Zoe Saadia; 05-25-2011 at 11:00 AM.



  2. #2
    Senior Member
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    Normally, I'd advise against telling an agent that you're sending them a query (because they already know that) but in this case it might be appropriate because you're showing her (Aha! Another case of show don't tell!) that you've read her guidelines and are following them. The only quibble I have is that in going north, you're going up the Ohio River, not down. (Up is toward the headwaters, down is toward its mouth.)

  3. #3
    Senior Member Frank Baron's Avatar
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    Hi Zoe. Did you vet that agent? (What you intend to send her sounds okay to me, based on her guidelines.)

  4. #4
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    Hi Zoe,

    I don't think you've made it clear what your themes are. You say your story describes a clash of civilizations but you don't mention what they are clashing about, which I would assume is related to your theme.

    I also wouldn't use the phrase "the story describes" I don't think describes is the right word. The word dramatizes would be a better choice.

    You've researched this topic for more than ten years, but I don't sense the passion you have for this story in your query. If it were me, I'd try to inject it with some.

    Good luck,
    Simon

  5. #5
    Senior Member Zoe Saadia's Avatar
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    Joe, thank you!
    Of course, you are right! How could I send MC "down the river" (I think I got carried away by the nice sound of "going down the river") when for the first third of the MS they are sailing against the current all the time. Of course it's "up". Thank you!

    Frank, thank you!
    I checked their agency and it's sounds ok on the publisher-market-place and AW. She is not a member of AAR tho :-/... Can that be a problem?
    Thank you

    Thank you, Simon!
    I've re-read it and you are utterly correct. I explained the nature of the conflict in the "regular" query (as usual, fighting over lands and influences), but here I tried to be so brief, I forgot to mention it. I'll try to spice it up, without expanding too much. And, of course "dramatizes" fits perfectly. Thank you

  6. #6
    Senior Member Zoe Saadia's Avatar
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    Sorry, double posting

  7. #7
    Senior Member
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    >>>She is not a member of AAR tho :-/... Can that be a problem?

    That isn't necessarily a problem. Not all good agents are members, including mine, but they still abide by the AAR standards. It's more important for you to research them.

  8. #8
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    Zoe,

    On researching agents, the first and most important thing is whether the agent is selling lots of books for decent money not whether they're AAR or listed in guides. I'd track that before anything else.

    On your Q, I thought it could use a stronger focus and it felt a bit wordy. For example, the way you're structured this you have to say all this:

    pre-contact North American cultures
    a clash between the two very different civilizations.
    Cahokia - a magnificent center of the Mississippian culture
    powerful League of the Iroquois
    comparable clash between two prominent cultures

    You also got wordy with having to include all this:

    Itís an historical novel
    The story describes
    Iíve attempted to describe

    That's too many references to the book and the author rather than the story.

    I can't remember if you've said previously, but was this clash part of what let to the destruction of the Cahokia? Why this once great culture wasn't around at contact times? If so, I'd play with using that as the opening focus. Although it may not be the focus of your story, it could be an effective way to relate the reader to your story.

    For me, this line, "where his life takes an unexpected turn," is just too vague. It's your last plot summary line and it just doesn't say much in my opinion. Our lives are always taking unexpected turns right? That's life.

    Because this agent doesn't want much, I'd do just a couple of lines about the book. One of them with a sense of the sweep of history and one that narrows that to this one guy. Don't forget the title and word count.

    Hope something here helps.

  9. #9
    Senior Member Zoe Saadia's Avatar
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    Thank you, Jena!

    Actually, can I take advantage of this thread to ask what's the best way to research an agent?
    So far I've been looking over AAR lists, checking their genres, then going browsing through the webs of those sounding suitable, plus a brief check of their names on PublishersMarketPlace and AW Water Cooler.
    Is there a way to check them more thoroughly?

  10. #10
    Senior Member Zoe Saadia's Avatar
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    Thank you, CK!
    (as usual, right-to-the-point-comments!)

    You are right, I'll try to divide in into two categories (as you suggested doing with the real query, I remember ) - the history and the story.
    And all those clashing cultures and civilizations... I'll refine them.
    (btw, you probably don't remember but I used your once-upon-a-time comments. When I first turned up on WN, you've commented on my incorrect using of therms, such as "capital" (of the Mississippians) and "fate" taking turns (which cannot, being a fate, take any unexpected turns lol). Just to point out I'm neglecting no comment )

    This agent put me a little out of balance with this a-sentence-or-two-about-the plot/theme/comparisons. I typed what I thought she wanted, put aside for a day, then thought I would better run it through WN first (I still can't believe my luck in having you guys!!!)

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