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  1. #1
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    Advise for 1st query letter

    This is my very 1st query letter written for my first novel, THE SECERT TO A GOOD MAN. I'm really unsure of what lit. agents are looking for in letters.

    Please let me know what I can do to make it better.







    Greetings

    I am submitting this query for my first completed 56,561-word thought-provoking, Christian-fiction novel entitled, The Secret to a Good Man. I hope that you find interest and desire to see my complete or partial manuscript.

    This is the story of, Ahlesha James, a young female from Chicago who devotes most of her adolescent years and young adult life trying to find Mr. Right-and-Forever. Ahlesha, doesn’t know what hits her when she meets, Lenox Jaymes, whom she finds herself in love with- accidentally-after he date rapes her. Although not bubbled over with joy about Lenox’s controlling ways, Ahlesha finds herself content with Lenox until she finds out that he’s been unfaithful with her friend Ebone. In the mist of the unsettling infidelity, both women become pregnant causing more pain and drama for Ahlesha.

    After finding out the not-so-great news, Ahlesha separates from Lenox to do some soul searching, in which she finds God and a new friend (co-worker Sean). Sean wasn’t considered an ideal friend in the beginning; because of her childish mentality, Ahlesha couldn’t fathom the idea of being associated with Sean-which she equated his Christianity with being a loser. Eventually, Sean is able to get through to her, and helps her find God and forgive Lenox. Through the new friendship, Ahlesha secretly begins to grow feelings for Sean, but is still very much in love with her lame boyfriend. Ahlesha must choose either a platonic-yet growing- relationship with Sean or mend her relationship with Lenox. In the end she chooses Sean, because she realizes that the secret to a good man is, God!

    This in not your average urban tale, and I say this with no cliché. This writing comes from a personal and deep place in my heart. Although I’m new to the publishing world, I’m definitely not new to writing. From a young child writing has been my passion. I was mentioned in a local Chicago newspaper while in grammar school for my great stories, and the gift has continued to grow.

    I thank you for your time, and I have enclosed a synopsis of my novel. I look forward to hearing from you; I may be contacted at ------------- or by phone --------------.

    Sincerely,


    Ty Waller



  2. #2
    Senior Member C Bets's Avatar
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    I'll be short, Ty. There are a number of things this query letter needs, but first you need to clean up the grammar and punctuation errors. Ex: This is the story of, Ahlesha James, a young female from Chicago who devotes most of her adolescent... The comma after "of" should be omitted. A lot of commas should be omitted.

    Any agent beginning to read a query riddled with basic errors like this is probably going to assume the entire manuscript has the same problem. Starting there is my recommendation.

    Don't get discouraged. You may have a great story, but if it doesn't shine first thing in your QL, you'll have a tough time of it. Lots of folks here can help you with this, so take whatever advice is offered. Good luck!
    Cindy

    And be at peace... the universe is unfolding as it should

  3. #3
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    Sorry, Ty, but if I received this query letter, I wouldn't pursue interest either. It indicates to me that your writing isn't up to publishing standards. If a writer is "almost there" and has a great story, a publisher might help make up the difference, but there are so many well-done manuscripts on offer that they won't bother with anything lower in the pile. What is exhibited of your writing skills and storyline don't come across as competitive in any way. You say this isn't the average urban tale. Can you point to something in the letter that sets the plotline out of the ordinary? I didn't see where you did. The key opportunity to do that seems to be whatever is behind the sentence "Eventually Sean is able to get through to her and helps her find God and forgive Lenox" but if there's something there, you don't reveal it. It's that something different you are trying to sell to an agent/publisher. If you want them to show interest, you have to tell them what it is that is different from anything else they've read--or at least be expressed in beautiful/arresting/compelling language--which is missing here.

    What preparation did you make to write for publication or study did you make of preparing such things as a query letter (or knowing who best to query)? I think you are just spinning wheels if you don't go back to at least step two or three in the process and learn to write for publication before you offer your wares. Writing courses--both the technique and creative writing, for instance; reading up on writing and publishing; and lots and lots of writing practice (write short stories and essays and put them up for competition and gain both experience and writing credits thereby).

    I wouldn't really help you polish up this query letter, because I don't think the writing skills behind it are competitive--and to do so would be unfair to you and any recipients of the letter and misleading to agents/publishers. We don't really need more of "not prepared enough" offerings in the system and you could be using your time and efforts better in learning the fundamentals better before putting works on offer. There's nothing constructure about improving a query letter by committee help if it leads to a substandard manuscript. Sorry.

    Unless you are e-publishing, incidentally, 56,561 words isn't a novel, it's a novella. In print, that size might be OK for the young adult field (you don't identify it as young adult, though). In the adult field it's on the short side for agent/publisher interest. It would need some other sense of blockbuster about it to overcome that in an agent's/publisher's eyes. They have to consider costs/profits margins in taking on a book project.

    If/when you clean up your writing skills and want to start at the beginning in deciding how to get it published in an organized way, you might read through a free-use Web site a coauthor, Carol Kluz, and I put on the Internet--http://www.publishingquestions.com. It's the text of our out-of-print book Finding Go! Matching Questions and Resources in Getting Published. The Web site is one of Writers Digest's 101 most useful Web sites. It's still OK for print book guidance, but it out of date in not covering e-booking, if that might interest you. I have resources on e-booking available for free in the resources section of my http://www.editsbooks.com Web site. I note, though, that I think you have work to do on your writing skills and book text before you should be getting around to considering getting it published.
    Last edited by Gary Kessler; 09-16-2011 at 01:25 PM.

  4. #4
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    Hi thanks for the input.

    Gary, I will take your advice - though it was very hard to hear (read).

  5. #5
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    Also, I have a question. How does one assume the manuscript would be sub-standard simply because the author couldn't write a sufficient query letter? I equate the query letter to a resume - the candidate may be perfect for the job, but was unable to portray it in their resume.

    I have read, Jeff Herman’s Guide to Book Publishers, Editors, and Literary Agents in preparation to writing my manuscript and query letter. Also, I have taken one creative writing course. I do know the rules for a standard layout in writing a manuscript (double spaced, 1 inch margins all around, etc.) I do understand about setting up characters and plots – just maybe I was unable to express that in my query.

    Also, what exactly do you consider publishing stardards??

  6. #6
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    Ty, as C Bets pointed out, your query is riddled with punctuation errors. That alone will lead an agent to assume that your manuscript fares no better. Why would they think otherwise?

  7. #7
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    What C. Bets says. Beyond that, they have every reason to think that the manuscript isn't as polished as the query letter. They know that folks can come to forums like this and get their substandard work polished up by a committee of others. To make the manuscript equal to the query letter, you'd really have to put the manuscript through the same process as the query letter, wouldn't you? Agents/publishers don't live on another planet. They assume that the query letters they receive represent the best that the authors can produce--often with outside help the manuscript isn't getting.

    For publishing standards, read published books by mainstream publishers (yes, there will be some mistake). Compare the grammar, punctuation, spelling, word usage, continuity, succinctness, and clarity of those against your own writing with an objective, critical rather than hopeful eye. It's hard to do yourself, I know, but it's not all that hard for folks like those reading offerings on this board to shove something into one of four categories: publishable, needs some polishing, needs a lot work, needs to go back to close to the beginning. Using the last category isn't rude--if it's pretty evident it's true. It isn't saying "stop writing." It's trying to be kind and helping you from spinning wheels with no satisfactory result.
    Last edited by Gary Kessler; 09-16-2011 at 02:19 PM.

  8. #8
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    Ok understand what you all are saying...lol I'm not a complete idiot

    I'm taking in all the knowledge I am gaining here, it is very helpful and insightful. In writing my manuscript, the approach you suggested is what I used when writing my manuscript for my genre. I asked myself what I liked about my favorite authors' writing styles (careful not to copy it that my work would seem unoriginal) and noted how the stories were structured.

    Though it's hard to hear that my manuscript may not be up to standards, mainly because during college I performed well on essays and was told by many teachers I write well - but clearly it is a different ball game when writing a manuscript and query letters.

  9. #9
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    I stopped reading after the first sentence. Not only is it unprofessional to say that you're manuscript is complete, a professional writer will round their word count to the nearest thousand. In your case, that would be 57,000, a tad on the short side by today's standards.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ty Waller View Post
    Ok understand what you all are saying...lol I'm not a complete idiot

    I'm taking in all the knowledge I am gaining here, it is very helpful and insightful. In writing my manuscript, the approach you suggested is what I used when writing my manuscript for my genre. I asked myself what I liked about my favorite authors' writing styles (careful not to copy it that my work would seem unoriginal) and noted how the stories were structured.

    Though it's hard to hear that my manuscript may not be up to standards, mainly because during college I performed well on essays and was told by many teachers I write well - but clearly it is a different ball game when writing a manuscript and query letters.
    Primarily it's an entirely different world in commerical publishing than it is in college English. (the reference to essay is another "issue" I picked up in the query letter when I saw "female" rather than "woman" used. Fiction is not nonfiction. The writing styles are quite different, athough some nonfiction writers can come close to making their work read like a novel. That really takes talent and trained skill, though.)

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