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  1. #1
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    Query letter help please?

    Hi there. I am new to this site and have found it interesting so far.

    A bit about my project.

    In mid 2011 I completed my first novel. I finished it in ten days. When I was done with the writing portion my word count was above 60k. After taking nearly a year to fine tune and edit and then rewrite and then edit and then torture myself some more it is officially finished.

    I have begun to seek out agents and have had no luck. I haven't had a single agent that has shown any interest at all. I'm not discouraged, but this makes me think that my query letter could be better. I've written several drafts and with each draft I feel as if it is getting better.

    If someone would not mind, I would greatly appreciate a glance over it. Feel free to offer any criticisms or advice that you feel may help me.

    Thank you so much in advance.





    Dear Fictional Literary Agency,

    I find the concept of madness fascinating. The thought of a mind malfunctioning is so interesting to me. The idea that it can happen without our knowing, well, that's kind of scary. I kept this in mind when I started writing this story.

    I have completed a 54,000 word psychological horror titled Dents in the Mold. I would like to have you represent me in selling this and the other books I plan for the future. I'd like to send you the manuscript, and am interested in your evaluation of its commercial potential and any recommendations that you might have on how to make it a better novel.

    The synopsis is as follows: After the bizarre death of a young patient inside his office, Henry, former child psychologist extraordinaire must take on Clay, an adult patient, to keep his practice afloat. As Henry tries to help the daunting and unresponsive Clay, he is unknowingly coming to terms with a demon from his own past.

    The demon refuses to wait any longer.

    While harboring honest and good intentions to help Clay, Henry fails to see the isolated psychotic state he is slipping into. Henry has begun to unconsciously relive particular moments that have occurred throughout his life. While recounting the events that have molded him into the person he has become, unbeknownst to him, one of them has returned and attached itself to Clay through his dreams. Now it waits lurking for the right moment to reenter Henry’s life as it attempts to overtake them both.
    Dents in the Mold is a story about the guilt from the past of two men as it is clinging to them in their adulthood. Henry’s past has come back to search for him and is doing so by slowly seducing a vulnerable Clay. Henry is slowly unraveling. The story looks within the psyche of a deranged individual that is cursed with guilt and self-loathing. Henry is losing his mind. Clay is becoming possessed. Both men are haunted by the same entity as it works to reclaim balance.

    I write for Yahoo! Voices and have been featured on the front page of Yahoo! Business and Finance, Yahoo! Humor, Yahoo! Parenting, and Yahoo! News. I can send links to these articles if you like.

    Thank you again for reading my work. I have queried other agencies as well. Please feel free to contact me with any questions.



  2. #2
    Rogue Mutt
    Guest
    You should go use Google to learn about query letter formatting. Agent Query and Query Shark are good places to start to learn the basics.

  3. #3
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    Query Shark is a great resource. Thank you! As far as content goes, anything blatantly wrong?

  4. #4
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    Just some general comments-- You have limited real estate in the query letter. The maximum word count should be between 250-300 words. That means you should choose every word carefully and avoid any repetition. Don't waste time introducing yourself or explaining to the agent why you're sending a query. He/she already knows. If you have a personal connection (a referral, a former meeting at a conference, a request from a contest, etc.), then mention that.

    When writing the pitch, think about this approach: Identifying characteristic (ex: Police Chief, Psychiatrist, Famous Movie Star, etc.) Main Character wants X. When Y happens, MC must choose or do YZ, but if he/she does, then A (crisis of some kind) could happen.

    That's the highly simplified version, but it gives you an idea of how to focus the query.

    General format of your query should be:

    Pitch
    Brief plot tease/summary (without revealing the ending)
    Title (in caps), word count, and genre
    Your bio (with only relevant writing credentials) If you have no relevant credentials, leave this off.

    Jeanne

  5. #5
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    This helps too. Thank you so much.

  6. #6
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    You've received goo comments. I have some, as well.

    My comments are in CAPS. Not yelling at you, just making 'em easy to see.

    Dear Fictional Literary Agency, I HOPE YOU WROTE THIS JUST AS PLACE HOLDER. IF NOT, THIS IS A PROBLEM. ALWAYS ADDRESS YOUR QUERY TO A SPECIFIC AGENT. I ASSUME YOU ARE DOING THAT. AS AN ASIDE, “FICTIONAL LITERARY AGENCY” IMPLIES THE AGENCY DOESN’T EXIST. I TAKE TIME TO POINT THAT OUT BECAUSE USE OF WORDS IS VITAL TO A WRITER.

    I find the concept of madness fascinating. The thought of a mind malfunctioning is so interesting to me. The idea that it can happen without our knowing, well, that's kind of scary. I kept this in mind when I started writing this story. DELETE THIS ENTIRE PARAGRAPH. YOUR DREAM AGENT ISN’T INTERESTED IN WHAT YOU FIND FASCINATING. SHE’S INTERESTED IN FINDING A QUERY THAT SHE FINDS FASCINATING.

    I have completed a 54,000 54K IS FAR TOO SHORT UNLESS YOU’RE AIMING AT A NICHE MARKET. word psychological horror titled Dents in the Mold. LEARN HOW TO PROPERLY PUNCTUATE. I would like to have you represent me in selling this and the other books I plan for the future. I'd like to send you the manuscript, and am interested in your evaluation of its commercial potential and any recommendations that you might have on how to make it a better novel. GET RID OF ALL THIS. THE ENTIRE PARAGRAPH.

    The synopsis is as follows: After the bizarre death of a young patient inside WOULD IN BE A BETTER WORD THAN INSIDE? his office, Henry, former child psychologist extraordinaire DELETE PREVIOUS WORD. IF YOUR DREAM AGENT REQUESTS A PARTIAL OR FULL, HE/SHE WILL DECIDE WHETHER HENRY LEAPS THE “EXTRAORDINAIRE” HURDLE. must take on Clay, an adult patient, to keep his practice afloat. I’M LOST. EARLIER YOU SAY HENRY IS A FORMER CHILD PSYCHOLOGIST. NOW YOU SAY HENRY HAS TO TAKE ON ADULT CLAY TO SAVE HIS PRACTICE. IF HENRY’S A CHILD PSYCHOLOGIST, HOW CAN HE TAKE ON AN ADULT PATIENT? As Henry tries to help the daunting IF CLAY IS UNRESPONSIVE, HOW CAN HE BE DAUNTING? and unresponsive Clay, he is unknowingly coming to terms with a demon from his own past. I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT THIS MEANS.

    The demon refuses to wait any longer.

    While harboring honest and good intentions to help Clay THIS PHRASE IS CLUNKY. HENRY IS HONEST AND HAS GOOD INTENTIONS. WOULDN’T ONE OR THE OTHER BE SUFFICIENT?, Henry fails to see the isolated psychotic state he is slipping into. THIS IMPLIES HENRY IS THE ONE SLIPPING INTO AN ISOLTED PSYCHOTIC STATE. Henry has begun to unconsciously relive particular moments that have occurred throughout his life. THINK ABOUT WAYS TO SHORTEN THIS SENTENCE AND MAKE IT MORE ACTIVE. SOMETHING LIKE, “HENRY BEGINS TO RELIVE MOMENTS FROM HIS PAST. DO YOU SEE WHY THAT’S MORE ACTIVE? While recounting the events that have molded him into the person he has become, unbeknownst to him, one of them HOW DOES AN EVENT ATTACH ITSELF TO ANYONE. AN EVENT ISN’T A GHOST OR GOBLIN. has returned and attached itself to Clay through his dreams. Now it waits lurking for the right moment to reenter Henry’s life as it attempts to overtake them both. HUH? BE SPECIFIC. GENERALITIES ARE NOT YOUR FRIEND.

    START A NEW PARAGRAPH.


    Dents in the Mold is a story about the guilt from the past of two men as it is clinging to them in their adulthood. THIS SENTENCE IS NEARLY INCOHERENT. Henry’s past has come back to search for him and is doing so by slowly seducing a vulnerable Clay. Henry is slowly unraveling. The story looks within the psyche of a deranged individual that is cursed with guilt and self-loathing. Henry is losing his mind. Clay is becoming possessed. Both men are haunted by the same entity as it works to reclaim balance. LOTS OF WORDS. NOT MUCH CONTENT. A QUERY HAS TO MAKE AN AGENT UNDERSTAND ENOUGH OF THE TALE TO WANT TO READ PART OR ALL OF IT.

    I write for Yahoo! Voices and have been featured on the front page of Yahoo! Business and Finance, Yahoo! Humor, Yahoo! Parenting, and Yahoo! News. I can send links to these articles if you like. IF THESE ARE PAID GIGS, LEAVE THEM IN YOUR Q. IF THEY AREN’T, DELETE ‘EM.

    Thank you again for reading my work. I have queried other agencies as well. Please feel free to contact me with any questions. YOU’RE THANKING THE AGENT FOR SOMETHING HE/SHE HASN’T AGREED TO DO. YOU KNOW, READ YOUR WORK. DELETE THE REVELATION YOU’RE QUERYING OTHER AGENTS. IN THIS DAY AND AGE, AGENTS KNOW WRITERS SUBMIT SIMULTANEOUS Qs.

    SOME THOUGHTS---

    THIS Q MAKES ME THINK YOU MAY BENEFIT FROM A COUPLE OF THINGS.

    SPEND TIME LEARNING ABOUT WHAT A QUERY IS.

    AND IF YOU HAVE NOT HAD CRITIQUE OF YOUR MANUSCRIPT, CONSIDER POSTING THE FIRST COUPLE PAGES ON THE WRITING CRAFT THREAD. DO NOT DO SO, THOUGH, WITHOUT PUTTING ON YOUR BIG BOY PANTS. USEFUL CRITIQUE IS VERY HONEST. IT CAN HURT. ALWAYS KEEP IN MIND THAT THE CRITIQUE IS FOCUSED ON YOUR WRITING, NOT YOU AS A PERSON.

    HOPE THIS IS USEFUL. FEEL FREE TO IGNORE.

    CUR

  7. #7
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    Hello curmudgeon,
    Yes! This is exactly what I was looking for. Can I offer more detail from my story to give more insight?

    If not, disregard, you've helped me quite a bit already and I thank you.

    1.
    Dear Fictional Literary Agency, I HOPE YOU WROTE THIS JUST AS PLACE HOLDER.

    This is absolutely just a place holder.

    2.
    I find the concept of madness fascinating. The thought of a mind malfunctioning is so interesting to me. The idea that it can happen without our knowing, well, that's kind of scary. I kept this in mind when I started writing this story. DELETE THIS ENTIRE PARAGRAPH. YOUR DREAM AGENT ISN’T INTERESTED IN WHAT YOU FIND FASCINATING. SHE’S INTERESTED IN FINDING A QUERY THAT SHE FINDS FASCINATING.

    I only had this in because after reading several agent bios some had made comments about wanting to know the author. I only attach this portion with the query if the agent seems like they would want to know. Otherwise it is and will be deleted absolutely.

    3.
    I would like to have you represent me in selling this and the other books I plan for the future. I'd like to send you the manuscript, and am interested in your evaluation of its commercial potential and any recommendations that you might have on how to make it a better novel. GET RID OF ALL THIS. THE ENTIRE PARAGRAPH.

    Yes. It's sad that it took someone to point it out for me to go, "Uuuugh. Why is that there?"

    4.

    The synopsis is as follows: After the bizarre death of a young patient inside WOULD IN BE A BETTER WORD THAN INSIDE?

    I chose inside because the building where is office is has a lobby where patients can wait. I am not sure if this warrants an 'inside' or an 'in'. Inside just felt right to me.

    5.
    Henry, former child psychologist extraordinaire DELETE PREVIOUS WORD. IF YOUR DREAM AGENT REQUESTS A PARTIAL OR FULL, HE/SHE WILL DECIDE WHETHER HENRY LEAPS THE “EXTRAORDINAIRE” HURDLE.

    The term former child psychologist extraordinaire is in the story. Henry was once a widely renowned child psychologist until one of his patients died in his office. It is meant to represent the bitterness that has grown within Henry from how far he has fallen from grace.

    6.
    must take on Clay, an adult patient, to keep his practice afloat. I’M LOST. EARLIER YOU SAY HENRY IS A FORMER CHILD PSYCHOLOGIST. NOW YOU SAY HENRY HAS TO TAKE ON ADULT CLAY TO SAVE HIS PRACTICE. IF HENRY’S A CHILD PSYCHOLOGIST, HOW CAN HE TAKE ON AN ADULT PATIENT?

    Henry specializes in child psychology. He has the capability of having adult patients, but they are not his expertise. After the death of the child in his office, Henry now has to reach outside of his comfort level to merely stay in business.

    7.
    Henry tries to help the daunting IF CLAY IS UNRESPONSIVE, HOW CAN HE BE DAUNTING?

    Henry feels that helping Clay is daunting, as in disheartening, due to the unresponsiveness of Clay. Clay does not speak to Henry. Henry has been meeting with Clay one day a week for several months. Clay has little to nothing to say. Henry feels they aren't making any progress and is strongly considering recommending another doctor that has the capability to help Clay. Henry has yet to do this because he feels the two are connected and of course, if he does so this only expedites the closing of his business.

    8.
    and unresponsive Clay, he is unknowingly coming to terms with a demon from his own past. I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT THIS MEANS.

    While Henry sits in with the silent Clay he finds that his mind is wandering. This is a story about the pasts of two men. After graduating college Henry was rewarded by his father with a trip to Romania. While in Romania he found himself making a poor decision that allowed him to be put into the position that made him responsible for the death of a child. He was never held accountable for this and the old mother of the child that he accidentally murdered cursed him without his knowing. Henry feels this guilt bearing down on him, but is unaware of how strong it has become.
    Clay is suffering from a guilt that no parent could ever want to imagine. During a trip to the beach his daughter was swept out to sea while he was setting up their things. Clay never recovered and the traumatic event has left him vulnerable.
    The old mother of the child that Henry accidentally murdered, the event, placed a curse on Henry as he ran away. Years later the spirit, (demon) of the old woman has found a way to finally make Henry pay for his actions. She has attached herself to Clay and is slowly seducing him as she possesses him using his dreams. As the story unfolds each man is being dealing with the guilt from their pasts as the demon of the old woman grows stronger.

    9.
    Henry fails to see the isolated psychotic state he is slipping into. THIS IMPLIES HENRY IS THE ONE SLIPPING INTO AN ISOLTED PSYCHOTIC STATE.

    He is.

    10.
    HENRY BEGINS TO RELIVE MOMENTS FROM HIS PAST. DO YOU SEE WHY THAT’S MORE ACTIVE?

    Absolutely. Thank you.

    11.
    While recounting the events that have molded him into the person he has become, unbeknownst to him, one of them HOW DOES AN EVENT ATTACH ITSELF TO ANYONE. AN EVENT ISN’T A GHOST OR GOBLIN.

    The event spawned a curse that created a ghost.

    12.
    Now it waits lurking for the right moment to reenter Henry’s life as it attempts to overtake them both. HUH? BE SPECIFIC. GENERALITIES ARE NOT YOUR FRIEND.

    The old woman is possessing Clay to take regain balance. She is using Clay to grow stronger so that she can get to Henry to gain retribution for the death of her daughter.

    13.
    Dents in the Mold is a story about the guilt from the past of two men as it is clinging to them in their adulthood. THIS SENTENCE IS NEARLY INCOHERENT.

    Dents in the Mold is a story about the power of past guilt. This guilt has left them vulnerable and has manifested itself into an entity that calls on each of them.
    Better?

    14.
    I write for Yahoo! Voices and have been featured on the front page of Yahoo! Business and Finance, Yahoo! Humor, Yahoo! Parenting, and Yahoo! News. I can send links to these articles if you like. IF THESE ARE PAID GIGS, LEAVE THEM IN YOUR Q. IF THEY AREN’T, DELETE ‘EM.

    They are paid.


    15.
    Thank you again for reading my work. I have queried other agencies as well. Please feel free to contact me with any questions. YOU’RE THANKING THE AGENT FOR SOMETHING HE/SHE HASN’T AGREED TO DO. YOU KNOW, READ YOUR WORK. DELETE THE REVELATION YOU’RE QUERYING OTHER AGENTS. IN THIS DAY AND AGE, AGENTS KNOW WRITERS SUBMIT SIMULTANEOUS Qs.

    I should change this to reading my query?
    Also on agent bios many ask to be made aware that other agencies are being queried.

    16.

    DO NOT DO SO, THOUGH, WITHOUT PUTTING ON YOUR BIG BOY PANTS. USEFUL CRITIQUE IS VERY HONEST. IT CAN HURT. ALWAYS KEEP IN MIND THAT THE CRITIQUE IS FOCUSED ON YOUR WRITING, NOT YOU AS A PERSON.

    Those are the only pants I know how to wear. I'm selfish. Praise and criticisms are listened to and taken into consideration, but my writing is for me. I want it to be better, but I also want it to be natural. Thank you for all of your help.


    I do have a question though.

    I have read that queries are supposed to make the agent want to read more of your story. You are not supposed to give your story away. This was the mentality that I was aiming for when I wrote it. Should I give more info and details in regards to my story?

    Thanks again.

  8. #8
    Member Lawrence Tabak's Avatar
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    While posting an excerpt here is a grand idea, you may find a more congenial and broader peer group at the major interactive online sites. I think critiquecircle.com has a particularly active community and a wonderful interface. It appears from your writing samples that you have a lot of work to do on basic craft. These sites should help.

    While you will find a lot of magical thinking about the perfect query, including prescriptions that sound like they were carved on tablets, I like to think most agents are like my previous (who, alas, no longer represents fiction). She told me once that she uses the query to sort for appropriate genre, basic literarcy and indications of sanity. The pages are what count.

    I'm confident that your original query would not pass the test. It seems doubtful, but not impossible, that the first pages would either. After all, in your own words. "I have written a 54,000 word horror." Indeed.

    P.S. The fact that you have posted a query review in the agents section when there is a dedicated query thread a few lines above was not a particularly promising start.

  9. #9
    Member Lawrence Tabak's Avatar
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    Ha -- make that literacy...

  10. #10
    Rogue Mutt
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    Critique Circle's barter system can be annoying. You have to do multiple critiques before you can even post anything of yours for review. And then you have to wait weeks for it to post. And then what you get can be hit-or-miss. Some of those people are really touchy too. Like one was getting all indignant about a 24-hour diner in my story saying such things don't exist and it's really indicative of my lack of research, etc. and then when I tried to explain to her that yes such things do actually exist (Denny's for instance) then she got all pissed at me and probably narced on me to the moderators. Shocking but true!

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