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  1. #11
    Rogue Mutt
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    You'd have better luck talking to a wall.

    Quote Originally Posted by Cathy C View Post
    I went back and read some of the other queries you've written on this. I think the biggest problem is you've got an ensemble cast and no one person actually has a lead role. There are other books/series where this is the case. Tom Clancy's RAINBOW SIX is a good example of a book where no one particular character stands out as the main protagonist. I think it would have been difficult, as a debut query, to decide whether to write it from the POV of Jack Ryan or John Clark.

    The best I can say is you DO need to pick one and stick with it. Whether it's the sheriff, Justin, Vicky, Jones, or someone else entirely---even if they all solve the story together, you need to pick the most sympathetic character---the one that people are going to root for. After reading all three prior queries (that I found), I like Daphne Flowers' story the best. It seems like she's the one most actively investigating the murder(s). They're what start the story and start to give the hints of the other, larger problems. The Sheriff is on the ropes, trying to clear his name. Justin is involved, but not actively. He's sort of in the wrong place at the wrong time. Vicky is more victim than lead player. I'd say either the Sheriff or Daphne, but I do like Daphne. Just make sure you mention in the final paragraph that it's an ensemble book. That will tell the agent/editor that they're only seeing one story of multiple ones.

    My best advice is to take the ONE character who is most active in solving the murders at the opening and telling the story from his/her POV. Don't pick a particular scene. Step back and give a general overview, as if you were telling someone the story in an elevator in the five minutes it takes from the ground floor to the top. The "elevator pitch" is a good method to write the initial query. If you tell the story of a character that someone can identify with, it doesn't matter how many POVs are in the cast.



    Actually, it sort of IS. The best queries I've seen, the ones that sell well and quickly, are the ones that can reduce the plot to a couple of brief paragraphs in the query. The initial agent/editor is a reader and they're looking for a book that they want to pick up and read. The book THEY want to pick up and read is one they can sell. Look at some of the selling queries on AgentQuery and then go find the final book on Amazon. You'll be surprised how similar they are.

    Here's one that was in the successful YA query list on AgentQuery that got the author an agent and a publisher:



    Now the Amazon version after publication:



    I like short, snappy queries, rather than full-blown synopses. Grab the reader with the hook, give them some indication of what's at stake in the plot and then finish up.



  2. #12
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    Cathy C, please accept my heartfelt gratitude for all the work you did. I also wish to thank the others that tried to help. Quite a few people have tried but I could not quite get there. I am hoping that Cathy C conveyed enough information for me to get a better focus on this.

    So here is what I think everyone was driving at. I would like to thank all who might comment in advance.


    Daphne Flowers had a moment of clarity before it went dark. She was almost asleep in the chair when something crashed into her head. In that moment of clarity she saw the man they had already arrested looming over her.

    Daphne Flowers had been a state law enforcement officer for a couple of years and was Florida’s leading forensic accountant. In Florida scams preying on the retired were rampant and she needed a break from that heartbreak. So she had been asking for a murder case. She got one. It started as a body pulled from the St. John’s River. Leaving the autopsy she saw a stack of body bags being brought in and asked about them. She was told that they were bodies found in an abattoir by the Sheriff of Duval County and others of the team she was working this with.

    Pretty sure that it was more than just a murder she called her agency’s computer researcher. He told her that the FBI was monitoring chatter on the area. Daphne then confronted the FBI. The FBI said to call the Coast Guard. The Coast Guard Commander didn’t know that there were other things going on. He was recalling two helicopters from maneuvers because two boats full of possibly armed men had headed up river, he offered to pick Daphne up. To Daphne the wait seemed to drag but it would be the quickest way to Putnam County, where the rest of the team were out of cell phone range.


    ST. JOHNS is a completed 73000 word novel.
    Thank you for your time and consideration.

  3. #13
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    Craig,

    This is still a synopsis/excerpt from the book and it's in the past tense. The query is written in present tense. It doesn't use exact scenes from the book but summarizes the situation, crisis, choices, and possible consequences.

    At this point, I don't remember your story exactly (have seen too many versions, I fear), but if we take the bit you have here, you would draft a query to read like this. (Please bear in mind that I'm guessing plot points here.):

    When Florida forensics expert Daphne Flowers stumbles over a secret pile of body bags pulled from the St. John's River, she suspects either a cover-up or incompetence. She convinces her superior, Sheriff [Full Name of Sheriff] to assign her the case. But just as she learns [insert significant clue], she is attacked and kidnapped by Sheriff [Name]. Her boss is the same criminal she's been chasing, and almost everyone she knows is involved.

    As Sheriff [name] works to tie up loose ends and finish [identify his operation in some way], Daphne plots her escape. But it may be too late because [fill in the possible disaster here].

    ST. JOHN'S [use all caps for the book title] is an ensemble mystery, narrated from [indicate how many] points of view, and is complete at 73,000 words.

    [Insert relevant writing credits here.]

    Thank you...blah, blah.

    Craig,

    As many times as you've drafted this query, I still don't think you understand the format because you keep trying to insert excerpts from the book. A query is not the same thing as a back cover blurb, although the tease is often lifted from a query for the back cover. You really, really need to read a LOT of successful query letters and take some notes.

    Jeanne

  4. #14
    Rogue Mutt
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    Everyone needs to either stop responding to him or just tell him it's awesome and maybe he'll go away.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeanne Gassman View Post
    Craig,

    This is still a synopsis/excerpt from the book and it's in the past tense. The query is written in present tense. It doesn't use exact scenes from the book but summarizes the situation, crisis, choices, and possible consequences.

    At this point, I don't remember your story exactly (have seen too many versions, I fear), but if we take the bit you have here, you would draft a query to read like this. (Please bear in mind that I'm guessing plot points here.):

    When Florida forensics expert Daphne Flowers stumbles over a secret pile of body bags pulled from the St. John's River, she suspects either a cover-up or incompetence. She convinces her superior, Sheriff [Full Name of Sheriff] to assign her the case. But just as she learns [insert significant clue], she is attacked and kidnapped by Sheriff [Name]. Her boss is the same criminal she's been chasing, and almost everyone she knows is involved.

    As Sheriff [name] works to tie up loose ends and finish [identify his operation in some way], Daphne plots her escape. But it may be too late because [fill in the possible disaster here].

    ST. JOHN'S [use all caps for the book title] is an ensemble mystery, narrated from [indicate how many] points of view, and is complete at 73,000 words.

    [Insert relevant writing credits here.]

    Thank you...blah, blah.

    Craig,

    As many times as you've drafted this query, I still don't think you understand the format because you keep trying to insert excerpts from the book. A query is not the same thing as a back cover blurb, although the tease is often lifted from a query for the back cover. You really, really need to read a LOT of successful query letters and take some notes.

    Jeanne

  5. #15
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    A couple of things

    Jeanne, please accept my apology for taking so long to thank you. I think that I am beginning to understand. Though I can hear the chorus singing that I can’t write a query because my book sucks, I must argue against it. It is a good book and I can produce a hundred or so of my closest friends to attest to it.

    The problem is in what a Literary Agent thinks they need to sell a book. I did not include Daphne as a state agent to give a Literary Agent something to sink their teeth into, though I can see that unless you have a revenge motive an agent of some kind makes a criminal investigation plausible.

    Daphne is doing this investigation like what she really is. A Forensic Accountant. As such she is doing research and the action happens around her. Therefore there is not a good hook to use for her. The Sheriff also has no good hook because the antagonist is feigning friendship with him and does not threaten him. This is my problem. The people threatened are not people a Literary Agent would recognize as marketable.

    The main reason that I waited so long was to see if anyone would post after the Rabid Dog marked his territory. It has been a couple of weeks and nothing has happened.

    It is the end of summer and there should be at least a couple of new queries over the last week. There has not even been that.

    I admit that I am clueless and stumbling in the dark. I would also bet that more than half of the people visiting this site are in that same boat. Many of them thought they had it together until they got 55 rejections in a week. Now they are feeling small and looking for a resource that would be of help.

    Instead they find a site where a rabid dog is marking his territory and making them feel smaller. I have received some good help but it then gets trumped by a troll that squashes all that help was trying to repair. At least I can deal with a rabid dog.

  6. #16
    Senior Member Gilfindel's Avatar
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    My advice to you is to thoughtfully consider the useful feedback and ignore the rest. This applies to any online forum, not just this one; any time you put something out for comment and critique, you will inevitably get criticism and abuse mixed in. Don't waste your time and energy responding to it. It does no good, and just feeds the fire.

    I suspect you haven't gotten any additional suggestions because we haven't seen any updates since the last go round. I am concerned about your belief that an agent would not be interested in your characters; that's going to be a fundamental problem in getting your book published commercially. Your hundred friends aside, if you can't identify someone in the story that gets an agent's interest, it's hard to see how you're going to get anywhere with this.

    I do sympathize with the difficulty you're having. I have yet to write a successful query myself, but practice makes perfect, I suppose...

  7. #17
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    Gil, Sorry it took so long to thank you.

    I have been looking at the book and have decided that I can change the time line for better impact. If one of Justin's employees had disappeared four months ago I can build a vengeance angle into the query without changing a lot of the details. I think that would be an easier sell.

  8. #18
    Senior Member Gilfindel's Avatar
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    lol, no worries. Sometimes you do need to step back and take a look at things again. Hopefully the new approach will work for you.

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