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  1. #1
    Tom Gill
    Guest

    Query letter help requested

    Before I go off and contact any more agents, I would appreciate any and all feedback on my query letter. It must be weak, but I'm out of ideas on strengthening it. Anyway, here's a copy of my latest effort. Fire away!

    Dear Mr./Ms. Whomever,

    I have recently completed my first novel, with the working title A Different Kind of Soldier, a Different Kind of War, and am seeking an agent to represent the work to the publishing community. At 67,000 words long, the story is a WWII espionage novel, written somewhat along the style of Ken Follett and the early works of John LeCarre.

    During the war, the Nazis plundered vast amounts of treasure from the territories they conquered. A portion of this treasure was shipped to Argentina, where it vanished. Even today, this is a matter of historical interest to many.

    A Different Kind of Soldier opens in Nazi occupied France, and follows a mysterious shipment from Marseilles to Buenos Aires. In the hinterlands of Argentina, the shipment is discovered to be a large quantity of gold, which was dispatched from the hoard of plundered treasure to fund the foundation of a Nazi regime in South America. The nefarious plans for the gold are thwarted by a resourceful Cubano, who was recruited into the fledgling OSS espionage agency by his best friend, who masterminds the operation from Havana. As a final twist, the gold ends up in the vaults of the Federal Reserve Bank in Manhattan, under the ownership of the United States Government. How the treasure is discovered and intercepted is the basis for the plot.

    In addition, the story line includes a tale of the harrowing escape of one of the French Resistance members who helped uncover the shipment. The characters are a blend of historical and fictional, with dialog that would make potential movie material. With a great deal of suspense and intrigue, woven among historically accurate events and exotic locations, the story takes the reader from Marseilles to Washington, Cuba and Argentina, with side trips to Tampa, Nova Scotia, and Maine.

    I am an engineer by trade, with a background in telecommunications and an MBA in Finance. While I have no formal writing credentials, I am no stranger to wordcraft. Technical writing is a major part of my profession, and while technical writing is not the same as creating a work of fiction, many of the skills do overlap. In addition, my military career was spent at a NATO headquarters, where I was introduced to the covert world of espionage. Later, I spent several years developing telecommunication links among top secret laboratories and manufacturing facilities across the United States. Counter-intelligence and security measures were fundamental aspects of my work.

    Your entry in the Writers.net website indicated you were willing to look at works from new authors. Thank you for giving us a chance to explore our potential.

    The following is an excerpt from the story. I am hoping you will find this interesting enough to ask for more. If not, it will be our mutual loss. In either case, I humbly thank you for your time and kind attention.

    Respectfully submitted,

    Tom Gill

    Marguerite was visibly shaken as she made the morning coffee. Finding her boss dead the day before was traumatic in itself, but the capture of Francois and Pierre was worse. “We must leave,” she urged her husband, “right away.”

    “Where would we go?” her husband responded. “We have no money, no papers. We would not get very far before we were arrested.”

    “Don’t your friends in the resistance have a plan for times like this?” Marguerite queried.

    “A plan for times like this?” he echoed, “the last two years have been times like this! You think the resistance is an organization, like the army or something? We are not like that at all. We are simply ordinary men who believe in honor, dignity, and the sovereignty of France! We don’t have a plan.” His eyes blazed and defiance rose in his voice. “We have only our hands and our hearts. With these, we do what we can, we do what we must.” The gravity of their situation hit home and the light went out of his eyes. He slumped over his coffee, and sighed, “Our hands and our hearts. And when necessary, our blood.”

    He looked up at Marguerite and his eyes were soft. “Ma Cher, I too, am worried. At the plant, I will confer with some men I trust and see what can be done.” As he left for work, Philippe kissed Marguerite goodbye.

    Marguerite had nearly completed clearing away the remains of the breakfast, when she heard a rapping on the front door, soft but urgent. Answering it, she was amazed to find a German Army officer standing on the stoop. Quickly, he entered the home and shut the door behind him. “Hurry, there is no time,” he urged, “we must leave immediately. The Gestapo is rounding up everyone they think is connected with the resistance. They have Francois.”

    “Yes, I know. Who are you?” Marguerite demanded.

    “I am John Meriwether, American intelligence officer in league with the Resistance and the Maquis. I have come to take you and Philippe to a safe place.”

    Panic showing in her eyes, Marguerite cried, “Philippe has already left for work! Can we meet him there?”

    “Perhaps. Let’s go.”

    Grabbing Marguerite by the arm, Meriwether roughly pushed her into the back seat of his Citroen. Anyone watching would surely conclude she had been arrested. Jumping behind the wheel, Meriwether ground the starter and the engine roared to life. The pair sped away to the factory where Philippe worked as a machinist.



    “You are too late, monsieur, Philippe was taken by the Gestapo only a few minutes ago,” the puzzled guard explained at the factory gate. Meriwether, with Marguerite sobbing in the back seat, drove calmly away from the factory toward Gestapo Headquarters. Stopping along the way, he took some rope from the trunk and bound Marguerite’s hands behind her back. Without warning, he slapped her face, leaving a large welt on the cheek. “Please forgive this,” he gently explained, “the bruise is necessary. It may well keep us both alive.”

    The guard at the farmhouse gate examined Meriwether’s papers and let him pass. “Watch her, don’t let her escape!” he barked in German to the guard as he hurried up the steps, “She is to be delivered to Lyon for interrogation.”

    The Gestapo duty officer examined the papers Meriwether presented. “Your paperwork is in order, but Mein Leutnant, I regret to inform you that I cannot deliver Philippe Joquet as you ask. You see, he is already dead. He was shot while being apprehended. At first, it appeared his wounds were not fatal, but, unfortunately, he was worse off than we thought. I can understand why Commandant Barbie would wish to interrogate Joquet, but tell me, why would he send an army lieutenant on such an assignment? Normally, I would expect the Gestapo or the SS.” The duty officer peered over his desk at the man before him, waiting his answer.

    “Captain, as you well know, things are not always as they appear. I have been in Marseilles for a few weeks now. My assignment is to investigate links between the army and the local black market. In my SS officer uniform, I would get nowhere, of course, so I temporarily joined the Wehrmacht. I have had some small success in penetrating the black market organization. It won’t be long before the ringleaders are punished.” Pointing at the papers in the Captain’s hand, he continued, “However, this morning, I received these urgent orders from Lyon, and naturally, I did not stop to change uniforms before complying,” he replied. “Certainly Commandant Barbie will be disappointed. Joquet seemed to be the link to the civilian side of the market activities. I will let him know you did your best. Good day to you sir. Oh,” he added, “of course you will be filing an official report on Joquet’s death. Commandant Barbie will be very interested in its contents.” With that, Meriwether strode out of the office to his car, and left with Marguerite.

    After a moment of consideration, the duty officer picked up the telephone and requested, “Get me Lyon Gestapo Headquarters, please. I would like to speak to Commandant Barbie.”

    Klaus Barbie, also known as the “Butcher of Lyon” ran the most notorious interrogation center in all of the war. To fall into his hands was a guarantee of death.

    A few minutes later, the phone rang and the officer answered. “Lyon on the line, sir” the voice said. “Hello, this is Captain Wolfgang Neuberg, duty officer of the Marseilles Gestapo requesting to speak with the duty officer at Lyon. An officer you dispatched just stopped in our office, seeking a prisoner that we took into custody earlier today. Can you verify that such an order was given?”

    After a pause of a few moments, Neuberg said, “Thank you, no, everything is under control. You have confirmed my suspicions. Heil Hitler.” The phone went silent as Neuberg hung up.

    Calling for his aide, he said, “Post a general alert for the man, his prisoner, and the vehicle that just left here. I want him apprehended immediately! And bring Joquet from the prison cell. I want to interrogate him myself.” For the next few hours, phones jangled at every check point across the south of France.



    Joquet stood before Neuberg; his hands were handcuffed behind his back. Bruises covered his face; his left eye was swollen shut. His head slumped with his chin resting on his chest. Neuberg, seated behind his desk, demanded, “Who is your contact? What information did you pass along? We know your wife worked for Major Kassell, and he was found dead this morning. We have every reason to believe that you and your wife know who did this. Tell me now!” The order was roared, and Neuberg rose to his feet.

    Joquet rose to his full height, and a fire once again blazed in his right eye. He spoke not a word but looked straight at Neuberg and clamped down with his jaw. His mouth opened, and Joquet spat a bloody mass on Neuberg’s desk. Neuberg jumped back in disgust, and Joquet slumped to his knees, with blood pouring from his mouth as he fought to retain his senses. To save his comrades, he had bitten off his tongue. He had won, the victory was his. No more friends would fall that day. Joquet watched as his life’s blood ran out on the stone floor of the Gestapo office before he lost consciousness.



  2. #2
    Joe Zeff
    Guest

    Re: Query letter help requested

    Cut the first two paragraphs, the non-germain credentials and the subplot. Don't give away the ending in a query; the idea is to grab their attention and give them just enough to make them want more. I'd also cut the writing sample, but not everybody will agree on that.

    Start with what's now the third paragraph, and put the title in all caps to set it off. The first sentence of your query is often called "the hook;" it's intended to grab the reader's attention and keep them reading. If you cut the first two paragraphs, the new first sentence should be a good hook as is. Keep it short, keep it simple, don't digress from your main plot in the query. Good luck, as it looks like you've got an interesting idea. I didn't know about the treasure being sent to Argentina, but I'm not surprised; the two countries have commercial ties going back to the 19th century, and the only reason Argentina and Brazil didn't become a Latin American battleground during WWII is the difficulties the two would have had coming to grips with each other.

  3. #3
    Tom Gill
    Guest

    Re: Query letter help requested

    Joe, thanks for your feedback. I try to look at the agent's website, and many of them ask for samples. The first two paragraphs are history.

  4. #4
    Irese Sheridan
    Guest

    Re: Query letter help requested

    Agree with Joe that the query is way too long and you put in a lot of unnecessary bits of the story and too much unimportant (to an agent) facts concerning yourself in the letter.

    Not long ago, I found out that there are almost as many Italians living in Argentina as in the USA. Most fled during WWII. A couple of years ago, I had a family living across from me who were from Argentina. The spoke both Italian and Spanish. Looked Italian. And Brazil backed out of big involvement because of the Portuguese/Lisbon connection. Did covert operations with the Germans, however, which is why so many ran there when they knew the war was lost or afterwards if they could get out.

    A little off subject -- you need to fix the query. Put it in Literary Agents. You'll get more feedback there.

    Irese

  5. #5
    leslee
    Guest

    Re: Query letter help requested

    You need to do some homework on Q letters. Read the past threads in the Literary Agents forum for dozens of sample letters and the critiques they received.

  6. #6
    Rob Knowles
    Guest

    Re: Query letter help requested

    Hi Tom

    I agree with what's been said above. Queries are designed to interest agents or/and publishers and make them want to read your story. They receive hundred of these queries every day, and most go straight to file 13 (the bin). They need to be snappy and to the point, and shouldn't reveal too much of the plot. This is the job of the synopsis and sample pages they will ask for later, if they like the Query Letter enough to request additional material.

    There is no CORRECT way to write a Query Letter. One agent/publisher may immediatly dismiss a Query Letter on the basis of style, content, that it's too short or not short enough, or that they've just had a blazing row with their wife/husband. Who knows what goes on inside their heads? One thing for sure, however, is that if they fall asleep before they've finished reading, you don't stand much of a chance of getting published.

    And, although they sometimes imply that authors can be replaced, they need us as much as we need them. So, I wouldn't seem as humble as you do in your version.

    I had a few minutes, so I drafted the following for you. I'm not saying it's any good, but it gives you an example of how you could jazz up your query. Remember that you are not trying to show them that you are a great writer in the Query Letter (although it must be grammatically correct etc). You are just trying to get their attention for the work that will follow. The style, therefore, can be quite different from that of the novel. Feel free to ignore it or tweek it.

    Oh, and by the way, undoubtedly others reading this will have different opinions, and prefer your query over mine.

    Regards

    Rob

    Dear Mr./Ms. Whomever,
    A DIFFERENT KIND OF SOLDIER, A DIFFERENT KIND OF WAR. What happened to the Nazi plundered treasures after WWII? Investigation has proven much of it was shipped to Argentina for the foundation of the Fourth Reich but, to this day, much remains unaccounted. A DIFFERENT KIND OF SOLDIER, A DIRRENT TYPE OF WAR is an adventure novel of 67,000 words, set during WWII.

    From Marseilles to Washington, from Cuba to Argentina, A DIFFERENT KIND OF SOLDIER, A DIFFERENT KIND OF WAR relates the story of how a mysterious shipment from Marseilles to Buenos Aires is actually a large quantity of gold. Dispatched from the hoard of plundered treasure to fund the Nazis in South America, the nefarious plans for the gold are thwarted by a resourceful Cubano, recruited into the fledgling OSS. The many twists and turns are filled with suspense and intrigue, and the story is woven among historically accurate events and exotic locations.

    I am an engineer with a background in telecommunications. A major part of my profession is technical writing. My military career was spent at a NATO headquarters, where I was introduced to the covert world of espionage. Later, I spent several years developing telecommunication links among top secret laboratories and manufacturing facilities across the United States.

    Your entry in the Writers.net website indicated you were willing to look at works from new authors.

    I would like to thank you for your time and interest, and would appreciate the opportunity of sending you a copy of A DIFFERENT KIND OF SOLDIER, A DIFFERENT KIND OF WAR for your consideration. My contact details are included for your information. Please feel free to contact me at any time.

    Kindest Regards,

    Tom Gill

  7. #7
    Rob Knowles
    Guest

    Re: Query letter help requested

    And of course, even though I read it through a few times, I didn't notice DIRRENT.

    Oops.

    Rob

  8. #8
    Tom Gill
    Guest

    Re: Query letter help requested

    Thanks to all who replied, I will take your advice to heart.

    Tom

  9. #9
    Stitch Cat
    Guest

    Re: Query letter help requested

    Only one thing confuses me Tom.

    If you worked so closely to NATO …..
    "My military career was spent at a NATO headquarters, where I was introduced to the covert world of espionage."
    Then how is it that you are able or allowed to put this in writing. I myself, cannot disclosed how I know that the intelligence communities would never allow you to speak so freely, but I just hope that others do not catch on to this. Then again perhaps I’m wrong. My own experience dates back to the first Bush. Perhaps this is where we are going wrong with our intelligence.

    Hey…if the president can get away with outing our operatives?……

    Just an interesting question. I was bullied and threatened pretty good during my own debriefing.

    By the way your book sounds very interesting. I’d read it! Good Luck!

  10. #10
    Tom Gill
    Guest

    Re: Query letter help requested

    My service ended in 1974, so I'm way past the point of disclosing anything vital to national security.

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