Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Query letter #10: non-fiction - or is it?

[The subject line of this author's email read 'quiry letter' and I can't let that pass without comment - if you make a spelling mistake in the subject line of the email, that's a Very Bad Sign.]


The January 14, 1975 edition of the New Orleans Times Picayune read: “Thirteen dead. Killed by New Orleans Attorney Tom Baker” Word Count 104,552. [Is it fiction or non-fiction? Just because you mention a real newspaper doesn't mean that I can assume it's non-fiction - you need to make it clear. Also, what does the word count have to do with what comes before it?]

Tom Baker attended Tulane University School of Law with the intent of fighting for justice. Having met that goal with a successful law practice in New Orleans, La., and having married into New Orleans society, his family is murdered. Tom has to deal with the murderer who is released on a technicality. Because of how he handled that situation, the Mayor of New Orleans and the Governor secretly employ Tom to head a special task force to solve some serial killings and cold case files. His orders are to bring the guilty parties in dead with a promise of a pardon from the Governor if he is tried and convicted for any of the killings. Tom kills 13 criminals, hence, A BAKER’S DOZEN, and a battle ensues between Tom and the District Attorney (a former law school class mate) who is trying to put Tom in jail. [Somewhere in here there is an interesting story but I lack the will to find it - so would another agent or publisher. We see hundreds, if not thousands, of these letters a year - give me a reason to want to keep reading yours. If you simply make statements I don't know which parts of this letter I'm meant to care about.]

Author SIH, born July XX, 193X, graduated from Tulane University School of Law in 1964. Author of the “Louisiana Notarial Handbook and Study Guide,” “The Louisiana Notarial Form Book,” contributing author of the “Fundamentals of Louisiana Notarial Law and Practice,” distributed by the State of Louisiana. [So you have an academic writing background - it's good to mention it, but it also means you need to work on the paragraph above a bit more, because it reads like it's for an academic title, not a potentially thrilling true crime story.] I retired from the practice of law in 2007. BAKER’S DOZEN is a story I have had in the back of my mind for many years and finally decided to write. [And I still don't know if it's fiction or non-fiction.] I have also written a true short story for the Lake Charles American Press (Our local Newspaper) called THE BEAR WON’T DIE. I have just completed my second Novel ['novel' doesn't need a capital N - the English language long ago shucked off its German roots] dealing with the assassination of the President of the United States, the Vice President, the Secretary of State, the president Pro Tempore and the Speaker of the House all of whom are killed in one night. (A Political thriller).THE COST OF LIBERALISM. [Don't tell me about this novel if it's not the manuscript you want to submit.]

Thank you for your time in considering me as a client.

Author SIH

Overall: fail. I haven't been given a reason to want to read this story other than that it's been on your mind for a while. The facts (if that's what they are) that you have cited sound like they could make an interesting story but there are lots of interesting stories in the world - why should I read yours? Give me a reason. What is it about Tom Baker that fascinates you?

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