Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Query letter #3: fiction

Dear Agent Sydney,

I am seeking representation for my literary [Alert! Only use this descriptor if you are querying an agent who specialises in literary fiction - for anyone else it's going to possibly be a bad thing, since literary fiction is the hardest type of fiction to get published] novel, Red Seagull, complete at 65, 000 words. [Otherwise, good opening sentence - concise, tells me key information.]
Having worked as an arts and music journalist for ten years, my writing has been regularly featured in various print and online publications, including: The Big Issue, Crikey, Time Off, Inpress, Beat, Drum Media, and Rave magazine. Red Seagull is my first novel. [Again, concise, gives relevant information.]

In a moment of shared, drunken desperation, a dying billionaire and a young man in freefall meet and determine to rescue an unravelling world. The people [Which people? The people? Of which country?] will be asked to decide, to burn or save its most treasured work of art, and in doing so will decide their own fate. [The email didn't contain line breaks in this section so I haven't inserted them, but you should include them otherwise the text all runs together.]
In a personal universe of unlimited wealth, Fax can have his every thought turned real except that of escaping his impending death. He finds Huck, a man convinced of our time’s futility, and together they find a joy in this, a freedom, and imagine a plan to carry out “a gesture of impossible and ridiculous liberation.” Red Seagull is a painting the world knows, it is embedded in history, and the population will have thirty days to vote on its salvation or destruction. [This is basically the same as the para above, just with more words = unnecessary duplication.]
Flushed with the novelty of power, will the people embrace this symbol of hope or will they set themselves to flame?
The city’s central square is commandeered as a great stage and becomes a place of celebration and protest. The people come in gushing numbers, to set eyes upon this work of art so deeply set in the common psyche, and to have their vote. Fax sees the outcome as an inevitability – that charged with the prospect of a genuine power, they will choose to exercise it, to have this symbol of achievement and aspiration destroyed. Huck, initially reckless with enthusiasm, is crushed by the reality of this plan they have put to action.
The emotional centre of the story, Gay experiences the fury and ecstasy absent from her partner, Huck. Suddenly abandoned, she finds herself revealed; furious at what she perceives as her lack of strength and a desire to rescue Huck at any cost – to deny the damage he has inflicted and to mother their dismantled relationship. The city grows wild around the vote on Red Seagull.
As the attentions of the globe descend on the scenes of the city’s square, where the enraged and confused masses have come to vote and find their voice, relationships are made and destroyed between the story’s central figures. Love turns to panic and anger, while a new kind of optimism is invented between strangers. Red Seagull is the story of thirty blazing days experienced through the shifting perspectives of Huck and Fax – unhinged comrades, Gay – the witness to her lover’s disintegration, and Amadeo – the apprentice, fighting to claim the fortune and destiny he sees self-destructing. Red Seagull is the story of the days of fear and decision, and the choices people make. [The only bit that interested me in this description was the part from 'Red Seagull is the story ...' to the end of this paragraph - the rest of the description is a bit confusing. Keep it clear, stick to the main thrust of the story and let them find out the details when they read it. This letter should be a pitch, not a synopsis.]

Thank you for your consideration of this proposal and please let me know if you would like any other information or further samples [what samples have you given me now?] of the manuscript.
Author R.

Overall: okay, but needs improvement. There are some punctuation errors (missing commas, mainly) that need to be fixed and, as mentioned, the description of the story is a bit tangled.

What you haven't mentioned: who you believe would read your novel. The story is fairly esoteric - do you imagine it's going to appeal to art lovers? Readers of 'quality fiction'? When it's not a genre novel the audience is less defined, and it's important that you know who you're writing for, and that you can articulate who that reader is.

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