Monday, January 24, 2011
Friday, January 21, 2011
5 - And finally
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
Dear Agent Sydney
The Hive: [why use a colon when 'is a' would have worked much better?] a community of psionicists in contemporary London. They’ve lived in hiding for hundreds of years, fearful of persecution. Now they’re locked in an underground war against Silencers - vicious Psi-consuming parasites that take over unsuspecting Norms.
Lysander, the Hive’s visionary leader, has a solution that will eradicate the Silencers in one fell swoop. By coincidence, his proposal will also raise London’s ten thousand dormant telepaths to maturity. All he needs is the approval of the Hive’s communal mind to proceed, and the Silencers conveniently assist by harrying at every opportunity. The Hive might be reluctant to interfere in Norm affairs, but there’s no other choice if it is to survive.
Critical to Lysander’s proposal is Luke, a rebellious nineteen year old [So is this for young adults or not?] with unique – but dormant - psionic abilities. Falling under the older man’s wing, Luke soon finds himself embroiled in the Hive’s political intrigues. As if that wasn’t enough, the uncomfortably-good-looking Lysander’s sexual advances soon have Luke questioning his sexuality.
When Luke discovers there’s a traitor feeding information to the Silencers, he doesn’t know who to trust. Lysander’s revelation that he intends to use the ten thousand telepaths to bring about a golden age for mankind only complicates matters. The Silencers suddenly seem like the perfect justification for his ambitions.
But Lysander wouldn’t betray the Hive to its ancient nemesis just to get what he wants, would he? And if he had, does Luke have what it takes to stop his new lover before it is too late? [This is a lot of dense detail to this point - tighten it up.]
HIVE is a cross genre [ah, yes, but which genres? I can pick at least three] science fiction novel for adults complete at approximately 100k words. I am seeking representation. [I guessed that.] Thank you for your consideration.
Overall: a fairly good letter but the story description needs some tightening and you should identify the genres you're crossing.
What you haven't mentioned: you. Why are you writing in this genre? What do you love about it? Given that you have a potentially hard-to-market gay subplot, why have you included it? These are the things I'm wondering.
Hunter has always believed in aliens. Melody thinks he's crazy. But when their teacher disappears in the middle of the desert, the two kids must learn to trust each other as they race to rescue her from the sinister forces holding her captive. [Good hook, well expressed.]
And the closer they get to the truth, the more questions they uncover. Was Miss Pepper really abducted by a flying saucer? [Aren't flying saucers a bit 1977?] Why are they being chased by commandos and black helicopters? What does Mr Burgundy, the sinister government agent, know about the disappearance of Hunter's father four years ago? And how come aliens never wear pants? [Nicely paced, and it hooks me into the story - I want to know about the pants now!]
ENCOUNTER AT SHADOW ROCK is the first in the Hunter Black series of science fiction adventures for independent readers aged 8 to 12, and is complete at 22,500 words.
With an action and mystery vibe that's like "Spy Kids" meets "The X-Files" [important you said it's 'like' these things not that it 'is' these things - the first word gives us content, but using the second would have be worrying that you're thinking only of the film deal], the series will see Hunter and Melody investigate a variety of strange and eerie cases, as the mystery surrounding Hunter's father and his involvement in the global alien conspiracy gradually unfolds.
I have seven years of experience as a technical writer and publications manager, and my short story "The Boy Who Believed in Dragons" was published in AUREALIS magazine. [Why have you decided to write for children?]
Thank you for your time and consideration.
When a bad batch of flu shots hits the streets this winter and people who aren’t people anymore begin pounding on Paul’s front door, he knows it’s time to hit the road. Thanks to his experience with apocalyptic movies and video games, his wife, Sophia, knows he is their only hope. [That's amusing - okay, I'm reading on.] With the power out, he gets them guns, a siphon-kit and a plan to head south, because if the walking corpses don’t get ‘em, the freezing Iowa temps will. [Snappy - good.]
STRAPPED is a realistic, 80,000 word Christian Paranormal novel [I have no familiarity with this genre, so I'm not going to be able to say whether or not you're conforming to the rules - I'll take it on, um, faith], which examines what happens when the resurrection of the dead becomes a ghastly reality, leading Paul Thomas from the unemployment line to the front line in a battle against darkness. It is here where he finally finds his calling as a gifted leader, but his swelling confidence quickly propels him towards tragedy. Losing Sophia, the one he wanted to protect the most, the adventure turns into a nightmare, putting his faith in God to the ultimate test while the fate of another hangs in the balance. [You've built tension well - pace is just as important as word choice in conveying a setting or emotion in text.]
Like Paul, I also have a Minor in Religion from The University of Iowa, a knack for setbacks and am my girlfriend’s best chance of surviving a zombie outbreak. [Nicely expressed mini-bio.] STRAPPED will cause the reader to ask themselves if they are shuffling through life like a self-absorbed zombie and will appeal to fans of A.P Fuchs, Tim LaHayes and Jerry Jenkins.[Good to make the references.] My completed manuscript is ready to be sent at your request and I thank you for your consideration.
My name is Author TS and I'm writing to query about a toddlers' book I'd like to write. [A book you'd like to write? Is that as far as you've gone in this process? NB to US/UK readers: I am taking the Australian view of things, which is that you need to have a bloody good reason why you don't have sample material for a non-fiction submission.]
I'm a science communicator by trade, have been for the last fifteen years or so - working giving shows to all ages, leading interpretive walks and writing everything from press releases to tv show fact sheets to information signs. I'm currently on a mostly-break from work raising a toddler or two - and I'm finding that there's a dearth of useful and interesting science-y books for the 2-5 age range. So too are my nerdy parent friends. Everything's at the level of "junior science fact books" and that type of thing, which is immensely boring to a child who can't
themselves read yet but still wants an endless "Why?" of questions answered. [Okay, you've established your scientific (but not children's writing) credentials and the reason why you think it would be on a good project, but I'm still stuck on the fact that this is a nebulous project.]
So what I'd like to write is a simple short story (could be a one-off, could easily be one of a series if there was sufficient interest) that uses, relies on and very simply explains some science principle - a kind of detective or mystery story, if you like, where the science is what
solves the puzzle. Relatively simple language and broken up text, to suit illustrations on each page. The thing that would make this book particularly good is that at the back I'd put one or two "parents' pages", that explain the science principle in a straight-forward way that adults
can understand and then use to answer their kids' questions about it. Even if the adults in question haven't slept properly for more than a year :-). The parents' page/s would also include some possible things to try at home, simple ideas that let parents and kids try out some of the science for themselves without having to spend a lot of money on buying stuff. [Interesting ideas but, again, nebulous.]
I look forward to hearing from you as to whether this fits with any of the sorts of projects you are looking for. [Sorry, but you haven't given me anything that I can send to a publisher and unless you're already my client and/or have a well-established profile in this field, I simply don't have the time to shepherd you through the writing process, especially as you've never written for children before.]
Dear Agent Sydney,
Storm Hunter is a YA adventure fantasy novel about a well-meaning thief who avoids trouble on her home island by stowing away on a passing ship. Unfortunately, it’s a pirate ship.
She fights for her place on board, survives shipwreck and first love, and makes her way home again to find trouble still waiting for her. [Good and clear, but you could use the odd adjective to give me a sense of whether or not the story is exciting or romantic etc.]
This is the first book in a trilogy, and it’s 80,000 words long.
As research for Storm Hunter, I read extensively about historical pirates and spent eleven days on board the Young Endeavour sail training vessel (although I admit I wasn’t a stowaway, and no-one tried to kill me [nice personal detail - and good to mention the research]). I’m sick of reading fantasy books set in Britain, so I designed a more original world. [More nice detail - and I applaud use of the informal 'sick'.] Mine has more sunshine and more beaches, so readers will long to visit it over and over again. [I'm starting to forgive your lack of adjectives at the start.] My fantasy world is based on Indonesia, which I have visited eight times. I also have a strong online presence with thousands of followers. [This last sentence should have a separate para and you should explain what that presence is around - your own personal website? Fan fiction? Slash fiction?]
Three of my books have been recommended by three different assessors since I began writing full-time in 2005. [This won't mean much to most agents or publishers. I'd rather hear about why you're writing in this genre and what titles in the genre you like.]
I welcome editing advice. [No need to mention this yet - wait till we get to know each other better. Because at this stage it sounds like you're asking for editorial advice and there's nothing we love more than the emails from authors saying 'What I really want is for you to give me a detailed editorial report on this manuscript that is not really ready for me to show anyone yet'.]
Overall: pretty good - all the requisite information was there. Try to sound as assured about the story you've written as you do about the reasons why you've not set it in Britain.
What you haven't mentioned: if you've already started writing the second book in the trilogy and, as said above, why you're writing in this genre.
(Please note this book is finished, edited, and is 165,000 words in total)
Overall: fail. That was not a query letter, that was a synopsis with a 'Regards' at the end. And it was a confusing synopsis at that. There is just far too much detail here. If you need to take this many words to tell me what your story is, you don't know what your story is - and that's one reason why writing a query letter can actually help your storytelling, because it forces you to think about what your story really is and who it's for.
What you haven't mentioned: who's your reader? What, actually, is the genre? And the word count should have come in the body of the letter.
Tuesday, January 18, 2011
Behind the façade of decent daily living, the spectre of death creeps steadily closer, stealing a wife, a mother, a lover and tearing a family apart. [Well, that certainly sets a mood. My romance fiction high just dived a little. But at least I know what sort of story this is likely to be ... don't I?]
Tessa’s life is in tatters; [I originally said that this should be a colon but a reader has told me I'm an idiot for saying this, so make up your own mind] she is killing herself [literally?] and has no power to arrest the process [I don't understand - if she's killing herself literally can't she stop it?]. On the outside she appears to have it all; [colon alert - again, make up your own mind because apparently I know nothing about spelling and grammar] an adoring husband, two amazing sons, a gorgeous home, but on the inside her soul flat lines. [Hmmm ... okay, but this is also flatlining a little bit - it doesn't sound that different.]
Adrian [who is he?] has watched her from afar for years. An illicit night together brings Tessa’s unmanageable life into focus. Forced to search for a solution, she discovers to her horror that the one thing she has to give up is the only thing which makes her life bearable. [And now I'm confused. How does the night together bring the life into focus? What does she need a solution for? And has this just become a romance novel? What does any of this have to do with the opening line?]
PUSHING UP DAISIES is a completed mss at 100k and is aimed at the fiction / women’s fiction marketplace. [As I'm still not clear what the story is - horror? thriller? romance? - you should give some indication of who you think your reader is.]
I attach the first page of the manuscript. Extracts 1 and 3 on the “Work” page of my website are further extracts from this manuscript. [Where's your URL?]
The full manuscript is available to you upon request.
I live in Auckland, New Zealand and work in a legal office as a Legal Executive. I have been a member of Romance Writers of New Zealand for the last six years. I regularly attend meetings and conferences and place in RWNZ competitions. [Good information to mention.]
Thank you for taking the time to read my submission. I look forward to hearing from you.
Overall: needs work. The description of the story is muddy - I really don't know what's going on, who's dying, who means what to whom et cetera. Accordingly, I can't imagine why I would want to read this story. Give me a reason to want to read your story.
What you haven't mentioned: who you think your reader is and what the genre is ('women's fiction' doesn't cut it when you raise horror elements and also mention you're a member of RWNZ).
I recently completed “A Heat Of The Moment Thing”, an 89,000-word contemporary romance with humour, and I hope you will consider representing me. [Good - title, genre, word count all provided and I can read on with this in mind.]
Becky Jansen doesn’t do relationships. She can barely manage a one-night stand. But put her in a swimming pool, add a close and bloody encounter with the wall and she’s scored herself the hottest guy ever as her hero. [Great hook. 'Close and bloody encounter with the wall' is ambiguous enough to make me think you're writing in some racy subgenre I haven't yet discovered.] On her return to work, there he is. Hot guy. Her new boss. She might have been interested before, but not now. Hell, no. Work and personal just don’t mix; been there, done that, got the scars. But Matt’s confident, he’s got her in his sights, and he’s making it damn hard for her to say “no”.
Becky needs a distraction—fast. Charlie is the perfect solution. Rich, good-looking and a shameless playboy, he’ll keep things simple and that’s just what she needs—or so she thinks. But a Matt-versus-Charlie altercation isn’t her idea of simple. And when her sister gets involved—that’s when things become downright complicated.
[Good, good, all good - you've kept the description short and sweet and loaded it with hooks.]
“A Heat Of The Moment Thing” is my debut novel. It has placed in both US and UK writing competitions. [Again, concise and useful. And if I want more information I'll ask you - I actually don't need all the details of the competitions at this stage.]
Although my CV reads economist-turned-teacher, I currently juggle motherhood, lecturing and freelance writing. However, my career aspirations are in full-length fiction. I am working on my second novel, with concept plans for a further three. [Great - I know that you're writing because you love it and that you have kept on writing - you're not just pinning your hopes on this particular project.]
Many thanks for your time. I look forward to hearing from you.
Overall: gold star. Even if romance isn't the agent's genre, you've provided enough information for an agent/publisher to make up their mind.
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.
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?
Monday, January 17, 2011
HEART OF GEARS is a science fiction, dystopian novel with a bit of steampunk thrown in. It is targeted towards young adults who enjoy stories like the Hunger Games. [This sentence is a bit workmanlike. Where's the hook? I'd leave this para until after the story description.]
Sophie Lane made a promise to herself; [this should be a colon - yes, I'm a pedant] she will protect her sister no matter what. Level Four of the great spherical city, known as the Hive, may not be the ideal place for a widowed mother and a unregistered clockmaker to raise a little girl, but together Sophie and her mother manage to shape Ruthie into something of a model citizen, and, more importantly, keep her safe.
When an old friend re-enters Sophie’s life in need of her help, she realizes that her sister isn’t the only person she loves who needs protecting.
And when it comes to people she loves, Sophie will stop at nothing to keep them safe. [run on this sentence to previous para]
However, up until now she has never participated in a coup to help her friends and families, but she’s done crazier things for the people she loves. Unfortunately for her, her latest attempt to save her loved ones has won her a stay in the Hall of Time, the maximum-security prison that has a most effective torture tactic; [colon alert] time in the Hall is suspended. [You've lost me here - my attention is wandering]
Now a prisoner of time [and now I'm back - perhaps find a way to condense the previous para and get us to the point where she's a prisoner of time, because that's interesting!], Sophie will do anything in her power to continue to protect the people she loves, but will it be enough? Her will will be tested, her love will be tested, and if she fails, she seals the fate of the people she loves the most.
I am in my third year at Phillips (Andover) Academy and my plan, which is subject to change at any point, is to major in Creative Writing. I am also interested in languages, archaeology, fashion, and sports. [I don't need to know this - I'd rather know why you're writing dystopian fiction with steampunk thrown in i.e. what have you been reading in the genre?]
HEART OF GEARS is incomplete at 25k [if you must query before it's finished, don't mention that it's unfinished - you're going to be told to go away and come back when it's done. No one ever wants to see a first draft, especially an unfinished one]. There is a sequel in its future. [How do you know if the first one's not finished?]
Thank you for taking the time to read my query,
Overall: interesting story premise but there was a lack of oomph. I got no sense of you as a writer - or reader. Genre fiction like this needs that bona fides because, like children's books, you're entering into an arena with passionate and knowledgeable readers. If it sounds even a teensy bit like you're writing spec fic for cynical reasons, it won't work.
What you haven't mentioned: the word count, because you can't. And, again, your 'credentials' in spec fic - I don't mean previously published work, just your background in the genre as a reader.
Poppy has a problem and that problem’s name is Sashabella, her big sister. [This sentence is a little awkward] Fashion-mad Sash, a blogger turned designer, has driven Poppy to breaking point with incessant talk of clothes and shoes. Now, Poppy’s out to teach her sister that there’s more to life than looking good. She just needs two large pythons and a little help from Devon, a
famous designer’s daughter; Trina, Poppy’s best friend and a model’s sister; and Max, the cute filmmaker she meets backstage. Together, she and her friends are The SOS Club and they’re going to make sure Sashabella’s debut catwalk show isn’t the sugary pink vision the teenage fashionista had in mind. [Interesting premise for the story, but break up the paragraph a bit - maybe at 'Together ...' Also, what ages are these characters?]
The SOS Club (The Substance Over Style Club) is an 11,694 word story written for [publisher's imprint for older children/adolescents]. [That word count's a bit small for YA] I enclose my entire manuscript [for this was the publisher's instruction].
I wrote this story because I, like Poppy, have an older sister who can be painfully annoying. I remember the battles of childhood and my teenage years vividly. I’m sure readers with siblings will identify with Poppy’s struggles and those of her friends – feeling jealous, angry, petulant, ignored and abandoned are all universal experiences. I’m sure plenty have dreamed of getting revenge in the most spectacular way possible. [Good para]
I also wrote it because I am a fashion journalist who finds people who treat clothes and accessories all too seriously very entertaining. I got the idea for this story after covering Australian Fashion Week for [daily newspaper] taught me that the world of fashion is a funny
place. It was better than being David Attenborough studying an exotic species. The fashionistas in their natural habitat were at once terrifying and hilarious, especially to me, the only female in flat shoes, glasses and not a particle of make-up. [Trim this para a bit]
I have produced short fiction with some success – my story [name goes here] was short-listed and highly commended for last year's ACT Writers Centre Marjorie Graber-McInnis Short Story Award.
I have worked as a [daily newspaper] journalist since finishing my Communications (Journalism) degree at the University of Canberra; before that, I freelanced. Besides writing about fashion, I am a columnist, news reporter and features writer.
Thank you for your time and consideration. I’d love to hear from you. [This last sentence is a good one, and the reason is that it's informal yet enthusiastic - as I've said before, this letter could be the first of many in a business relationship that spans years, and it's good to keep things formally conversational.]
Mishca’s heart is not her own, and then she falls in love. [You have my attention - good opening line.]
After graduating high school and undergoing a life saving heart transplant, Mishca Richardson [If this is YA you need to give us the character's age early on[ hopes that she can finally have a semblance of a normal life. But her new heart appears to have consequences as she is plagued by post operation nightmares and a sudden yearning to find her birthparents, which has never been an issue for her before. [Interesting premise - I want to keep reading]
Mishca’s search for birth parents leads her to Ryder, a fellow adoptee who is unfazed by her health issue and lack of experience with boys. While her romance with Ryder blossoms, other things in her life are not going according to plan as she discovers no-one has ever been able to trace their birthparents with the agency she was adopted through. Then Mishca’s whole world is turned upside down when she goes to university and meets her literature professor Colin Read.
But the gravity of her situation is worse than Mishca realises. She is secretly being watched by a man called Wirth, who is responsible for her dream, knows the truth about her past and has plans for her future.
[A nice amount of detail, and well broken up - I didn't feel like I was being given too much]
Mishca is a YA Speculative Fiction [why is it spec fic? It doesn't sound like it necessarily fits into that genre], complete at 50,500 words. It is designed to be book one of a series. While Mishca and the series are set in Australia, I have undertaken market research on a YA writers’ community, Inkpop, by posting a portion of an early draft the story. I received nearly 700 comments, predominately from American teens, and the feedback shows that Mishca would be commercially successful internationally if published. In June Mishca was actually voted in the top five favourite projects on the site out of more than 25,000 pieces of work by the members. [Good to include this - it's useful information for agent/publisher as it shows you've connected with a potential readership, and connection is a good thing!]
I am looking for an agent who will work with me, through editing and advice, to establish myself as a long-term career author. As per your submission guidelines, I have included the first ten pages of Mishca below.
Thank you for your time and I look forward to hearing from you soon.
Overall: a very good letter. You have an interesting premise for the story and you've let it speak for itself. The only real quibble is with the genre - it sounds like it should be plain old 'young adult fiction' rather than 'YA speculative fiction'.
What you haven't mentioned: the author included some indication of where she would personalise the letter for the agent/publisher it's addressed to, and I removed the references so they didn't interrupt the flow of the letter.
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
I am seeking representation for A Woman Transported, a historical [historical what? novel?] set between London and Australia in the early 1800s. The story is complete at 100,000 words.
A Woman Transported is a tale of pain, struggle, deceit, and ultimately love — and one woman’s fight to find her mother transported across the oceans to Botany Bay — a hell on earth where even the kookaburras mock the convicts with laughter. [This last bit may appeal to overseas readers but would strike a false note with Australians, because we know that kookaburras only laugh at impending rain and the small warm-blooded animals they're about to tear apart.]
London, 1814 – Isabel [who is Isabel? How old is she? Is she a convict?] imagines the land the floating convict prison hulks are destined for, the prison on the other side of the world, but all she can vision is a grey, damp, wet, overcrowded land full of decrepit buildings — a land of evil, depraved people, and the horror her convict mother must be living in Australia. [This para is a bit heavy - try reworking it.]
Isabel, the daughter of a candle and soap maker, [Ah, so this is who she is - why couldn't you tell us in the para above?] dreams of seeing her mother again and escaping the rabbit warrens where even the light seems oppressive. Using a determination known by those who have suffered deeply she overcomes poverty, evades brutal men and fights against an unjust system of justice. She makes her way to Australia, finds her mother near death in the sunburnt land and much more than she expects or is prepared for.
I’m an Australian woman and Isabel’s story comes from my life-long fascination with not only the fragility of human nature, but also the period when around 162,000 men and women were transported to Australia between 1788 and 1868. [Fair enough, but as it's historical you should mention any research you've done. Also, be aware that your competitor title in this vein is the legendary Sara Dane so you need to be able to match that story's appeal and sweep.]
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Overall: this letter, while containing a lot of the right information, feels a bit tentative and stiff. You should write it as if you're telling it to someone and let the spoken tone guide you. Agents and publishers see hundreds of query letters a year and anything that seems too formal is going to just seem like the other letters, so you need to stand out - don't be afraid to start pitching straightaway and convey how much you love your story, or have loved writing it. Passion goes a long way in impressing others.
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
Disgusted with God’s plan for Judgment Day, Satan has quit his job and left Hell in favor of a quiet retirement in Washington, D.C. [I'm hooked already - great premise, clearly expressed - plus the hilarious prospect of a quiet anything in DC.] But life on Earth is tricky for an ex-angel with a short fuse and no impulse control. [Ha!] When a parking attendant mysteriously bursts into flames and a weight-challenged woman somehow ends up in low-Earth orbit, Satan finds that he has attracted the attention of several meddlesome federal agencies. Even worse, there are signs that the governor of Texas has somehow gone ahead and started up the end of the world. The Prince of Darkness heads for the Lone Star State, where he tangles with a megalomaniacal televangelist, joins the Militant Arm of the American Geriatrics Association, and wields the Flaming Stick of Divine Justice at a guy whose hobbies include invading churches to denounce ritualized cannibalism. Through it all, one thing is clear: Someone has to put a stop to Judgment Day. Now, having spent millennia trying to wreck the place, the Devil may be the world’s only hope. [All very well expressed, but break into two paragraphs - especially if this query is sent by email, the one para looks too dense. Para break should come before 'The Prince of Darkness'.]
WHAT WOULD SATAN DO? is 95,000 words of humorous/satirical general fiction that should appeal to folks who like reading absurdist humor of the sort found in Christopher Moore’s Lamb and Douglas Adams’ The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul. [Good to mention these as it establishes a potential readership - particularly in spec fiction - and also good to not directly compare yourself to them - which is a fine distinction, but an important one.] I'm a member of the Lesser North Texas Writers, the Writers Guild of Texas, and a group called the Writers of Weird Works, but it’s probably only my job as a trial lawyer that qualifies me to make up stories about Satan. [Ha! Nice hook.] I am prepared to send the completed manuscript if you'd like to take a look.
I look forward to hearing any thoughts you might care to offer, and thank you for your time and consideration.
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.]
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.]
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.
Monday, January 10, 2011
Ever see a beautiful flower arrangement and think, “Man, I wish I could make that!” [While I frequently employ 'man' in everyday life, it does immediately position this book in a certain demographic - the Fonzie demographic. And it's likely that many of those with the time, inclination and cashola to do floral design are in the Mrs Cunningham demographic, so you may as well leave the door open. Please reconsider inclusion of 'man'.] -Maybe not. Why? It can seem too hard and time consuming.
Groundbreaking in methods and untraditional design, The Flower Chef is putting floral design myths (such as flower prep and techniques) to rest, and inspiring a new generation of “Do-It-Yourself” [at this point you could make a quick reference to the popularity of craft and DIY websites and books, to establish a potential readership for the agent/publisher]. For most of the flower recipes in here you can go to your local grocery store, farmer’s market or florist, and buy bunches of flowers or deconstruct a pre-made bouquet to create a professional looking arrangement.
Formatted like a traditional cookbook with prep/cook time and ingredients [Why have you ordered the book like this? It's not an immediately obvious fit with flowers, so you'll need to explain] , it goes in sequential order from beginner arrangements (Appetizers) to advanced (Entrees/Desserts). I’ve also included for each section because who doesn’t love looking at recipes? [That's not a good enough reason to include them - explain how they fit with your flower theme, because what we take from the title is 'flower' not 'chef', thus the reference is a bit oblique] For the most part they are vegetarian friendly, and simple enough to actually make. At the back you will find party and special occasion ideas, which include ways to mix-and-match the food and flowers.
I’m an ambitious young entrepreneur that started my own floral business after working in non-profit. During college I worked at the top florists in Los Angeles as a sales girl, learning the ropes and teaching myself along the way. My design studio Fxxxx has been featured in Daily Candy, KCRW, MyFoxLA, Wedding Wire, numerous wedding and event blogs, and has donated arrangements to many charities including FEED and Sandpipers. Flour also contributes to editorial photo-shoots and is the official florist of the LA Shoot This! photography group. [good, good, good - credentials established]
Please visit my website at www.flourla.com to see my eco-friendly arrangements. [Eco-friendly! Why didn't you say so earlier? This is an important point to make. Ppl luvz the eco.]
The full proposal is complete. Thank you in advance for your time and consideration. It’s much appreciated!! [Never use two exclamation marks when one will do.] Looking forward to hearing from you.
I am seeking representation for a proposed [use of the word 'proposed' makes me think you haven't written anything yet - in which case, why are you querying?] non-fiction parenting book, The Secret Life of a Baby.
Parents are often confused about how they should be parenting their new babies, and frequently seek answers from books. Many books focus on what our babies should be doing, such as when they should sleep through the night, when they should eat solids, and when they should be reaching developmental milestones. If our babies aren’t doing this, they [you need to define 'they' as 'these books' lest we think it's some other 'they'] generally tell us how to train your baby to fit into your routine as quickly as possible.
However, as a child psychiatrist [this information should have come earlier - it's your credential for writing a book which you've already acknowledged is entering a crowded field], I am concerned that we are ignoring the baby’s needs, potentially to the detriment of the child’s psychological development. Despite being an ‘expert’, I found myself reaching for parenting books when I was tired and vulnerable after the birth of my first baby last year, and was distressed to find that very few books give practical advice while still focussing on a baby’s needs. [This paragraph is sufficient - delete the para above.]
The Secret Life of a Baby will explain to parents of infants how a baby sees the world, and the importance of following the baby’s cues. It will discuss the infant’s psychological development from some of the major theorists in an accessible way, using examples from my own parenting experiences. I have a strong passion to inform parents about what we think – from the major theorists – and what we know – from science – about parenting and childhood development so that they can make the best choices when they are struggling and looking for help.
I am a child and adolescent psychiatrist [you've already told us you're a child psychiatrist so you should rephrase this - 'As a child and adolescent psychiatrist I have worked ...] and have worked extensively with women during their pregnancy and the neonatal period. In 2009 I won the Royal Australia and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists’ Maddison Medallion which is awarded to the new psychiatrist who has performed most meritoriously in their training. As well as this professional experience, I have personal experience as I am the mother of a fourteen month old baby and am pregnant with my second.
I have always loved writing and have done my best to integrate writing into my professional life. This began with writing articles and book reviews for online psychiatric sites. More recently I had a feature article on parenting and mental health published in a magazine, and an article on the links between medicine and writing for a medical writing journal. I have also had an academic article accepted for publication in a peer reviewed psychiatry journal later this year, and I write a blog on my own experiences of being a parent and a psychiatrist. I also enjoy writing fiction and have recently written the first draft of a novel through Queensland Writers’ Centre’s Year of the Novel Course. [delete reference to fiction - this para is already quite long and the reference to fiction will just confuse matters, although I understand why you put it in]
I appreciate that you are extremely busy, and thank you for taking the time to consider my proposal. I am of course happy to provide you with any further information, and I look forward to hearing from you in due course.
Overall, a good effort. It just needs to be tightened up a little, and perhaps read it again with a view to being more confident about your credentials - by deleting the second para and going straight into your rationale for writing the book, you will sound more confident, and the tone could also be lifted a little.
What you haven't mentioned: word count. If the manuscript isn't finished, give a proposed word count and say when you think you'll finish writing it.