Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Query Critique #4

I am a regular reader of your blog and am impressed by your knowledge of the industry and willingness to give struggling writers great advice. Thus, I would like you to consider my completed contemporary romance manuscript, HIDE AND SEEK, for representation.

Flattery can in fact get you everywhere. It helps to give a little information about why this agent has impressed you enough for you to query her. Well, it works for me anyway.

Set in my hometown of Orlando, Florida, HIDE AND SEEK, at 95,000 words, is the story of three women struggling with destructive secrets, past and present. Each woman appears to have a perfect life. Yet none does.

I would delete the setting altogether. Get to the point, the hook. Start with “A story of three women struggling with secrets that could destroy their seemingly perfect lives. . . .” See how much stronger that is?

Lindy is hiding emotional scars from a brutal attack, scars that threaten to destroy the man she’s fallen in love with. Mila discovers that her perfect husband is having several affairs—with men. When one of his lovers murders him, she is forced to examine her shallow life. Devon’s boyfriend Steve has fathered a secret child during an affair. That child is now ill and needs part of his liver. Rather than face the problems of her current relationship, Devon falls into the arms of another man and adds more complications to her already messy life.

Are these three different books? I’m not sure the secrets themselves are the story. I think the story is really how these women come together. In this case I need your paragraph to talk in more general terms about what brings these women together. So far what you have are three common women’s fiction plots. What makes your book different? And I still don’t know what this book is about. It feels like it’s a collection of short stories, but is it just about their problems?

I am a full-time writer with a degree in Journalism with an English minor . . .

I’d skip degrees. Unless you’re applying for your first job out of college, what people really care about is experience, not education.

. . . and am a PAN member of the Romance Writers of America and president of my local chapter. I regularly teach writing workshops at local libraries. My first print novel, THE KITTEN CLUB, a contemporary romance, was released in May (with who?). I have six other titles that have been electronically released by The Wild Rose Press and Aspen Mountain Press. Please find attached the first 50 pages of HIDE AND SEEK and a synopsis. I would be happy to send you the full. I look forward to working with you and your Agency. Thank you for your time and consideration.

“Please find” is awkward. Wouldn’t it be stronger to just say, “Attached you will find . . .”? And don’t bother thanking me. This is a sales pitch. End it with: I’m looking forward to hearing from you, or something similar. Keep wowing me, don’t grovel.


Unknown said...

I was confused by the parallel story lines too. It doesn't sound like a romance, more like women's fiction.

Christa M. Miller said...

This is not my query, but you answered my question about how to handle three separate protags in a query - something I've been having trouble with. Thank you!!

Anonymous said...

As someone who recently sent out a bunch of queries... I have to say I don't see a problem with the "thank you". To me it's not begging - it's just being polite.

Thank you for your time.

Just like when I recieve a rejection - it usually starts with - Thank you for considering the Blah Blah Agency...

I'm a professional writer. I respect that you are a professional agent. I'm thanking you for your time and you're thanking me for giving you a chance to represent me.

Dara Edmondson said...

Thanks, Jessica. This helps tremendously.

B.E. Sanderson said...

Ditto to anonymous. I don't take a polite show of appreciation as groveling. From my perspective, I'd rather work with someone who shows signs of being courteous and respectful.

And (not trying to be a snert) thanks for the query critiques. Helpful as always.

Anonymous said...

I'm with anonymous 9:12 - I think it's polite to say thank you in the query letter. Plus, it's also professional. Whenever I send a business letter asking for something from opposing counsel, I generally thank them. Yes it's the job, but even if you're getting paid for your work it's nice to be thanked.

Oddly, it unnerves me that you would equate thanking someone with groveling.

Anonymous said...

I'm compelled to add my comments simply because I'm wincing at each time she is taken to task for one particular issues.

In Jessica's defense (not that she needs it), she is taking time out of a very busy schedule to do these critiques as to what works for her and what doesn't. If she says thanking an agent for his/her time is unnecessary, I think we should all just leave it at that. When you query her, just don't thank her.

For me, I agree that thanking is what I was brought up to do and feel comfortable with. However, when querying Jessica, I won't. :D She's not the first person I've heard make that comment.

Your critiques have been very educational - thank you, Jessica!

I'm sitting here crossing my fingers you get to do mine! Of course, I think I thanked you for your time. :D

Anonymous said...

I don't see that the rest of the commenters are 'taking her to task' over the issue, I see it that they, like me, are geniunely confused how thanking someone, something we're all taught since we were kids, is 'groveling.' I just really want to understand.

Anonymous said...

Some agents hate queries with questions in them. Some don't mind if a query has questions that are relevant to the storyline and not rhetorical. Apparently some agents hate being thanked and some don't mind.

There are more opinions about the "thank you" issue in the comments for Query Critique #1.

The one thing I can say is that I sent Jessica a query with a "thank you" tagline and she didn't hold it against me. She still requested a partial. Of course, I thanked her in advance for reviewing the partial, which she still has. I just hope a second "thank you" isn't an auto-reject. :o)

As for this query, I'm with Jodi. From the brief description we get, the work doesn't sound like romance.

Are there points off if a writer fails to connect the hook content to the genre they claim?

Also, the part about Lindy having emotional scars that threaten to destroy her paramour? Not getting it. Maybe that threaten to destroy the relationship, but to destroy the man himself? Not so much.

Anonymous said...

I still don't understand why you consider a writer thanking you groveling, LOL. I'd be interested to know if other agents feel the same way. Maybe you could do a survey of your agent friends? I wonder if editors feel the same way, too. Hey, one less sentence to leave off my query letters.

I just can't get over the fact that thanking someone, which to me is just polite, is considered unprofessional (which is what groveling is, IMO).

Love your blog, Jessica, and looking forward to hopefully running into you at National. I'll try not to thank you when and if I do meet you, LOL.


Janelle Dakota's blog said...

To sum up what I've learned so far:

Start with flattery. Don't say thank you. The story should be revealed in a general but specific two-sentence summary that includes the hook, the genre, and the entire plot. End strong.

Piece of cake.