May 31, 2009

Query - HOLLOW SOULS

Click here to read the second revision.

Dear Mr./Ms. Agent:

In recent decades, the world has become increasingly more dangerous and more restrictive, making many people long for a refuge like Ruby Hollow – a secret, subterranean haven that unites families from all cultures, religions, and persuasions; supports innovation while preserving old-fashioned ideals; and enables lost souls to find solace and purpose.

Devi Marconi, an unhappy housewife and mother, first shares the legend of this mysterious, century-old utopia with her youngest child, Olivia, following a particularly horrid day in 1970s-era New Orleans. Years later, Olivia, now a teenaged artist, has wearied of her mother’s inexplicable depression, until she discovers a cache of love letters from the “hero” of Devi’s bedtime tales, and suddenly realizes the Hollow is an actual place. Through these illuminating pages, she learns about the unexpected pregnancy that prevented her mother’s return to the strange underworld into which she’d stumbled as a child. Despite her doubts, Olivia confesses her find, yearning to know more about Devi’s long-lost home. But it isn’t until a road trip to Kentucky that Devi is finally able to introduce Olivia to the beloved cave-dwellers that once inspired her stories, and to the only place where she’s ever truly belonged...

Since growing up in New Orleans and studying film, literature, and creative writing at Northwestern University, I’ve held a variety of positions, from ecotourism journalist to travel guide author – with publishing credits that include MOON MICHIGAN (Avalon Travel, 2009). Once, on assignment in Kentucky, I toured the dark, twisting passages of Mammoth Cave, which eventually sparked HOLLOW SOULS, a 150,000-word literary/mainstream novel that proves it’s never too late to find one’s place in the world. While researching cave geology and varied cultures for the Hollow, I created detailed maps, census records, and the history of founder Ruby Fitzgerald, a dedicated abolitionist and the inspiration for my second novel, currently in progress.

Thank you for considering the possibility of representing my work. If you would like to view the complete synopsis, proposal, or manuscript, please visit my website – www.rubyhollow.com – or contact me via the email, phone, or mailing information listed above. I’ve enclosed a brief synopsis and an SASE for your convenience. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Sincerely,
Laura Martone

12 comments:

Rick Daley said...

This comes across as very professional and I think it has great potential. It could be streamlined in a few places toward the end:

I think the last sentence of your bio could be cut (referring to maps, census, other novel).

Encouraging the agents to learn more by visiting your website is good, but I don't know that you want to imply that they should go there for the full manuscript. You also mention a proposal, which is typically drafted for non-fiction.

I also think you would be better served to include the first 5 pages rather than a synopsis. Chances are your voice will show itself better in your actual work...at least, I know my voice is more apparent in my MS than my synopsis, so I guess I'm projecting a little ;-)

Laura Martone said...

Hi, Rick.

Thanks so much for your input. I've already taken your advice and cut the last line of my bio (you're right - it did feel awkward there). I also reworked the last paragraph.

I really appreciate your time, and while I'm sure you're a pretty busy guy, I wonder if I could bug you for a few more minutes. I just have a few questions:

1. Do you think the first sentence is enough of a hook - or should I rework that, too?

2. I've read way too many conflicting sets of guidelines for queries (as I'm sure you have, too), and some have said that it's important to mention your target audience in the query (mine would probably be teenaged and adult females) as well as future projects (like my second novel) to show that I intend to have a long-term writing career.

3. Do you think most agents (like Nathan Bransford) want queries to be personalized for them? For instance, should I mention how my work is similar to that of their clients, or why I contacted them specifically?

4. Do you think it sounds unprofessional that I have a proposal for a fictional work?

5. Lastly - and this is the big one - does my voice come through this letter? That's the one oft-mentioned guideline that freaks me out the most.

Thanks again for your time and guidance. I can't tell you how much I appreciate your website. I've already learned a lot by perusing the other queries posted here.

--Laura

Rick Daley said...

1. The first sentence is wordy. Try to scale it back while keeping the same flow of information. For example, "more dangerous and more restrictive" and "all cultures, religions, and persuasions" could be streamlined.

2. Agent opinions vary widely. Try to do what you can to research your target agent(s) and learn their preferences. AgentQuery.com and QueryTracker.net are both excellent resources. Just remember that every word counts in a query, and you primary job is to sell the agent on your story.

3. In general, see my answer to #2 above. That being said, the personalization can help sell your story by helping to frame it in the agent's mind; it takes some of the guesswork out of their decision making.

4. I'm not sure, to be honest with you. My guess is yes, because a proposal is typically for non-fiction. The most important thing for fiction is a complete manuscript; a proposal makes your work sound incomplete (to me at least).

5. I would need to read your manuscript to judge whether or not your voice is showing through in the query; but that is why I suggested you submit the first 4-5 pages instead of a synopsis.

Good luck! I'm sure some other people will add $0.02 to the discussion, give it a day or two ;-)

Laura Martone said...

Thanks so much, Rick. I really appreciate your suggestions... I'm going to tighten up the query and send it to QueryShark next. I don't want to beat it to death, of course, but I definitely want it to be the best it can be before I send it out into the "real" world...

Rick Daley said...

Laura,

EvilEditor.net is another place you can go for feedback. Make sure you have thick skin, because EE is a humor site and will make fun of anything and everything...but he still gives very worthwhile advice, and the minions also share useful opinions in the comments.

Laura Martone said...

Well, I can't say I have a naturally thick skin, but I'm trying hard to develop one. Getting my original query rejected by NB has helped me to toughen up!

So, thanks for the suggestion - I'll bug as many people as possible re: the query. At least a friend of mine gave me good news tonight - I never thought she'd finish reading my novel, but she did, and she loved it. Course, you know what "they" say about the opinions of friends and family... Still, it made me feel good. Ah, to be a writer who doesn't crave validation... ;-)

Rick Daley said...

Positive feedback from friends and family has its place in a writer's morale. Take it for what its worth.

I've been rejected by NB, one of the finest rejections one could hope for ;-) He's prompt, too so you don't have to wait months to find out you need to move on. It's no doubt so many writers have him in their sights...of course, that makes the competition very intense.

folksinmt said...

This is an excellent query. I agree with Rick, cut some of the bio info. And I would get rid of the line that talks about your second novel.

I love your title! Good luck!

Laura Martone said...

Thanks, Rick and folksinmt! I appreciate your help... ooh, I feel so energized now!

Bane of Anubis said...

Laura, though I've checked out your premise at your website, the query helps better compartmentalize it for me. It sounds like you have an interesting story (I particularly like subterranean settings - my first 3 books all had massive underground tunnels involved, so I have a sore spot)...

The premise sounds interesting and I agree w/ what some of the others say (about condensing). I'd like to see your 1st sentence be more hookish (it's in the ballpark, I think, but it feels more like a single than a homerun).

Also, 150,000 seems a bit on the high end - if you could cut it to 120k, you'd probably have a greater breadth of agents you could query (this coming from someone who's on the opposite end of the spectrum - 51k :)

At least there isn't anything about monkeys :)

MorganX said...

I just want to say that I'm very picky about what I read right now, but I would definitely be interested in your novel, based on this query. Best of luck to you!!

Laura Martone said...

Thanks, Bane and Morgan - I appreciate the advice/support!