May 7, 2009

Query- Sulham Close

Dear Agent,

The Residents of Sulham Close have a terrible secret. Trapped by a curse they’re unable to revoke, they receive prosperity, good fortune, and immortality in return for providing a yearly sacrifice to demonic deity who resides on the other side of a portal.

Mark lives on the streets of Reading, earning enough by busking to keep himself in Strongbow. Pete saunters into his life with an offer he can’t refuse – a warm bed, free food, and a chance to ditch the booze. Tricked into staying the night at Pete’s secluded cottage and oblivious of the chithons, the diety’s minions, soon coming to take him over to the Otherside, Mark smuggles in Louisa, his pregnant girlfriend. A race against time ensues with midnight, the time of the chithons’ arrival, fast approaching. The neighbours attempt a rescue and drag Louisa from the cottage. Now in labour, they take her inside another house as Mark’s screams fill the night. Louisa was in the house as midnight struck, and the chithons emerging from the Otherside want their other sacrifice. But Pete is sabotaging his neighbours’ efforts to save the girl.

A hasty caesarean is performed on Louisa, and the baby hidden as the chithons storm the house and seize the dying girl. Amelia cuddles Hope, the baby, as the creatures disappear for another year.

Sulham Close is a 30,000 word horror novella and middle instalment of a five book series. The other books chronicle the origins of the curse, the murder of one of the residents, and Pete’s evolution into a serial killer. The dramatic conclusion features Hope, the baby born in Sulham Close, on the cusp of turning twenty as she passes through to the Otherside and battles the deity.

I have been writing seriously for several years. My novel, Coombe’s Wood, was runner-up in YouWriteOn’s 2008 Book of the Year Award, and was a semi-finalist in the 2009 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. My published short stories and poems include work in Twisted Tongue magazine and UKAuthors Anthologies, and a series of children’s stories in La Fenetre. The manuscript of my novel The Crocodile was short-listed in the Undiscovered Authors 2006 competition.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

8 comments:

The Screaming Guppy said...

"Tricked into staying the night at Pete’s secluded cottage and oblivious of the chithons, the diety’s minions, soon coming to take him over to the Otherside, Mark smuggles in Louisa, his pregnant girlfriend. A race against time ensues with midnight, the time of the chithons’ arrival, fast approaching." <-- This sentence is very hard to follow.

I'm not famillair with pitching novellas - are you supposed to tell everything like this? Seems like you're telling me the entire plot, which makes this part of the paragraph feel like a list:

"A race against time ensues with midnight, the time of the chithons’ arrival, fast approaching. The neighbours attempt a rescue and drag Louisa from the cottage. Now in labour, they take her inside another house as Mark’s screams fill the night. Louisa was in the house as midnight struck, and the chithons emerging from the Otherside want their other sacrifice. But Pete is sabotaging his neighbours’ efforts to save the girl."

These is too much info, I feel like.

And this sentence feels very awkward to me: "Now in labour, they take her inside another house as Mark’s screams fill the night."

Why would you pitch the middle book and not the first? I don't really understand this. And why would you get into other parts in the series? You should pitching one book, right? And mentioning it is part of a series. (Again, I don't know if novellas are approached differently.) This is like approaching an agent with full novel, and saying read the ending as my sample work, because it's much better than the beginning. To me, this doesn't seem like the proper approach.

Your last paragraphs seems very well done, with the exception of this line: "I have been writing seriously for several years." I would cut it, as it feels redundant, being that your list of accomplishments displays this quite clearly.

Good luck.

hope101 said...

First, the technical issues:

Your query seems to jump POV, from Mark, to someone who observes Mark's screams, to Amelia. (Amelia wasn't introduced earlier, BTW.) To avoid this, try writing the entire query in your main character's voice and from his perspective. I assume that's Mark.

Second, marketing issues:

I've heard that the market for novellas is dismal, unless specifically commissioned in advance by editors. Is it possible that you can put all five novellas into one manuscript? I think your chance of selling would be significantly better.

Kat said...

Hmmm...I wonder if less would be more? Something like:

"Mark lives on the streets of Reading, barely earning enough busking, when Pete, a mysterious stranger, approaches him with an offer he can’t refuse – a warm bed, free food, and a chance to ditch the booze. Oblivious to the motivations behind the generous offer, Mark smuggles Louisa, his pregnant girlfriend, into Pete’s secluded cottage.

Mark and Louisa are oblivious to the residents of Sulham Close’s secret curse—that they receive prosperity, good fortune, and immortality in return for providing a yearly sacrifice to the demonic deity who resides on the other side of a portal.

Sulham Close is a 30,000 word horror novella and middle instalment of a five-book series. The other books chronicle the origins of the curse, the murder of one of Sulham Close’s residents, and Pete’s evolution into a serial killer. The dramatic conclusion features Hope, Mark and Louisa’s baby, on the cusp of her twentieth birthday as she passes through to the Otherside and battles the deity."

I only suggest this because, personally, if I was an agent, your credentials alone would make me curious to read the MS (you clearly have a successful & recognized past track record).

Best of luck!

Horserider said...

The middle installment? Why are you writing a query for any book other than the first?

I'm not sure if this story focuses on Mark, Pete, Louisa, or Hope.

"Amelia cuddles Hope, the baby, as the creatures disappear for another year. "

And who's Amelia?

So much is happening in this query. You need to focus on the main event and the main character.

Ginger said...

Thank you so much for all the wonderful advice.
I feel like a bit of a wally now - I hate writing submissions. I have a lot of difficulty with them, and even when I think they might be halfway decent, they're not, really (hence the wally suggestion).
I feel I should explain about the five part series and this is the middle installment. After I wrote Sulham Close I realised it could be part of a series. I think the suggestion to go away and write the rest is the right one!

Thank you so much for the thoughts, I have much to re-write.

Cheers,
Lisa

Ginger said...

Sorry, forgot to add something. The POV does jump around, as it does in the story. Virtually each chapter is in a different POV. This makes it hard to tell the story from one view, especially as Mark does not make it past chapter 10...

hope101 said...

Forgive my ignorance, but what is a "wally"? And obviously you're doing something right to have earned your writing credentials. (Also, a sincere thankyou for the feedback. Many people here do a post-and-run, and I'm personally not ever sure if I've crushed them, inspired them, or helped in any way.)

Just an idea: see if you can find one person's POV to write the through-story. (Perhaps a village child.) Or just write Hope's tale as she turns twenty, with everything else that precedes it becoming her backstory.

Anyway, good luck.

Ginger said...

Wally is someone who has had an idiot moment (or is always just a plain old idiot). I think Americans have a similar word - schmuck?

Lisa