Aug 2, 2009

QUERY - Vampire Vacation - Revised

Click here to read the original query.

This one is a hit! I got another response in less than 12 hours - Yay!

Thanks guys!

Dear XXX,

I'm writing you to seek representation for my 90,000 word erotic urban fantasy Vampire Vacation which four editors requested in full at the recent Romance Writer’s of America National convention.

What do you get when you combine a 580-year-old vampire, her human husband, and a resort for the undead? A sexually charged, sardonic relationship between a married couple and a never ending cast of unique characters.

Meet Vivian, the supernatural equivalent of Mr. Roarke on Fantasy Island, who projects illusions to create the perfect vacation spot for vampires in Alaska. Upon a check of the guest rooms, Vivian stumbles across a murdered body, one that is neither an employee nor a guest. She and her husband, Rafe, hide the corpse, convinced they can track down the killer without alerting their customers.

When orchestrating the sexual escapades of some guests and questioning others proves too much for her, Vivian listens to Rafe’s advice. For the first time in hundreds of years, she agrees to involve and trust an outsider for assistance. It’s a difficult step for Vivian, who knows in the end she may wind up having to kill to keep her secrets safe.

I’m contacting you because your agency represents XXXX, whose novel I enjoyed. I've researched you online and have stopped by your XXXX site, your blog, read your interview on XXXXXX and would be honored to have you represent me.

This spring, I won a flash fiction writing contest for a horror entry, received third place in an erotica contest, and recently placed second for my rough draft of chapter one of Vampire Vacation in the RWA Dixie First sponsored contest. I’m a member of RWA, Sisters In Crime and several subchapters of these associations. My work already has a fan base of 1,000 on Facebook. Please stop by and see what some of the reviewers from my private reading group have to say about my novel:

Thank you so much for taking the time to read my query,

C.J. Ellisson


Scott said...

First Impression - the query seems a bit all over the place.

Second Impression - do you really need to mention Facebook? It seems unnecessary to me. Personally, not to be harsh, but I don't about a fan base on Facebook. Would an agent? I'd omit that part and keep in the other info which is probably more pertinent.

Third Impression - Mr. Roarke? Really. Hey, I loved the show, but most people today aren't going to have a clue. I know, I know, you're getting responses, but . . . what if the agent you're querying is in their mid 20s to early 30s? Will they know Mr. Roarke?

Overall - love the concept, but I'm kinda wierd that way. I think if the query was a tad more tighter, it might work better. Oh, not sure if the four editors line works for you or against you. I mean, did they love the full or hate it? If loved, well, why are you still querying. Maybe take that part out of the first sentence.

Okay, I hope this didn't come across as too harsh. I'm just kind of throwing things out there. Best of luck.


Scott said...

Ooops . . . Second Impression . . .
Personally, not to be harsh, but I don't care (sorry, typed too quick once again) . . .


Laura Martone said...

C.J. -

Since I've been a bad little PQS follower lately, I will happily comment on your query.

First of all, congrats on getting a response from your query. That's very exciting!

Second, your novel sounds very enticing - I'd be interested in reading it - so I can see how the query might lure a potential agent.

That said, there were two things that popped out at me. One, while I think it's terrific that you indicate in the 5th paragraph WHY you're contacting this particular agency, I feel like your bio paragraph goes on a bit too long - perhaps mentioning the RWA award and your website is enough. Because the other two awards have no specific titles or organizations attached, they seem a bit amateurish. Also, I wonder how agents feel about reading reviewers' comments - in other words, how seriously do they consider the opinions of Facebook "friends"...

Two, I noticed a lot of typos in your letter. I'll try to catch most of them:

1. 90,000-word (first paragraph)
2. VAMPIRE VACATION, (first paragraph)
3. Romance Writers of America National Conference (first paragraph)
4. never-ending (second paragraph)
5. FANTASY ISLAND (third paragraph)
6. I've researched you online, stopped by your XXXX site and your blog, and read your interview on XXXXXX, and I would be honored to have you represent me. (fifth paragraph)
7. VAMPIRE VACATION (sixth paragraph)
8. I’m a member of RWA, Sisters In Crime, and several subchapters of these associations. (sixth paragraph - it's a comma thing)

Sorry to be so picky. Hope that helps with your future submissions... Good luck!


C.J. Ellisson said...

Thanks guys! First off, wow Scott, you have some strong opinions ; )

The reason I mention the four requests is that's WHY I'm contacting them. I have not sent my MS in yet. I know that an editor who requests it could take 6 weeks to 6 months to get back to me with no agent, but having a good agent could get my book read in a week.

It's okay if you don't like the Mr.Roarke reference. So far, six agents have in two weeks. I think I'll leave it in.

I felt the same way as you about having the opening line about the MS's. Like you stated, I felt it made the query sound like it was all over the place. It was three published authors in one of the chapters I belong to that suggested I lead with that line.

The facebook fan page is a huge selling point - and no, they are not my friends and family (maybe 75 are). It shows not only my ability to self promote, but that there is a market for my unique urban fantasy with co-protagonists.

I've recently written three articles for one of the chapters I'm a member of explaining how I got 1,000 fans while being unpublished. Just b/c it may not seem viable to you does not make it interesting to an agent or an editor.

Laura - thanks so much for your valuable input - yes, I noticed most of the typos you mentioned after I sent the last post to Rick. But others I had not caught, so thank you for that! Punctuation is my downfall.

The long run-on sentence about why I was contacting that particular agent doesn't stay that way in the final draft (unless they have all of those things when I researched them).

The writing credits may seem unimportant, so I'll look into re-vamping (no pun intended) that section. I put it in b/c I've only been writing since February and it was a big deal to me.

And while the reviewers of my novel didn't start as friends, they started as Beta readers, I do consider a lot of them friends now. I think having a private reading group with over 200 readers willing to write a review for me is a good thing. After all, they are the ones ultimately buying books.

RCWriterGirl said...

First off, I'll deal with the non-book related stuff.

I agree with others who said to leave out the Facebook stuff. Too much info that is meaningless. A 1,000 fans on facebook is not very many. It's paltry, really. Definitely not worth touting.

Second, I would get rid of the mention of the editors who requested your stuff at RWA. I throw the BS flag when I see language like that. If you've got all these editors in your hip pocket, what do you need me for? Or if I do join you, what if you've messed things up thorougly with these four editors already and I just have a mess to clean up? If you were ballsy enough to approach these four editors, who loved it, why couldn't you come up with four agents who loved it, too. Stuff that sounds too good to be true (like editor interest) should not be mentioned in a query. If you have an offer, mention that upfront. Four people looking goes on the backend. Imagine if you went to buy a car, and the first thing the car salesman says when you walk up to him is: "four other buyers are seriously considering this car." You'd feel like saying: then go sell it to them. It's not something you open with. The salesman tells you all the wonderful features of the car, then at the end of the spiel, mentions he'll be available, but there are four other people looking at it too. The four editors is a closer, not an opener.

Onto the query: I don't understand the problem in the story. She's a vampire, she sells rooms to vampires, and a human is dead. Who cares? Vampires kill humans all the time. Why does she care to find the murderer? What does it matter? How is one dead body in any way harming her existance or causing her a moment of dismay? Until you explain that, I don't see how you get anyone interested in this story. Or perhaps I just don't understand the erotica market.

RCWriterGirl said...

Oh, I get it now. The murdered person is not a human! I don't know why I thought that earlier, but the plot makes more sense now.

Overall, I guess the plot is presented well enough. I think the plot section is fine. Though, I think she'd be just fine burying the corpse and forgetting about it, unless she thought this was going to be a serial crime. I mean, she runs a resort. It doesn't seem she's obligated to figure out why anyone died there, so long as she covers up that it happened.

C.J. Ellisson said...

Wow, RC Girl, why not tell me what you really think? Oh, that's right you DID.

I thought I covered some of this already, but let me try again.

I approached editors and not agents at the convention b/c I didn't like the idea of giving an agent 15% of what I may earn.

Two published authors I met explained to me that an agent can get my work read in a fraction of the time (try a week as opposed to six months) and that I should have an agent help get the best deal possible while protecting my interest in the piece (film and foreign rights to name two)

I came home and immediately did my synopsis (that the editors requested) and tried to perfect a query to go out. I found this site and thought it would be a great place to get feedback.

I can honestly say you didn't offer me much help but you certainly enjoyed bashing what I did write, or what the editors considered impressive.

May I ask, how many fans did you have before you published your first book? Would you have appreciated anyone telling you it was paltry? And if you do not have a published piece yet, perhaps you can tell me how many people actually like what you write and would pay for it the second the book comes out?

To dismiss another writers work is rude and unprofessional. Maybe you're having a bad day and thought it would be fun to come on here and offer your "worthy" advice.

Your analogy is incorrect about the "four people looking to buy this car". More accurately would be for me to approach a car dealership and say "I know nothing about cars. I have four people interested in test driving the vehicle I'd like to sell. Could you please represent me in the transaction, handle all the negotiations and I'll give you a percentage of the sale price?"

Perhaps you need to understand the relationship of what an agent does a little better first.

Lastly, my book is not erotica. It has erotic elements, there is a big difference, but if you don't read the genre then you wouldn't know.

May I suggest the next time you want to give someone feedback you stick to the actual piece and try to help improve it?

I didn't ask you to dissect my plot or to even comment on it. The book is not about the body - the body is a subplot.

I asked for help in wording a strong query. Why not look at how Laura critiqued my query, you might learn how to critique with class instead of anger.

Please let me know if YOU have a query you'd like ME to review for YOU. I will certainly stick to the topic, rise above petty comments and show you what helping someone improve their work really is.

Rick Daley said...

I think mentioning that your work has gained the interest of several editors is something an agent would be interested in. They would also be interested to know who they were / which publishing houses they represent.

There's something else very telling about the opening: that you took the time to attend a national writing convention. That shows a level of professionalism and dedication that many agent look for in their clients.

In regard to Facebook, if it is your work and not you personally, that's a nice start. I've read that even selling 4,000 books can be seen as a success, and if you have a platform to deliver 1/4 of that, you're starting in the right direction. But I think if you leave it out it does not weaken your query at all. So, in that case, I would leave it out.

It's good to mention writing awards, but you should always name the publication in which the work appeared or the organization that gave the award. You first two are too general, the third one is worded great.

Good luck, I hope one of those editors offers a contract.

Stephanie said...

I agree w/ previous comments about removing the "four editors" and Facebook bits. It feels awkward and it's distracting from the focus of your query. I would also mention those contests by name.

The core parts of the query are good and it's well structured. I also like the idea of your story.

C.J. Ellisson said...

Thanks Rick, and yes, this is my pen name and the page on Facebook is not a personal one but a business one. One where the person viewing it clicks on the 'become a fan' button agreeing to follow the page. I had to develop ads, target certain audiences and pay for the marketing to promote it.

The best part about it is I have all the demographic data associated with the fans on the page - the age and gender of a fan, education level and where they live. I was pleasantly surprised by the overseas following, telling me that foreign rights on the book could be worth something and to be aware of those specifics within a contract.

Thanks Stephanie, I appreciate you taking the time to read my query and offering your opinion.

I think I will take everyone's advice and remove the info on the small contests I won. I only included it b/c one of my crit partners is a freelance writer and she advised me to include all of them.

Amazing how many conflicting opinions there are out there!

Thanks guys and I wish you the best in your own writing as well,

Rick Daley said...

This is from the BookEnds blog, regarding a mention of work that has been submitted to editors:

I’ve received requests from editors through conferences and contests and have sent material off to them. Should I mention this to agents when I query or will it turn agents off because the book is already out there?

Definitely mention it. It shows agents that others in the industry have already expressed interest in your work and gives you that little oomph that others might not have. Make sure you mention that Jane Editor from Publishers Anonymous has your work “by request.”

The full post is available at: