Sep 20, 2009

QUERY: THE ACCIDENTAL ALIEN

When eighteen-year-old Toby Beckett chases his dog into Washington, D.C.’s Rock Creek Park, he discovers a Nikon with digital photos of a UFO crash and a giant woman. Both skeptical and thrilled, he heads to a Union Station coffee bar to show the photos to Burke Kerrigan, a former AP photographer, who just laughs at them. Toby falls for Burke’s beautiful sister Kate when she joins their table. Suddenly they spot the giant in the subway crowd. Leaping up, they trail her across the city until she reveals herself to be inhuman and disappears inside Buchanan House, an elegant condominium near the woods where Toby found the Nikon. Burke argues that the giant is a carnival freak who faked the photos to make money, but when they hike into Rock Creek Park, they find the UFO behind a damaged camouflage force field.

THE ACCIDENTAL ALIEN is a romantic, 85,800 word science fiction/fantasy novel about three couples who cross paths with a mysterious UFO that crashes in Rock Creek Park. Toby, falling for his friend Kate, discovers the UFO with her, but when her brother Burke gets trapped inside the saucer, no one believes them. Toby’s sister Lisa Mitchell and her husband Ian, constantly bickering with each other, move into Buchanan House and find they have a strange neighbor. Monroe Broussard, a friend of Toby’s who is struggling to return to law school after a hurricane kills his family, keeps seeing a door in the sky, but doesn’t know how to explain his vision to his fiancée. While the alien adapts to the city with frightening consequences, one person stumbles upon the UFO’s unique purpose.

As for myself, I was born in Washington, D.C. and lived in the area where the novel takes place. Right now I’m writing a sequel. A copyeditor has checked THE ACCIDENTAL ALIEN (_________name and credentials of copyeditor). I’m enclosing a SASE, synopsis and the first (__________per agent's submission guidelines) pages, which are disposable copy.

(Personalized paragraph about why I am contacting this agent). Thank you for considering my submission.

Sincerely,


Author

5 comments:

Donna Hole said...

A good sci-fi scenario. I love stories about aliens on earth and the reasons they're here. And romance - ah, thats always good. You set a good tone and pace in this query.

I'm kinda gonna critique from the bottom up, but may move around a little as I think.

1. The personalized paragraph about why you are contacting the specific agent should be your beginning paragraph. Just a couple sentences. You next line should include the title of the novel and maybe a couple words of what the novel is about. Remember, this paragraph should only be 3 - 4 short sentences.

2. Your author bio should include only where you or this particular story has been previously published. Unless you have some type of specialized degree in astrology or paranormal studies, the fact that you grew up in DC is interesting, but irrelevant. So is the info that a copy editor has checked the novel - unless it is an editor that requested the novel for possible errors, or english is not your primary language. An agent will be interested to know if this is part of a series, but not usually in the query. The novel must stand alone. If you want to let them know its part of a series, state something simple like: the novel is complete at 86,000 (always round to the nearst 00) words and stands alone, but is the first of a trilogy.

If you have no previous publishing credentials, it is alright to leave that off entirely. Thanking the agent for his/her time will be closing enough (don't forget to mention the title again).

3. The second paragraph tell me more about the novel than the first did. All this needs to be brought out in the short synopsis.

The info contained in the second paragraph (except THE ACCIDENTAL ALIEN is a romantic, 85,800 word science fiction/fantasy novel"), is a bit too detailed for the query. (Here's where I'll jump up a bit.)

In the first paragraph, link the three couples to Toby (you don't really need to name them or their personal situations) and tell how they help him expose the alien landing.

In the second paragraph, tell who the protagonists are and what obstacles Toby faces to making himself believed (or whatever his goal is) and what the "frightening consequences" are of the aliens asimilation into society are.

4. I really liked your opening sentence: When eighteen-year-old Toby Beckett chases his dog into Washington, D.C.’s Rock Creek Park, he discovers a Nikon with digital photos of a UFO crash and a giant woman. Both skeptical and thrilled, he heads to a Union Station coffee bar to show the photos to Burke Kerrigan, a former AP photographer, who just laughs at them.

It is a very strong start, and sets up your story (setting, genre, main character) perfectly. The rest of your query is more of the synopsis type, and should be saved for that part of having your novel requested by an agent.

Good luck with the query.

............dhole

Sam said...

Donna, thanks for your thoughtful and detailed feedback. I appreciate it!

"In the second paragraph, tell who the protagonists are and what obstacles Toby faces to making himself believed (or whatever his goal is) and what the "frightening consequences" are of the aliens asimilation into society are.

This is the main thing the letter needs, spelling out the MC conflicts.

RCWriterGirl said...

I read this and felt like it was too all over the place.

It sounds like an interesting story, but I'm not sure who it's an interesting story about. Agree with others who said focus in on your main character, and maybe get rid of some of these extra people. If the three couples are the main charactes, explain how each set of couples interacts with the UFO to get to your novels main conflict.

This really needs streamlining.

Lastly, DO NOT INCLUDE THAT YOU HIRED A COPY EDITOR. DO NOT INCLUDE IT. PLEASE. This indicates the agent needs to be worried about your basic grammar/writing fundamentals. If you hired a copy editor, that's fine. But, put your best foot forward in the letter. That best foot shows you know how to get your agent a professional, polished manuscript (the how you did it --the copy editor--is not important right now).

Good luck with your query.

p.s. I live in the DC area, and think Rock Creek Park is a fine place to hide a UFO.

Sam said...

Thanks for all your feedback, RCWriterGirl. I've ditched the copyeditor sentence. And yes, the letter does need streamlining. I'm working now on explaining the novel's conflicts in the second paragraph...

Standing on my head in the middle of the Beltway would be easier than writing a query letter.

And Donna Hole, I like how the letter goes right into the story, but I will seriously consider starting the letter with the intro and agent personalization, as you suggest.

Donna Hole said...

Sam:

I liked that too. It grabbed me right away. And I'm sure if a agent reads that first, by the time he gets to the bottom of the page and your reasons for contacting him, he will have mostly already made up his mind about the query.

I think its one of those points that is more a preference to an agent. Some want the query to start with them, others don't care. There are probably a lot of agents out there on the web that basically want to know about the story and not much else. 15 seconds spent on an e-mail is all the time their willing to devote to a decision.

So, on that issue, I'd say, know the agent you are submitting to. If they spend a little more time on the query, maybe you'd want to put the "stroke the agent ego" part first.

If you've done your research about the particular agent, you'll know which approach would work best.

.........dhole