Dec 21, 2009

Query - Fallen Knight

Dear Ms. Agent,

My research led me to your agencies web-site and your particular interest in mystery/thrillers. I believe my 105,000 word novel, FALLEN KNIGHT, fits the mold of material you’re in search of and hope you consider representing me. If successful, I envision the characters from my novel evolving into a series.

In 1984, the largest bioterrorism attack documented in US history took place in Dalles, Oregon. More than 750 individuals were sickened, but luckily there were no fatalities.
Now, somebody thinks they can do better. When Lee Hamilton answers an early morning call asking for help tracking down the person responsible for a viscous attack of a close friend, little does he realize that it will put him on a collision course with the person determined to make just that event happen.

Lee is just a middle-aged human resource manager from a small southern town, but he’s also a knight. One of six college friends who in their hey-day were labeled ‘The Knights Who Say Ni’, Lee’s troubles begin when he rallies the other knights to assist Dianne Williams, the manager of the detective agency where their stricken friend works, to search for the assailant. The trail of clues leads them to a six-month old deadly high school shooting sixty miles outside the nation’s capital and a cryptic suicide note that brags I’m not finished yet. Although the knight’s method of solving jigsaw puzzles are unconventional, when the pieces do start coming together it pulls the covers back on an unbelievable pattern of crimes.

In over their heads with the boundaries of the knight’s friendship tested, they must scramble to avoid arrest by a suspicious police detective and the FBI. The rag-tag group seeks to unravel a sinister plot as they race the clock. At stake if they fail, the unleashing of a bio-terrorism attack on the streets of Washington DC.

From an agoraphobic taxi-driver, to a love-sick high school student forced to hide a terrible secret, even the secondary characters in FALLEN KNIGHT are memorable. Thank you, Ms. Agent, for your consideration of this query. At your request, I will be happy to send along the complete manuscript.

DL Hammons


Holly said...

First of all, good luck to you.

This is all about the opening paragraph:

Your first paragraph shows a lack of confidence. When you say "I believe..." "If successful" it comes across as tentative.

I wouldn't say anything about a series. Just pitch the novel you've written.

Plus you're saying you've researched the agent and your novel is similar to works they represent... but since you give no details, this comes across as a form letter.

Sorry, but if I was a busy agent I would stop reading.

If you've really researched an agent, use that research to personalize the letter.

Holly said...

Me again. A few more few comments I hope will help you.

Back to the first paragraph, I noticed a spelling error. "agencies" should be "agency's".

You need to work on your craft. Spelling errors mean instant rejection.

Run spellcheck on your novel. Then find or pay somebody to read it to check your spelling and grammar because spellcheck doesn't catch everything. Pay a copyeditor. You can find copyeditors at college literary magazines and newspapers. This is essential.

Piedmont Writer said...

I have to say I like the premise of the book but the query is too confusing. Like Holly said, you have too many grammarical errors that need to be cleaned up. Take out all the "justs" Just this, just that. No justs.

And is there a place actually called Dalles, Oregon? where this bioterrorism attack took place? Is this a true event or a fictional one? IF it's fictional for the book I would consider changing the town's name, it made me crazy to think that it should have been Dallas. I know, it's picky, but you want the agent to read through this smoothly.

Place the second paragraph first. Start with the query. In that paragraph, find another word for person. You have it twice. And it's not the same person.

Third paragraph -- if the trail leads them to a deadly high school shooting, why is there a cryptic suicide note that says I'm not done yet. That makes no sense.

And if they are knights, why are they rag tag? Knights to me are chivalrous, grand, over-achievers.

Take out the last paragraph altogether -- there is no such thing as an agoraphobic taxi driver, that's almost an oxymoron. This is where you say,

I am seeking representation at this time for my mystery/thriller FALLEN KNIGHT, complete at 105,000 words. Thank you for your consideration in this matter.

Period. Short and sweet.

Like I said, I like the premise of the book, you're too confusing in the query. Tighten it up, find the grammarical errors, make it more professional. It reads like it's in jeans and a T-shirt, you want it in a business suit.

Lynn Colt said...

First off, I like the basic premise. My concerns with the query:

You start off talking about an attack in 1984, so I start thinking the book is gonna be about that. But apparently it's not, it's about some other attack, which is confusing and eats up space. Also, you say that Lee is a knight ... except he's really not, it's just a nickname (right? from a Monty Python movie? I'm now picturing a group of drunk college guys clowning around, not anything to do with real knighthood) so that is kind of a bait and switch that leaves me disappointed.

At that point I started skimming, but it seemed like most of the third paragraph after 'The trail...' was just a series of events and could be cut. Also, cliche-watch: 'little does he know', 'collision course', 'trail of clues', 'unravel a sinister plot', 'race the clock', plus the idea of a mystery as a jigsaw puzzle.

Hope this helps!

Lt. Cccyxx said...

Let me reiterate what others said: check your spelling. Your spelling error in the first line might be as far as an agent decides to read!

Second, I would suggest introducing your protagonist earlier in the letter. You can definitely cut the first two sentences in the second paragraph, at the very least.

One thing you emphasize but I don't understand the significance of is Lee's identity as a "knight." What does that mean for Lee? For your plot? Why is he still so close with his college buddies in middle age, anyway?

We also need to understand why a human resources manager would get involved in this. Tell us more about the attacked person, the "close friend". Tell us why the authorities can't do this themselves. (Even more, tell us why the authorities want to arrest the knights.)

But especially, tell us what is at stake for Lee. Since he is your protagonist, I would suggest making him the centerpiece of your query.

Anonymous said...

Another spelling note:
"viscous attack" should be "vicious attack"

DL Hammons said...

This is some awesome stuff here! Thank you all for the comments and suggestions. The fact that many of you said the premise showed promise was heartening. I'm going to take the time to respond to all of them, and hopefully you'll check back and see what I've written.

Holly, I see what you mean about tentative. I'll fix that.

I've read that one of the things agents are looking for are writers who can be more than one-hit wonders. My comment about the series was meant to show my commitment to the long-haul.

My opening was generic regarding the agent on purpose because I intend to customize the query for each. I'm sorry I didn't communicate that better.

As far as the spelling error, *Slaping head*. I've read this letter umpteen times and still a mistake gets through. ARGH!!

Piedmont, there is a place actually called Dalles, Oregon, and the bio-terrorism I mentioned did take place there. I agree, it is awkward. I can get away from the name by changing it to read took place in the pacific northwest.

The student who was responsible for the school shooting discussed in the third paragraph ended the assualt by committing suicide. A note was found on his body that read I'm not done yet which is interpretted to mean he made plans beforehand to do even more damage. That event becomes linked to the possible biological threat.

I chuckled regarding your comment about knights being chivalrous but me portraying them as rag-tag. Firstly, the knights was a nickname bestowed upon them many years ago that happened to stick. Although their actions during the course of the book are chivalrous, because they are regular guys and not real investigators their methods and organization tend to lean toward the rag-tag.

Lynn, the inital attack in 1984 serves as one of the motivating factors for my villain(s). Doing one better and re-writing the record books, and not just pertaining to this crime.

I'm interested to hear other opinions about Lynn's "bait & switch" analogy about the knights.

Lt. Cccyxx, Lee's connection with the knights and their bond with one another is central to my story. They are a group of six friends, run-of-the-mill guys who will do just about anything for one another, and when one of the group is put into a coma, they rally around him and vow to find his attacker. They unwittingly find themselves in a plot whose grand finale culminates with the bio-terrorism attack.

The other questions you pose are the reason you should want to read the book, and if I included the answers in this query letter it would sound more like a synopsis. Let me suffice it to say that I write about ordinary people being placed into extraordinary circumstances.

Piedmont Writer said...

See now, you've explained all the why's to us, now you need to explain them to the agent. Well, not all, but you know what I mean. Get rid of the confusion. It really does sound like a great book. And we all know about typo's, they're the bane of our existance, but remember this is to an agent. You can't have any. Spruce it up, run it again, I'd love to see a revised version.

graphicemotions said...

Greetings from Italy

Bane of Anubis said...

DL, I think it's more commonly referred to as 'The Dalles' (kind of rhymes w/ owls for those who don't know). Changing it to more generic Pac NW is fine, but some agents might appreciate the greater specificity.

wv: wereflog -- half-frog half-log, but only when the moon's out.

RCWriterGirl said...

I would agree with the others who say the premise is interesting, but the query has lots of problems.

First, grammar. Have a friend go over it for you. I belive you're talking about the group of friends when you refer to them in the possessive as "knight's" several times, but it should be the plural, "knights'."

Second, I only chimed in because I noticed one thing others hadn't mentioned. And it was a real turn-off for me: you use a lot of extra words. It's very wordy for a query, which might lead an agent to believe your 105,000 words is too long because it's poorly edited. [ex: "your particular interest", and "mold of material," strike me as unnecessarily verbose.] And looking at it again, the wordiness is really in the top paragraph, but it really negatively colors the rest of the letter.

Good luckb