Sep 29, 2009

Introductions- A Comment Worth Sharing (not a query)

This came through as a comment gj left on a query. I'm re-posting it here because it was really intended for the readership at large and I think there are many good points. - Rick

I'm doing this as a separate comment, because it isn't particularly addressed to this author, but to the world at large:

I've been seeing the "let me introduce you" line for the past year or so, which makes me wonder if some expert somewhere has suggested it as a nice way to start the query, something different from the standard, "I am seeking representation for ...." line.

Now, I'm not an agent, so I could be entirely wrong about this, but the "let me introduce you" line just sets my nerves on edge.

Two reasons. First -- you're going to do it, whether I want you to or not, so it's sort of repeating the query itself, which is the SHOWING version of TELLING that you're going to introduce the story. Simply saying you're seeking representation is, in theory, redundant, but it doesn't make the agent (the person receiving the letter) complicit in your action, it doesn't seek permission for you to seek representation.

That's not the big issue for me, though. I think it's that "I'm seeking representation ...." becomes invisible after you've seen it a few hundred/thousand times. All you need to pay attention to in that sentence is the title, genre and word count. It's a little like "said" as a dialogue tag: it does its job, and does it invisibly, so unless the author is doing something really wrong with it, you don't even notice it. For a person reading dozens, perhaps hundreds, of these in a week, every little bit of simplification helps.

OTOH, when you start with something different, the individual words suddenly become visible. The reader has to work at comprehending the whole sentence, not just get to what the reader cares about (title, genre, word count).

There's a time and a place for creativity and thought-provoking phrases. In fact, one school of thought suggests just jumping straight into the story and skipping the "I'm seeking ..." line, which you can reserve until the end. But if you're going to start with the title/genre/etc., that opening sentence is not a good place to be creative.

I think.

Again, I'm not an agent, just someone who's read a lot of queries in the past few years, and can imagine what it's like to get a hundred of them a week. Wow them with your story, not the mundane parts of the query.

In my opinion, the best ways to begin the query (after a professional Dear Mr./Ms AgentSurname), is a) your hook and description of your story, or b) "I chose to query you because..." with a brief and relevant personal note that demonstrates your diligence. The next paragraph should be your hook and description of your story. - Rick


Dear [Agent],

I'd like to introduce you to my 87,600 word paranormal romance, ELEMENTAL GATEWAYS.

Cousins Tara, Celia and Mari are accomplished witches, and guardians of the Gateways to the Gods. Their birthright is jeopardized when a three-hundred-year-old prophecy gives them three weeks to protect the Gates from a demon bent on revenge. If they fail, control of the Gates and all the power within them will bend to the desires of the demon prince, allowing him access to the realm of the Gods.

Zac, Ethan and Daniel are three men who share more than good times and beer. The prophecy calls to each of them in turn to aide and bind the guardian closest to his heart to complete the circle of protection with the strongest bond of all: love.

Together, the six find their way with very little to go on except the hints given in the prophecy. They wind their way through mind invasions, living visions and physical manifestations - each progressively worse than the last - to find the ultimate weapon exists in their hearts. They are challenged to make a choice, reach for what they did not expect, and make the ultimate sacrifice to save all they know.

I am a current member of Romance Writers of America, RWA-PRO, and the local chapter of Greater Detroit RWA. I am also currently working on another paranormal romance titled Coming Home.

Thank you for your consideration. May I send you the full manuscript?

[insert my info here]