Jan 31, 2010

QUERY: Around Egypt on One Foot

Dear Agent,

Marie broke her ankle, managing to do this in the washroom of the plane taking her to Egypt. After two days in a Cairo hospital, she decides to continue her voyage, but what was to be the trip of a lifetime for this French Canadian pharmacist has now become a trip on crutches with the occasional—and sometimes comically defective—wheelchair thrown in. All this, Marie is convinced, is the result of the curse of Ramses which has not only been delivered prematurely, but continues to dog her throughout the trip.

Marie candidly recounts her quirky misadventures with a heavy dose of humour, from the unexpected surgery in the Egyptian hospital where important things always get done at midnight, the witching hour, to an encounter with the crutch-sucking sand of the evil Beach of Torment.

To survive, Marie adapts and acquires new skills. She learns how to avoid face-first landings in the hummus when dealing with buffets—a dangerous activity for anyone on crutches who is not a three-handed mutant. She defeats the heaving, bobbing, and rolling Dock of Despair, and even manages to build a snowman while sailing down the Nile.

Marie further enlightens the reader on the mysteries of the pyramids, Egyptian mythology, and the art of building a proper mummy. She does this with the aid of Widget and Otitis, two ancient Egyptian cartoon characters who pop up throughout the book, interjecting their own interpretation of events.

AROUND EGYPT ON ONE FOOT is a non-fiction narrative of my trip to Egypt. It not only reveals the beauty of this country from the decidedly different perspective of a damaged tourist, but also shows the kindness and warmth of its people, without which, I would have been up the Nile without an oar. It is complete at 52,000 words and is my first book.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

Marie Descent

5 comments:

Matt said...

Marie- This sounds really interesting. A couple thoughts:

1. I didn't know it was non-fiction until the last paragraph. I'm sure that was your intent. But I think it weakens the query. As a novel, this is only somewhat intriguing. But knowing all this stuff really happened to you? Wow... there's a book. So don't "bury the lede," so to speak - let the agents know up front that this is YOUR story.

2. This ties in with my first comment - I would get rid of the third-person style of the query. Is the book written in first person? Then the query should be, too (That doesn't apply to fiction, but I think it does to non-fiction).

3. 52,000 words is pretty short. Can you beef it up? If not, I just don't know if an agent will bite. Maybe you can expand it by including other peoples' stories of vacations gone wrong.

Good luck - I think you have an intriguing travel book here.

Suzan Harden said...

Normally, I'd jump on anything with an Egyptian theme, but I have to agree with Matt's points.

Also, is this an illustrated book? You mention Widget and Otitis, two cartoon characters. This almost sounds like two books- your misadventures and an illustarted travelogue. Illustrations in a non-fiction narrative may be a hard sell. You might want to focus on the comical narrative of your misadventures.

Best wishes on your submissions

Dominique said...

I don't know much about querying memoir-esque pieces, but referring to yourself in the third person seemed strange to me. If that's how it needs to be played, then make it sound like a real story, as it did when you started.

"Marie candidly recounts her quirky misadventures with a heavy dose of humour, from the unexpected surgery in the Egyptian hospital where important things always get done at midnight, the witching hour, to an encounter with the crutch-sucking sand of the evil Beach of Torment." This paragraph brought me out of the feel of the query, because it differed in style from the prior one.

"Marie further enlightens the reader on the mysteries of the pyramids, Egyptian mythology, and the art of building a proper mummy. She does this with the aid of Widget and Otitis, two ancient Egyptian cartoon characters who pop up throughout the book, interjecting their own interpretation of events." This paragraph is a similar issue. You're telling what the book is about instead of showing.

RCWriterGirl said...

I agree with the other comments.

The one thing I'll add is that this doesn't do the one thing that's necessary in a query: tell us upfront what the book is about.

Your first paragraph goes on with details about the adventure. You need to start off by saying what your book is about. Something like, "This travel memoir about Egypt provides wonderful details about the country and amusing anecdotes that any travel enthusiast will love."

That's not great, but it gives you a sense of (1) what the book is about (2) the genre and (3) who it will appeal to. I think those are three critical pieces of info that any nonfiction query need.

Second, do you have any platform. Nonfiction is hard to sell if you don't have some name recognition/platform already. Do you have a travel blog? An Egypt blog? Are you famous in this field? Any info like that is pertinent.

Lastly, the query is too long. Shoot for 250 words (maximum 300).

Goodluck

RCWriterGirl said...

I guess I should just add, if you don't have a platform, that's fine, too. But, if you do, it's helpful to mention it in the query. Especially for nonfiction.