Jan 15, 2010

QUERY- THE DEVIL YOU DON'T KNOW

Dear [agent],

Burned-out newspaper editor Michael Reed reluctantly takes a call from a disgraced former nun that changes his life forever. The desperate woman’s request that he meet her son sets Michael on a quest to determine the true identity of fifteen-year-old Jordan Crane. Is the kid Jesus Christ in the flesh? A fraud? Or is he something far worse?

Within hours of the call, Michael’s life inexplicably falls apart. He loses his job and eighteen years of sobriety. Two days later, his eight-year-old son is killed on the highway in front of his home. Within seconds, Jordan Crane mysteriously arrives on the scene and places his hands on the child’s body. When the dead boy opens his eyes, Michael finds himself face to face with the unthinkable.

Fearing for his very sanity, Michael must choose between believing what his heart tells him is true and what his mind says is madness. As a journalist, Michael has valued truth over all else. But what if the truth leads not only to his own death, but the death of everything he holds dear?

My first novel, THE DEVIL YOU DON’T KNOW is a mainstream thriller complete at 113,000 words.

As a career journalist, I received several national, regional and state awards for writing and reporting. My newspaper, the Peoria Journal Star, submitted my work to the Heywood Broun Award and the Pulitzer Prize committees.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Terry Towery
[contact info]

12 comments:

Piedmont Writer said...

Wow! I can't believe it. Another perfect query. I mean that sincerely. Good Luck.

folksinmt said...

Great query! I would definitely ask for sample pages. Good luck

Aimless Writer said...

This left me a little lost. Why is his life in danger? I'm not clear on this point.
From the title I'd be guessing Jordan is really from the devil? So is he the threat? Or something else? (Love the JC initials by the way)
You tell me Mike loses his job and sobriety but does this have anything to do with Jordan?
If the conflict is life or death is Jordan threatening him? We need this to be clearer.
What's his motivation? To save his family from...?
Goal?
Sorry but I need clarification on some of this. I can get the concept behind the query and think this would be a really good read but it needs to be condensed.

Falen said...

i thought the structure of this query was perfect - i did see conflict and motivation and i thought it was the perfect length (i love a good 3 paragraph query - it mimics the three act story arc).

Hopefully you'll get a few more comments but besides a few tweaks (i don't think you need both "disgraced" and "former" in the first sentance) it seems ready to go for me.

storyqueen said...

One of the best queries I've read on this board.

Good luck.

Shelley

H. Grant said...

Great query. Good luck.

FYI, four other books have the same title (I searched just now on Amazon). I think the publisher has a hefty say about the title, but you might be thinking about some alternates.

Terry Towery said...

Thanks everyone! I sent it out this week to three agents (sort of a test) and have recieved two form rejections and one no-answer yet.

Tough business, this. ;)

Ann said...

The one thing missing from your letter -- and it's probably in your real letter -- is agent personalization.

I wouldn't worry about rejection. That's going to happen. Just keep sending the letters.

RCWriterGirl said...

Well, first up, I have to give you props because you write for the PJ Star. As a native Peorian (Richwood HS), gotta give love to ya.

As for the query, it's got some good elements to it. The first two paragraphs (about the story, not the lead-in paragraph) work really well. Even the first couple of sentences of the third paragraph keep you interested/invested in the story.

But, for me, the whole thing falls apart with: But what if the truth leads not only to his own death, but the death of everything he holds dear? That's our huh (or WTF) moment. Nothing you've said up to that point indicates believing or not believing this J.C. is THE J.C. can result in death. I'm saying, huh? How does that work? I don't get it. Those are not the questions you want the potential agent asking.

You're right to put in a sentence giving us what's at stake for the character. But, what's at stake has to follow from the setup you've given us in the previous paragraphs. If this new JC (crane) is supsected to be a murdering con artist, or a satan worshipper intent on fooling us into believing he's the real JC so he can kill the world, then you've got to give a clearer picture of that up top, so we're not in shock when you mention Michael's life is possibly at stake.

Many agents say not to mention if something is your first novel. So, "THE DEVIL YOU DON’T KNOW is a mainstream thriller complete at 113,000 words," is adequate.

Lastly, if you haven't actually won the Pulitzer or the Heywood Broun Award, don't mention them. It's nice they were submitted, but without the big prize, it really doesn't mean anything. If there's an award you've won, mention it. But, submitting (even though it had to be chosen by your paper's editors), nah. I think it's more significant that you're a career journalist. And, if it's an impressive number, you might want to give the actual year count (15, 20, 25, etc.)

Good luck. I'd love to see someone from P-town succeed in publishing. :)

Dominique said...

I got a little lost. I mean, how did we get from He's the Child of A Nun to He Might Be A Physical Reincarnation of Jesus? That seems like a leap and a bound in half a breath.

Falen said...

question - i reread this and came across something i missed the first time

"Fearing for his very sanity, Michael must choose between believing what his heart tells him is true and what his mind says is madness. "

Isn't this the same choice?
I assume his heart tells him the kid is JC, yes?
what does his mind think is madness, that the kid is JC?
So he's choosing between whether the kid is is JC or JC?

I think you need to change it to something like, must choose between his heart (ie, the kid is JC) and his mind(the kid is a lie).

gah, i hope that makes sense...

Matt said...

Dude- I'm a career journalist too. And you and I both know that having your work submitted for a Pulitzer Prize means less than nothing. Literally ANYONE can submit work to the Pulitzer committee. A good agent will know this too. That last paragraph makes a good query a lot worse.