Feb 19, 2010

Query - Avid Heights

Dear (Agent):

There’s no doubt in Sailor Tulley’s mind that her crush on Corey Cantrell is unrequited. He’s brawny and tan with flawless physical features, and she’s vertically challenged and overweight. Not to mention he’s the superhero of the city of Avid Heights, and she’s the sidekick of his nemesis.

Corey treats her like dirt because of her job position, but Sailor is convinced that if he knew her as a person and not an enemy, he would return her feelings. She ditches her sidekick disguise and approaches him in plain clothes, and he’s fooled into believing she’s a different person. Despite their contrasting physiques, he appears to be falling for her.

At first, Sailor manages to keep the taboo romance under wraps while simultaneously concealing her professional identity around Corey. But when her boss mysteriously discovers her relationship with his rival the same day that Corey begins giving her the cold shoulder, Sailor realizes it’s no coincidence. The connection between hero and villain runs deeper than she expected.

She must now decide whose side she is really on: her handsome lover who is now suddenly uninterested, or his nemesis, her concerned employer to whom she failed to remain loyal. Both men have been hiding behind lies, but the only way for Sailor to see them for who they really are is to start being honest with herself.

AVID HEIGHTS is a 60,000-word chick lit novel set in a futuristic city. This book can stand alone, but I also have a sequel planned.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,


**Notes from the author:
1) I'm aware that this is super long, but I can't figure out how to trim it. Any advice would be great!
2) Novel word count is on the shorter side, but I'm hoping to get it up to 70k with more editing.

14 comments:

Emily said...

There’s no doubt in Sailor Tulley’s mind that her crush on Corey Cantrell is unrequited. He’s brawny and tan with flawless physical features and she’s vertically challenged and overweight. Not to mention he’s the superhero of the city of Avid Heights, and she’s the sidekick of his nemesis.

Sailor is convinced that if he knew her as a person and not an enemy, he would return her feelings. She ditches her sidekick disguise and approaches him in plain clothes, and despite their contrasting physiques, he appears to be falling for her mild-mannered alter-ego.

At first, Sailor manages to keep the taboo romance under wraps but when her boss discovers her relationship with his rival the same day that Corey begins giving her the cold shoulder, Sailor realizes it’s no coincidence. The connection between hero and villain runs deeper than she expected.

She must now decide between her estranged lover or his nemesis, the employer to whom she failed to remain loyal. Both men have been hiding behind lies, but the only way for Sailor to see them for who they really are is to be honest with herself.

AVID HEIGHTS is a 60,000-word chick lit novel set in a futuristic city. This book can stand alone, but I also have a sequel planned.
****
Above I have re-posted your query with a lot of estraneous material taken out. Just a suggestion on how you could trim it.
Also I think the hook could be better:
Sailor Tulley is in love with Corey Cantrell. The problem? He's her arch-nemesis.
Something like that. Get to the intersting part a bit quicker.

I love the story idea though, good luck!

Suzan Harden said...

If AVID HEIGHTD is futuristic chick lit, it needs a little more of a sassy voice. (Sorry, can't think of a better word than "sassy.") Also, don't be afraid to be specific in your query. The agent/editor needs to know what's going on in the story.

Sailor has a lot of passiveness in this query. What does Sailor actually do to woo Corey? He not going to just fall over her in her civilian identity. Is he playing her to get at her boss?

What's Sailor's real conflict here? It sounds like the real conflict is Saior becoming her own person instead of Corey or her boss's door mat. Is this how she has to be honest with herself?

This sounds something in line with Kessler & Kittridge's BLACK & WHITE, something I'd love to read.

Best of luck on the submissions!

Jason A. Myers said...

Hey there!

I like how there's a lot of internal conflicts here, but I am confused on some things.

You say that Corey Cantrell has a nemesis, by this do you mean a for? Like a villain? Or just another super hero?

You say that Corey treats her like dirt...confusing. So he knows her? What, do they work in the same superhero office? Is this like an office of super heroes? Like Heroes R Us?

She ditches her sidekick disguise and approaches him in plain clothes, and he’s fooled into believing she’s a different person.

Well, if she's out of her uniform and in street clothes, then yeah, he would be fooled. He's not fooled she's a different person, he doesn't know her, or she is a different person...

The connection between hero and villain runs deeper than she expected is a good line because it hints at something more.

She must now decide whose side she is really on: her handsome lover who is now suddenly uninterested, or his nemesis, her concerned employer to whom she failed to remain loyal. Both men have been hiding behind lies, but the only way for Sailor to see them for who they really are is to start being honest with herself.
How has she NOT been honest with herself?
How does she get paid? (Silly question, I know...:-)

Overall, not a bad query letter. Just a lot of confusion for me.

Shelley Sly said...

Hi, writer here. Thank you all for your comments! I really need to hear total honesty in order to make this query the best it can be.

Emily --
Thank you for the suggestion on how to trim it. I've been thinking of changing the hook, so I will play around with your suggestion and see what I come up with.

Suzan --
Thank you for giving me some things to think about that I haven't considered before. I believe the MS has a sassy tone, but I'm not sure how to replicate that in the query. I'll work on that.

You asked, "Is he playing her to get at her boss?" Yes, he is. But I wasn't sure how much to reveal in the query, especially since the MC doesn't know that she's being played. That's why it doesn't seem to make sense that Corey falls for Sailor so quickly -- because he's acting.

Jason --
I appreciate your response. Corey's nemesis (Sailor's boss) is the villain, though kind of a petty villain. Corey helps the citizens in place of now-extinct law enforcement, and the villain gets in his way and sabotages Corey's efforts.

Corey and his nemesis have several confrontations with Sailor present, and Corey insults her to her face when she's in her villain-sidekick garb. (Oh, and she gets paid by the villain. It has a lot to do with image/media more than actions, which Sailor finds out later.)

Re: Sailor's conflict of being honest with herself -- I'm wondering if I meant "being honest herself", not really with herself. The problem is that she's insecure with who she is, so she buries herself in lies, pretending to be someone she's not and lying to everyone around her, and for what prize? It turns out that Corey isn't who she thought he was. She has to return to herself and reevaluate who she wants to be and which man she wants to be faithful to.

Sorry this is so long, but I hope that clarifies some things. Please keep the critiques coming if you have something to share. Thanks!

Lynn Colt said...

Like most people, Sailor Tulley has a crush on Corey Cantrell, the superhero of Avid Heights. Because of her job, however, she's got even less of a chance with him than most girls: she's the sidekick of his nemesis, ___.

Sailor ditches her disguise to try to get close to Corey ... and it works! But Corey's affections might not be as genuine as they seem, and Sailor's boss isn't as oblivious as he pretends. To keep from losing everything she's built for herself, Sailor must sort facade from reality--and she'll have to start with herself.

---
ok, it's rough, but something like this could work. A question - you say in your comment that Sailor's boss is kind of a petty villain, and basically he obstructs what's left of the justice system. Why? If there's no good reason, why is Sailor working for him? Is her boss actually secretly a good guy?

Also, something specific is needed about what the stakes are and what exactly Sailor has to do beyond deciding who she's loyal to. (I was vague about it above since I don't know) Do people die if she chooses wrong? Does she lose her life, love and/or job? etc.

Anyway, I love-love-love the concept! Good luck with revisions :)

Piedmont Writer said...

Shelley -- 3 questions with one sentence for each answer.

1) What is the major conflict?

2) What is the motivation behind Sailor's getting to her goal?

3) What is the goal?

If you can answer these, you've got your query. You'll find the hook as you do this.

David F. Weisman said...

In my opinion there is a major challenge here. You have a novel set in a world with superheroes with supernormal powers - but the novel is not about that at all. You call it chick lit.

Only a percentage of people who feel like suspending their disbelief in superheroes (most of whom occasionally read superhero comic books) will also like chick lit. Only a small percentage of chick lit readers also be willing to accept superheroes.

If you accept that you only appeal to the intersection of both audiences, your target audience may be too small. If not, decide which group you have to persuade, and how.

Shelley Sly said...

Lynn --
I like your suggestion for the start of the query. Yes, her boss is actually secretly a good guy, he has reasons (unknown to Sailor) for what he does. And I agree that the stakes need to be higher. Thank you for this insight.

Anne --
Thank you for simplifying this for me. I will use your questions to try to form a tighter query.

I appreciate all your responses!

Shelley Sly said...

David --
You have a good point, and this is something I realized only after I wrote the book. I'll do some thinking about this. Thanks.

Shelley Sly said...

P.S. Overlooked the "supernormal powers" part of the comment. There are no powers involved. Heroes and villains are in name only. It's almost a political thing. But I understand, it's still a very specific audience.

Matt said...

Shelly- I really like this. I think this is a terrific concept and sounds like a fun, fun book. A couple thoughts:
* I wouldn't change a word in the first few paragraphs. To me it's pitch-perfect.
* To shorten the query, I think all you need to do is take out the paragraph that starts "She must now decide..." Just take the whole thing out. Make "The connection between hero and villian runs deeper than she expected" stand as your final hook.
* The length of the novel is a bit of a problem, but you already knew that. I will, however, say that you're probably taking the wrong tactic if you think you're going to LENGTHEN the novel in the editing process. If anything, a good editing session will do the opposite. I wrote an 85,000-word first draft and by the second draft I was down to 80K.
* Finally - I think you're being too genre-specific when you say "chick lit." I know that's an appealing genre, but I think there's a bigger audience here. This is mainstream fiction (or at the very least, mainstream science fiction) in my estimation. I'm a guy, and I would LOVE to read this book.
Good luck!

Pen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Pen said...

I agree with Matt in that this sounds like fun SF, so maybe you sound go with that genre. Chick lit doesn't seem to fit the pitch. :)

Sounds like a neat book. Best of luck.

Shelley Sly said...

Matt --
Thank you for your advice. I'm still conflicted on how to start/end the query (do I keep the beginning and take out the end, or vice versa?) but I'll keep your suggestion in mind. I'm just realizing that leaving the query with the third paragraph might not give enough about what's at stake (which I'm realizing I haven't really revealed at all.)

Yes, I'm sure you're right that it will only get shorter with editing. Just wishful thinking on my part. ;)

Thank you so much for the advice on the genre. Honestly, it's first person told by a "sassy" female, so I immediately figured chick lit, assuming a guy wouldn't want to read this. But I could be wrong. I appreciate your opinion.

Pen --
Thank you for also clarifying the genre question, this really helps.