Aug 15, 2010

Query - The End Begins

Dear XXXXX,

The end of the world might be coming, but not how we expected.

The people are suffering through the worst downturn in humanities history; aliens of all kinds are invading and taking over, plotting secret wars as the last superpowers of the world hang on trying to prevent what could be the Last war for the human race.

And yet there is a glimmer of hope in all this despair.

The End Begins, a Christian inspired epic sci-fi/fantasy story, follows Rai and her company who are, by fate, brought together to stop the conclusion of the End of Days by protecting the Artifact of Knowledge that may save or destroy them all. But enemies on all sides are coming and would-be allies sit back and watch as the event unfolds.

Do they have what it takes to complete the task against odds so great?

The End Begins, a 119,912 word novel seeks to compete in the Christian sci-fi market and stands apart not only by balancing the overall Sci-fi/fantastical and religious tones, similar to popular and uniquely epic titles like China Mieville’s Perdido Street Station and Terry Brook’s Shannara series, we’ll see Rai’s evolution from a fish-out-of-water sorceress who must cope with real world issues while trying to find her biological roots as she manages a retired soldier of valor, a priest past his prime, a rebellious mechanic, a wanting assassin, and a young lost traveler. All of them journey to save themselves through struggles both physical and emotional.

I’ve seen that your publishing house has published [insert works] and I think I would be a great fit for your roster of products. The End Begins is part one of a two part book series, the second is nearing completion of its first draft. Sample chapters are available upon request. Thank you for your time and consideration.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

This looks like a very interesting story. I'm not trying to sound rude, but it may be a good idea to invest in an outside editor. Even in this small query, there are some spelling and grammar issues and a few sections of phrasing that are awkward. I had to reread a few things before I understood exactly what I was reading. An editor can help you fix these issues.

Jeff said...

It usually takes me a couple rounds of refinement before getting down to the final product. And even then I will see an outside editor for guidance on the grammar issues. Thanks for the feedback!

gj said...

This is the substance of your query: "Rai and her company who are, by fate, brought together to stop the conclusion of the End of Days by protecting the Artifact of Knowledge that may save or destroy them all. But enemies on all sides are coming and would-be allies sit back and watch as the event unfolds."

The rest should be cut down to a sentence or two. The beginning is worldbuilding, which is necessary for the manuscript, but is death to a query. Stories are about people, not worlds. Start and end with people. Individual, interesting people, not symbolic representations of eternal struggles or anything metaphorical. Real, living, breathing people (as best you can convey that, anyway).

And now look at what you're telling the agent about what happens in the book. Boiling down what you've said: it's about a protagonist pursuing a MacGuffin while opposed by an antagonist. I don't know anything about who Rai is as a person. I don't know anything about the Artifact or how it's different from every other MacGuffin in every other fantasy story. I don't know anything about the antagonist, except that it apparently is evil, because it's opposing the protagonist. These are all the things that will make your story stand out, but they're not in the query.

You should be aiming to differentiate your story from all the other books on the shelves, not make it sound indistinguishable from them. What makes THIS protagonist and THIS MacGuffin and THIS antagonist interesting? That's what you need to spend your words on, not worldbuilding, not marketing, not anything else.

Anonymous Author said...

Don't give the exact number of words.

Just talk about the story-- don't tell them that it hopes to compete in the Christian sci-fi market. (Most of the other authors I know, like me, don't think of themselves as competing but as joining in the conversation. But anyway it's unnecessary to say that.)

Similarly, you could mention books that the publisher published that you enjoyed. (You don't have to.) But leave it up to them to decide whether yours sounds like a good match. Often publishers don't want to buy something that's too much like something they've already published. If they do-- well, they'll decide.

And yeah, the spelling and grammar issues.

Zee Lemke said...

I agree with most of what's been said up there. I'd add: instead of saying it's Christian, show how Christianity influences Rai. (Or are you just using parts of Revelations? If so, leave out mentioning Christianity.)

Never, ever use the words "nearing completion" in a query when referring to your own work. They're going to want to publish this book first on its own, THEN see whether it can support a sequel (especially if the sequel isn't done).

I'm nervous about your comparison titles. When I think Mieville I think mood writing and grit; when I think Brooks (his last name isn't Brook) I think sword-and-sorcery high fantasy. Neither of them write Christian sci-fi, and they're both huge bestsellers. What's mid-list and more like you?

I'm frankly nervous about your adventuring party after reading this query. You sum them up so patly here, I worry about whether they have depth in the full book. I've seen agents say that three characters is the limit for who to mention in a query--and you ought to be able to get by with just a protagonist and antagonist unless there's a very good reason.

This could be an awesome book, but I don't know, because you're spending so much time doing what is basically the agent's job--placing it in the wider spectrum of books. Don't bother. They'll know where it goes when they can see what it's like.

Mesmerix said...

1) Round on word counts to the nearst thousand. Don't use exact counts. IE: 120,000.

2) Meat of the query in first paragraph: Character & Conflict. Everything else is unnecessary fluff in a query. Who is the character, what makes him/her interesting, and what is the choice they have to make?

There are lots of tips, tricks, and advice for queries out there. I use a 5 part method. I want to include: (1)Characters, (2)Conflict, (3)Distinction, (4)Setting, (5)Action. And I want to do all that in less than 250 words in the voice of the novel.

Queryshark has the best query advice I have found to date.

Best of luck and hope this helps you!

Scribbler to Scribe

Jeff said...

Incredible, all good points made. I'm really glad I found a group who's really serious about working with this stuff.

The Christian elements is still touch and go, the story and some of the minor/supporting characters rely on Revelations, but that might not make it necessarily christian.

Misspelling Brooks last name was a slip I hadn't realized, thanks for pointing that out.

Using the two book as comparisons, I realized once it was mentioned that I need a more concrete focus to the genre. There's elements of both the gritty Sci/fi and high concept fantasy, and I just need to narrow the focus more.

I thought the party might be worth mentioning to give an idea of what Rai was dealing with, but in the end of it all Rai's no.1 so I chose to name her in the query. There are two others the book defined as Major Characters, so I want to try to include all three of the trinity. Anyone have any advice, or know of a good example of a query including multiple lead characters?

Thanks again all! I really look forward to rewriting the letter and see how it comes out!

Mesmerix said...

Jeff: Everything I've read advises ONE character and ONE conflict in the query, maybe two characters if you're including the protag and the antag. So just pick the most important one. You can have plenty of others once you hook them into reading your sample pages. :)

Now, that being said, the entire goal of a query is to catch the agent's attention. If you can do that it doesn't matter how many rules you break. Just like writing, if it's good, it's good, despite so-called "rules."

Zee Lemke said...

What Mesmerix said. You don't want to lie about your book, but you don't have to tell everything either. Tell enough to show that you can set up one interesting character with a good conflict. The agent will trust that you can make more.

Christian fiction is written for Christians, so it needs to do more than riff on something mentioned in the Bible. If your story has a Christian message or the characters' Christian faith helps them survive, that's when the book as a whole is Christian.