Oct 18, 2010


Dear Public Query Slushpile:

I am seeking representation for my 89,000 word urban fantasy, DANCING OVER HELL. I’m writing you because of XXXXX and thought you might be interested in my novel. DANCING OVER HELL is told from the point of view of Liam Michaels, an earthbound archangel. As he shares ice cream with his partner Dani Suskind, an angelic assassin, on a lazy summer afternoon, the calm is shattered by the screams of a girl coming through the broken window of a two-flat. The two explode into the apartment to find four men holding a naked young girl while a fifth stands with his pants around his knees, an unfortunate position to be in when two pissed off angels are standing in the doorway. Seconds later, two of the assailants are dead, two are unconscious, and pants-around-his-knees is a eunuch.

After interrogating the captives, Liam and Dani discover they are part of an international sex trafficking ring. But this organization is run by a demon with inter-dimensional traveling ability, a talent Liam thought only he possessed. When they follow the trail of the traffickers from the streets of Chicago to Rome, Bangkok, Mumbai, and Nepal, the human and angelic body count rises and Liam teeters on the brink of a fall as he reels out of control, questioning the goodness of his omniscient, omnipotent boss.

DANCING OVER HELL is based in this world and blends the reality and horror of the sex trafficking industry with a supernatural twist to its cause. Since I am a scientist and vice president of research for a biotechnology company, there is also a technological bent. Think of a fusion of Jim Butcher with Clive Cussler.

Professionally, I have a doctorate in medical microbiology and have published over sixty peer-reviewed articles and two book chapters. As per your instruction on query submissions, I have attached XXX for your review. Please let me know if you would be interested in reading more. Thank you for your time and I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely yours,



Jodi Henry said...

People go both ways on where to put the "this is why I chose you bit and word count" I opt for the end of tgh letter. This way the first thing the agent sees is the "hook line".

We don't care who's PoV the book is told from since the query is supposed to be in thirf person present tense from the MC's pov anyway.

You have a lot you can omit from the first paragraph. Start with something like:

Earth-bound arch angel, Liam Michaels, just wants to enjoy ice cream but a girl screaming nearby forces him to take action.

(Unless the assasin angle is the antagonist cut him out of the query all together. Focus on Liam's internal and external struggles.)

Sum up the last two sentences of paragraph one something like: after rescuing the would-be rape victime (because this is the setting for a rape rather than a sex ring. When I think sex ring I think brothels, protitutes not four men holding a girl down) Liam discovers her attackers are part of an international sex operation run by a demon.

Next paragraph:

The human and angelic body count rises as Liam tracks the head of the organization from Chicago to Rome and through Asia (if he never jumps dimensions don't mention the ability to do so.)

Next you need to tell me why liam's questioning his boss. So something like (and I am guessing here) : witnessing the desgrace of humans and riding the world of those who cause harm takes a toll on Liam and he begins questioning the goodness of his omnipotent boss. Teetering on the edge of Falling, Liam must (over come something, sacrafice something to stop this sex ring and keep himself in the good graces of his boss) - we need to know what he MUST DO.

You last and closing paragraph should look something like:

DANCING OVER HELL an 89,000-word adult urban fantasy novel is a blend of Jim Butcher and Clive Cussler. (If you must out it in here is the XXX of why you chose said agent) (if you includ your doctorial pub credits you need to list them not just mention them)

leave out every thing about your employment- agents don't care unless your writing and using you type of work as the back bone of the novel

I would take a look at Janet Reid's blog (she's a literary agent)and crits queries in her spare time on Query Shark.

Have a look. I learned a lot from there.

Hope this is helpful

The book sounds very interesting


The Las Vegas Writer said...

I honestly stopped reading half way through the first paragraph. There is too much information here.

First, take out 'Dancing Over Hell is told from the point of view of' and just start with 'Liam Michaels is an eathbound archangel...'.

Second, this is sounding more like a synopsis and not a letter to make an agent want to read more. Stick to the main plotpoints.

Third, there is too much information about where this MS originated from (i.e. DANCING OVER HELL is based in this world and blends the reality and horror of the sex trafficking industry with a supernatural twist to its cause. Since I am a scientist and vice president of research for a biotechnology company, there is also a technological bent) and not enough about the actual plotline. Take that paragraph out.

Fourth, the last paragraph you will want it to look something like... DANCING OVER HELL is a completed urban fantasy at 89,000 words. Insert credentials as to why you're writing THIS book and not a microbiology book. Why are you the person to write this MS? End with 'Enclosed I have attached XXX. Thank you for your consideration.'

This sounds like a book I would really get in to and I wish you all the luck in the world. Remember, these are just opinions :)

Mesmerix said...

Urban fantasy is my preferred genre, and I did my college thesis on the sexual slave trade. So, this kind of novel would be right up my alley. Except there is so much extra stuff in this query that the important parts (character+conflict) get lost in the mud.

Jodi & Las Vegas already covered the main stuff, and I will reiterate that you should follow their advice. It's good advice. :)

I want to comment purely on the last 2 paragraphs.

The phrase "to its cause" reads awkward. Cut it.

I would not compare yourself to Jim Butcher and Clive Cussler. They are the masters of their genres. If you must make a comparison, look for mid-list authors in your market. Otherwise, don't compare at all.

Your background in science, medical microbiology, and academic works mean squat in fiction writing. Drop it all. Unless you're writing about a biotech plague or something, it's not important to the novel. The only thing agents care about is paid published fiction.

Once you cut all the extraneous stuff, you'll be better able to focus on the important stuff (character+conflict) that actually matters.

The title is awesome, by the way, and the plot looks interesting. Just clean it up and clear away the excess. You'll be surprised at what a difference it makes.

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