Nov 12, 2012

Romance Query: Conquered

Dear Agent:

I am currently seeking representation for my novel Conquered. Conquered is a 78,000 word romance, set within a fictional civilization that mirrors the ancient times of Rome and Persia.

Amarah is haunted by loss, as her village was destroyed by the tyrant King Xavier. Just as she forces away images of war Xavier emerges once again. The king becomes captivated by her innocent beauty and steals her away. During the voyage to Xavier’s land of Etheridge Amarah develops feelings for Kaiden. Kaiden is a lower rank Etheridgian soldier who becomes challenged by his love for Amarah and his duty to his king. When Amarah arrives to the palace she is thrown into Xavier’s world of women, where ultimately she must yield to him. Through her submission Amarah learns she is more than a concubine to the king. She is not flattered by his adoration and when Kaiden returns to her life, Amarah will do anything to be with him. She will risk her life, and even con the king with seduction and promises of devotion. As Amarah’s plot unravels she finds Xavier is not as blinded by his affections for her as she assumed. Amarah must decide what is important, the love she possesses for Kaiden, or her safety as her plans of deceit is uncovered.

I studied with the Institute of Children’s Literature and I am a member of several online critique groups. I am the author of the recently published science fiction romance, Beyond Gavia.

Thank you for your time and attention.


Crystal Parney


Anonymous Author said...

Hi, Crystal. The main issue I see with this query is you're using vague language that gets in the way, preventing us from feeling the immediacy of your story.


Amarah is haunted by loss, as her village was destroyed by the tyrant King Xavier. Just as she forces away images of war Xavier emerges once again. The king becomes captivated by her innocent beauty and steals her away.

If you changed it to:

Amarah's village was destroyed by the tyrant King Xavier. Xavier returns and kidnaps her.

Obviously that sounds a little choppy, but my point is it gets things moving a lot faster. Watch out for vagueness, cliche phrases, and over-formal diction. A ten-cent word nearly always has more emotional impact than a twelve-dollar one.

Keep the query focused on Amarah. Don't tell us how anyone else feels or what anyone else is experiencing. A query's only got room for one point of view.

Leave out the Institute of Children's Literature since it's not related... in fact, leave off that whole paragraph. I googled your book Beyond Gavia, as an agent will if they're interested. If you want to mention the book, give the publisher followed by the year in parentheses.

Example: Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone (Scholastic, 1998).

Anonymous Author said...

Hi Rick, looks like it ate my comment.

Rick Daley said...

Anon- Thanks for the heads up, you're clear now.

Crystal said...

Hi Anon, thank you for your feedback. I know I have some issues with this query, and I've been having a hard time pin pointing them. I agree, I think I am too vague at times.

I'm curious about your comment about the last paragraph. Isn't the last paragraph suppose to be an author bio?

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Thanks, Rick.

Crystal, only if the particular agent specifically asks for a bio in her submission guidelines. Otherwise, the only things you should provide there are previous publications or prestigious awards that seem likely to help your cause.

The ICL thing could hurt your cause because it makes it seem like romance writing isn't your main schtick. The writing groups don't matter (from the agent's POV). The previous publication... up to you to decide that. Did it get into bookstores, how well did it sell, etc. (I'm not asking, just raising these points for you to consider.)

Crystal Parney said...

Hi Alaska, thanks so much. I never considered ICL could hurt because I am trying to sell a romance. I'd rather leave out the bio because I never know what to write.

gj said...

Comment, part 1:
If it's a romance, the query should be all romance, all the time. Everything else should be sprinkled in. This version of the query is the other way around: all everything else, with the romance sprinkled in. I don't even have a clue who the hero is (his personality), how she met him, what they did together that caused her to fall in love with him, what's so great about him, what he thinks is so great about her (and please don't tell me it's her innocent beauty; we've gotten past that, at least in our heroes, while it's the villains who only see the outer person), or what she might do to reunite with him. Those are all critical elements for a romance.

The first few sentences are backstory, and can be cut. Start where she meets the hero: she's been kidnapped by a marauding king who killed everyone else she loved, and is on her way to his harem when ..... what?

Do not have her "develop feelings" for anyone. What, exactly, happens? He's a soldier, so how the heck did they even meet? Is he on the ship with her? Guarding her? Capturing her after she eluded her guards? Riding a horse past the golden cage she's being transported in? How did they even come to talk to each other? Do they even speak the same language; he works for a conqueror, right? But a conqueror who speaks the same language? What is it that convinces her he's a good guy, when she ought to view him as a tool of her kidnapper and soon-to-be-rapist? Where's the ROMANCE?

I agree with the suggestion to stay out of the hero's POV in the query, but if you insist, make it more specific than "challenged by his love ... and his duty." What on earth does that mean? He thinks she's his soul-mate, but he's sworn fealty to his king, so he's prepared to deliver her to the king to rape her? How challenged is he? Does it flit across his mind that maybe his king isn't the god he thinks he is? Or does he consider treason? Does he even try to help her escape? Or does he just sit there and daydream about some alternate universe where the king would hand her over to him? Before or after he's raped her?

And then she gets raped by the king. That might have worked in old-school romance, but I'm not sure current readers of romance will accept that. I haven't read much historical romance lately, but you might want to check that out in the market -- how many of them involve the heroine getting raped, versus the RISK of getting raped, with the heroine escaping first?

And I have absolutely no idea what you mean by "through her submission, she learns she is more than a concubine to the king." Um, so what is she? His daughter? His mascot? His lucky charm? What?

Be specific.

Don't tell me she'll "do anything" to be with Kaiden. Show me what she's actually doing. Is she willing to kill the king? Is she willing to fake her death, at the risk of actually dying? Is she willing to kill the other women in the harem? Is she willing to blow up the harem? What does she actually do? What plot is unraveling? Last thing you described her doing was accepting her rape. And, really, you're going to have to do some explaining about how she's forgiven him for handing her over to her rapist.

gj said...

Comment part 2

And where is Kaiden in all of this? She's wandering around the harem, plotting something, in between being raped, and Kaiden, presumably, isn't in the harem. How is he helping her? Is he encouraging her to risk her life? Is he willing to run away with her? Is he trying to kill the king? If it's a romance, they should be in this together, or at least within speaking distance of each other, not on opposite sides of a twenty-foot wall.

No matter what, you need to be more specific about what's going on. But also consider whether this is really romance, or perhaps simply historical fiction, with a love story subplot. Reader expectations are different in each genre. As presented, this story seems to be all about the heroine, with the hero as a subplot, which makes it NOT romance. For romance, the relationship should be the main focus.

Crystal said...

Hi gj: thanks so much for your feedback. I've had issues with the genre, wondering exactly which it should fall into. I've been calling it romance, but I know the romance is more of a subplot. The story does not revolve around Amarah and Kaiden's love for each other. It's more about Amarah's struggle to conquer Xavier and get what she wants. I have such a difficult time with queries (as do many writers I think). But you have pointed out so much to me! I should have asked these questions, but being so close to the story as the writer, it's difficult to see exactly what needs to be asked. I hope that makes sense.

gj said...

If the romance is a subplot, then I'd strongly recommend NOT describing it as a romance. Otehrwise, the label will confuse agents or else suggest to them that you don't understand the market, neither of which is helpful for you. I'd suggest sticking to "historical fiction." Or maybe "women's fiction in a historical setting." I'm not sure if there is such a genre, though.

Crystal said...

Hi gj. I will no longer label Conquered as a romance. I am thinking women's fiction would be the way to go. I think I started out wanting it to be a romance, but it turned into something different as I wrote it. Now I need to reevaluate my query of course, and maybe even the novel. I have finished it, but there are some issues with it.