Mar 23, 2009


Click here to read the original query.

Dear (Agent’s Name):

If making women laugh and think were Olympic events, seventy-four-year-old Liz McCall would win the gold. If she could change anything about her life, she’d change damn near everything.

Born in Mississippi, divorced from several well-heeled Texans, and a source of wit, wisdom, and imperious advice for the black and white staff and clients at the salon, Liz takes a special interest in Leah Starks, a twenty-six-year-old whose life has been burdened by abandonment issues and doubts about her self-worth. When Leah’s emotionally distant mother is killed in an automobile accident, her life changes for the better after Liz unravels a family secret that lies in the spelling of Leah’s name. With her health deteriorating, and estranged from all but the youngest of her six sons, Liz has to decide to whom she will bequeath her wealth—if, when, and how she should reveal the family secret she has kept for almost fifty years—and how she will want her epitaph to read.

WHEN HEARTS CRY OUT, a 79,000-word novel written for the commercial and women’s fiction markets, centers on an agnostic beauty salon denizen, the influence she has on the lives of saints and sinners, and the six things in life that are free.

I hold a BBA from the University of Texas at Arlington. Privy to the humorous conversations, philosophical musings, and stories women tell while getting clipped, rolled, tinted, permed, manicured, and pedicured, I’ve had a standing Saturday appointment with the same hairstylist for twenty-five years and a standing appointment every other Saturday with the same nail technician for fifteen years.

Some of life’s greatest lessons and best kept secrets can be learned at the beauty salon.

I appreciate your time and consideration.


R. Battles


lucy in the sky said...

I really like the opening paragraph, especially "she'd change damn near everything."

Might want to specify beauty salon on the second paragraph, instead of just saying salon. The sentence "When Leah's emotionally distant..." seems long and kind of confusing. You might consider reworking that line and leaving off the "lies in the spelling of Leah's name" part.

Also would suggest making the paragraph about your personal experience in beauty salonsshorter and more condensed.

pulp said...

I remember this plot from another blog. It's got charm.

The query has a cut-and-pasted tone, which is hard to avoid when you're trying to get all the thematic and plot elements crammed in there. To smooth it out and make it more coherent, you can try using logic connectors:

"...Liz McCall would win the gold. Even so, if she could change anything..."

"...the spelling Leah's name. Meanwhile, with her health deteriorating..."

That kind of thing.

There are details you should omit or condense, I think:
-Born in Mississippi
-black and white
-life has been burdened by abandonment issues and doubts about her self-worth (Substitute one adjective that encompasses Leah's condition.)
-the spelling of Leah's name
-The whole last sentence in that para needs paring in order to have more punch.
-Is it important that Liz is agnostic?
-In the third para, again, reduce the sauce to concentrate the flavor.
-In your bio, I believe you do not need info about your BA--unless a BBA is writing-related; it isn't, is it?--the whole list of beautry shop procedures, and both of your standing appointments. It actually sounds overly cute. To me, it is interesting that you've gone to the same salon every week for twenty-five years and have listened to women share and overshare. It's interesting, of course, because I think you'll have some juicy, real tidbits with regional flavor and I enjoy that. Just say enough to make my ears stand up.

Speaking of regional flavor, for all the Southern setting, I don't hear anything like that in the voice of the query. If you've got it in the book, give us a taste up front.

My comments seem to be all foody. Must be time for breakfast.

Deborah Talmadge said...

These queries and comments have been very helpful with my query. Thank you very much.

Anonymous said...

This objective criticism, right?

The query said what it had to say and wasn't bad at all. The book even sounds promising. But the last paragraph should go. No agent cares about a standing appointment at the beauty parlor or nail salon. When they are reading hundreds of queries a week, they only care about publishing credits and if you can sell books.

Then next line should go too. It's not important to the query or storyline you're trying to pitch.

And the line about I appreciate your time and consideration should go. They don't care. They really don't. It's their job to read queries and they aren't being considerate. They don't need to be thanked in the unsolicted query stage. Best wishes and your name is good enough. They might even reply thanking you.

pulp said...

Anon 8:06,

"Consideration" in this context means the act of considering, not the act or state of being polite. The agent is considering a query.

Some agents like being kowtowed to. Others don't need it. At least thank an agent for her/his time. They _all_ complain about how much time it takes to skim through the slushpile, however shallow and cursory their reading. It's their job, but naturally agents would prefer to receive one query a week, and that one will be true love stuffed with firecrackers.