Apr 19, 2009


Dear Agent Name:

Ten-year-old Lucas Gibson knows there's not enough money for his mom's textbooks, a new alternator for the truck, or even a Mega Mini Scooter, but he's not worried. His dad has been hired to train an imported curly coated retriever for a field trial, and he promises that when they win, their family problems will be over. But the promise seems for naught when his father is killed in an accident that injures both Lucas and the dog and leaves their family deep in debt.

Still, Lucas can't forget. Despite his mother's objections, the disabled boy takes on the challenge of rehabbing the dog. Joined by his wayfaring uncle and a woman who trains chickens for carnivals, Lucas sets out to save his crumbling family only to find that field trials don't have a cash prize, the bank is going to foreclose on their farm regardless, and worst of all, winning will require him to choose between his father's dream and the dog he loves. His dad's promise sure isn't turning out like Lucas expected. Can his family help him find his happy ending?

A FATHER'S PROMISE, a 100,000 word novel written for the commercial/mainstream fiction market, is a story of faith and healing as three generations of an estranged family come together to fulfill a father's last promise to his son.

I appreciate your time and consideration.


Contact information


pulp said...

This has a good flow. I think you've presented your story well--up to a point. It's my understanding that agents and publishers want to know what the whole story is (in a small nutshell, of course), and your mini synopsis / query quits somewhere in the middle.

Since you won't want to add more words, the query could do without "Still, Lucas can't forget", and the rhetorical question. More places you could cut: the description of the dog--makes a nice specific, but specifics are needed more in the plot synopsis than adjectives. Use the term "disabled" instead of "injures" and you won't have to repeat that Lucas is disabled later. It's possible also to condense elements in the second para.

Questions: Is this middle grade fiction? Christian/inspirational?

Why didn't anyone know that the field trials did not offer a cash prize? I found this illogical and therefore off-putting. Even if you explain this in the book, you could leave it out of the query. It's not essential.

Overall, it's a well written query.

heh: word ver =NOPEC. Alternative energy rules!

The Screaming Guppy said...


I can has book?

In all honesty, to me, this query seems pretty much perfect. I loved it, and this isn't even something I would normally pick up and read.

Best of luck with this.

Word verification: "goins" as in, this query letter is goin' places? :)

John said...

I agree with the two previous posts that this is a strong query. I like the premise, the voice and the characters, especially the protagonist. To me the main weakness was the hook. The key sentence: "Can his family help him find his happy ending?" takes the burden off the protagonist and seems to put it on his family members, who seem from the query to be much less central to the story. If indeed the boy's own efforts, courage, insights, magnanimity, etc., resolve the conflict, then let the query show that. Gook luck!

Debra Lynn Shelton said...

I've got a few questions, etc.:
1) Would the families problems be over because Lucas's dad was hired and now had a paying job, or because if the dog won, they'd receive money (perhaps his dad would get a bonus?)
2) Who owns the dog? You say his dad was hired to train the dog. After the accident, it seems like the dog belongs to Lucas.
3) From your first sentence, it sounds like the family was in debt before the injury, not because of the injury.
4) The line, "Still, Lucas can't forget," is not needed.
5) Again, if the field trials don't produce money, why was his father training the dog in the first place?
6) If the bank is going to foreclose "regardless" how can he save the "crumbling" family from financial ruin?
7) Why would he have to choose between the dog and his dad's dream?
8) The last rhetorical question is not a powerful enough way to end the query.

You've got good bones here, but there are too many questions. I can't wait to see a revision of this!

ryan field said...

There are a few things in the query itself that should be revised. Debra S. mentioned a few good ones in her comment that I agree with.

But I really love the sound of this. It's the kind of mainstream/commercial I love to read. Unexpectedly refreshing. You've got a strong plot with good ingredients, so focus on that. I already want Lucas to succeed and I've only read the first draft of the query.

And you can take this advice for what it's worth. Spend some serious time researching the established lit agencies who rep books like this. The ones with solid mainstream/commercial lists.

I can't wait to read the revise. I'm going to be clicking over all the time to see it.

Melissa Alexander said...

Wow! Great feedback. I'm the author, and I'm overwhelmed. :-)

I want to answer your questions. First, pulp, this is neither middle grade nor Christian fiction. It's mainstream. One of the problems with the query is that it *does* come across as middle grade -- and I've got to fix that. Debra also asked your second question, so I'll answer that along with her others below:

1. The family problems would be over because the father would get a steady job as a pro trainer. Lucas, however, is 10, and a bit... literal, so he thinks winning the trial is the magic solution. The rest of the family doesn't realize he thinks winning will save the family. They think he's just pursuing the project thathe and his dad were starting the day of his death.

2. Someone else owns the dog, but when it's injured in the accident, he gives the dog to Lucas. When the owner finds out the dog can hunt, he tries to take the dog back. If Lucas proves the dog can hunt by winning, he'll claim the dog.

3. Yes, the family was already in debt, but Lucas's mom didn't know it.

4. I'll scratch "Still Lucas" -- thanks.

5. Jake was training the dog to secure himself a steady income later.

6. Lucas takes his father's promise at face value. He doesn't know about the foreclosure or that field trials don't make people rich until well into the story. He believes that he can save his family financially, but he can't. That makes him doubt his father.

7. If Lucas pursues his father's dream to win the field trial, he'll lose Pax to the dog's original owner. If he doesn't compete, thereby "proving" the dog can't hunt, he can keep his dog... but he'll be preventing the dog from doing the thing that he was born to do.

8. I'll punch up the rhetorical question/hook. The reason it's there is to make it clear that despite all those problems, everything comes out right in the end. Not Disney right, mind you, but hopeful.

The problem I have is that this query very clearly focuses on the plot that provides a framework for the novel, but it focuses pretty exclusively on Lucas -- which is why people think it may be middle grade. Lucas is not the only protagonist. His uncle is equally important in driving the story, but when I try to weave in his arc, the query loses its punch and focus.

Any advice??? Thanks much, everyone!

hope101 said...

I like the story just as you have presented it, but I, too, thought this would be geared towards middle school readers. I think it's partly the language used ("His dad's promise sure isn't turning out like Lucas expected") and partly the sense from your query that Lucas is the protagonist, and not just the narrator for a multigenerational story of dealing with grief and legacy. I'm not explaining the distinction very well, but I'm thinking of how the query might have been written for "To Kill a Mockingbird", or "Paddy Clark Ha Ha Ha". I think there would be more emphasis in the last paragraph on the overarching themes, or that the story might be told from the POV of the grownup Lucas.

Who is your narrator throughout? If it is always ten year-old Lucas, it makes it considerably harder to sell it as anything other than YA, IMO.

PurpleClover said...

I think you should possibly change your characters age to about 15 and make it a YA. This would sell like hotcakes. I don't think it would fair as well in adult fiction since it is mainly about Lucas.

scott g.f.bailey said...

I don't think the age of the protagonist is going to determine the market as much as the themes and the events in the story. Two recent works of literary/commercial fiction, "Reading in the Dark" and "Kieran Smith, Boy," have juvenile narrators but they are certainly written for adults.

This book isn't my sort of thing, but I can see it being published and widely-read.

scott g.f.bailey said...

"Lucas is not the only protagonist. His uncle is equally important in driving the story, but when I try to weave in his arc, the query loses its punch and focus."

That might be your problem in a nutshell. Very few stories have more than one protagonist, because the story itself usually loses its punch and focus. You might want to concentrate on making the story belong to either Lucas or the uncle, but not both. There can be multiple story arcs, but it's really best to have a single protagonist.