Nov 12, 2009


Click here to read the original query.

Dear Sir or Madam,

I would like to submit for your consideration COOMBE’S WOOD, a horror novel of 67,000 words.

Izzy Santana and her 13-year-old son Connor move into a Council-provided flat in the sleepy village of Cedham. Locals darkly warn her to stay away from nearby Coombe’s Wood, hinting at ludicrous superstitions. But Izzy is so delighted to have found a haven for her son – after escaping her sadistic ex-partner George – that she takes little notice. Then a slit rabbit turns up on her doorstep, along with a distinctive cigarette butt, and she knows George has found her. What Izzy needs to do is protect Connor. She has already started to uncover the ancient secrets of the village, and now she works out the perfect way to get rid of George… for good.

I have been writing seriously for several years. Coombe’s Wood was runner-up in’s 2008 Book of the Year Award and a semi-finalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. An early novel of mine, The Crocodile, was short listed in the Undiscovered Authors 2006 competition. I have several other complete novels that are still in their first draft, and consider myself an author of the thriller and gothic horror genres.


AmyB said...

The length is much better than before, but I think you're focusing too much on the scary ex-husband and not enough on the supernatural. The supernatural element is probably going to what best shows off your book's uniqueness.

I'm not sure what is meant by "Council-provided"--perhaps you could omit? It doesn't seem to be an important story element.

What's a "slit rabbit?" How can a cigarette butt be "distinctive"? (They all look the same to me.)

I think most of even all of your third paragraph can go. I've heard at least one agent (Janet Reid?) say that you shouldn't mention being a runner-up or a finalist in a contest--only mention the contest if you won. Saying you have other drafts and that you've been writing for several years isn't needed either. That will be true of virtually anyone querying; it's a given. If you have no publishing credits (I don't either), there's no harm in just leaving that paragraph blank. Then you have more room for the query pitch.

I like the idea of using the supernatural whatever-it-is in the wood to get rid of her sadistic ex :).

Stacy McKitrick said...

I'm not an expert at this (yet), so I don't know if my two-cents are worth even that. But I like horror stories and this query doesn't seem to show why it's a horror story. It reads more like a thriller or suspense novel (which I like, too). Maybe you need to concentrate more on the horror aspects of the novel.

While your first one was longer and a bit wordy, I liked it better than this shorter version.

I'm discovering queries are a b*tch and I haven't been doing this as near as long as you have.

Good luck in your submissions!

RC Writer Girl said...

I don't actually read a lot of horror, so I'm not sure what a horror query should look like. But, that said, this didn't tell me what I'm supposed to be horrified of. It was fairly succinct, which is good. And it gave an interesting setup (she's scared of George, but figures out a way to eliminate him for good). That's intriguing, yes. But, again, if it's a horror novel, shouldn't I have some clue what I'm going to be horrified about. Is it George? Is it the town? Is is it Izzy? Is it the house?

Is it possible you need to reclassify the genre, or do you just need to give us more of a clue in the query?

Lastly, I've read that agents don't like authors who want to do a bunch of different stuff, so I'm not sure I'd say I were interested in thriller and gothic horror. You can tell your agent that when s/he offers you representation. It seems to me a query is about snagging the agent, so we put in only thing that enhance our attractiveness, not detract from it.

Lastly, I would just mention Combe's Wood's awards. I know they say to put in writing credits and awards. However, it doesn't sound like this previous "short-listed" novel was published. So, to me, saying you've got all these unpublished manuscripts says you're someone who's written several books and been unable to secure an agent with any of them. To me, it says maybe I shouldn't waste my time with a request (even if I'm a little intrigued) cause the guy probably can't write anyway. Otherwise, after finishing several novels, he'd have landed an agent.

Obviously, you can write great novels and not get an agent, but I just think saying you've written several novels and still don't have an agent is something that detracts from your query. To me, it says, "i've been trying real hard, but nobody wants my stuff. And there's probably a reason for that."

Going with simply the fact that Combe's Wood has gotten some glory indicates you're probably pretty good. And I can just assume it hasn't garnered an agent because it hasn't been shopped around much.

Again, it's not that you wouldn't tell your agent about these other novels at some point. It's just not something to lead with.

It's sort of like mentioning that you dated 20 other girls who had no interest in marrying you when you ask a woman out on a first date. We all know the other person has a dating history when they ask us out on a date. We just don't want to know it right then. Finding out right then puts it in the wrong light.

That's my two cents. Good luck with your query. The story does sound intriguing. I'd like to know what Izzy's got in store for George (even if I'm not horrified by it). :)