Jul 26, 2011

Query: CURE

It's been a while since I've had anything new to post here and I'm glad, Rick, to see the site is thriving. Congratulations and here's the query for my latest WIP. Thanks to all the commenters!

Thanks, I'm glad too...and I echo your thanks to the commenters who make this site what it is!
- Rick

Dear Dream Agent,

When six zombie infected are discovered in a remote Haitian village, Dr. Howard Nixon, a brilliant scientist and wealthy physician, commissions their transfer to his research facility in the basement of the Nixon Healing and Research Center. Nixon deems the infection incurable, but after seeing its ability to devour live tissue, he believes there’s an alternate use; that he can manipulate it into something that will cannibalize tumors in cancer patients, curing them. The first attempts are unsuccessful. The infection is too strong and needs to be genetically tempered by way of a human-zombie hybrid.

Nixon inseminates the first human females, but the infants aren’t surviving. He needs a compatible maternal host and enlists the help of an ex-Nixon Center physician to find Miranda Penton, the perfect candidate. She has the exact condition he needs, the same one that caused her own infant’s stillbirth. Doctors say her condition will kill any infant she ever carries and the news destroys her marriage, pushing her to accept an unexpected job offer at the Nixon Center.

Miranda becomes Nixon’s next victim, but her stay is short-lived. Someone reverses the hospital’s lock-down releasing not just the human victims, but the infected on an unsuspecting population.

Miranda realizes she’s pregnant as the infection spreads. Nixon’s security is sent to eradicate the newly infected and a bounty is placed on Miranda’s head. Nixon’s people lose control of the spread and Miranda’s infant becomes the new target. A defected group of Nixon’s clinical staff believe that her baby holds the cure to the outbreak. How far will Miranda go and at what cost to the world to stop them?

CURE, is a zombie horror novel complete at 65,000 words and is the first novel in a planned series.

My short stories have appeared in Shroud Magazine, Dabblestone, and on Tales of the Zombie War’s website. The Look-alike earned me honorable mention in the Writer’s Digest 76th Annual Writing Competition. I am the author of a non-fiction textbook, Correct Coding for Medicare, Compliance and Reimbursement published by Cengage Learning and the independently published novel, Dead Spell, which has received great reviews. I would be happy to send you a partial or the full manuscript. Thank you for your consideration.

Belinda Frisch


Anonymous said...

Belinda -

I think this is a wonderfully written query. You've provided enough detail to draw them in without giving every last detail away. You've also donea nice job of providing your credentials as an author to be taken seriously. Well done!

Anonymous said...

yankinfrance here...
Well, for one thing, this query is pretty long -- more than 370 words, when the standard is closer to 250.

I think the query is not doing the novel (which sounds like fun) justice.

I kept wondering who the novel is about -- who has the conflict? Since so much time is spent talking about this Nixon fellow, it seems it's him. But then it appears the Miranda character is the actual heroine?

There's a lot of loose writing here. "Six zombie infected" reads as grammatically incorrect.

An infection cannot devour live tissue -- bacteria can, yes, but an infection is just the result of having too much of those.

Unless of course the use of infection this way has become some sort of convention in the zombie genre world? To me, it just reads as poor grammar and bad science.

A query is a little window into the novel -- if the query can't manage to be grammatically correct, this spells trouble for the novel itself.

Regardless, that first paragraph is very long and mostly unnecessary -- it's all backstory, all setup and reads more like a synopsis than a query.

Start with the action. Figure out who the protagonist is and focus the query around his or her conflict -- it seems to me Miranda fits this bill, since the Nixon character comes off more as an evil mad scientist type.

Frame the query around Miranda - and then show us the danger she faces from Nixon.

The short story credentials should stay -- since they're all directly related to this genre. I don't know what The Look-alike is, but from what I've read, if you haven't won the competition, don't mention it. I'm not so certain about listing the textbook credit, since it has nothing to do with this genre (although I've known some zombie-like programmers). And from what I've read, listing a self-published novel as a credit is a definite no-go (unless you've sold a hell of a lot of copies).

Also, from what I've read, talking about a planned series is another no-no.

Anonymous Author said...

The voice in this query is a bit flat: this happened then this happened then this happened.

"Six zombie infected" is awkward.

It will probably be another generation before the name "Nixon" carries no baggage. Every time I saw it, I had to remind myself that it was the name of your character.

The comma after CURE should not be there.

I googled your novel, and it looks like you self-published it on Kindle. Several people have scoldingly told me that "independent publishing" means small selective publishers unaffiliated with major corporations. (Curbstone Press would be an example.)So it's not quite the right term.

The most recent thing I heard about self-publishing was that you shouldn't mention it unless you've got some good sales figures to mention with it. (Over 5000 copies would be considered good for a self-published book, I think.) And then you should mention the sales figures.

I've heard this is "changing," but I'm not sure how, nor which agents are aware yet of the change.

Anonymous Author said...

YIF, I think the Writer's Digest contests are reputable enough (even though they charge a fee-- never could figure that one out) that it's worth mentioning. And I think Look-alike is the title of her story, though it should be capitalized and in quotes.

However, I'm not sure what runner-up is... a friend of mine won 9th place in that thing. She was all excited because there were a billion entries or something and she was 9th. I gathered from her description that they told everybody what place they were in, up to 100th place or something, so if that's the case it would need to be mentioned accurately in the query.

(Years ago I got an honorable mention in the Writers of the Future contest but I never mentioned in it my queries because I went to their website and the Honorable Mentions... aren't mentioned!)

When it comes to contests, brand name recognition, how high you placed, and Googlability of the contest are key.

Anonymous Author said...

Oh, one other thing about contests that kinda negates everything I said before, sigh...

The contest entry should be the manuscript that you're actually querying.

So never mind my babbling. :p

Anonymous said...

yankinfrance here...

My understanding (from reading lots of agents blogs over the last few months) is that unless you've won the contest or at least placed second, then there's no real point in mentioning it. Unless it's something on the level of the Booker or the Pulitzer.

I didn't realize Writer's Digest charged for their contest! I remember 'winning' a similar contest back when I was a kid ... until I got to the part where it would only cost me $50 to claim my prize...

The 'independently published' line stuck out for me as code for 'self-published.'

I wonder how much this will change in the future, but for now it seems (again, from the research I've done) that self-publishing is a turn off for most agents. Of course, that was a different work, not the novel that is being queried here.

I've read about one writer who has built a huge following for herself on Amazon and has earned a couple of million dollars with her novels. And now she's been signed to a major house.

Anonymous Author said...

I got yanked from the slushpile via a contest win, so I certainly don't knock 'em.

But here's the thing: when you do get yanked from the slushpile and find yourself talking on the phone to Real Live Big Six Editor, you quickly realize that she's met pretty much every living literary legend, knows some of 'em quite well, and has talked to three of 'em this morning.

So what sounds impressive to us ain't gonna sound impressive to her. And that covers most of what most writers put in their "credentials" paragraph. It's the story, if anything, that will get her attention.

Amanda Hocking's the lady who made her millions. Good for her; sad for most of the people who will try to follow in her footsteps.

I do hear it's becoming less of a stigma, though.

GLJ said...

I love the premise, that the doctor is trying to cure cancer using a zombie infection. That seems unique and really caught my eye.

But this is overly long and includes details that don’t help. Some suggestions below for streamlining. Feel free to use or ignore.

When six zombie-infected (people?) are discovered in a remote Haitian village, Dr. Howard Nixon, brilliant scientist and wealthy physician, moves them to his research facility. Nixon deems the infection incurable. But after seeing its ability to devour live tissue, he believes there’s an alternate use--that he can use it to cannibalize tumors in cancer patients

Nixon inseminates the first human females, but the infants don’t survive. The infection is too strong and needs to be genetically tempered by way of a human-zombie hybrid. He needs a compatible maternal host. He __ to find Miranda Penton, the perfect candidate.

But Dr. Nixon’s research is interrupted when someone reverses the hospital’s lock-down, releasing zombie-infected patients. When people learn of Dr. Nixon’s research, Miranda’s infant becomes the target of people fearful that the baby will _.

Miranda is afraid that her baby might be _, but she cannot hand it over to the _ (frightened mob?)

PROBLEM: if the infection is incurable, then if his plan works, he can cure their cancer only to have them turn into zombies? Seems like a bit of a flaw, unless he can then remove the virus-affected tissue.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

For yankinfrance: http://zombie.wikia.com/wiki/Infected

GLJ, thank you, but it's all handled. There is a risk of infection, but that's part of the fun with this novel and really isn't the main point once the outbreak happens. The pathogen is tempered and used as a kind of smart virus that targets only cancerous tissue. It's a lot about experimentation with the mad scientist type at the helm. I've put up a more succinct revision in comments and am just waiting for the update to post.

For those in on the credentials argument, I'm not going to hide that I've been both self and traditionally published because it only takes a Google search to find that out. To me, honesty is the best policy and if an agent/publisher doesn't want to work with a seasoned indie, they're probably not someone I want to work with anyway. Publishing is changing and the more savvy folks know to change with it.

Anonymous said...

yankinfrance here...

Ha, love the zombipedia site. So the zombie genre is developing its own version of Klingon? ;-)

It still reads weird to me -- but I suppose if you're targeting the query only at initiated agents, it'll pass. I've noticed plenty of agents who expressly state they're looking for this kind of genre.

"Infected" is just a minor detail in this query anyway.

As for the credentials part: you're missing the point. We're complaining because you're misrepresenting yourself -- you have not been 'independently' published, you've been self-published. No one's arguing that self-publishing isn't losing its stigma (but if it is, why not just admit to having self-published?). We're just saying you ought to call it what it is.

Especially since self-publishing ought to be perfectly suited to a subgenre like zombie fiction.

Please don't take these criticisms personally -- we don't know you, haven't read your novel. The only thing we have to go on is your query. We're really only trying to help (at least I am - it fascinates me to see how a query can transition into something really vibrant with a few gentle or not-so-gentle nudges).