Thursday, June 15, 2006

Open Season on Free Range Bronco

I've slapped a target on my back and invite you to fire at will.
Disclaimer: This is a metaphor. Please do not take it literally.

The most recent version of my query letter follows, and I'm open to any advice or criticism. Please!

Dear Fabulous Agent,

What happens when we grow complacent with our freedoms? We give them away; we pass the Save the Children Bills and give The Matrons the authority to search any home in which a child resides to extract banned books, videos and games. The generation that should remember McCarthy and The Hollywood Ten brought us wreckage at Brooklyn College. Let’s see if the next generation can do better.

In the 71,000 word young adult novel The Haven, Gavin Beckett, age twelve, enters prime society as the push for the Save the Children Campaign begins. At first he is enticed by the underground society’s spectacle and privilege. The Haven is a society for people with paranormal abilities who guide the country, believing that their goals are altruistic. As Gavin and his cohorts learn of The Haven’s power over “ward” government and their despotic plans, they scheme to stop them.

I have enclosed a brief synopsis, the first ten pages and a SASE. I hope that The Haven suits your interests in (fill in the blank). Thank you for taking the time to consider my work.



Thanks in advance. RE: Brooklyn College:

Version 2

Dear Fabulous Agent,

I hope you will consider reading my manuscript, The Haven, a 71,000 word, young adult Orwellian fantasy. I learned of your agency from the Publisher’s Marketplace website, and I am very excited about the prospect of working with you.

Protagonist Gavin Beckett leaves the doldrums when a recruiter pulls him out of seventh grade to join East 42, the training grounds for the vast, underground network called the Haven. The Haven is a society for people with paranormal abilities who guide the country, believing that their goals are altruistic. Gavin inadvertently astral projects into a high security area of the Haven, and falls under the scrutiny of their leaders. As the Haven initiates a campaign for censorship and societal oppression, Gavin and his cohorts scheme to stop them.

My biography is brief: I graduated from .... University with a BA in English and a minor in writing. My credits include publication in Insanity’s Horse and Helvidius. My goals are to write a sequel to The Haven, collaborate on a screenplay, and engage in further fiction projects.

A synopsis and SASE follow. Thank you for your time and consideration.



Anonymous said...

Please don't think this is a malicious bash, but this query profoundly confused me. I'm twenty-five; McCarthy and The Hollywood Ten have virtually no connotation for me. The "wreckage" at Brooklyn College never crossed my news radar--maybe because I'm several states away and not an artist? Combining all that, my first thought was that the StCB is yet another stupid political move that I'd never heard of. (Of course generalizations like "we" always annoy me. I sure didn't pass the StCB.) That last line makes it seem even more like the StCB is an artifact. I only figured out that it's fictional because the mc is psychic.

All that's a long way of saying that the query, first pgh in particular, didn't tell me what kind of book it was.

Now, how to fix it...I'd start with the Haven, actually. What it does, who's in it, how Gavin gets involved. (Side note: what's "prime society"?) If it's described right away as a powerful underground society for the paranormal, we can assume that the book is sff. (As opposed to, like, a nonfictional diatribe on privacy law.) Then move into the action: the StCB has been enacted, ominous Matrons are invading ordinary homes, the Haven turns out to be behind it, someone has to act. Hilarity ensues.

Also, I always address my pre-specific queries to "Joe Bookpimp."

It sounds like an interesting book--I love paranormal powers--and the combination of action and an implicit commentary on Patriot Act politics should pique some interest. You just need to make it clearer what you're selling here.

Oh, yeah, and I would say "my 71,000 word novel" rather than "the". That "the" almost makes it sound like an outside reference.

Hope some of that helps, and good luck!

-A, who's here from the EE blog and thinks that every plot summary should end with "Hilarity ensues"

----Wait, oh my gosh, there's a character called Coffin who could be played by Vin Diesel?? Is he a big enough pro- or an- tagonist to mention? Cause he boosts your cool factor like whoa, and I don't even know anything about him.

Cynthia Bronco said...

Anonymous: Thanks! This is the version I sent to a NY agent whom I suspect was very familiar w/ the Brookln College thing; didn't know if it would be appropriate for other agents.
I'm going to edit my post to include version 2& hopefully no one will be too aggravated with me to read both.

Anonymous said...

Oh, I like the synopsis paragraph for version 2! It hits Miss Snark's requirements of "Who he is, what's happening to him, and why we should care." Not to mention that it sounds even cooler than before! It might be able to stand another sentence about the Haven's evil plot, it's vague right now. Would an additional descriptor on the "cohorts" (newfound, psychic, young, clinically insane, canine) be a good idea?

I'm not sure about some of the non-topical stuff in the first and last paragraphs. "I am very excited about the prospect of working with you" doesn't seem very important--why would you query if you weren't?--or, sad to say, authentic. I'm sure every agent has seen her share of brown-nosery, whether sincere or not.

I'd eliminate "My biography is brief" and list the writing credits before the education. I'm not sure this is the place to list goals--there's time enough for that in negotiations, and the agent/editor will only really be interested in what you've actually done. If you've started the sequel, mention that, and you might want to emphasize that The Haven is a stand-alone novel. (So they know there's more if they want it, but they don't have to take both.)

All of this is just subjective advice, take or leave. Sounds like a great book!

-A, who is anonymous no more."

Dwight The Troubled Teen said...

First Query: First Paragraph:

I'm all for the hook, but the hook keeps expanding until it's a full-fledged manifesto.

The generation that should remember...

Let's see if the next generation can do better...

Granted, anything sent to the 212 area code is going to have a better-than-average chance of reaching a kindred liberal mind, but on a strictly professional basis, I might rethink making my first impression a politics-laden lecture.

Suggestion: "What happens when a nation grows complacent with it's freedoms? It gives... It passes a..."

Lose everything after games.

You get the same message across without the elitist baggage of the "in your face" alagorial verbiage.

Inez said...

Dear Cynthia:
The best book for writing query letters is Jeff Herman's guide to Agents etc..

Best of luck!

Anonymous said...

I like version 2 much more. Version 1 is confusing and as other commenters have said, the touch points don't work.

I would like a bit more about Gavin--the doldrums don't tell much. And more about why exactly you chose that agent to query. There are many books like this--the one that comes to mind, The Prodigy, may have been repped by someone you should consider. And as for your bio, yes, be brief but don't tell us you're being brief. Good luck.

kenguru22 said...

points of etiquette in a pitch are only of minor interest when a piece of work as thoroughly marketable as this one appears on your desk .
opinions as to subject matter , are entirely destructive if you've written a political story , and the opinion is "thats too scary for a first novel".
relevance of a historical reference is not subject to the ignorance of the reader( only to it's accuracy as a reference) .
a writer may be scholarly , but a pitch" should be "sexy" .
i love your writting .the more the merrier .but... the attention span of a publisher may suffer from the volume of submissions reveiwed .
have mercy on them .
grab them hard , and shake them until paragraphs fall out of their ears .use all the elements in your current drafts , but make it a 1,2,3 combination (jab, jab, uppercut) it is most important that you leave after the haymaker .take a bow.

Cynthia Bronco said...

Thanks guys!
By the way, the Coffin character is the principal adult character in the novel.