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Would love feedback on this query.
Marc Poliquin
Posted: Monday, February 20, 2012 8:44 PM
Joined: 1/9/2012
Posts: 67


Hi:

Well, the querying process has begun.  Definitely NOT my favorite part of the process.  I'm open to any and all suggestions on how to improve the letter below.  Does it hook you?  Does it make you want to read more? Thanks, folks.

--------------------------

Dear Ms. ......:


Mitch Turner’s career as a weapon designer is ruined after he’s unwittingly used as a pawn in a game of industrial espionage.  His reputation destroyed, he accepts a questionable offer to present one of his designs to a shadowy buyer in Manhattan.


Bitter, angry, and seeing the offer as his last chance to reclaim his career, he builds a weapon he had once thought too dangerous to move past the design stage.  Prototype in hand, he arrives in New York for the demonstration, and all goes well until someone steals it.

The weapon falls into the hands of Wally Ross, a homeless man, a weak and bullied man.  He sees the weapon as a gift that will give him the courage to fight the men who took the one thing providing his poor, wretched existence with meaning.

When Wally decides to use the weapon, innocent people start dying, and Mitch races across the city in an effort to stop the chaos.  It shouldn’t be hard.  He only needs to evade the police, hold off the other interested parties who want the weapon for financial gain, and stay alive.

A fast-paced thriller of 50,000 words, DEAD SWITCH was inspired by articles about landmines being disguised as toys, and my curiosity about the type of person who designs them.


I’m writing to you because of your specialization in first fiction and commercial fiction.  This is my first novel, and it is complete.  My short story, W.U.M.E., placed second in the science-fiction category of Writer’s Digest 2011 Popular Fiction awards, and was also a Writers of the Future 2011 Honorable Mention.  Thank you for taking the time to read this letter.

Sincerely,

Marc Poliquin

 


Marc Poliquin
Posted: Friday, February 24, 2012 12:36 PM
Joined: 1/9/2012
Posts: 67


Okay.  I've reworked the query.  Any feedback welcome.

--------------

In an attempt to resurrect his career, Mitch Turner, a disgraced weapon designer, builds a weapon he’d once thought too dangerous to move past the design stage.

Big mistake.

After Mitch arrives in New York to demonstrate the weapon for a questionable buyer, the prototype is stolen and falls into the hands of Wally Ross, a homeless man, a weak and bullied man.  It will give him the courage to fight the men who took the one thing providing his poor, wretched existence with meaning.  And he doesn’t plan on giving it back.

When Wally uses the weapon, innocent people start dying, and Mitch races across the city in an effort to stop the chaos for which he feels responsible.  It shouldn’t be hard.  He only needs to evade the police, hold off the other interested parties who want the weapon for financial gain, and stay alive.

Beneath the betrayal, the greed, the chase, and the desperation lies a story of how decisions and their consequences ripple not only through the present, but from the past into the future to devastating effect.

(Short paragraph to show I've researched the agent)

A fast-paced thriller of 50,000 words, DEAD SWITCH is my first novel, and it is complete.  My short story, W.U.M.E., placed second in the science-fiction category of the Writer’s Digest 2011 Popular Fiction awards, and was also a Writers of the Future 2011 Honorable Mention. 

Thank you for taking the time to read this letter.

Sincerely,

Marc Poliquin



Marc Poliquin
Posted: Friday, February 24, 2012 12:39 PM
Joined: 1/9/2012
Posts: 67


Hmm...can't quite seem to break the paragraphs.

G J Marshall
Posted: Saturday, March 3, 2012 5:35 PM
Joined: 12/17/2011
Posts: 11


Hi, I looked over both drafts and thought, if you don't mind me making suggestions, maybe you could try this instead? Delete 'Big mistake.' It doesnt seem to flow. Also how does it fall into Wally's hands? Just give a quick hint if possible. Try rearranging the paragraph describing Wally - it feels a bit ungainly. Perhaps something like 'Mitch is invited to NY to demonstrate his weapon, ignoring his inner voice telling him something about this buyer isnt quite right. Then the prototype is stolen. (description)... falls into the hands of a homeless man who has been downtrodden all his life. But that is all about to change ...' You may want to try rearranging the next paragraph a little to read ' He only needs to evade the police, hold off the ruthless cartel who wan tthe weapon and somehow manage to stay alive.' I'm by no means an expert, but this is just an indication. I hope you find it helpful.

Marc Poliquin
Posted: Saturday, March 3, 2012 8:20 PM
Joined: 1/9/2012
Posts: 67


Hi:

Thanks for responding.  Some good suggestions.


G J Marshall
Posted: Sunday, March 4, 2012 4:59 AM
Joined: 12/17/2011
Posts: 11


I meant to say, in your letter, your first paragraph should be introducing yourself and to give a little about yourself, rather than your last paragraph. Make your 'voice' heard. Then mention your genre etc. I know a lot of letters also say that a short synopsis is attached - which should be less than a page, to serve as a more substantial hook. That is the advice I've been given and seems to be standard over here (London) but its up to you. I'm hope you arent offended by my comments - I only mean to help. I recently went to a talk by one of our big agencies in my genre and she read out letters that really made her keen to take the writer on before she even read their chapters. One thing I know, its easier to give advice to apply it to yourself. Wben I can evenutally load  my chapters for this site, I hope to get feedback for both my letter and chapters. Wood for the trees scenario!

Jay Greenstein
Posted: Sunday, March 4, 2012 1:41 PM

First. The minimum size for a novel is 65,000 words, and the novella market has dried up, so unless this is a YA there is probably no viable market for  a 50k work. In fact, the average size of a novel selling today is probably in the area of 85k/word.

Your pitch starts off well. You give the premise and the setting. But then you change to a mini-synopsis format, and if your plot is simplistic enough to be given in less than 200 words it wouldn’t be much of a story. So stick to the big picture. You’re trying to get the reader to turn to the manuscript, to be hooked. The synopsis will detail the plot. Your goal in this is to turn mild curiosity into interest, not explain the story.

And while your accomplishments in the contests are reason for pride, only first place and publication are worth mentioning, because otherwise you’re, in effect, telling the publisher that your work was rejected.



Colleen Lindsay
Posted: Monday, March 5, 2012 12:08 PM
Joined: 2/27/2011
Posts: 356


Hi Marc -

Jay is absolutely right; if this is an adult thriller, you really need to come in at about the 100k mark.

I've written a blog post about this here: http://www.bookcountry.com/Industry/Article.aspx?articleId=100768


Marc Poliquin
Posted: Monday, March 5, 2012 2:24 PM
Joined: 1/9/2012
Posts: 67


Hi, Colleen:

Thanks for the link.  Great blog post.  I'm actually working on upping the word count.  I'm curious: why 100k?  Seems to me I've read some perfectly good thrillers that weren't that lengthy.


Marc Poliquin
Posted: Friday, May 18, 2012 5:41 PM
Joined: 1/9/2012
Posts: 67


Thanks, Erin.  Great to know. 

 

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