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Query for A Kaliphian Matter: Revelations - Thoughts?
Angela Martello
Posted: Sunday, December 18, 2011 8:31 PM
Joined: 8/21/2011
Posts: 394


Greetings,

What the people of one world call “magic,” others know is a complex interplay of
physiology, biochemistry, and crystal physics, but that doesn’t lessen their desire to harness the power or control the people who wield it through whatever means necessary—including selective breeding, murder, and interplanetary war.

 A Kaliphian Matter: Revelations is science fiction book aimed at adult readers and is roughly 139,000 words. The story unfolds primarily on the planet Kaliph, a world with a powerful ambient energy that is revered by the people of Kaliph and coveted by other races in the galaxy. The power, which the
Kaliphians call “magic” and which can be manipulated by a small percentage of
the population, is vital to the Kaliphian way of life. But to factions within the Earth government and to power-hungry members of an elite religious sect from the great Atroyan Empire, harnessing the energy that permeates the Kaliphian world—or controlling those who can command it—could shift the balance
of power in the galaxy.

When Ben Gerrickson saves a fellow crewmate’s life during the Kargin War by unwillingly unleashing a great power that had been secretly simmering within him, he soon finds himself caught up in a whirlwind of
galactic intrigue and danger. Within days of being summoned to a hearing to explain his actions, he receives a tiny plant from Kaliph, the world he left when he was a boy—a world imbued with a powerful ambient energy. When he touches the plant, long-buried memories of danger suddenly resurface, and Ben begins to understand why he had been sent to Earth in the first place. And,
with help from an old tutor, he soon learns why he must return. He also discovers that the greatest dangers he faces may be from his well-meaning relatives and from individuals from Earth and the powerful Atroyan Empire who seem to have a sinister interest in Kaliph and the Kaliphian people.

 As for me, I have worked in scientific, technical, and medical publishing for more
than 20 years in a variety of positions, including science writer, science and
technology web site evaluator/reviewer, and most recently as a developmental
and production manager for an electronic medical publication. I have advanced
degrees in Geology and Technical & Scientific Communications and
undergraduate degrees in Geology and English with a concentration in Writing.
During the last few years, I have indulged my more creative side by taking classes in art (tile-making, mosaics, glass molding, watercolor painting).

Writing of all forms (fiction, science news, research papers, poetry, even letters to my congressmen and senators) has always been a passion of mine, and it has been my long-held desire to break into the world of fiction publishing.

Looking forward to hearing from you.

Would appreciate any comments/thoughts on the above query letter. Also, I have read conflicting info online about when to mention to an agent or publisher that a book is part of a trilogy (some advise 100% against it; others recommend stating that up front). Would appreciate some thoughts on that as well.

Thanks!

Angela Martello
Posted: Sunday, December 18, 2011 8:32 PM
Joined: 8/21/2011
Posts: 394


Thought I caught all the funky line breaks (I copied and pasted the text of the query from Word). Sorry!

Jay Greenstein
Posted: Monday, December 19, 2011 2:04 AM
• What the people of one world call “magic,” others know is a complex interplay of physiology, biochemistry, and crystal physics, but that doesn’t lessen their desire to harness the power or control the people who wield it through whatever means necessary —including selective breeding, murder, and interplanetary war.

Stop and think as an agent or editor. You’re a backstage person and you know the business, and the genre, far better then the new writers who are submitting their work. Today is a slushpile day,
so on the train home you’re reading as many manuscripts as you can, to get them out of the way.

As that agent turns to your submission they’ve probably shuffled through a half dozen or more, and have another ten to go. Add to that, the fact that they know they’re going to read about a hundred that they’ll reject before they find one that they’ll request a manuscript for. So, given that, how happy will they be to read dense prose? How enthusiastic will the be to be lectured to?
 
See the problem? You want them to read the first page of the  manuscript and see how great it is. That’s it. That’s the role of the query.

In general, they want to know the genre and length first, so they can stop there if it’s wrong. Then they want to know the thrust of the story—what it’s about. And by that I don’t mean the plot. I mean something like, “be careful what you wish for,” or “learning to trust.” Expand that so the reader knows the problem and the consequence if the problem isn’t resolved. They want to know why the protagonist is the one chosen and the danger. They want issues of emotion, not fact. Think about the theatrical trailer that they hope will make you see the film. It’s all about emotional issues that are easy to understand, not politics and detail. The bad guys are coming but the hero can’t run because… Think of the voice-over that goes with it and slant your blurb in that direction.

At the moment you’re giving as mini-synopsis, and you probably sweated over that trying to reduce it to less than 250 words. But if your story has a plot that can be defined well in so few words it would be a novella, not a novel of more then 100k/words. Right?

Spend some time reading on queryshark.blogspot.com/   There’s
a lot of help available there.

Angela Martello
Posted: Tuesday, December 27, 2011 8:58 PM
Joined: 8/21/2011
Posts: 394


Jay - Thanks for your comments. I've made some changes to the letter. Will appreciate any feedback.


Greetings,

Victory, in servitude, or death – Those were the choices Ben Gerrickson’s father set before him the last time they spoke. But why should Ben risk his life for a people who were not only strangers to him, but who, in many cases, also wanted to see him dead?

 A Kaliphian Matter: Revelations is science fiction book aimed at adult readers and is roughly 139,000 words. The story unfolds primarily on the planet Kaliph, a world with a powerful ambient energy that is revered by the people of Kaliph and coveted by other races in the galaxy.

When Ben Gerrickson saves a fellow crewmate’s life during the Kargin War by unwillingly unleashing a great power that had been secretly simmering within him, he soon finds himself caught up in a whirlwind of galactic intrigue and danger. Within days of being summoned to a hearing to explain his actions, he receives a tiny plant from Kaliph, the world he left when he was a boy—a world imbued with a powerful ambient energy. When he touches the plant, long-buried memories of danger suddenly resurface, and Ben begins to understand why he had been sent to Earth in the first place. And, with help from an old tutor, he soon learns why he must return. He also discovers that the greatest dangers he faces may be from his well-meaning relatives and from individuals from Earth and the powerful Atroyan Empire who seem to have a sinister interest in Kaliph and the Kaliphian people.

 As for me, I have worked in scientific, technical, and medical publishing for more than 20 years in a variety of positions, including science writer, science and technology web site evaluator/reviewer, and most recently as a developmental and production manager for an electronic medical publication. I have advanced degrees in Geology and Technical & Scientific Communications and undergraduate degrees in Geology and English with a concentration in Writing. During the last few years, I have indulged my more creative side by taking classes in art (tile-making, mosaics, glass molding, watercolor painting). Writing of all forms (fiction, science news, research papers, poetry, even letters to my congressmen and senators) has always been a passion of mine, and it has been my long-held desire to break into the world of fiction publishing.

Looking forward to hearing from you.



Charl F king
Posted: Saturday, December 31, 2011 12:53 AM
Joined: 11/20/2011
Posts: 24


Hi, I am being picky, but are the unexpected paragraph hops (for want of a better decription) intentional?
 
First off, a publisher will say 139 000K is too long. I would ignore them and soldier on. If it is a trilogy I would be upfront with them--honesty is always best. 
There are plenty of books out on how to write a good query and synopsis, plus the internet is a wonderful source of information. Set yourself a challenge, write a one-sentence logline/tagline/hook on what your book is about.

This is one for Silence of the Lambs:
To enter the mind of a killer she must challenge the mind of a madman. 

This is a slightly longer blurb:
A young FBI trainee who is hunting a serial-murderer who skins and butchers his victims. To better understand the motives of the killer, she attempts to get inside his mind with the help of an imprisoned psychopath, with whom she plays a deadly psychological game of cat-and-mouse.

LOL I could edit this blurb, I must say, but you get my drift.

Obviously, publishers want a longer one, but if you can write a short one first, then it will be easier to fine-tune a full synopsis.
I agree with Jay 100%

In the second synopsis, I suggest you ground the reader a bit, tell them where Ben is and where he is from.
Writing a synopsis is harder than writing a damn book LOL
I look forward to reviewing your book in the new year.

Joe Bridges
Posted: Saturday, December 31, 2011 6:22 AM
Joined: 12/18/2011
Posts: 25


I got a couple of chapters deep in this Revelation and saw that I was going to want to read more. I'll have to come back to it.

I like the book that I have written, but several serious problems have been pointed out to me. I may leave it just as it is for my son and my friends who are waiting to finish reading it, and write an "edited or abridged version" for everyone else. I'm thinking that today's readers are a bit jaded from being part of the "microwave generation"; they want lots of action right now, no matter if it's crispy and tastes good like food from a real oven, lol. Just get it hot and put it on the plate. Hmm.... I'll try to post a query in this thread some time soon. I'm studying how to write one first. Never had heard of a query until today. I had a story; I thought that was enough, but it isn't.
 
Anyway, hang in there, Angela. We have to make our novels ready to compete for attention as well as ready to read, and a good query, it seems, is part of that process.


Angela Martello
Posted: Saturday, December 31, 2011 9:38 AM
Joined: 8/21/2011
Posts: 394


Charl - Writing the damn query has been harder than writing the damn trilogy! But, when I think of how much time and energy I have put into the books,what I have spent on the query is, well, almost nil. But, I will keep at it.

Joe - I agree that some of today's readers are a bit jaded in some respects (call them the "sound bite and tweet generation"). And I wish just having a good story was all you needed to get it published, but the querying process, at least from my perspective, seems to be a combination of hard work and pure luck! Keep at it! And no matter how hard that process is, never stop writing.

Joe Bridges
Posted: Saturday, December 31, 2011 11:31 AM
Joined: 12/18/2011
Posts: 25


Hi (again!) Angela!

I  studied queries online this morning. Here is a link I found easiest (for me) to use:

http://jamesrussellpublishing.biz/queryletterbk.html 
 
I presume you are most interested in suggestions or examples of how the rest of us might write the descriptive parts of our queries, so here is mine in its most current form:

The working title The Great Alliance [in italics] is a non illustrated 115k word Space Opera novel manuscript wherein a trio of unplanned fetuses gestate in their mothers' wombs while learning the collected knowledge of all humankind aboard a colony ship to Pollux Gamma. After 38 years in suspension on the voyage the children are born powerful telepathic geniuses. A wonderful alliance develops between the colonists and a friendly insectile race as they strive together, guided by the Telepathic Trio, to save their home worlds from destruction by an armada-borne invasion of werewolf-like beings from Altair.

The target audience for this book will be readers of gently paced epic Sci-Fi and Fantasy Tales. I consider this book more interesting than others of its genre because the powers of the children come from their own extensive mental experiences pre-birth rather than from some indwelling alien source. This first volume of the Planetseekers Trilogy ends with the new Alliance victorious, the children safe back home with their parents and the Ven on their new colony planet, and hints of more adventures to come in the second and third volumes.

I hope this helps (both of us!)

Blessings,
J. Bridges

LilySea
Posted: Saturday, January 7, 2012 12:43 PM
Joined: 5/12/2011
Posts: 241


Hi Angela! Based on the formula I've heard from our own illustrious, Colleen Lindsay, I would recommend you cut the opening and instead open with your basic description of the book (what is now your second paragraph).
Also based on Colleen's and other lit agents I have followed on Twitter's advice, I would trim the closing paragraph considerably. Certainly take out the bit about always being a writer and always wanting to publish a book. Stick to the things that are truly professionally relevant to the job you are applying for when you query someone to help you publish your book: professional writing experience, any existing platform that might be helpful in marketing (just touch on it though, don't overplay it) and basic education as it is relevant to your hope to work as a novelist.
And that is the key rule of thumb I hear from literary agents over and over: a query is an application for a job. Just because it's your dream job or a job you've always fantasized about or a job you would love so much that it wouldn't feel like work doesn't mean it's not, in the end, a job.
As with any cover letter you would send to a prospective employer, you want to keep the information as densely relevant and as professional as possible.


Angela Martello
Posted: Saturday, January 7, 2012 7:17 PM
Joined: 8/21/2011
Posts: 394


Hi, LilySea,

Happy New Year! Thank you so much for your comments. As I've said before, the query letter has been harder than writing the entire trilogy! Since I'm doing some massive editing on the first book right now in an effort to shave down the word count, I've put the query letter on the back burner (more or less - nothing is ever really on the back burner with me!), but have every intention of putting more work into it and posting another version in this thread.

Thinking of the query letter as a cover letter for job application is an excellent way to look at it! Thank you for pointing that out to me! Over the years, I have read so many cover letters (and cringed over the poor spelling and bad grammar), have advised so many people on how to write cover letters, and have chafed at the fact that so many resumes come in now WITHOUT cover letters!

Thanks again.

-Angela


Jay Greenstein
Posted: Sunday, January 8, 2012 12:15 PM

 A Kaliphian Matter: Revelations: science fiction - 139,000 words.
The agent is looking for information, not a long read.

When Ben Gerrickson saves a fellow crewmate’s life during the Kargin War by unleashing a power (specify the effect a bit more specifically than by “great.”) that had been simmering within him, he finds himself caught up in a whirlwind of galactic intrigue and danger. Within days of being asked to explain his actions, he receives a tiny plant from Kaliph, the world he left when he was a boy—a world imbued with a powerful ambient energy. When he touches the plant, long-buried memories are released, and Ben begins to understand why he had been sent to Earth. He then discovers that the greatest dangers he faces may be from those who have a sinister interest in Kaliph and the Kaliphian people.
That last line is a bit weak, and can be expanded to cover what I mention below

I’ve pulled the redundant and inherent wording to tighten this, but you’ve not told what the danger is, the penalty for failure, why he’s the one most fitted to face the threat, or why he can’t say no.

 As for me, I have worked in scientific, technical, and medical publishing for more than 20 years in a variety of positions, including science writer, science and technology web site evaluator/reviewer, and most recently as a developmental and production manager for an electronic medical publication. I have advanced degrees in Geology and Technical & Scientific Communications and undergraduate degrees in Geology and English with a concentration in Writing.

I pulled those things that aren’t related to writing this particular story, and your, “I love to write,” blurb, because it’s assumed you wouldn’t be submitting if you didn’t. You might want to focus it a bit more tightly. The first sentence tells the reader that you’re a professional, which is the real point. It also raises the question of if you’re using your nonfiction skills to tell the story, or if you’ve spent time acquiring the compositional skills the fiction writer needs, too.

And that leads me to: I looked at the revised chapters, and I have to comment that while you’ve made some changes, the basic approach—that of the external observer reporting what they’re viewing in their mind—remains a constant. That, I believe, getting into the character’s POV as against the reporter’s, is something you need to address.





LilySea
Posted: Sunday, January 8, 2012 6:30 PM
Joined: 5/12/2011
Posts: 241


It is harder, in some ways than writing the novel, I totally agree.

My sometimes melodramatic crit partner once bellowed, "when will this truncated writing about writing end!?" (We were practicing various lengths of description of our novels on each other.)

Ha! You are a cover letter expert. So that's perfect, isn't it?

Looking forward to the next draft.


Angela Martello
Posted: Sunday, January 15, 2012 7:37 PM
Joined: 8/21/2011
Posts: 394


Here's another draft! Considerable shorter. Maybe too short now?

 A Kaliphian Matter: Revelations is part one (127,000 words) of a space opera trilogy for adult readers. When Ben Gerrickson, a pilot with the Earth Corps, saves a fellow crewmate’s life during the Kargin War by unwillingly unleashing a great power that had been secretly simmering within him, he soon finds himself caught up in a whirlwind of galactic intrigue and danger. Within days of being summoned to a hearing to explain his actions, he receives a tiny plant from Kaliph, the world he left when he was a boy—a world imbued with a powerful ambient energy the people there call “magic.” When he touches the plant, long-buried memories suddenly resurface, and Ben begins to understand why he had been sent to Earth in the first place: someone had tried to kill him. When he returns to the planet of his birth to get some answers, he soon discovers the truth of who and what he is. He also learns that he must use his wildly destructive innate power not just to protect himself, but to save his peoplethe same people who want to see him dead.

 As for me, I have worked in scientific, technical, and medical publishing for more than 20 years in a variety of positions, including science writer, science and technology web site evaluator/reviewer, and most recently as a developmental and production manager for an electronic medical publication. I have advanced degrees in Geology and Technical & Scientific Communications and undergraduate degrees in geology and English with a concentration in Writing.

I look forward to hearing from you.




Angela Martello
Posted: Monday, January 16, 2012 8:48 AM
Joined: 8/21/2011
Posts: 394


Some more tweaking:

 A Kaliphian Matter: Revelations is part one (127,000 words) of a space opera trilogy for adult readers. When Ben Gerrickson, a pilot with the Earth Corps, saves a fellow crewmate’s life during the Kargin War by unwillingly unleashing a great power that had been secretly simmering within him, he soon finds himself caught up in a whirlwind of galactic intrigue and danger. Within days of being summoned to a hearing to explain his actions, he receives a tiny plant from Kaliph, the world he left when he was a boya world imbued with a powerful ambient energy generated by a mineral called kaliphyn. When he touches the plant, long-buried memories suddenly resurface, and Ben begins to understand why he had been sent to Earth in the first place: someone had tried to kill him. When he returns to the planet of his birth to get some answers, he soon discovers the truth of who and what he is. He learns that, unlike the “wizards” of Kaliph who can sense and thus manipulate the ambient energy generated by the kaliphyn mineral unique to the planet, his power is different; his power is innate. He also learns that he must use his wildly destructive power not just to protect himself, but to save his people from both Kaliphian and extra-Kaliphian threatsthe same people who want to see him dead.

As for me, I have worked in scientific, technical, and medical publishing for more than 20 years in a variety of positions, including science writer, science and technology web site evaluator/reviewer, and most recently as a developmental and production manager for an electronic medical publication. I have advanced degrees in Geology and Technical & Scientific Communications and undergraduate degrees in geology and English with a concentration in Writing.

I look forward to hearing from you.




LilySea
Posted: Monday, January 16, 2012 11:02 AM
Joined: 5/12/2011
Posts: 241


I would cut the sentence that begins "When Ben Gerrickson, a pilot..." in half. (Take out the "when" and cut at "simmering." Then drop "soon" in the next sentence.)
The explanation of where he got the plant and what is up with Kaliph and its magic mineral is a little too burdened with detail. I would cut it considerably and maybe not tell exactly what's up on Kaliph and with Ben, but keep it a little more mysterious.

Angela Martello
Posted: Monday, January 16, 2012 3:35 PM
Joined: 8/21/2011
Posts: 394


Hi, LilySea,

Thanks! I go back and forth about how much detail to include, and how mysterious it should be. I've taken your suggestions and now have a query letter that's just under 250 words:

 A Kaliphian Matter: Revelations is part one (127,000 words) of a space opera trilogy for adult readers. Ben Gerrickson, a pilot with the Earth Corps, saves a fellow crewmate’s life during the Kargin War by unwillingly unleashing a great power that had been secretly simmering within him for years. Within days of being summoned to a hearing to explain his actions, he receives a tiny plant from Kaliph, the world he left when he was a boya world imbued with a powerful ambient energy. When he touches the plant, long-buried memories suddenly resurface, and Ben begins to understand why he had been sent to Earth in the first place: someone had tried to kill him. When he returns to the planet of his birth to get some answers, he soon discovers the truth of who and what he really is. He also learns that he must use his wildly destructive power not just to protect himself, but to save his peoplethe same people who want to see him dead.

As for me, I have worked in scientific, technical, and medical publishing for more than 20 years in a variety of positions, including science writer, science and technology web site evaluator/reviewer, and most recently as a developmental and production manager for an electronic medical publication. I have advanced degrees in Geology and Technical & Scientific Communications and undergraduate degrees in geology and English with a concentration in Writing.

I look forward to hearing from you.




LilySea
Posted: Monday, January 16, 2012 4:02 PM
Joined: 5/12/2011
Posts: 241


I think that's verging on perfect, but I'd say the same people who "wanted" to see him dead (instead of present tense, even if they still happen to want him dead), as this ties that last, potentially confusing sentence back up to the bit about him leaving as a baby under the threat of murder.



Angela Martello
Posted: Monday, January 16, 2012 4:58 PM
Joined: 8/21/2011
Posts: 394


Thanks, LilySea! I've said it before, but I'll say it again - writing the query letter has been more challenging than writing the dang series!

 

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