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Query - The Brotherhood of the Black Flag (agent-targeted version)
Ian Nathaniel Cohen
Posted: Monday, September 16, 2013 9:47 AM

Once more unto the breach, dear friends...

 

*****

 

Dear [Agent],

Michael McNamara must once again fight for king and country against a vicious pirate menace.


I have enjoyed your client [Author's name]’s works, especially [Specific book].  I am hoping you will also be interested in representing THE BROTHERHOOD OF THE BLACK FLAG, a historical adventure novel set during the Golden Age of Piracy. 

 

The year is 1721.  McNamara, a wrongly disgraced former officer in the British Royal Navy, is in search of a new life.  A fateful encounter leads him to join the crew of Captain Stephen Reynard, a notorious pirate turned pirate hunter.  To earn a pardon and the heart of a lovely widow, Reynard has sworn to apprehend six of his former comrades and bring them and their ships personally before King George I.  Eager for the adventure and the opportunities it could bring, McNamara joins Reynard’s crew. 

 

However, on the eve of final triumph, McNamara discovers Reynard’s true objective: to lead his “captive” pirates to England as an armada under his command and abduct the king in the midst of a bloody surprise attack.  As the only person who knows Reynard’s true intentions, it falls to McNamara to defeat Reynard and save countless innocent lives.

 

THE BROTHERHOOD OF THE BLACK FLAG is complete at 99,000 words, and inspired by such authors as Rafael Sabatini, Bernard Cornwell, and William Dietrich.  Although written as a stand-alone novel, the door has left open at the end for further adventures of Michael McNamara. 

 

Thank you very much for your consideration.

 
Regards,

[Author info]

 


Mimi Speike
Posted: Thursday, October 17, 2013 7:19 AM
Joined: 11/17/2011
Posts: 1014


As a lover of historical adventure, the story reflecting solid research, this sounds damn interesting to me. I think you had it up here a while ago, and I went looking for it, but it had been removed. Is it back? Come to think of it, it was a previous query that I read. I had found your scenario far-fetched. Now that I understand it's based on genuine historical possibility, I'm all for it. I would really like to see what you've done with it. 

.

Your query intrigues me. You've laid the situation out nicely, and economically. Now give us a touch of the passions involved, and a bit about the personalities. Apart from the macro struggle, is there a personal animosity between McNamara and Reynard, that sort of thing. Is the widow's favor a bone of contention?

.

Overall, I like the feel. It sounds very much like something I might read on a jacket flap. And that's good. You're close to a solution, in my view.

 

--edited by Mimi Speike on 10/18/2013, 2:34 AM--


Ian Nathaniel Cohen
Posted: Monday, October 21, 2013 9:34 AM

I've tried posting the actual book here before, but I'm still struggling with some formatting issues when I upload the manuscript to Book Country (that the BC folks have done a lot of work trying to help me resolve.)  I did have an earlier draft posted before, but I suppose it was removed when I closed my original account.

 

The previous draft actually did talk about Catalina, the widow, a lot more, but I reluctantly trimmed her for the sake of conciseness.  However, she's integral to the story.  Reynard pretends to be in love with her to sell his reformation schtick, and McNamara (who is smitten with Catalina) is royally pissed at him for it.  However, he doesn't want Catalina to become collateral damage.  I hated to leave that part out, but the query felt too cluttered with it in there.

 

(In case you're curious, this was the previous version of the query, which I was never that happy with:

 

*****

 

The Golden Age of Piracy is ending, but not without a fight...and a love triangle.

The year is 1721. Michael McNamara, a former fencing instructor, has just set sail for Jamaica, leaving England behind him. Soon after his arrival, a fateful encounter sweeps him up into the adventures of Captain Stephen Reynard, a notorious former pirate, and his fiancée, Catalina Moore. To earn a pardon and Catalina’s heart, Reynard has sworn to apprehend six of his former comrades. Eager for the adventure and the opportunities it could bring, McNamara joins Reynard’s pirate hunt. With his swordsmanship and daring, not to mention his prior pirate-hunting experience in the British Royal Navy, he proves instrumental in Reynard’s ultimate success. However, on the eve of final triumph, McNamara discovers Reynard’s true objective.

Using Catalina as an unwitting pawn, Reynard plans to lead his "captive" pirates to Bristol as an invincible armada. Not only do they intend to launch a vicious surprise attack on the city, but also to abduct King George I himself for ransom. McNamara, who has himself fallen in love with Catalina, cannot stand by and allow a massacre to occur, or let Reynard's insidious manipulation of Catalina go unpunished. However, he must find a way to thwart Reynard and save countless lives without endangering Catalina’s.)

--edited by Ian Nathaniel Cohen on 10/21/2013, 9:41 AM--


Mimi Speike
Posted: Monday, October 21, 2013 11:55 AM
Joined: 11/17/2011
Posts: 1014


You're right. The first query is wordy. But I would get just a sentence or two about the relationship triangle into the new version. Other than that, I like it, both the style and the content

.

I don't know anything about the niceties of query letters, but I would take out the last sentence. (Although written as . . . ) I think you should give the agent time to decide if he is at all interested before you offer sequels. I may be wrong. Personally, I groan every time I read, blah blah blah is book one of a planned trilogy.

 

--edited by Mimi Speike on 10/21/2013, 12:02 PM--


Ian Nathaniel Cohen
Posted: Monday, October 21, 2013 2:23 PM

Interesting - I'd heard at a workshop that publishers are more interested in a series than a standalone work, and that it would be to my advantage to try and come up with sequels and make this story into a series.  (And I actually have been kicking around an idea for a sequel, so it's not like I wouldn't be able to deliver it if necessary.)

 

Anyone else have any perspectives on this?

 

I'll see what I can do about working Catalina into what I have.


Ian Nathaniel Cohen
Posted: Tuesday, October 22, 2013 8:17 PM

Alrighty, I'm trying to work Catalina more into the query letter.  It definitely needs work, and I keep going back and forth on how much about Catalina to include or not include.  I don't think I need to mention that Reynard's love for Catalina was a sham designed to sucker people into thinking he was serious about reforming, do I?

 

*****

  

Michael McNamara must once again fight for king and country against a vicious pirate menace.


I have enjoyed your client [Author's name]’s works, especially [Specific book].  I am hoping you will also be interested in representing THE BROTHERHOOD OF THE BLACK FLAG, a historical adventure novel set during the Golden Age of Piracy. 

 

The year is 1721.  McNamara, a wrongly disgraced former officer in the British Royal Navy, is in search of a new beginning.  A fateful encounter leads him to join the crew of Captain Stephen Reynard, a notorious pirate turned pirate hunter.  To earn a pardon and the heart of a lovely widow, Doña Catalina Moore, Reynard has sworn to apprehend six of his former comrades and bring them and their ships personally before King George I.  Eager for the adventure and the opportunities it could bring, McNamara joins Reynard’s pirate hunt. 

 

However, on the eve of final triumph, McNamara discovers Reynard’s true objective: to lead his “captive” pirates to England as an armada under his command and abduct the king in the midst of a bloody surprise attack.  As the only person who knows Reynard’s true intentions, it falls to McNamara to defeat Reynard and save countless innocent lives - without risking Catalina's, whom McNamara has fallen in love with.  

 

THE BROTHERHOOD OF THE BLACK FLAG is complete at 97,000 words, and inspired by such authors as Rafael Sabatini, Bernard Cornwell, and William Dietrich.  Although written as a stand-alone novel, the door has left open at the end for further adventures of Michael McNamara. 

 

Thank you very much for your consideration.

 
Regards,

[Author info]

 

--edited by Ian Nathaniel Cohen on 1/26/2014, 2:39 PM--


Mimi Speike
Posted: Tuesday, October 22, 2013 8:22 PM
Joined: 11/17/2011
Posts: 1014


I'm going to study this when I get home tonight. I'm at work now. I work the night shift.
Mimi Speike
Posted: Wednesday, October 23, 2013 2:21 PM
Joined: 11/17/2011
Posts: 1014


After the paragraph beginning However . . . I would add something like: 

.

Reynard’s passionate attachment to the lady is a ruse, to convince colonial officials that he is to be trusted. McNamara is first jealous of the bond, then horrified as he comes to realize it is a half maddening, half gratifying (he sees his chance to eventually win her undivided affection) insult to one he cares deeply for. He must defeat a political foe, and a romantic one as well. 

.

I realize that some of this is repetitive. It's just to show what I think it needs, a stronger mention of the personal rivalry.

   

--edited by Mimi Speike on 10/23/2013, 2:49 PM--


Ian Nathaniel Cohen
Posted: Thursday, October 24, 2013 7:58 PM

Thanks for all prior feedback.  Latest draft, hot out of the oven...

 

UPDATE - New draft as of 1/26/14

 

***

 

Dear [Agent], 

 

Michael McNamara must once again fight for king and country against a vicious pirate menace. 

 

I have enjoyed your client [Author's Name]’s [Name of work].  I am hoping you will also be interested in representing THE BROTHERHOOD OF THE BLACK FLAG, a historical adventure novel set during the Golden Age of Piracy. 

 

The year is 1721.  McNamara, wrongly expelled from the British Royal Navy, is in search of a new life in Kingston, Jamaica.  A fateful encounter leads him to join the crew of Captain Stephen Reynard, a notorious pirate turned pirate hunter.  To earn a pardon and win the heart of a lovely widow, Doña Catalina Moore, Reynard has sworn to apprehend six of his former comrades and bring them and their ships personally before King George I.  McNamara is eager for both the adventure itself and the opportunities it could bring, and he plays a vital role in Reynard's latest victory.  

 

However, on the eve of final triumph, McNamara discovers Reynard’s true objective: to lead his “captive” pirates to England as an armada and abduct the king in the midst of a bloody surprise attack.  Catalina, who McNamara himself has fallen in love with, is nothing more than a pawn ensnared in Reynard’s twisted scheme.  As the only person who knows Reynard’s real intentions, it falls to McNamara to defeat Reynard.  But McNamara is one man against a pirate legion, and he will be forced to choose between saving Catalina or thousands of innocent people.

  

THE BROTHERHOOD OF THE BLACK FLAG is complete at 97,000 words, and inspired by such authors as Rafael Sabatini, Bernard Cornwell, and William Dietrich.  Although written as a standalone novel, the door has left open at the end for further adventures of Michael McNamara.  

 

Thank you very much for your consideration. 

 

Sincerely,

[My name and contact info]

 

***


--edited by Ian Nathaniel Cohen on 1/26/2014, 3:04 PM--


Mimi Speike
Posted: Thursday, October 24, 2013 10:12 PM
Joined: 11/17/2011
Posts: 1014


Now you're getting all the elements in. I would, however, mention a location, especially since we're talking pirates: . . . abandons England for the Caribbean and a whole new life.

.

Refresh my memory. Why is Catalina taken along on this dangerous undertaking? That's a bit mystifying to me, although I guess you explained it a few versions back.


Ian Nathaniel Cohen
Posted: Friday, October 25, 2013 11:15 AM

Catalina never goes pirate hunting with Reynard, actually.  In the third act, she and McNamara are prisoners on Reynard's ship.

 

(Also, rather than re-post the entire query, I edited the previous version to specify where he's going.  I went with Kingston because at the time this story takes place, it was booming, especially after the destruction of Port Royal.)

--edited by Ian Nathaniel Cohen on 10/25/2013, 11:49 AM--


Ian Nathaniel Cohen
Posted: Monday, November 4, 2013 12:09 AM
Despite not being able to resolve the formatting and paragraph/line spacing issues when uploading to Book Country, I've finally gone ahead and posted The Brotherhood of the Black Flag for peer review.  I've put up notes notifying readers of this in the actual text and the Author's Notes, but I did want to make that clear.  (Maybe now that that story's been posted, it might help provide context for query letter feedback.)
Mimi Speike
Posted: Monday, November 4, 2013 12:13 AM
Joined: 11/17/2011
Posts: 1014


Excellent. I will read it in the next few days. I'm on vacation this week.

 


Ian Nathaniel Cohen
Posted: Monday, November 4, 2013 11:56 AM
Much appreciated.  Thanks!
Ian Nathaniel Cohen
Posted: Sunday, January 26, 2014 2:40 PM
New draft posted (just with some minor edits).  It's not the one in the first post, but a few posts down.

Julie Artz
Posted: Wednesday, January 29, 2014 6:14 AM
Joined: 11/11/2013
Posts: 43


I think this is pretty good, but a few more tweaks would make it great.

First, I would move this sentence:

I have enjoyed your client [Author's name]’s works, especially [Specific book].  I am hoping you will also be interested in representing THE BROTHERHOOD OF THE BLACK FLAG, a historical adventure novel set during the Golden Age of Piracy. 

to the end of the query, just above "Thank you..." I think it could be effective in terms of showing that you've done your research on the agent, but it isn't as strong as the hook of your actual story...


I think you need to tighten up the verbiage a bit so that you can better explain the plot without adding more words. So for example, what about editing the first three sentences as follows:

The year is 1721 and Michael McNamara must once again fight for king and country against a vicious pirate menace.

 

A wrongly disgraced former officer in the British Royal Navy, McNamara...

"is in search of a new life" is passive and possibly a bit cliche. Could you move straight to the crux of things and say:

A wrongly disgraced former officer in the British Royal Navy, McNamara joins the crew of notorious pirate-turned-pirate-hunter Captain Stephen Reynard, eager for adventure and the redemption it could bring. 

That cuts out "a fateful encounter" too, which is also a bit cliche. 

I've seen you go back and forth in the comments about whether to mention Dona Catalina Moore in the pitch. I honestly think you should (I think it shows that it's more than just a swashbuckling adventure!), and if you can tighten up the bit about Reynard's evil plot, you might just have room to do so. As it stands now, it seems a bit like you've cobbled the love story on to the end of the action. 

Does Reynard really want to win Catalina's heart, or is he really just using her? In this version, it seems like he truly wants both pardon and love, but in truth, it's all part of his evil plan, right? I would say that. 

Good luck!




Ian Nathaniel Cohen
Posted: Wednesday, January 29, 2014 3:31 PM

Thanks, Julie! I'll play with the wording and see what I can come up with.  I just didn't want to reveal Reynard's true intentions too soon, show it in the query letter as the plot twist it's intended to be.

 

Just as an FYI, McNamara isn't out for redemption so much as direction.  His deal is that he's been fired from the only two jobs he has any competency in, and can't get work doing those jobs elsewhere, so he has absolutely no idea what to do with the rest of his life.  (I didn't include his getting canned from his job as an assistant fencing instructor because I thought it made the query letter too cumbersome.)


 

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