Workshop Your Query
Query - The Kings of Carnin: Rise of Ari
Dear <agent name>
Ari lives in the tyrannical kingdom of Orisgothia serving under his father the royal blacksmith. His title and job are guaranteed, a rare and desirable trait. His father dies suddenly in battle; his final act granting Ari an audience with the King. Ari appears to be bested in a duel when a sudden and unusual sensation powers him to victory.
His favour grants him leadership in the army, and new marching orders. Ari must now venture across the inhospitable Great Plains while maintaining order of jealous infantry and his reckless best friend. Sudden and powerful dreams rob him of his sleep and mental resolve. A strong and experienced enemy waits for them; his subordinates believe the attack is suicide. Failure in any form is punished with an eccentric death penalty.
Strange magic follows Ari whenever he is in battle. His curiosity drives him to a discovery that shatters everything he once knew. The forgotten magic Ari has discovered will no longer be hoarded by the merciless five kings. Ari must emerge as who he truly is and fight against everything, and everyone, he once knew.
THE KINGS OF CARNIN: RISE OF ARI is a standalone high fantasy novel with series potential complete at 104,000 words. Thank you very much for your consideration.
--edited by DCLabs on 12/19/2013, 10:40 PM--
This is not my genre, but I will try to explain what underwhelms me.
What makes your MC special, aside from fairy-tale powers? He'd better be a fully realized, fleshed out character that I would enjoy reading about in a non-magical setting. Maybe you have that covered, but you don't communicate it in your query letter. I'm curious to see what you've got. Your book will go on my to-read list.
It's the well-imagined human qualities that wow me, not the amazing skills. That snap-your-fingers-and-it's-so stuff does nothing for me. I hope you've made your people as real as real can be, in terms of emotions, motivations, all the crap we all lug around. The magic is icing on the cake. Your query doesn't suggest the complexity of characterization that I would want to see which, I imagine, an agent would want to see as well. It doesn't make me say, this guy sounds damn interesting, on a personal level, mind. Without that, nothing else matters.
You haven't made me want to rush your thing to the top of my to-read list. And that's what you need to do. It comes down to that old advertising mantra: Don't sell the steak, sell the sizzle. You have too much nuts-and-bolts plot here, and not enough unique personality, either of the character, or of the work as a whole.
On Scribophile there is currently a roundtable of agents and editors discussing an entry in a short-story contest. One particular comment might apply here. Several of them said (this is not verbatim): Not another zombie story! I wouldn't touch it professionally unless it had a very new perspective on a well-explored theme. I hope that you have something unexpected to say, something that expands the heroic fantasy genre in a marvelous way. If that's the case, for God's sake, promote it. Sell your vision, not the plot, and try to do it with a bit more polish. I see nothing here that convinces me that I'm going to love your writing style either.
--edited by Mimi Speike on 10/17/2013, 10:33 PM--
First: Dump the notification that you're a virgin. An agent/editor on reading this would probably stop reading there because the chance of a first novel being professionally written is vanishingly slim. Bad news, I know, but I've read a slush pile and it's true. Perhaps you're an exception—I would hope you are—but the agent doesn't know that, and has read a lot of queries from new writers.
Let your writing, itself, tell the reader if it's ready. If that agent could mix it with the work of ten selling writers and tell, by reading, that yours came from someone who had never sold their work, they'll reject it. If not, they don't care if this is your first time out.
Next, the first paragraph: The first line is unrelated to the data line. Tell them the length and genre. Do the selling in the blurb.
And finally, the body of the query: The only purpose of the blurb is to induce the reader to turn to, or ask for, the writing sample, It's not a synopsis, as you've provided. It's not factual, it's emotional, and focuses on what the story is about—the all over theme—not the plot. After all, if you could condense the synopsis to 250 words or less, it wouldn't be a very complex story. Tell the reader who needs what, why they can't have it, why they need it so desperately, and what happens if they don't get it. Shape it like the back cover blurb and make it read like the voice-over for the film they'd make of the story.
And: given that this is your first novel, and that you didn't already know the structure of a query, it would probably pay to visit your local free library and order in a copy of Jack Bickham's, Scene and Structure. That will help you be certain you're ready to query.
New version up, would love some feedback on the new direction. Many thanks.
This reminds me of one of my early drafts of my own query letter. I have to be honest, it's having a hard time keeping my attention. Your query feels more like a (sometimes fragmented) sequence of events and plot points than an enticement to actually read the book. Give it a bit more flow, and cut down on some of the plot summary, and that'll be a step in the right direction.
Think of your query like a movie trailer - tease, show us just a glimpse that makes us want to find out more without overloading us with story details.