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Oddball Query
hagenpiper
Posted: Sunday, July 29, 2012 7:59 PM
Joined: 7/25/2012
Posts: 25


I've written an oddball story and have an oddball query to match. If it's rubbish, it's important that I know. Thanks! 

 

Dear Agent,

Her gods damned him.


Her laws consigned him to the slum.

Her bounty hunters left him riddled with scars.

 

Her priests called him an abomination and a murderer of children.
 

And her bonfire consumed his beloved sister, who died screaming his name. 

Tomorrow, Her Majesty’s daughter gets married. But there'll be no smiles when Neeku slits the bride’s throat. There’ll be no chase, no heroes to claim his bounty. He won’t scream when they throw him on the bonfire. No, suffering in silence, he’ll only clench the bitch’s blood in his fist and hold it high.


TRAJU’S DAGGER takes place in a city atop giant mushrooms inhabited by a fungaloid people, who are unaware an ancient evil fuels their hatred. It is an epic fantasy at 140,000 words, and my first novel.

Thank you for your time and consideration,

An Oddball Author


Colleen Lindsay
Posted: Wednesday, August 1, 2012 1:30 PM
Joined: 2/27/2011
Posts: 356


Bumping this up so folks see it.

LilySea
Posted: Thursday, August 2, 2012 11:15 AM
Joined: 5/12/2011
Posts: 241


I think it's rather graceful. If I were an agent who repped this sort of thing, I might be curious to see more.

You might add a line to both the beginning and the end--something more specific about why you're querying this particular agent in the beginning and a pub history (if you have one--short stories, a blog?) to the end.

The rule of thumb is to put title and word count up front too, and I think that's a good idea. You could choose not to do that in queries that request the title/genre/wordcount go in the subject line of an email, though.


Jay Greenstein
Posted: Wednesday, August 8, 2012 12:54 AM

First, you need to head it with the genre and word count.

Next: never, never, never address a query generically.

And as a minor point, why tell them it’s a first novel? Sell it based on the quality of the writing. Saying that it’s your first may raise the preconception that you sat down, dashed it off, and then mailed out the query. They get a lot of that, so you won’t want to place them into an, “Oh no, not again,” mindset

That aside, the blurb worked for me till partway into paragraph six because there was no context, and seems a bit muddled, and unpalatable. The queen did bad things and he’s going to punish her daughter, not her? That kills it for me because it seems more being spitefu than seeking revenge.

I also had a problem with calling something big enough to support an entire city, a mushroom, partly because I don’t know why it matters. And following that with a generic “ancient evil,” seems anticlimactic.

And though I hate to heap this on top, unless the writing is amazingly good, few publishers will be willing to take a chance on a novel this large as a first time offering. Someone with an 80K/word first offering costs a little more than half as much to bring to market, so far as editing shipping, and how many can fit in the alloted space on the store's shelf. Remember, too, that because you have no fan base, if it’s to sell well enough to make money it has to get really good reviews to make up for the lack of existing fans. Trimming expenses by choosing something shorter is safer for the publisher.

It’s not fair. We all deserve to be rich and famous, but it is a reality of the world we work in.



hagenpiper
Posted: Thursday, August 9, 2012 11:07 PM
Joined: 7/25/2012
Posts: 25


Thanks Jay!

Your evaluation is appreciated.

I'm confident in my story. It's more interesting to me that the main character would seek to inflict the same pain he's been subjected to. And eye for an eye. To kill the antagonist would be too kind. That would be an expression of vengeance, not revenge. Vengeance is an act of love, not hate. My main character thinks he wants vengeance (or justice) but has given himself over to hate - pure hate. The rest of the story is about how he overcomes it and earns justice through self-sacrifice.

Insofar as the word count goes - you said the writing has to be exceptional. I know that. And it is. And I'll say it that arrogantly because I've slaved over it for 2.5 years. It's my best. If my best isn't exceptional enough... well... tough shit for me.
Jay Greenstein
Posted: Friday, August 10, 2012 1:09 AM

I'm confident in my story.

Everyone is. We all believe in our work. Has no effect on how an acquiring editor will see it, unfortunately.

• It's more interesting to me that the main character would seek to inflict the same pain he's been subjected to.

Sadly, an editor doesn’t care what interests you. Or me. Or our friends.

• My main character thinks he wants vengeance (or justice) but has given himself over to hate - pure hate.

You never say that, or explain why the hate isn't directed at the one who caused the problem. I don’t know him. I don’t know why bad things happened to him. For all I know his sister's death was justified. After all, we have only your word, and we don’t know you. Given that, why do I care what the character thinks or wants? I can only judge what he does, and what you say he does isn’t the act of an honorable man. Nor can it be justified by what you’ve told us in the query.

You’re trying to make the first reader, who rejects 99.9% of what’s sent in and has probably already rejected ten submissions that day, be interested enough by what you said to turn to the writing in a good state of mind. Revenge is a decent reason, as is justice. Spite? Not so much.

• And I'll say it that arrogantly because I've slaved over it for 2.5 years.

Of course you’ve worked hard. No one doubts your dedication or your intent. No one is disparaging your potential or talent. And if hard work and dedication were the criteria we’d all be multi-published writers.

Because you have no writing sample posted it’s not possible to tell if your work is or isn’t exactly what you say it is. My personal suggestion is to pop in a chapter or so to get reaction. So far as the query, alone, all I can say is that you had me until I crashed and burned in paragraph six, for five reasons. One is too many.

1. There’s no justification given for seeking revenge against the daughter rather than the queen, or perhaps the one who said the sister, specifically, was to be murdered. You siid he's been called a murderer of children. You never said he's innocent, or why he's been called an abomination. So it's punchy, and interesting, but not justification, so far as the reader knows, for killing the daughter.

2. You say there will be no chase. You know why. He knows why. I can’t tell.

3. You say he won’t scream, but give no reason why he has the magical ability to bear dying by fire with no screaming, or even why it matters to the story. Dead is dead. I doubt the queen will lose any sleep because he doesn't scream.

4. Do I really want to read a story in which the protagonist is so angry he kills a presumably innocent woman, then is executed, while the one who caused the original death watches? Taken at face value, the query tells me he will die.

5. You say he plans to hold his fist high as he dies. But if you kill the queen’s daughter and then stand around and let them catch you you’re not going to be in condition to hold anything up by that time. And in any case, how can I, as a reader, identify with someone who isn’t even going to try to get away?

It may be that there are perfectly wonderful reasons why it all works, but you’ve not made them clear. Perhaps an agent would love the letter. And if you’re going to submit it, I wish you luck. It’s only my reaction, and I don’t speak for any agency or publisher.

Your own mileage may vary.


hagenpiper
Posted: Friday, August 10, 2012 10:06 AM
Joined: 7/25/2012
Posts: 25


Thanks for the feedback Jay!

• 
I'm confident in my story.
> Everyone is. We all believe in our work. Has no effect on how an acquiring editor will see it, unfortunately.
- Shame, isn't it.

For all I know his sister's death was justified. After all, we have only your word, and we don’t know you.
- It doesn't matter if it's justified. I'm focusing on the main character's reaction to her death as a catalyst for the story.

> Given that, why do I care what the character thinks or wants?
- The reader should infer early in the query that the main character has been treated unfairly. It's quite clear.

> I can only judge what he does, and what you say he does isn’t the act of an honorable man.
- The reader should infer that this main character is an anti-hero.

> Sadly, an editor doesn’t care what interests you. Or me. Or our friends.
- Yes, it's a pity.

My personal suggestion is to pop in a chapter or so to get reaction. 
- This is the second time you've suggested this, but as I said in a previous post - too much time in writing circles can send you, well, writing in circles. I'm past that stage. If an agent wants changes, I'll be eager to please, but I'm not putting it back in another writing circle.

> So it's punchy, and interesting, but not justification, so far as the reader knows, for killing the daughter.
- Sure there is. What would be worse? If you kill your neighbor's son, and your neighbor kills you in revenge? Or if you kill your neighbor's son, and your neighbor kills your son in revenge? If your neighbor kills you, it's over. The other way and you must live with your own son's blood on your hands. The queen kills my main character's sister. So my main character is going to kill the queen's daughter. If he kills the queen, she wouldn't suffer long, though it would be an act of vengeance; justice for his sister. If he kills the queen's daughter, the queen would suffer just like him; and the retribution would satisfy his own needs, but not his sister's need for justice. And it's so easy for angry characters to confuse all this - it makes great material for character development. 

> You’re trying to make the first reader, who rejects 99.9% of what’s sent in and has probably already rejected ten submissions that day, be interested enough by what you said to turn to the writing in a good state of mind. Revenge is a decent reason, as is justice. Spite? Not so much.
- That's subjective.

> And if hard work and dedication were the criteria we’d all be multi-published writers. 
- Yes, you work at it until you win... or quit.

> 2. You say there will be no chase. You know why. He knows why. I can’t tell.
- It's implied. It means he won't run.

3. You say he won’t scream, but give no reason why he has the magical ability to bear dying by fire with no screaming, or even why it matters to the story. 
- Because the query focuses on his motive, and his motive matters to the story. 

> 4. Do I really want to read a story in which the protagonist is so angry he kills a presumably innocent woman, then is executed, while the one who caused the original death watches? Taken at face value, the query tells me he will die.
- It shouldn't. Especially when you get to the last paragraph. I expect the reader to infer that there's something behind all this hatred and the main character must ultimately sort it all out. For details, see the synopsis.

5. You say he plans to hold his fist high as he dies. But if you kill the queen’s daughter and then stand around and let them catch you you’re not going to be in condition to hold anything up by that time. And in any case, how can I, as a reader, identify with someone who isn’t even going to try to get away?
- I don't see why not. Let's say the story is about a young Jew in 1941 who escapes Sobibor and decides he's going to assassinate Hitler (not an exact parallel, but it's close enough). Would the young man want to run away after the assassination and hide like a coward, or let every Nazi alive know it was a Jew who pulled the trigger? Or an escaped slave, who shoots Jefferson Davis? It's that kind of scenario.

It may be that there are perfectly wonderful reasons why it all works, but you’ve not made them clear.
- That belongs in the synopsis. What I've written here is a teaser blurb.