Query letter for critique

Mon, Oct 2 2017 05:55pm IST 1
204 Posts

I would love to get some feedback on this query letter. Can I cut it down? Did I leave something out? Any and all feedback would be gratfully recieved.

Dear Agent

I’m seeking representation for STORMY WEATHER, an 88,000-word Drama with a crime subplot. There are themes of recovery, addiction, family dysfunction and abuse as a backdrop to the central relationship. As requested I have included a short description and the first 10 pages and a one-page summary below.

Richard Pentangelo, a bric- a-brac dealer and recovering addict, meets newcomer Maisie, a teacher, at a recovery meeting. Maisie is there in the hopes that she can avoid relapsing on the heroin she has just scored.

Dick, immediately attracted to her, discovers she is being blackmailed over material found on her laptop stolen from the college where she works. The ransom is sexual favours.

Dick and Maisie struggle to understand the nature of their relationship as their romance unfolds. Maisie has an on-going issue with commitment and self-worth, while Dick finds the line between addiction and love indistinct. These hang-ups both stem from their pasts, Maisie’s from her rather strict childhood, and university room-mate. Dick’s from his upbringing by his mother Belle, who is, herself, an addict.

Dick calls on Gemma, a gay friend in recovery, to help out. Gemma moved to London when her abusive stepfather, who raped her repeatedly, vanished after her mother died from cancer. In London, she finds her real father who is a petty criminal who teaches her to be a burglar. Eventually, Gemma gets arrested and meets PC Alice Marshal, who guides her toward a drug worker and subsequent recovery meetings.

Dick, Maisie and Gemma discover who the blackmailer is. Gemma’s unique skills prove to be ideal and she discovers the blackmailer is also a predatory paedophile.

The game has changed. The original goal to protect Maisie's career and retrieve her stolen laptop is set aside when they agree the priority must be stopping the abuse of students and bringing the paedophile to justice.

Gemma becomes the driving force in this. They identify one of the victims, Suki, who refuses to speak to the police at first, sending the frustrated Maisie dangerously close to relapse. Finally get Suki agrees to make a statement. With her testimony and the evidence unearthed by Gemma, they approach the now Sgt Alice Marshal and the stage is set for a raid on the abuser’s flat.

As it unfolds, it becomes clear to Sgt Marshal that the paedophile somehow got wind of his impending arrest and cleaned house. Suki's testimony will not be enough to secure a conviction. Gemma insists they keep looking, knowing they will find the most damning piece of evidence, a flash card she cleverly backed up just in case.

The paedophile is arrested and charged and Maisie is kept out of it. The evidence on the card reveals images of another man. Sgt Marshal asks if anyone can put a name to the face. Gemma is stunned to discover it is the face of her stepfather. Gemma will get to testify her stepfather, Colin Stevens.

Dick and Maisie take some time out to talk about their relationship and make a commitment to each other before heading to Leeds to support Gemma in court.

I am a retired therapist living in Devon. I have been a parent, an antique dealer and an addictions worker.

This is my first novel, although I have a draft of a sequel (resting before being edited). I also have an outline for a third. I’m looking for an agent to form a long-term relationship with as I develop my main characters and write books that they feel passionate about selling.

I have had a number of poems and a short story published in online magazines.

Thank you for your time and consideration,

Francis de Aguilar

Mon, Oct 2 2017 07:07pm IST 2
238 Posts
Hi Chico,

Having a quick look through - it looks good however two main things I would change:

1) The genre (drama with a crime subplot) is too vague from what I remember agents saying at the York Festival. I believe agents want to know the genre and where it would sit on the shelves of a bookstore and drama is too vague. Is it commercial fiction, literary fiction, upmarket, etc...

2) you seem to have put your synopsis in the query letter where there should just be the pitch and blurb for your story. The full synopsis detailing the full story should be a separate document and not part of the letter.

Also I would remove the bit about working on a second and third novel. I've always heard agents said that they are only interested in hearing about the current book that you are submitting not follow-ups but it's your choice. Instead I would mention which magazines you have been published in.

I hope this helps.
Tue, Oct 3 2017 08:11pm IST 3
366 Posts
Hello Chico

I would change the order around. I agree with L that the synopsis should be a separate document and not part of the letter. If an agent wants you to paste in the synopsis rather than attach it, it could go at the end of the letter.

In the first paragraph, after the sentence ending with 'backdrop to the central relationship' I would then go on to sum up the main points of your novel in about three sentences (the blurb). I would then put in the para starting 'This is my first novel...' and say your previous publishing credentials (mention a few magazines if they are 'respectable' ones that put submissions through a selection process). I would then put your bio details (your work as a therapist and addictions worker will have been good experience for writing this kind of novel). Lastly, I would say 'As requested, I have attached the first 10 pages and a 1-page synopsis.

I'm no expert so feel free to discard all I've said. I may well be wrong, but from doing a lot of reading and thinking about writing a query letter, that is the format I use, though adjusting it to whatever a particular agent asks for in their guidelines. I'm in the UK. I don't know if agents in other countries would want it doing differently.
Wed, Oct 4 2017 11:13am IST 4
36 Posts
Congratulations on being ready for a query letter!
Yes, the synopsis should be a separate document. As far as your first paragraph is concerned, I did once read an agent interview with someone who said he didn't want to know about "themes"; he wanted to know what happens - but this aversion possibly doesn't apply to all agents. As for mentioning new work, there's a school of thought that says you do need to mention it so that you can show you are able to produce more than a one-off. It's impossible to know about individual variations with agents so I suppose you just need to go with what you're comfortable with. ("Never use a preposition to end a sentence with").
Wed, Oct 4 2017 04:24pm IST 5
1177 Posts
'That is the sort of nonsense up with which I will not put.' - Sir Winston Churchill (apocryphal).

Actually, it is not always impossible to know agents' individual preferences about such things. Sometimes they will give guidelines as to what they want in a covering letter on the agency's website. Not always, but you should always check the site before firing off any submissions.
Wed, Oct 4 2017 08:28pm IST 6
1177 Posts
As an afterthought, I'd strongly recommend Dear Agent: Write the Letter That Sells Your Book by Nicola Morgan. It's full of pithy advice on what to put in your letter and how an agent will view it, and is available as a modestly-priced Kindle download from Amazon. I regard the money I paid for my copy as an investment.

Our very own Harry has some thoughts on the subject here
and here

He doesn't agree with Nicola Morgan on everything, but between the two of them you should get a pretty good idea of what to do and what not to do.

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