Query Letter for critique

Sun, Jan 7 2018 04:06pm GMT 1
Chico
Chico
202 Posts

I would really appreciate some feedback on this query letter. Please, rip it to bits if that's what is needed.

Dear xxxxx

I seek representation for STORMY WEATHER, A Crime/Literary fiction novel set in London. Complete at 88,000 words.

When a laptop goes missing from a sixth-form college, three recovering addicts come together to bring a serial rapist to justice. A story of addiction, recovery, love and abuse.

Richard 'Dick' Pentangeli falls in love with Maisie Hughes, a teacher, soon after they meet in a recovery group. Impulsively attempting to impress, Dick brags he's a private detective. Maisie, doubting this, calls his bluff and tells him about her stolen laptop and the blackmail letter demanding sex in return for videos showing her having adventurous sex and using drugs. When a second letter containing instructions arrives, Dick devises a plan to identify the blackmailer and gets his friend, Gemma Watson, ex-burglar and tech wiz, to help. The plan works. Gemma breaks into a flat and finds, among a stash of porn, video clips showing him raping drugged young women, clips of Maisie are on the same card. Knowing the stuff is there, but uncertain if other copies exist, they plan a second break-in to make a copy of the card, and dig a little deeper.

The thief is raping students at the college where he and Maisie work. The three decide to stop him, and, if possible, protect Maisie.

Dick, a litany of failure behind him, agonises about his relationship with Maisie, his first, bar the odd fumble, since quitting heroin a few years before. Maisie hovers on the brink of relapse more than once as her past seems determined to wreck her new life. For Gemma events resonate with her own experience of abuse as a child, threatening to release the pain and rage she's locked away.

I've been an antique dealer, a drug dealer, an addict and an addictions therapist. I've had several poems published in International Times, an online magazine. One poem published in an anthology called, Sometimes Anyway: Pride in Poetry Volume II. A short story won second place in CQ, an online magazine.

Thank you for your time and consideration,

Mon, Jan 8 2018 10:56am GMT 2
L.
L.
164 Posts
Hi Chico,

Your letter is good but I think there are too much information on there. I would keep paragraph 1, 2, 6 and 7 and get rid of 3,4,5. All you need in the query letter is your elevator pitch (one/two sentences) and the blurb (like you would find at the back of a book (no more than one or two paragraphs). What you have is almost a whole synopsis going through the entire story and that should be a separate document. My advice would be to check the blurb on books that have a similar story to yours to see how they are presented.

Hope this helps.
Mon, Jan 8 2018 11:01am GMT 3
Chico
Chico
202 Posts
Hi Chico,

Your letter is good but I think there are too much information on there. I would keep paragraph 1, 2, 6 and 7 and get rid of 3,4,5. All you need in the query letter is your elevator pitch (one/two sentences) and the blurb (like you would find at the back of a book (no more than one or two paragraphs). What you have is almost a whole synopsis going through the entire story and that should be a separate document. My advice would be to check the blurb on books that have a similar story to yours to see how they are presented.

Hope this helps.

Thank you. What would you consider an optimum word count?

Mon, Jan 8 2018 11:15am GMT 4
L.
L.
164 Posts
Not really a word count but all agents I have heard speaking about query letters always said it shouldn't be more than one page.
Mon, Jan 8 2018 11:31am GMT 5
Chico
Chico
202 Posts
Not really a word count but all agents I have heard speaking about query letters always said it shouldn't be more than one page.

This is one page. I have heard that the optimum is 350 and that the majority fall into that area, some go up to 400.

Mon, Jan 8 2018 12:14pm GMT 6
L.
L.
164 Posts
As I said I personally never heard about a word count, all I heard is one page including:

- 1 paragraph intro with book title, genre and word count
- 1/2 line elevator pitch
- 1/2 paragraph book blurb
- 1 paragraph about yourself

Some people like to add why they submit to that particular agent to show they have done their research, or give a couple of books their novel would sat along on bookshelves to show their know the kind of readership it is aimed at. That's the info I got from UK agents but might be different in other places.

Good luck with your submissions!
Mon, Jan 8 2018 03:57pm GMT 7
BellaM
BellaM
2392 Posts
I agree with L. You don't need paras 3, 4 and 5 because that info does indeed belong in the synopsis.

I don't think you need quite so many specifics about your published poetry and short story (well done, by the way). Just something along the lines of "I have had various poems published and have had some success in short story competitions."

Otherwise I like it - the tone is good and the content should attract interest.

Good luck.
Mon, Jan 8 2018 04:51pm GMT 8
Seagreen
Seagreen
2213 Posts
It might be worth checking the website of your chosen agency/agencies. They’re usually specific about what they’d like to see in a covering letter.
Tue, Jan 9 2018 09:47am GMT 9
Chico
Chico
202 Posts


Maybe I could try something like this?

Dear Xxxxx

Having looked at your website I feel my Crime/Literary Fiction novel 'STORMY WEATHER' is a good match for you and the Xxxxx Xxxxx agency. The book is set in London and is complete at 88,000 words.

What Dick wants most in the world is love. Not the dysfunctional kind he has known or was shown by his addict mother. He craves a love without obsession, without the constant bargaining.

Until a serial rapist and probable peadophile is brought to justice, he has no way of knowing if Maisie is his shot at a real relationship, or merely another layer of their addiction.

Three recovering addicts join forces when they learn a teacher at the college where Maisie works is drugging and raping students.

A story of abuse and survival, of addiction and recovery. A story of ingenuity, tenacity and humour. Above all it is a story of triumph.

Among other things I've been a drug dealer, an addict and an addictions therapist. I've had several poems published in International Times, an online magazine. One poem published in an anthology called, Sometimes Anyway: Pride in Poetry Volume II. A short story won second place in CQ, an online magazine.

Thanks for your time and consideration,

Mon, Jan 15 2018 08:35pm GMT 10
Philippa
Philippa
1594 Posts
Hi Chico,

I agree this is much better - well done. The blurb is much punchier. A couple of minor comments.

1) Are you sure your book is "literary"? I would probably stick with Crime Novel, unless yours compares to the latest Man Booker novels. If it truly is literary, say Literary Crime novel.
2) Don't say "fiction novel". That's like saying "a humourous comedy". A novel is always fiction.
3) Don't say the book is "complete". The agent will assume it is. (If it isn't you shouldn't be sending it.)
4) Give a specific reason why you think the agent is a match. For example, "you said in a recent interview that you are drawn to books that deal with gritty themes such as addiction."
5) I would compress paragraph 5 ("a story of...") and use it as your one-line pitch (see below). Other than that, let the blurb do the talking.
6) I think your bio is great - you sound very interesting, an "expert" in the themes of your book, and you already have some writing successes - great.
7) A good opening sentence sets out the relevent submission material (check the guidelines), word count, title, genre, and one-line pitch, and could go something like:
"I am pleased to send you the first 3 chapters and synopsis of my 88,000 word crime novel, STORMY WEATHER, a story of abuse and survival, addiction and recovery.
You can then go on to say why you have selected that particular agent, and then dive into the 'blurb'

Hope that helps!

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