Wednesday, July 29, 2009

17 Query Contest

Dear Mrs. Meadows:

*A lonely titan attempts to save his only friend as society collapses around him.*

A suicidal nudist strolls into traffic. An eccentric Buddhist claims he can occupy other people’s bodies. All the while, whispers of a new form of entertainment blow through town. Prompted by these strange occurrences, Marty Raft and his best friend Corey Green investigate and discover underground clubs peddling music that induces an out-of-body experience. But these special frequencies prove to permanently alter the spectators, turning Corey, among thousands of others, into soulless wanderers. Accompanied by an aural reader, Naomi Santrel, Marty sets out to save his friend, all the time believing there must be a cure...

I chose to submit this novel for your consideration after researching your agency and discovering your interest in horror. Specifically, in a recent blog post Mrs. Rappaport mentioned looking for dark, creepy novels that are also funny. With interest in traditional monsters higher than ever--the recent success of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES, and upcoming movies such as ZOMBIELAND and WORLD WAR Z--now might be the right time for my 60,000 word horror novel, SOUNDTRACK TO THE END OF THE WORLD. This novel takes zombies and reimagines not only their creation, but their every guiding rule.

In 2007 I earned a master’s of education degree and a teaching certification for English from East Stroudsburg University in Pennsylvania. Upon graduation I won the Martha E. Martin Fiction Writing Award for my story “Camera Obscura.”

I would be happy to send the full manuscript upon request. Thank you for your time and consideration.


Chapter 1

The apartment building’s lobby smelled like shit. That’s not a figure of speech, and I don’t mean it smelled like garbage. I mean it smelled like shit. Two steps through the front door, after Corey buzzed me in, and I saw why. At the base of the staircase, next to the wall of bronze mailboxes, there were two thick logs, waiting for anyone going upstairs. Or downstairs. Or to check their mail.

Finding the apartment’s lobby thusly soiled was a shock. When I was younger, I lived in New York City. I had experience with urine soaked alleyways and randomly dropped bowel movements. But Corey’s apartment building wasn’t in a bad neighborhood of a large city. It was in a rural area of Northeastern Pennsylvania. I don’t mean to generalize, but in the twenty years I’d lived in Pennsylvania, that was the first time I had encountered a hallway turd.

I stepped over it, holding my breath, and hightailed it up the stairs to the fourth floor. Corey’s door stood open, and I walked in. He had a standard twenty-something’s bachelor pad. His living room was furnished with a stained foldout couch, twenty inch television, flimsy Ikea coffee table, and hand-me-down lamps from his parents. To the left was his small kitchen, complete with sticky linoleum and dirty dishes.

His place wasn’t clean and it wasn’t dirty. Corey didn’t drape clothes over furniture, and he vacuumed the carpet. But the windows were dingy, and the television screen dusty.


  1. The beginning of this query confused me. I guess Soundtrack = the title? Not sure what the starred line is there for.

    I didn't realize until your book comparisons that this was a novel about zombies. I think your pitch needs more focus on the main characters and direct plot (instead of starting with suicidal nudists, etc.). I'm not hooked enough to read on.

  2. Query:

    Heheh. Ok, I was confused the first time I read through. I didn't realize Soundtrack to the End of the World was the title.

    That said... I was hooked. It sounds like this would be fun to read. As much as I wanted to nit about using "Mrs" on business letters and the crazy beginning of the query. :]

    Snippet: Sounds fun. Yes, I'd read more.

  3. I was also confused by the query and the hook in quotes below it. However, everything after that was great! I especially enjoyed the first 250 words - very funny.

  4. I found your query intriguing (not sure about the first line, though) but I don't know that I'm dying to read more after reading the first page. The voice is good ... I just think it's not for me.

  5. Query: Despite some serious questions, the premise hooked me. Some feedback:

    I found the beginning of the first paragraph confusing--is it two isolated incidents or are they representative of an epidemic that is sweeping the globe? Are we talking a few strange mentions on page 5 of the local paper or global chaos?

    More importantly, how and why are Marty and Corey involved in investigating this phenomenon? Uh, oh. Now Corey's a zombie-so we start over with only Marty doing the investigating...why don't we just start with that?

    I'm not sure what the rule of thumb is on paragraphs like your #2, but I wonder if telling an agency what is hot in literature right now is a wise approach. I'd opt instead for giving them a sense of where YOUR manuscript fits in with currently popular novels (and leave the movies out entirely, one step at a time!). I did like that you acknowledged what Ms. Rappaport is looking for, showing you've done your research. Well played.

    I don't think your teaching credentials are relevant, though your story award may be, assuming this award has some credibility behind it (I'm no expert in this subject, so I have no clue).

    I hope this helps. I know queries are tough, but keep at it!

    EXCERPT: Now you've lost me.

    Feedback: Maybe you're going for shock value but I was just turned off versus sucked in. If there was some really really interesting action or explanation related to the special gift on the staircase you might keep my interest but it just seems gratuitous. Maybe you get to it somewhere else in the chapter but this seems like a risky way to start off and I'm not sure why you've chosen this particular entry point.

    Beyond that, I don't need a detailed description of Corey's furniture or apartment layout. Give me a one line sharp characterization of Corey, and feel free to use his sticky linoleum and dirty dishes to do it, but that's all I need!

    My guess is your story starts on one of the coming pages, but not here. Hope that's helpful.

    Happy revising!

  6. Quasi-hooked. Don't like the set- up/opening line at all. It's a bit confusing as are the asterisks. The suicidal nudist and eccentric Buddhist, strangely (you'd think they would) don't read as bizarre and definitely not zombie. I read further, though I think the second paragraph needs a lot of help to make it funnier and live up to the promise the third paragraph delivers.

    The writing would be good if it wasn't for the excrement. I don't think this is a way to hook people. Could be me, but I can't imagine many people could stomach reading further.

  7. Not hooked because I'm a little too confused. It looks like a good concept; your query just needs some tightening. The line within the asterisks seems to summarize the stakes and how they affect the main character. Focus on that. The suicidal nudist and eccentric Buddhist just muddy up the waters. I agree with others that the zombie element isn't very clear from the first main paragraph.

  8. Like others, I was thrown off by your starting with the book's title and logline (I'm guessing that's how they do it in the film industry?).

    I was intrigued by the first paragraph, although I think you ought to add a third weird incident before you start talking about the music inducing out of body experiences. (Two could be a coincidence, three is a trend. :)

    Anyway, in spite of the weird opening, I liked your story idea enough to read the first 250 words. I liked your voice in the 250 words, too -- I'd keep reading, even though horror isn't my thing.

  9. I wrote down a double maybe for the I read the 1st 250 and am so totally hooked. i like your snappy (not shitty) style.
    About the double's probably just me, a fish out of your genre. Best of luck.

  10. Query = Hooked!

    Didn't mind the "shit" in the excerpt, I thought it was funny and was a nice way to emphasize your narrators voice. I think that a large part of your audience, 20-25 year old men would be my guess, probably wouldn't mind either. Just saying.

    Loved the tantalizing premise on how they became zombies, too.

  11. I didn't make it to the meat of your query because the soundtrack thing threw me.

  12. The query was a little atypical, but I'd have to say -- kudos for a fresh take on zombies. It hooked me and I read on hoping to see a hip twist on the zombie phenomenon.

    The first page lost me quickly though. The writing isn't bad, but the focus on the "hallway turd" just left me with an ick feeling that wasn't funny or engaging. So the writing was successful at painting a setting, but not one I wanted to stay and explore. I was really longing for the clever quirkiness that the query promised.

  13. Love seeing zombie stories with a fresh approach. That being said, I didn't realize your story had that until you got to the comparison.

    Still, I'd be interested in reading more (though I'm not a huge fan of 1st person).

  14. I didn't realise your query was about zombies until I got to the second paragraph. I guess that's the point of the second paragraph. I don't think the teaching qual is relevant, though I'd keep the mention of the award. I really liked your sample. Though it didn't start with action, the voice was engaging and I wanted to read on.

  15. I think the description of the novel is shorter than the reasons this novel should be requested that the writer offers. More book, less personal.

    This didn't hook me, mostly because I don't feel there's enough going on here. We get some examples of things happening, but I'm looking for complications and a reason to *care*. (Which sounds much more horrible than I mean it. My emotions need to be hooked in, and they're not yet.)

    The writing in the sample page didn't keep me, either. There are a few great details, but the repetitive sentence structure became distracting.

    That said, I love the title.