Wednesday, July 29, 2009

45 Query Contest

Good Morning Ms. Rappaport

I am seeking representation for my science fiction novel, XLI. Based on your genre and character interests as listed in the contest guidelines, I think you might like the novel. I would like to invite you to review the manuscript and hope you will consider representing me.

Monk and warrior, knight-errant and priest, policeman and philosopher, Bertram Do'Shire (Tram) is a Protector of Astori. He will give everything he has and is to save his people from the pirates who have conquered them. Nomads and storytellers, refugees and dream weavers, The People of the Ships will do anything to escape the ancient threat that has pursued them since the dawn of their history. Assassin and hedonist, Tenly is the self proclaimed most feared woman in known space. She would do anyone, pirates and ancient threats included, for a decent cheese steak.

XLI is the story of Tram, a Protector from the world of Astori, who has come to the world of Penance, where anything can be had for a price, seeking mercenaries to liberate his world from a brutal band of pirates. While on Penance, he is manipulated into hiring Tenly, an assassin, thinking that she is a mercenary captain. Tenly insists on Tram himself as part of her price for liberating Penance, a price to which he reluctantly agrees. During the voyage back to Astori, Tram begins to notice unusual things about Tenly and begins to have a series of strange dreams. On their return to Astori, they gather the dregs of Astori society and form them into a force to defeat the invaders.

XLI is written as an action adventure, but the technical elements contained in the book are based (at least loosely) on current scientific theory, and the future history has been plotted out from the present time to the time at which the story starts. In short, it's hard science fiction candy with a swashbuckling chocolate coating and a creamy nougat center of romance and just a bit of nutty philosophy. XLI is a complete 136 KWord novel intended to be the first in a five book series. While XLI is my first novel, I have already received very positive feedback from Pamela Uphoff at Baen books, who recommended I rewrite it with specific edits and find an agent. The rewrite completed, I am now looking for an agent. She also said very plainly that she wouldn't mind seeing the novel again, but hinted that it might stand a better chance if represented by a professional agent.

I've come to writing via a long and checkered career as a student (seven majors over ten years, culminating with a B.S. in Biology) and a professional (General Contractor, Lab technician, IT Consultant, Project Manager). I read voraciously, mostly science fiction, fantasy, technical / scientific journals, and socio-political commentary, but also everything I can find about the craft of writing itself.

I'd be glad to send you a complete copy of the manuscript for review. Thank you for your time, and I hope to hear from you soon.

Chapter One

Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.

Mahatma Gandhi

Tram closed his eyes leaned his head back against the smooth, cool tiles of the wall. The tile felt strange against his close cropped sandy hair, strange because of the unfamiliar lack of texture in the ceramic, but mainly strange from most of his hair being gone. He rolled his head gently back and forth, the chill easing the ache even as the motion and the gentle bumping caused a faint nausea.

After a few moments, he opened his eyes and looked toward the receptionist. By that gentleman's collar tab's insignia, Tram supposed the man had a job title that sounded a bit grander and far more militant, but to Tram, anyone sitting at a waiting room desk greeting visitors was, by definition, a receptionist. Tram took himself to task briefly for allowing his thoughts to wander, then realized that the middle-aged man behind the desk was trying, subtly, to get his attention.

Tram made eye contact, then glanced at the man's hands, which had been raised above the desk as if he were about to rest his chin on them. One finger pointed to the timepiece on his wrist, then the opposite hand flashed three fingers then clenched. A ghost of a smile, a ghost of a nod, and the man behind the desk went back to being a study in attentive non-communication.


  1. query - way too much going on here, not hooked. Trim it down and get to the point. Show us who they are, don't tell us.

  2. Not interested... word count of 136k is kind of a turn off. Also I agree with Jenn- way too much going on.

  3. First thing - the query is too long. There is a lot of information here and it has me scanning for the hook. I want a reason to read on but I couldn't find anything. Is there something special about Tram? If this is sci-fi, and based on your background I recommend you push that front and center, you need to tell me what tech or specialty makes this one stand out against other books. Is there another author or book this one could be compared to?

    Good luck!

  4. Hmmmmmmmmmmmmm...... my initial thing after reading that first paragragh was backing away and saying this isn't my thing. The next one "CLI is the story of Tram..." was a bit more interesting to me and hooked.

    Heh. Do you NEED that first paragraph?

    Snippet - Still hooked.

  5. Too much. Too many titles for Bertram, too much backstory, too many genres, too many words in both the query and the word count. I'm just not hooked.

  6. Too much repetition and I would have liked to see something about what is personally at stake here. didn't read on

  7. Way too many attributes to the characters. Too many things to think about. Sorry, not hooked.

  8. The query is way too long and doesn't keep to the point - which, when paired with your word count and the proposed series length, makes me worry.

    I don't think you need the first paragraph at all. You're sending a query. The agent knows what that means.

    We don't need the comparison to your novel as candy. It's well-written, but totally unnecessary. The interest from Baen should NOT be buried in this verbose paragraph. That needs to be its own paragraph and can take the place of your biography. Having multiple majors and reading a lot, unfortunately, won't make you stand out very much. Focus on Baen.

    I went on to read the opening of the novel. The mention of the hair color in the first paragraph made me wince, just because I've been warned more than once that doing that sort of thing is the mark of an amateur (and it's taken me a few years to wean myself of that habit). It's like having the character just happen to look in a mirror in the first chapter.

  9. Not hooked. I was put off by each character having multiple characteristics listed. Also, some things seemed repetitive (the world of.., begins to...).

  10. Not so hooked. The first paragraph comes across as too pandering and wastes valuable query space. Then, for me, all the descriptions of Tram are too confusing to sort through and there is a sing-songy repetition to all your "this and that" comparisons. Then you go on to do the same thing with Tenly (assassin and hedonist) and it feels too much like that's all you have in your bag of tricks. I'm sure that's not true but it stopped me from reading on. Further down your query, after already having to assimilate a lot of new info, we are hit with two new worlds--Astori and Penance. This further confuses. I might suggest leaving out some of the titles. Just saying a new world is fine, we don't need to know the name of it right now. In the last paragraph, I wouldn't summarize the novel as you do. No candy metaphors. It doesn't seem to appy. A hard-driving, succinct, to-the-point query would sell what is surely a fine story much better.

  11. I'm seeing a common thread here from query to query. I'm going back and take the heavy knife to my queries as a result.

    Yes, this is way too long. I felt like I was reading the novel not getting my 'elevator' statement. Someone told me that you needed one hard hitting sentence to describe and hook your potential agent. This didn't seem to have one.

    I did not read the 250.

  12. Sorry, wish you could edit. Your bio isn't helpful. If I were looking for a beta reader, okay, but as author you need to redo it. Find the positive and sink it. Use the biology degree and move on quickly. If you have any published work in your field from technical journals pump that up. If you have any articles available on line, give there location.

    You are sounding very romantic about all this and the agent/editor doesn't care.

    I happen to think this could be a great read, you just need to know that yourself. Especially before you query.

  13. Ditto that this query is too long. To fix that, you might consider getting rid of the second paragraph (Janet Reid of Query Shark fame calls this character soup). Let your description of what the characters do communicate how they are.

    Another helpful suggestion from the Shark: Short, declarative sentences go a long way in a query letter. Your third paragraph is difficult to follow, and one of the reasons is that all of its sentences are pretty convoluted. Nearly all of them start with introductory clauses (rather than subjects), and they all have way too many extra phrases. Keep it simple - subject, verb, direct object and/or prepositional phrase.

    Also, 136,000 words seems a bit long to me, even for science fiction. Could you trim it at least down to 120,000?

  14. First impression: long query, big paragraphs.

    I'm not a fan of future tense query letters. No matter how well-written the query would be otherwise, I get caught up in the tense. Like most unusual things, it's hard to do well.

    The rest of the query left me equally confused; it needs much more focus and clarification.

    The large paragraph that starts "XLI is written as an action adventure..." needs to be cut in half, at least. I'd drop everything but the editor at Baen part, and the wordcount. I'd also cut the next paragraph; it's extra information the agent doesn't need to know.

    Not hooked. Sorry.

  15. You took ten years and seven majors (or the other way around) to finish college, yet you expect an agent to think you have the sticking power to build a professional career? Lose that tidbit of information NOW.